By any calculation, K18 has had a banner first year-and-a-half in business. The hair-care brand has gone viral on TikTok, launched in Sephora and amassed more celebrity, influencer and star stylist fans than most brands can dream of. For Michelle Miller, K18’s svp of global marketing, being “a leader in fast growth comes down to being a leader in culture.”
“In this moment, that means TikTok. In past moments, it has meant other platforms,” Miller said, noting that her team has heavily invested in the video app in the past year. The brand first created a TikTok commercial, which starred Mikayla Nogeuira and Brad Mondo, to celebrate its entry into Sephora in December 2021. It ran a $600,000 influencer campaign, the K18 Hair Flip Challenge, the same month. The hashtag #k18hairflip now has 10.7 billion views.
“[TikTok] is where we see our consumer and where we’re able to reach people quickly. We’re able to educate on science and deliver content that people want to learn about,” Miller said.
According to Miller, there’s been a shift in the content consumers are looking for since the start of the pandemic. No longer is it “super curated and perfect.” It’s more “real,” she said, adding that this shift has allowed for science to take center stage.
TikTok virality goes a long way in 2022, but it’s not the only secret to K18’s success.
The brand also leans on a curated community of professional stylists and scientists who make up its army of believers and tell their communities about the reparative powers of the brand’s one product: its leave-in hair mask, which claims to noticeably repair hair in just four minutes. Miller said K18 never forgets that its “North Star” is its pro stylists. “Having this clear knowledge of who we’re going after has helped. We know that if we can reach the stylist, they’re gonna tell their clients, and that’s going to do a lot of the work for us,” she said.
Part of the fun of working at a new brand is that most of this work is done internally, Miller said. “You’re able to be nimble,” she said. “[The company’s] not super layered and it’s not hierarchical. You’re able to work with a team where you can test doing a hashtag challenge fairly quickly. That’s been the magic of how we’ve been able to move as fast as we do. The K18 team manages all of its own relationships with stylists and influencers, too.
Today, there are two common focuses for a marketing executive’s career to have, Miller said. One is more traditional, centered on numbers, and the other is more focused on brand identity. Miller’s career is closer to the latter, she said. She considers it her duty to “make sure the brand is being inclusive, [remains] on the pulse of sustainability — [is doing] all those things that give a brand humanity.”
She added, “There are so many [brands] today, you want to be able to feel good doing what you’re doing.”
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