Soul & Science
Soul & Science

Season 1, Episode · 5 months ago

S1 Episode 4: eos CMO Soyoung Kang | Calculated Risk

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

eos CMO Soyoung Kang joins Jason this week to discuss how taking calculated risks can increase ROI. 

Soyoung Kang is the Chief Marketing Officer at eos Products, the iconic beauty brand that has sold nearly a billion lip balms worldwide. Since joining eos as CMO, Soyoung has completed a total reboot of the brand identity, from resetting creative and strategic vision, to dramatically expanding the category footprint and product pipeline, to launching experiential marketing initiatives like the influencer collaboration FlavorLab and #eosmicrobatch DTC fashion drops. Under her leadership, eos has garnered dozens of honors, including product awards from Allure, Cosmopolitan, and SELF, and media recognition from the Shortys, Webbys, and Digiday. Before her time at eos, she had a decade-long career in specialty retail, leading brand development of the successful beauty segment at Bath & Body Works. She was also a strategy consultant to Fortune 100 clients at The Boston Consulting Group.

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I always wondered if marketing lives in the heart or in the head. Should you trust your instinct or your integers? Often the answers both, but should you lead with one more than the other? So bring your heart and your head and join us in the conversation. This week I'm joined by so young king, Chief Marketing Officer at EOS. Eos Products, the iconic beauty brand, has sold over a billion lip bombs worldwide. In her role, so young is responsible for driving the overall strategy, planning and operations for marketing and e commerce. Since joining, she has completed a total reboot of the brand identity, from resetting creative and strategic vision to dramatically expanding the category footprint and product pipeline, to launching experiential marketing initiatives like the influencer collaboration, Flavor Lab and EOS microbatch, DTC fashion drops. So young has been named a Forbes Cmo next and honor bestowed on leaders like her who serve as models of a new, emerging and disruptive chief marketer. She was also selected by business insider as a CMO to watch for reshaping marketing and by glossy as a beauty innovator who is driving change in the beauty industry. Also, most recently she was named a campaign US female frontier honoree and we are thrilled to have her here. So today's theme is experimentation and innovation, turning calculated risk into Business Roi, which you've done so successfully at Eos. That sound like a good theme. Yeah, it sounds great. Let's getting cool. So you have a background in architecture from MIT and a dual MBA in marketing and finance from the warden school. Your educational background is really amazing and when we talk about soul in science, it's kind of the perfect marriage of you've got marketing, you've got finance, you've got architecture. It's like a blend of everything. How did you sort of find your way into where you are today? Well, I never knew or anticipated that I would end up in the role that I'm in today, but I think that's pretty common. I think you'll hear more of these days that career journeys are not linear and that folks didn't plot meticulously plot out where they were going to be from A to B. So for me, I think that I've always had the the the desire to pursue a career that was part art and part science. I think that that's kind of reflected in sort of my earlier days. I've always been somebody who's fascinated by art, design, creativity and storytelling, but also math, science technology, and I think that, honestly, the modern marketing role is the perfect combination of both aspects of those. Did you at one point think you would become an architect? I did, I really did. I loved architecture and that I actually architecture is also a marriage of art and science very much and so, yeah, and so that's why I studied it. But I think that, you know, like life took me on a different path, a different journey. I think I actually ended up in the business world for probably about a decade of my career Post College, before finding my way back into what I think is ultimately the right fit for me, in marketing. Where you ever curious about marketing? Did it it? Was it even on your radar? No, you know what, I didn't know that marketing was for me, and I think that that was actually a naive point of view, because I think in my mind marketing was marketing equal to advertising, but it's so much more than that. Marketing is storytelling, it's understanding human behavior, it psychology. It is also highly analytical and data driven. There's so many different aspects to this broad realm of marketing and I think that I didn't understand that at the time. But there were things along the way during that year,...

