Contrary to the way Los Angeles has been stereotyped, “it’s not slow paced,” says Emma Grede, co-founder and CEO of Good American. “I’ve never been busier in London or New York as I am here.” L.A. is also not burdened by East Coast propriety. “Los Angeles offers a freedom from tradition and convention that few other cities can match,” says Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia. “Nobody tells you to ‘act your age’ or asks where your grandparents went to college.” And if that’s not enough, it’s in an earlier time zone—”which usually gives us the last word of the day,” quips Jonathan Shokrian, founder and CEO of MeUndies. Still not convinced? Meet 16 execs who have been busily producing big gains and unexpected solutions for everything from dating apps (Tinder) and sports teams (the Clippers) to plant-based protein (Beyond Meat), all while enjoying sunny days, mild temps and easy access to the ocean, the mountains, the desert and as many yoga and meditation classes as you could ever want. —Kristina Feliciano
Prehistoric reptiles soared around the Hollywood sign and took over USA Today online, courtesy of Anderson’s massive social and digital campaign for the opening last summer of the theme park’s Jurassic World—The Ride. And for this fall’s Halloween Horror Nights, the digital marketing maven launched a Facebook Live stream with celebrities like Jordan Peele getting early peeks at fright-filled mazes based on Creepshow, Killer Klowns From Outer Space and Us. Anderson, an architect of the park’s mobile app, uses interactive games on high-traffic websites, animated emails and months’ worth of teaser ads to whip up interest in Universal’s growing list of attractions, aiming to “understand people’s changing media consumption patterns,” she says, “and keep up that regular cadence on social, where we can really be expressive.” Next, she’s focusing on “how the holidays make us feel,” for marketing around the annual Grinchmas and Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
For a brand that’s been dubbed “the Hermes of marijuana,” Anvaripour cultivates well-heeled ‘grammable marketing partners like Barneys in Beverly Hills (for a tony in-store head shop called the High End) and Dirty Lemon for a limited-run “calming beverage.” She says such alliances “work so well to destigmatize [pot], [and] educate and introduce new customers” to the luxury cannabis company, bought recently by Green Thumb Industries for a reported $80 million. The business development veteran launched Beboe’s CBD and skin-care divisions, the latter in Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and other premium retailers with a demo match to the brand’s 75% female buyer. Beboe, a design-driven status symbol with fans among Hollywood’s elite, aims to debunk stoner stereotypes and, she says, “ultimately broaden the definition of a cannabis user.”
As a packaged good that sits at the intersection of “taste, texture, color and play,” My/Mo Mochi is a poppable, camera-ready sweet treat that’s on a fast track to reach $175 million in sales this year. Barnett, a veteran of Gardein and KeVita, embraces “the weird” in the chewy, rice dough-wrapped ice cream snack, propelling it to an 80% market share since its early 2017 debut. The millennial-targeting product, now in 18,000 stores, touts its uniqueness and tells quirky stories, “keeping the connectivity honest and human, being real and even going so far as to flaunt our flaws, which creates great emotive value,” he says. Partnerships with fast-fashion chain Uniqlo, the Sundance Film Festival and the Museum of Ice Cream are helping to mainstream a category that previously existed only in Asian supermarkets. Branded freezers make for easy grab-and-go sampling in 3,000 retailers, which is perfect, Barnett says, for “creating experiences and sharing Instagrammable moments.”
Leslie Emmons Burthey
With its curated $50 goodie boxes finding their way to Macy’s pop-ups, QVC and the doorsteps of more than 1 million consumers, FabFitFun pulled in a reported $200 million in 2018 revenue, fueled by its community building, expanded media offerings and first television commercials that Burthey says sprang from “authentic feedback and honest conversation” with loyalists. The brand, setting itself apart from competitors in the volatile subscription category, bulked up its experiential marketing via the return of its two-day wellness event in Beverly Hills last summer and the debut of the Fabbys, an awards program “honoring women who are killing it in their fields,” Burthey says. The exec spearheaded the brand’s recent launch in Europe by sending California roller girls to the streets of London, forging influencer partnerships and premiering digital and out-of-home advertising to differentiate FabFitFun as “much more than a seasonal box—we want to be the most valuable membership in a person’s life.” Burthey is now testing a “digital access” program that allows new members to sign up for flash sales, FabFitFun TV and other behind-the-paywall perks without the quarterly box.
In the year since landing the global gig, Campbell has expanded the Gen Z-targeted dating app into eight new markets, including Japan and Southeast Asia, grown the college-based Tinder U and debuted an editorial arm called Swipe Life. Encouraging more IRL experiences, the Nike and 72andSunny veteran helped launch Festival Mode with Live Nation so concertgoers could meet before they arrived at events like Coachella and Bumbershoot. (Spring Break Mode does the same with vacation hot spots.) Campbell led Tinder’s first brand advertising, “Single Not Sorry,” to alleviate the social pressures that young people face to be in relationships. “This campaign encourages them to enjoy the journey,” she says. Campbell also just launched Swipe Night, a “first-of-its-kind, original interactive apocalyptic adventure that represents a whole new way to match.” The miniseries “pushes the boundaries of innovation by creating a new way to think about shared digital experiences and how those lead to new ways to start meaningful conversations with matches,” she says.
