For over fifty years, Mary Kay, Inc. has been empowering women around the world to make a difference in their community, conveying this message with an over three million-strong corps of Independent Beauty Consultants. This decentralized business model poses unique challenges for Mary Kay, Inc. CMO Sheryl Adkins-Green, who has to create marketing plans that appeal not just to Mary Kay customers, but also to the people who sell Mary Kay products.
Even though Adkins-Green says that "the ultimate influencer is the Independent Beauty Consultant herself, and this is consistent with how Mary Kay began this business," she doesn't intend for her consultants to do all the work. In fact, between standardizing global messaging and breaking the world record for the highest number of makeovers, Adkins-Green and her marketing team have excelled in reaching out to women from all walks of life. But how do you manage and market such a decentralized brand? According to Adkins-Green, the keys to success lie in letting the consultants personalize the brand, instilling company pride and integrating customer loyalty deep into the company itself.
Personalizing a Brand
"The Mary Kay Independent Sales Force is our only customer," says Adkins-Green.
This method of marketing only to their consultants, allowing the consultants to in turn personalize brand messaging, is a unique way to maintain continuity in a brand. Along with this, Mary Kay Inc. focuses on timeliness to increase a message's natural spread. As Adkins-Green puts it, "We definitely provide a best practices example and make sure that the content we provide is timely to new product launches-we incorporate what's trending in the beauty world, whether it's the holiday season, the Oscars, how-to tips, etc.-and then we make it very easy for them to share."
Instilling Company Pride
Relying on consultants to share Mary Kay's message means that they have to go beyond just liking their jobs; they must combine work and play and become the face of the brand for their community. In other words, Mary Kay's core messaging has to resonate with their consultants, or there is no messaging at all.
"It really ties back to the strong values that Mary Kay Ash herself built into the company and into the culture," Adkins-Green says. "There are core values that resonate in regards to how the Mary Kay brand is really about more than just cosmetics. It's about empowering women, helping them discover their inner beauty, their confidence, their passion and their special gifts."
Messaging that goes beyond company positioning and empowers consultants to become leaders in their community increases their morale, and also makes them more willing to share the Mary Kay message with confidence.
Customer Loyalty as a Business
As most marketers know, customer loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising are amazing assets, but they're notoriously hard to track or properly monetize. In this respect, Mary Kay's biggest strength may be its unusual recruitment process for new hires. May Kay Inc. doesn't actually oversee the process; instead, it relies on current Independent Beauty Consultants to recruit new consultants.
This means that all new members are already familiar with and show a passion for the Mary Kay brand, and they're active in the community. "Like attracts like," says Adkins-Green. "In other words, the women who have interacted with an Independent Mary Kay Beauty Consultant have learned about more than the great products. They have learned about what the company is doing in the community."
The Independent Beauty Consultants not only help increase word-of-mouth advertising in a community - oftentimes, they're generating it. With three million motivated, proud Independent Beauty Consultants in communities across the world, it's no wonder that Mary Kay Inc. has grown from a single woman's enterprise to a household name. As Adkins-Green says, "My team and I have been successful in leading the evolution of the overall Mary Kay Brand experience, but I have to say it does take a village!"
In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Adkins-Green, click here.