Tiffany Masterson

Drunk Elephant Founder Talks Modern Retail Engagement and Expansions

Unable to find a skincare product line free of problematic ingredients, mom of four Tiffany Masterson took matters into her own hands, creating the cult-favorite skincare company Drunk Elephant. This bold, consumer-centric brand has cultivated its social media channels and retail experiences to engage and educate consumers – and it's paying off. Here, Tiffany takes us into the Drunk Elephant world of pop-ups, recent Asian expansions, and the importance of treating people the way you want to be treated.

What makes Drunk Elephant a challenger brand?

My philosophy is quite different for a skincare brand. It’s been challenging to get people to think about [skincare] differently than they’ve always been taught before. Instead of creating products meant to “fix” the issues people have, you should look at what you are already using first and eliminate the common marketing ingredients that people are unknowingly using on a daily basis. We believe that delivering products that truly work is the only real thing we can do to retain the customer.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in retail right now?

The consumer has shifted and the retail market hasn’t kept up. Engagement and education are key with retail and sales happen as a result of that. The main challenge is obvious, people like the ease and comfort of ordering online. The great opportunity this presents is that we as retailers can go crazy with imaginative, interesting ways of educating our consumers. We can create experiences that position the brand in a fun, approachable atmosphere that feels more like an event than walking into a traditional brick and mortar.

Speaking of approachable atmospheres, you recently opened the House of Drunk pop-up shop in NYC. What’s one thing you’ve learned from expanding into retail?

That the Drunk consumer is all walks of life…teen boys and girls all the way up to grandparents. All ethnicities, all ages, all kinds of people…this is a household lifestyle brand and that was clear at the pop-up. I definitely foresee more pop-ups in the future, just not sure at this point if we will ever do a permanent brick and mortar. 

What’s new for the brand?

We’re working on products from head to toe, so, new categories for Drunk Elephant are on the way. We are working on some more innovative packaging that is more sustainable. As of September, we’ve expanded into Hong Kong and China. But there is so much left to do…we’ve barely scratched the surface.

What’s different about the Drunk Elephant experience in China vs. the US?

You can only access Drunk Elephant online in China. We don’t believe in animal testing, so we decided to launch China through cross-border which doesn’t require animal testing.

Your brand's presence on social media in the U.S. has helped to generate conversations with new consumers. Are you tapping into Asian social networks to build a new audience?
Yes, even before we launched China, the local consumers were talking about the brand on social networks. We will continue to nurture those social channels so we can engage and learn more about the local consumer. Drunk Elephant has a presence on Weibo, WeChat and Little Red Book.

While new customer acquisition is critical for DTC brands, how are you retaining customers?

We like to hold their hand through the process, making sure they know how to use the products, what to expect, how to use them and what to do if they don’t like a product or if they have a bad reaction. It’s all about their experience and it’s pretty simple – they won’t come back if they aren’t satisfied. That sounds obvious but not all brands or retailers do it. You treat people the way you would want to be treated by putting yourself in their shoes.

What trait is most critical to leading a Challenger brand? 

To know who you are and own it. Be yourself. Don’t look around. Have your point of view and stay consistent.

What advice would you give to other marketing pioneers? 

Market from the perspective of the consumer and if you wouldn’t like it or respond to it, don’t do it. Follow your gut. It’s that simple.