...that that decade of being in the business world that I think actually today served me so well as a CMO. Things like being intensely obsessed with the consumer experience and understanding and wanting to talk to people to put context around data points. I mean, these are things that do happen in the business world that are actually incredibly aligned to the marketers tool kit. So yeah, I think that there were things that excited me along the way throughout my career that I just didn't realize that they all ended up being science pointing towards a career in marketing. Yeah, that's great, and you remember your first when you started? What was your first job in marketing? I would say that some of the work that I was doing in the consulting world would have been related to consumer insights, new white space, new storytelling and brand repositioning, but that was on behalf of other clients. Yep, so as much as I you know, as much as I you know, was very firmly in that business world. The work that I kept gravitating to was actually very much marketing related. Sometimes in advertising, as marketers, when we think about the brands we work on and we get so caught up in them, we do lose sight that the most important thing is always the audience, because that audience will always tell you what to do if you if you turn up their voice, you know, if you listen loud enough, you'll always sort of know what to do. But sometimes we get so caught up in, yeah, you know what products are making more margin or what retailers want or you know, depending on what product or service you're selling, that we lose sight of the of the consumer and the audience, and that's really we always have to go back to that. I think you just said a lot about the the what really resonates with me about the thinking about marketing as soul in science is very much what you just said, because science comes in a lot of different forms and can be data, it can be true like actual, you know, spreadsheets and numbers, but there's also a part of science. It's all about insight and gathering external information to help you formulate stronger strategies and and creative internally. And so the the idea that you can that you can spend more of your time listening as inputs and understanding the consumer experience. That's a part of science. But then the soul comes in and in being able to deliver something that this outside party couldn't have even told you. It's about connecting the dots and creating a spark of something that's not doing exactly what they're asking you to do, but doing something more than they could have even imagined. Yeah, that's a soul. That is very well said. So you know, I've had the pleasure of we've done work with you in the past. We've seen you do work with other agencies as well, and I think I'm always in awe about how you balance the calculated risk, like doing something risky, but also balancing is this risking a return? The ro I want, because you you have that that soul in science experience and that background. How do you think about that? Balancing the left brain right brain thinking when you think about your strategies for for Eos? Well, I think I mean first of all, I think that a lot of the the you know, sort of leaning into experimentation has come actually through partnerships with with you and your team, frankly, because if I think about things where we've really seen success, and trust me, like not everything has been a success. There are things that we try that don't work, but the point is that we try and I do think that as a as a modern marketer, you have to leave room for experimentation and everything that you do, they're always has to be room on the edges for you to try new things and you actually have to make the space for that. It's not just, Hey, I'm going to try this this thing ad hoc or, you know, periodically I try something new. We actually build into everything that we do a dedicated portion of our resources, whether it's...

...dollars, time, people external support, to help us learn something new that we couldn't have learned before. So everything that we do always has a learning agenda attached to it. It's not just about doing what we did before and doing it again and by doing that there's sort of this incremental overall learning that we gain over time. And you know, I think a good case in point is the fact that you know we work together, actually, Jason, your team and and our team, on our on our tick tock strategy. And this is, like you know, this is in two thousand and nineteen before most of the world had really embraced ticktock as as a critical Mac marketing platform like it is today. But the fact that we work together on that and that we were willing to dedicate a significant chunk of our resources to be able to try, for the first time ever for us, as well as for the first time, frankly, within the industry, at it along a number of dimensions, a platform that has now, since then, become in t ral to our marketing strategy. That was a journey, but we had to have the willingness to do it then and then we had to have the willingness along the way. Every time we go back to tick Tock and run a new campaign, we flip something up so that we have room to learn and experiment and gain new insight so that we can continually get better and we can keep up in our game. I remember going to some trade show in two thousand and nineteen, some advertising event that Tick Tock had a booth at, and they were showing brands that had embraced tick Tock and they were showing eos like over and over because you were really one of the first that embraced it and got in there. When you think of like internally saying, Hey, we're going to try this thing, is it? Well, we already know she's everything she does touches his gold, so she can do whatever she wants, or do you have to do like some type of internal selling to say, Hey, we're going to be a pioneer with tick tock and we're going to do this thing that we hope will work, but it might not work. I mean, look, I think. I think for anyone in the sea sweet trust has to be earned and you have to show there. You get a certain amount of leeway, Hey, when you're new, but over time, I mean now I've been in this role now for three and a half years and over that I've had some wins and I've had some misses, and I think that's okay for a leader because you're not going to hit it out of the park every time. But at that time I think that a big part of also gaining that trust was about what you said earlier, which is calculated risk. Risk isn't just risk by just doing something that you don't know what's going to happen it, you really as a leader. It's in it's important for you to make sure that it's a calculated risk in the way that you did. The way that I define calculated risk is that I set out sort of from the beginning, even if it's something I've never done before, what's the strategy? How am I going to measure it? How am I going to contain it? So I can't let it take over everything. I have to like contain it and be okay with this part of Matt. My my resource is being sort of my I call it like my play money. It's like it's like the it's like the Vegat strategy, like you go to Vegas knowing that this is your budget and you just have to make sure you don't go over that budget. Likes my tap, I'm not going to probble it down if it doesn't turn out. Now that's exactly right, and it's like it's like if you if you win, great, because that's the you know, that's the whole goal, but if you if you lose, it's not about losing and it's not about failing. It's about learning and as long as you treat it that way and as long as you set yourself up from the beginning being very clear on what it is that you're trying to learn and how you're going to measure whether you believe it's a success or a failure, I do think that that kept that that merits you trying this over and over again and qualifying as the calculated risk versus just being risky or reckless, because you know, frankly, none of us are going to be in our roles for very long if we're risky and reckless and everything that we do right, and conversely, if you're not taking risks, you won't be in your role very long, and it's exactly right. Tell me a little bit about bless your effing cruach campaign. Yeah, so that's it. That was...

