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For many organizations, fans are the foundation of their business. Every company knows how to market to its consumers, but what about when they experience a crisis? In the aftermath of the pandemic and the explosive tidal wave of existing and new social media channels, catering to fans by helping them lead the conversation is essential. However, using your platform to positively impact their lives is the surest way to win their hearts.  

At a recent Marketers That Matter Summit, we gathered three top female marketing executives who have tapped into the power of fans to keep their organizations thriving through their commitment to DE&I, purpose, and values.

Moderated by Meg Wubbenhorst, SVP of Marketers That Matter, and joined by guests:

Heidi Browning, CMO at NHL

Stephanie Fried, CMO at Fandom

Kory Marchisotto, CMO at e.l.f. Beauty

While all the panelists come from varying industries, they each embody how empowered women empower women, leading with courage – not only through the pandemic but beyond.   

Here is what they had to say at the NYC MTM Summit, and how it could impact your team, talent, and future. 

Overview

  • Seizing the Moment to Pivot 
  • Striving for Authenticity 
  • Seeing Employees as People 
  • Key Takeaways 

Seizing the Moment to Pivot 

How has the pandemic changed how your brand interacts with fans? 

Stephanie Fried: When the pandemic started, everyone was engaging with media for hours a day. Our traffic went crazy during that time, which was great for our business but sad for the world. We wanted to think about why consumers were coming to us.

Throughout the pandemic, we saw how quickly peoples’ interests changed. The three biggest content trends were plagues, nostalgia, and escapism. For example, fans rewatched Friends, Gilmore Girls, and other shows that helped remind them of times out with friends and family.

We strived to create a place where people could feel more connected via their fandoms and entertainment. People were coming to us, and we wanted to give back and serve those fans by giving them something to help their well-being.

We launched six initiatives in six weeks, a mix of live and interactive programming to give fans the chance to participate and connect with active fan communities and creators. 

Heidi Browning: Many of the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic are reflections of what we’ve learned from listening to our Youth Advisory Board, now called the NHL Power Players. This initiative was inspired by a young fan who presented her ideas to a group of our organization’s marketers.

When she presented, we had an “ah ha!” moment. We were already doing many of these ideas, yet they weren’t reaching her. We weren’t in the right places or communicating in the right way.

Now, twice a month, we meet with 27 young people, ages 13-17, and have conversations while watching games.   One of the most prominent insights we have gained from the NHL Power Players is the notion of “See Me,” which is about younger generations being acknowledged or recognized on social media. Whether it’s a retweet or a share, it means everything to them.

“Seeing them” is a form of social currency. During the pandemic, when no athletes were on the ice, we had to retain our fans without any product. So, we turned the spotlight on our fans. We engaged with them much more extensively, creating this connective tissue. The “See Me” concept is also significant within our organization. As CMOs and leaders, we are obligated to celebrate our fans and our teams. 

Kory Marchisotto - Democratizing Consumers, Fans, and Brands

Kory Marchisotto: We entered the pandemic with Tiger King and exited with Ted Lasso—a journey from crass to kind. For organizations, that means wearing your heart on your sleeve and turning your company inside out. During the pandemic, our consumers needed something very different from us.

They didn’t just want to know about our products; they wanted to know about our people. They needed to know who our CEO was, what he cared about, and the makeup of our company in terms of diversity. We shifted from selling products to selling values. 

During a crisis, you need to think: What is happening with our consumers today? What do they need from me? How can I deliver it to them? And then use your platform to positively impact people’s lives.

Kory Marchisotto

e.l.f. Beauty became a safe place where people go when they need to have conversations about social justice, and we became a Gen Z favorite through the bravery, courage, and kindheartedness we led with.

We met the moment and we met people where they were. We didn’t see them just as consumers. You need to talk to people’s hearts and get to know the depths of their souls. They’re smart, they’re savvy, and they care. Social media has changed everything. The pandemic turned the dial up on humanity. 

Striving for Authenticity 

Why do values matter when you’re building company culture? 

Stephanie Fried: Company culture is important, but people never ask about the values of our organization. How are these values present in everything we do?

We workshopped with our executive team to ensure the value buzzwords aren’t just there but truly integrated into the company.

