The Road to Brandweek: e.l.f.’s Kory Marchisotto on Innovation and the Pandemic

How new marketing and products are helping the cosmetics maker thrive

E.l.f.'s CMO Kory Marchisotto
E.l.f.'s CMO Kory Marchisotto talks to Adweek about the company's innovative marketing and products. e.l.f.
Headshot of Richard Collings

Beauty has had both its bright spots and blemishes during the pandemic, with a boom in skin care but a pullback on the purchase of color cosmetics. E.l.f., which had the foresight and fortune to get into skin care last year, has seen firsthand the ebb and flow of the business.

Kory Marchisotto, the company’s chief marketing officer, will take the virtual stage at our upcoming Brandweek Masters Live event, Sept. 14-17, to discuss e.l.f.’s innovative marketing strategy and products against the backdrop of Covid-19.

Ahead of the event, Adweek spoke with Marchisotto about navigating the pandemic, lessons the cosmetics maker has learned, and its biggest marketing win (hint: It has to do with TikTok.)

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Adweek: This year has brought unprecedented challenges for marketers. What’s been the hardest lift for you, and how are you getting through it?
Kory Marchisotto: Supporting our community in deeper, more meaningful ways. Though we didn’t anticipate any of the challenges we have all faced this year, our commitment to leading with purpose and living our values not only helped sustain internal morale, but—paired with our e.l.f. speed—also enabled us to pivot quickly and launch things like our Eyes.Lips.Face.Safe campaign and e.l.f. Cares, a content hub with resources on Covid-19 safety and fighting anti-Black racism.

What lessons do you think the marketing and advertising industry will come away from this time with? What changes has the pandemic accelerated?
So many! But first, content. The creation of content has been totally reimagined—and produced virtually at a fraction of the cost. If you didn’t know how to be scrappy before, you just learned how. If you already knew how to be scrappy, you just figured out how to be even more so. The lessons learned are irreversible. 

What about your sector, in particular? What changes have come, and how has that impacted your marketing?
The beauty consumption arc is bending more toward skin care. Consumers are spending more time on self-care and seeking ingredients like CBD that deliver multipurpose benefits. By relentlessly listening to our consumer and leveraging data and insights to understand their behaviors in real time, we can prioritize our marketing communications around the products that are best meeting their shifting demands.

What have been the wins for the marketing industry this year? What excites you about the next 12 months?
The explosive rise of TikTok has given marketers the ability to reach not only Gen Z but multiple cohorts in previously unimaginable ways. For us, it has proved that if you can dream it, you can do it. And while launching a campaign that garnered over 6 billion views is indeed thrilling, it’s what’s next that most excites me. What technologies are just around the bend? And how will we harness them to unleash more lightning in a bottle? 

Connecting with consumers is more important than ever. How are you doing that in the current climate?
We have an authentic and diverse community of beauty enthusiasts who absolutely love e.l.f. We look to them every day to inform our brand, product innovation and content creation strategies—like our “No BS (Beauty Secrets) With Anna” education series, which is crafted according to consumer requests. And now, more than ever, it’s important to really listen—because we can learn so much from our community, not only about content and product feedback, but about how they feel about what’s going on in the world, and what they expect from us as a brand.

@RichCollings Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.