The job of a CMO is a busy one, but that doesn’t stop Katie Welch, CMO of Rare Beauty, from finding the time to also mentor her 38,000 TikTok followers on the ins and outs of marketing. There, she also shares the story of how she got to be the CMO of Selena Gomez’s popular beauty brand.
Welch got her start in PR, working at mega-agencies like Weber Shandwick. She eventually found her way to marketing and rose through the ranks to earn the title of CMO at Hourglass Cosmetics before joining Rare Beauty in 2019. Welch said starting in PR “taught me the framework for brand storytelling at a young age.”
One thing that has evolved since the start of Welch’s career is that the conversations a brand initiates in its own communications — through advertising campaigns, for example — now go in two directions. In other words, customers can now join in.
“All the different [social] platforms [have provided the] ability to have a two-way conversation with your community. Now that you can do that, it has evolved the way brands speak,” she said, referring to the change in tone social media has allowed beauty brands to make, to one that is more playful and less serious.
Welch said she’s partial to TikTok but added that a good marketer is platform agnostic. “Marketing can’t be so reliant on one platform. It’s truly like an orchestra.” After all, she said, “the platform isn’t as important as the story.”
Rare Beauty had a big year: The brand launched internationally, launched a mascara that became a bestseller and had multiple products go viral on TikTok, where it has organically earned over 700,000 followers. Welch is proud of “helping Selena bring her vision to life, which is something that’s so much more than a beauty brand.” Gomez’s mission, Welch said, was always to “create a brand that was purpose-driven and worked to make a difference in mental health.” As such, Rare Beauty works alongside the Rare Impact Fund.
“We’ve built a strong community. We’ve marketed award-winning products and infused the brand purpose in everything we do,” Welch said, noting that when her team works on plans, it’s not creating them for “nameless, faceless personas.” Of Rare Beauty’s customers, she said, “We’ve gotten to know some of them — their names, their faces, their stories.”
As for Welch’s own burgeoning social following, it’s a product of the creative thinking that makes her good at her job. Having a bit more free time than usual at the start of the pandemic also contributed. “In 2019, we were hiring for Rare Beauty, and I [took to TikTok]. The only way to get new faces and voices in the beauty industry is if we break down barriers to entry.”
Looking for a way to “pay it forward,” Welch took to TikTok. One thing led to another and, eventually, Welch was offering one-on-one Zoom time to students, even reviewing their resumes.
“It’s mutually beneficial,” Welch said of the nearly 100 Zooms she has had with young people. “How can you be a good marketer if you’re not talking to people and learning from others?”
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