...a really interesting campaign for us because I think that that that was also a calculated risk. So the campaign, for anybody who doesn't know, is basically we had a completely unsolicited viral tick tock that from a young creator who talked about how she uses Eos shave cream to bless her effing coach, and it was like a very long, explicit, hilarious, authentic, raw unfiltered take on how she shaves her private parts and it is very detailed and we wanted to be able to reach out to her and partner with her and we couldn't get in contact with her. She just sort of was like ignoring us for a while. We've since learned that she just doesn't do brand partnerships, full stop, okay, and the way that we got her attention was that we did a stunt. Essentially we created a version of our product that took all of her unfiltered, explicit words, including all the usage instructions, and printed on the bottle, and then we do wedded her tick tock so that we could catch her attention so she could hopefully reach out to us and agree to partner with us. And she thought it was hilarious and she agreed to partner with us. We I've spoken with her since then and she said, look, I don't partner with brands, but what you guys did showed me that you're on the same page as me and that you were actually a brand that I could I could work with and still be myself, be my authentic self, and as a brand that works with Gen Z. that's so important that we need to come across. We need to be the authentic brands of that authentic creators and consumers and audience is actually want to be in our world and in our community. So it was a huge success for us, like massively drove our business. The campaign drove a two x lift and in that portion of our business that's a cool until we actually sold out and then we've been like chasing that business ever since. But, like the I think the bottom line is, you know, we talked about experimentation and and risk and and while we've talked about how this was like the our moment to shine with this this cooch campaign, the reality is the seeds were planted three years ago when we started on this journey together, Jason on Tick Tock, because that moment when we said Yes to trying something new, and then subsequently, every time we've said Yes to trying new ways of attacking our strategy on ticktock has been another way, another sort of like like not, you know, for us to up our game, to learn the platform, to understand the dynamics of how things work and then ultimately, when this amazing viral moment happened, that was how, like we knew what we needed to do next, because we had invested all of that time and making sure that we were constantly learning. Have you ever dealt with any of that type of edgy work? Has It ever had any backlash for you? The reality is like, yeah, there were a few people who didn't like that we were putting that out there, but actually the vast majority loved it. They actually recognize what we saw from the begin that this was actually an educational, instructural moment versus a brand trying to be like one of the cool kids, like we were actually helping to amplify this creator's words because people really wanted the information and I think that when you're a brand that that does that, when you're doing things in as authentic a way as possible in social media, you generally speaking, the the sentiment is is positive and appreciative versus being hate. But you'll always get some hate. You just have to be okay with it and you just have to ride that out right. Yeah, yeah, do you get a lot of peers at other companies sort of saying how do you? How do you do it, like, how do you push things through and, if so, for anyone else listening? Do you have any any tips like I think you created sort of like in your head you kind of have a rubric of calculated risk and how much to spend and if that doesn't if nothing happens from that with an Roi It's okay because I've only put certain amount of money aside. Is...

...there any other sort of tips and tricks that might be useful for someone WHO's trying to in an organization, trying to be braver man? That's I mean, that's a hard when I and you're absolutely right, there are people who reach out and end and they want to know like, how did you do this? Or we could never and I do think it's it's organizationally specific. I do think that there are I have to recognize and appreciate the fact that I'm in an organization and in a company culture that in races that sort of leaning in to the risk. So I'm immensely grateful for that because it allows us to do the type of creative work that we all want to do and it also allows us to attract the type of talent that we want to track. You know, we have people who want to work with us because we're doing great stuff. Absolutely I would say that the the only tip that I have is you have to recognize what your baseline is and you have to move incre mentally from there. I'm actually very pragmatic, even though we're talking about things like, you know, coach campaigns. I'm actually really practical person when it comes to decisionmaking and helping to manage the work and setting priorities, priorities within within the brand, and I think that you have to recognize like this is where we are. I cannot take this massive leap to push an organization too hard, because the human behavior is going to be rejection of this sort of like, you know, alien behavior or content or storytelling. You really have to kind of like chip away at it incrementally and I would say that we are braver as an organization today post coach then we were, you know, when I first came on day one, and I think that it's been a journey of continually chipping away and finding where those edges of comfort are and pushing a little past comfort, but not necessarily pushing so far past that people are going to reject you. I think that's really good advice. It's they might look at you as doing wild work out there. That's really highly experimental and in their organization and they can think about it as incremental gains. You know, they don't have to like swing for the fences right off the bat. They can kind of take one step into doing something a little more risky and then a little more risky and look at it that way, versus kind of high, super high risk or no risk at all. So I think that's really well said. The work that you've done, I think, is obviously really helped redefine the brand. Obviously it's led to a lot of sales. How do you think about specific business goals you're trying to achieve in the organization, or do you like, how do you parse out products? What could be next, the future innovation of products? How the brand equity of EOSO overall? How do you sort of like think about that? No, it's a big question, but how do you think of all of those things and is there a priority, like do you think, okay, brand health is the most important because we have a healthy brand we can launch new products? Do you think this flagship product has to do well and then we'll worry about brand health? Sort of? How do you think about different business goals, because there's so much as a cmo that you have to really think about and does that question makes sense? Short answer is that there's no one way to do any of it and I think that that's, you know, that's sort of why I have the responsibility that I have, which is that brands are always in a different phase of their life cycle right I mean we're at where Eos was when I first came in three and a half years ago. Is Very Different Than where EOS is today as a brand and as a business, and I think that what what leaders and in particular, marketers, because the I always think of marketers, even even sort of like earlier in your career, you're sort of like expected to quite do quite a lot and it's a very stretchy role if you want it to be. I think of leaders as being people who need to have the ability to flex. They need to be able to grow and own a tool kit that allows them to flex between...

