I sat down with Candace Craig Bulishak of tarte cosmetics to discuss how she went from joining as the tenth in-office employee to building a powerhouse brand. She shared her insights on visual content, the power of Periscope, and why you need to be flexible in the face of micro-moments.

How did you get into marketing and to tarte?

This January is 10 years for me at tarte. When I joined tarte, I joined as the PR and Marketing Manager, and at that time there were only nine employees in the office and 10 in the field. Maureen Kelly, the founder and CEO, started the brand in her one-bedroom apartment in New York City. Her whole philosophy about tarte was that it proved glamour could be good for you, and it's all about high-performance naturals.

I was in PR originally. I worked my first job at Lois Paul & Partners, where I got an understanding of the PR industry and communications. Then I moved to New York, which was always my goal after college, and I worked at Neale-May & Partners/Global Fluency. I worked at a few other small boutique fashion and beauty agencies, and then joined tarte. I love that tarte has an entrepreneurial and creative energy; there was an opportunity to build a strong strategic and innovative brand. I was really excited to join the team. Everyone was extremely passionate and proactive, with a great sense of teamwork. It's a place where you can cultivate ideas. I was able to take on new initiatives and it was really exciting.

Not many CMOs that I speak with have been at a company from the size of 9 to over 150 people. What were some of the key challenges in scaling a marketing team that you faced and marketing hacks that you used?

It's understanding, first and foremost, what your strengths are and where you need a bit of help. I love writing, I know brand communications, I've done PR, so I knew where I needed help on my team. I didn't have a ton of experience with paid search or affiliate marketing. So it's definitely looking for the right team. You also need to know your environment - we're a proactive team, so we need people who aren't afraid to take risks and bring new ideas to the table.

I think the challenges are obviously the time in the day, but you also need to be flexible, open to change, and not scared to take risks - if something fails you can always try something else. With social media, nobody in the early days was skilled at it, so it was learning how to incorporate that into your strategy and what you can do differently.

Before I joined, Maureen and the team had created tarte Talk - a community board - to really foster that connection with our customers. Customers could ask questions and we really believed in that idea of community right from the start. We wanted to provide really great customer support.

Were there any major trends that stuck out to you in 2015?

It's insane how social media continues to evolve at such a rapid pace. You can't sit back and watch, you need to get involved. Maureen and I will watch things on Snapchat or Periscope and send each other ideas. We were one of the first beauty brands to experiment with Periscope and Snapchat.

My team talks about this concept of "conversational marketing" - people want to see that raw, real footage that's relatable. Video content is getting even bigger than it has been. In the past, with YouTube, you can edit the videos and make it as polished as you want. With Periscope, it's live and we're connecting with our consumers in real-time. For example, someone on our team will be doing a tutorial on a smoky eye and a fan will ask about her skin routine, so we need to adapt. The trend of video has become something so much bigger than what it has been in the past. It's now real-time and authentic.

You need to adapt to new technologies and become one of those early adopters. When we look at our social strategy every three to six months, we look at new platforms and new ways that brands and influencers are using it. That trend has really taken over. Social influencers - web celebs - are huge. If they post something, people want to go and pick that up right away. That's something where we think - what's next, where do we take it from there? It's surprised me how quickly it continues to grow.

Consumer attention spans continue to drop, therefore how are you thinking about engaging consumers differently in micro-moments?

With our visual content, there's less time on the creative team and less editing. People want to see it right away. What we're doing with Instagram, which is very visual, is we look at why people are posting and why they're liking. It's changed the way that we'll spend time on things - time on an editorial shoot, how we're creating our own content, things like that. Having an in-house video studio is so important, because if there's a trend, we want to get in on it right away. Like the highlighting trend - we want to get that video up within 24 hours. If we know a palette is getting love on social, we want to switch up our email schedule and send that out. We're really flexible - you have to be.

What metrics do you think are most important to track?

I deal with a balance of brand awareness and more quantitative results. In the past year, we have really invested in our dotcom team to bring in some analytical marketers to prove results. With social, you can track by guestimate - if you post a specific item on Instagram, and you're not advertising it anywhere else and sales go up, there's a connection there. We track our analytics as far as Instagram engagement and followers. We obviously use Google Analytics and affiliate partners. We look at our spend and if we see ROI, we'll add more spend.

Looking ahead to this year, what gets you excited as to how eCommerce marketing will evolve?

For us, it's about how to make it a more customizable, personal experience, maybe by using skin type, shade of foundation - how do we make that happen? How do you make that shoppable experience really personal and customizable? How do you do that from a dotcom perspective? How do we connect with her and understand what she wants and needs?

That's the big question: Bridging the gap between the voice in social and the voice in eCommerce, how do you make a more authentic and shoppable experience?

Candace Craig Bulishak is the CMO of tarte cosmetics, where she leads an innovative marketing team. She has worked previously at Whisper PR, Neale-May & Partners/GlobalFluency, and Lois Paul & Partners. She studied at Syracuse University.

Published on: Jan 26, 2016
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