Cherng, a Silicon Valley alum and trained attorney (daughter of company founders Andrew and Peggy Cherng) has spearheaded interactive mobile games, Lunar New Year celebrations and Comic-Con pop-ups as “an embodiment of multiculturalism that fits so well in our current climate.” For example, Panda Express gave classic tunes “Ring of Fire” and “Achy Breaky Heart” a Mandarin remake for a musical TV campaign that Cherng says “bridges cultures and expresses our distinct Chinese origin and American birth.” The work this spring dovetailed into digital and print ads under the banner, “Asian-American Originals,” with Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim, Broadway star Marcus Choi and actor Harry Shum Jr. stumping for the rapidly growing fast-food brand, which has more than 2,000 outlets in 10 countries, including Russia. Up next: opening the eighth Panda Cares Center of Hope in 2020 via Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, part of the company’s ongoing commitment to the health of underserved children (more than $140 million donated to date).
While founders of the rapidly growing fashion e-tailer honed its data-driven approach and trend-forecasting algorithms, Gerona built its formidable influencer marketing network (now 3,500 millennial and Gen Z consumers), which is credited with helping drive the brand to an expected $600 million in sales this year. She was integral in June’s IPO, one of the most successful of 2019, with Revolve now valued at $1.5 billion, and in opening Revolve Social Club, a members-only Melrose Avenue spot for the brand’s loyal girl gang. The clothing designer turned exec sends Revolve ambassadors on exotic ‘grammable trips (#RevolveAroundTheWorld) and throws more than 100 events a year (including the high-wattage Revolve Fest at Coachella). She recently debuted Superdown, a shopping site with modestly priced apparel aimed at Gen Z, as she’s “constantly pushing to get better at connecting with the customer.” The Revolve Awards in November will award prizes in categories like model, #CoupleGoals, BFFs and breakout ambassador of the year.
It’s expensive and time consuming to hold open casting calls for diverse models and photograph an array of women in clothing sizes from 00 to 24 for ecommerce. But it’s central to Good American’s raison d’être, says Grede, who founded the inclusive brand with Khloe Kardashian in 2016, promptly selling $1 million worth of premium denim on launch day. The entertainment marketing veteran has taken the line into jeans and workout apparel for moms-to-be and activewear, and an industry-first size 15 (consumer feedback led to the groundbreaking move). She’s led the company’s global expansion (Canada, Australia and Germany this year), opened its first pop-up in the Midwest (Mall of America in April) and debuted its inaugural Florida store (Miami in August), aiming to “merge fit and style to create fashion-forward options for every woman and every body.” Next, Good American, with a presence at retailers like Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Selfridges, plans to open its own flagship store in L.A.
With 10 professional sports teams in L.A. jostling for attention, could the city support one more? Orosco tackled the “herculean task” of launching LAFC in 2018, creating a sizzling crosstown rivalry with five-time champ L.A. Galaxy and selling out every home match for two seasons running, despite the highest ticket prices in the league. The exec landed record-breaking sponsorship deals with Dollar Shave Club and YouTube TV; firsts for MLS with Dole, Kaiser Permanente, Porsche and the University of Phoenix; and partnerships with Apple Pay, Beats by Dre and Sanrio. His approach: hyper focus on grassroots marketing. “Every conversation matters, and relationships trump transactions,” he says.
Touted as the team most likely to bring home a 2020 championship with recently signed players Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the NBA’s Clippers have intensified their fan outreach with the new incarnation of the “L.A. Our Way” ad campaign and in-arena perks like LED wristbands and enhanced interactive zones, Paye says. And a tech-forward move that’s hailed as the future of sports viewing, Clippers CourtVision enters its second season, allowing fans to choose camera angles, audio feeds and other features, customizing how they watch live games onsite, mobile, digital or TV via the machine-learning, data-visualization tool. Also in its second year, an AR-powered version of a popular on-court contest puts fans in virtual basketball shootouts on their smartphones, another way the Clippers aim to stand out, Paye says, “in a city with two of every sports team and just about every entertainment option imaginable.”