...commercial needs, operational needs, brand needs. Are you? Are you in a phase where it's really all about product and product innovation and product marketing, or are you in a phase where you really all about like emotional residence and storytelling and you have to have the judgment to be able to know where you are right now, where where your organization is, where your brand is and where your consumer is, and then you really have to calibrate your strategies and your plans according to where you are at. That just means it's always changing, it's always evolving. Layer on top of that the fact that the industry is always changing in involving new platforms, new tools and new technologies, and I think the marketing role is the most exciting role there is out there because of that, and I think of it as a positive. It's part of what what gets me excited to wake up every day and do my job because I don't know necessarily what the day is going to hold for me and I love that. I love that about the job. I love that. Do you think that? I know this is unanswerable, but is building a brand, you know, more head or more heart? So so I think that. I think that like on average, because there they're no like you know, there're no black and white answers to these types of questions, but I think on average, the way I think about the role of science and what we do is to inform the short term and I think about the soul and what we do is to build and invest in the long term. They're just serving, you know, kind of different purposes. So if, for me, sciences, data analytics, decisionmaking AIDS, because I don't think data can necessarily make the decision, it just helps you make a decision. Those are all things that are informing your day and day out now, the next week, the next quarter of the next you know, six months. But the soul of it that that's an investment in the future and if we're all trying to build something that that that sort of you know, indoors past us, there has to be soul that you're creating and investing in and building along the way as well. I think that's one of the best answers I've ever heard. You're in that, you are in architecture, right. Is there a piece of art or architecture or anything that you look back at as being pivotal for who you are today? Could be a band of music, song, film, any piece of you know, entertainment or art that that you really responded to. I mean that the I think I'm always sort of like absorbing things, but I'm actually thinking way back, way, a way way back, and I remember in my earlier architecture days, being obsessed with a protected particular building, and it's actually in Paris. It's a building called the Institute du Mandarab. It's like the air of institute in Paris and it was designed by an architecting John Newvell, and what I love about it is that it's a modern interpretation, that is, it's like kind of rooted in technology but also Harkens back to old like Islamic designs, and it's basically like, you know, these these beautiful camera lenses that have been like create that create a mosaic and then throughout the day, the camera lens opens or closes depending on how much sunlight is coming through. And there's just something so beautiful about the marriage of the recognition of and respect for design elements that are old but combined with technology that is new, like a modern day technology. There's something that I just find fascinating about art work that combines those two things. That's awesome. I mean it's sort of it's kind of what we're talking it's kind of the thrust of this whole conress like soul in science. So science together and I was going to say I think you know, thanks for your time. Has Been Awesome conversation. So young and and you've, you know, you continually are just such an impressive marketer and I think what's I find interesting is your background is actually set up for modern marketing. Mean, that's where we...

...are today, you know, with the advent of how important portant performances and data woven into you know, having a creative mind and knowing what good work is and taking chances and experimenting. You're sort of perfectly wired for today's marketing and and that that just kind of came through. And really the way you answered that soul in science question is was really, I think, typifies how your backgrounds perfect for today's modern landscape. I'd love you to sign us off with a quote that's meaningful to you that might inspire the listeners. This is another architect, Zaha Hadid. She said there are three hundred and sixty degrees, so I stick to one. I love that quote. Wow, I mean, if that doesn't set up experimentation and innovation change, it's great. All right. Well, thanks for your time, for having me. Thanks so much for listening to soul in science and we'll see you next week. So in sciences a mechanism podcast produced by the amazing Frank Riscool, Ryan Tillotson, Tyler Neilson and a Swanson and Sophe Maround, with the music by Kyle Mary. I'm your host, Jason Harris,.

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