As part of Sweetgreen’s pivot to tech, the fast-casual salad chain is developing a concept store in New York combining “concierge ordering with a digital-first experience,” Ru says about the incubator for “new ideas designed for an on-demand world.” Ru, who started the business with two Georgetown University classmates a dozen years ago and helped grow it to nearly 100 locations, debuted the brand’s first national advertising in May (tagline: “Follow your greens”) and spearheaded a partnership with FoodCorps that will donate $1 million to educate kids about healthy eating and reimagine school cafeterias. The L.A. native also championed a new parental-leave policy that gives workers five months of fully paid time off from the company, now valued at $1.6 billion. Along with Sweetgreen 3.0 in New York, the chain will expand into Miami, Denver and Austin, Texas, with an omnichannel strategy that leverages its digital ordering (some 50% of its volume) and its pickup kiosks with physical stores.
With the multibillion-dollar post-IPO brand locked in a plant-based protein war with rival Impossible Foods (as threats loom from Hormel, Nestlé and Tyson), Schafer has stepped up Beyond’s social media, sampling efforts and influencer marketing, debuting the testimonial-based “Go Beyond” campaign from agency Stun with professional athletes like NBA star Kyrie Irving. He’s assembled an in-house field marketing team, creating a “trial-driving machine that provides invaluable grassroots brand building” as Beyond has added Marriott’s Courtyard and McDonald’s to a 30,000-plus roster that includes Blue Apron, Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’, KFC, Subway, grocery stores and college campuses. For Schafer, a veteran natural-products marketer (Bolthouse Farms, Brita, Burt’s Bees), the biggest challenge is “to convince those who’ve been burned by hockey-puck veggie burgers, which is pretty much everyone, that Beyond is different.” And that ambition reaches beyond borders. “We want to bring the kind of buzz and market development you’ve seen us do in the U.S.,” he says, “onto the international stage.”
As legacy brick-and-mortar players go digital and younger DTC startups proliferate, Shokrian sold 11 million pairs of his brand’s famously comfy underwear for an estimated $75 million haul this year. (The secret’s in the super-soft micro-modal fabric; the fun’s in the colorful, print designs like spooky skulls for Halloween. Unicorn-patterned onesies? Check!) His pioneering 8-year-old company hit 1.5 million customers by cultivating a community, he says, and owning its values like inclusivity, body positivity and self-expression. Recently launched: matching bandanas for dogs. Mold-breaking marketing from the earliest days, like vending-machine distribution and sleepover kits with alcohol app Saucy, targets savvy, discerning buyers who “want to be moved or inspired,” he says. “They want to relate.” Shokrian says MeUndies will next expand into “new categories that have gone industry-stale, like baby bodysuits, for starters.”
As someone who kicked the sugar habit two decades ago, Spence wants to “enhance public health” by hyping his zero-calorie, stevia-sweetened drinks via the brand’s first national awareness campaign that debuted in September (tagline: “Live your best”). The longtime natural-foods marketer, triathlete and martial artist bought the company in 2010, since growing it to a 90% share of calorie-free natural sodas with 250 million cans sold yearly at 45,000 outlets. “Nine years ago, it was an ingredient story,” he says. “Now it’s a lifestyle story.” He debuted Zevia’s first organic-certified, non-carbonated products (Organic Tea) and amped up his “cans in hands” strategy of relentless sampling, aiming to be “the first independent natural beverage to reach $1 billion in annual sales.” Next year, he’ll premiere the first Zevia Kids line with new flavors, smaller cans and children-friendly designs.
Competing with mall-based Finish Line, online behemoth eBay, consignment shops, luxury retail and other digital sneakerhead hubs, Sugano has leaned into tactics that are both high-tech (strategic use of AR) and analog (biannual print pub Greatest) to reach 20 million global members of the sneaker marketplace this year. He led Greatest of All Time’s charge into China in July, showcasing some of the rarest kicks in the world in a three-day Shanghai event, shortly after Foot Locker invested $100 million in the company. GOAT’s original content, like unreleased designs and pro athlete exclusives viewed through an AR lens, Sugano says, aims to “build brand affinity and engagement and push culture forward.” Next, GOAT will try to “one-up ourselves” from last year’s Black Friday AR contests and giveaways, which included a GOAT x Live Nation Travis Scott Pack with concert tickets and the rapper’s latest sneaker collaborations.
Sports has the Super Bowl, and The Bouqs has Mother’s Day. Tobman launched a testimonial ad campaign with heartfelt messages from everyday folks to the moms in their lives, “connecting our product with emotional moments,” she says, and earning 1.3 billion impressions for the millennial-targeting service. Other recent work for the 7-year-old disruptor in the $26 billion fresh flower industry includes a Valentine’s Day partnership with Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk, spring co-branded arrangements with fashion designer Monique Lhuillier and rainbow-hued “Let Love Bloom” offerings for Pride. Tobman, who previously launched the groundbreaking Savage X Fenty as gm of Rihanna’s lingerie line, boosts the eco-friendly, farm-to-table floral delivery brand that’s sold north of 62 million stems and raised $54 million to date (some from Shark Tank investor Robert Herjavec) by going against the grain of “overly polished perfection.”