It becomes authentic when your organization’s actions are grounded in something you truly believe in. When that happens, everything becomes more meaningful for your fans.  

Kory Marchisotto - Democratizing Consumers, Fans, and Brands

Kory Marchisotto: The most important aspect of values is that they are seen in an organization’s behaviors. Inauthenticity comes up when the values don’t match the behaviors. For example, our CEO always comes to us and asks what we care about.

This action says everything about our values. You have to ask yourselves: What are the actions of our leaders? What are the gestures of care? What are the moments of empathy? Often you put up those value buzzwords, but they don’t mirror how people behave. Instead, the actions should mirror your values. Start with what you care about first.   

Seeing Employees as People 

In one “tweetable” sentence, how do you turn employees into fans? 

Turning employees into fans is all about seeing them. Employees must feel seen and respected in every aspect of their lives, from their work to who they are. -Heidi Browning Click To Tweet
The best marketing ideas come from people outside of marketing. When you look for input across the organization, you get ideas from different places, angles, and perspectives. Listen, ask, and build together. -Stephanie Fried Click To Tweet
See your employees, invite them in, and be a mirror image of what’s inside your community’s heart. – Kory Marchisotto Click To Tweet

Key Takeaways 

Cultivating a dedicated fanbase starts from the inside of the organization. Fans are conscious and intentional consumers. When a company is genuinely dedicated to its employees and its values, consumers see this and are more likely to become loyal fans. The pairing of the pandemic and the rise in social media has fundamentally changed the dynamics of marketing. Now more than ever, the consumer paves the way. Good ideas may come from the boardroom, but many come from the living room too.  

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Moderated by Meg Wubbenhorst, SVP of Marketers That Matter: Meg Wubbenhorst is a versatile strategic marketing leader with 20+ years of experience collaborating with partners to build and deliver a vision – understanding the consumer insights, setting the KPIs and goals, and then managing the project plan and driving the initiative forward for key stakeholders. She leads a community of global Chief Marketing Officers from some of the biggest brands in the world. In her role at Marketers That Matter, she seeks to understand CMO’s needs and challenges, build relationships and engagement, and work with executives on industry initiatives (e.g. Diversity-Equity-Inclusion-Belonging, Sustainability, Brand Equity) that are a force for good and a force for growth. 

Heidi Browning, CMO at NHL: With over 25 years of marketing experience, Heidi Browning brings a valuable mix of client, agency, and media owner perspectives to the NHL. She is known as a passionate pioneer in digital, mobile, and social marketing and continues to drive thought leadership and innovation within the industry. Inspired by the intersection of media, technology, and culture, Browning studies generational trends in consumer attention and brand engagement. Heidi is responsible for executing the League’s growth marketing strategy with a focus on social media, digital, data, and innovation. She has been recognized as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Sports” by both Forbes and Adweek, by Forbes as one of the Most Influential CMOs in the world, and by Crain’s as one of the Notable Women in the Business of Sports. To hear Heidi share about the Power of Listening, check out her episode on Visionaries. 

Stephanie Fried, CMO at Fandom: Stephanie Fried is a marketer with deep roots in analytics and insights and has spent 20 years building and leading the most innovative marketing and research teams in media. Transforming businesses is her passion, and she is known for accelerating growth for a bleeding edge business or re-energizing and reinvigorating a legacy business. Her mantra is, “with a deep understanding of consumer needs, market trends, and the competitive landscape, we can uncover, test, and prove new and exciting paths to growth.” 

Kory Marchisotto, CMO at e.l.f. Beauty: Kory Marchisotto is recognized as a bold disrupter with a kind heart. For the past 20+ years she has been transforming beauty brands, cultivating partnerships and building lasting relationships across the beauty industry and beyond. She is an accomplished executive with progressive experience leading digital and traditional marketing strategies with a keen ability to steer brand vision, establish innovative programs, and create effective team development. At e.l.f. Beauty, she continues to show the world that anything is e.l.f.ing possible. She leads an accomplished team, and in 2022, her brand was rated #1 in a Piper Sandler survey for Teen’s Top Cosmetic Brand. Check out Kory’s Visionaries episode on Exploring the Gen Z Revolution!

Marketers That Matter® is a community of top marketing executives coming together to pioneer the future of marketing, sharing real-time experiences, and solving current challenges. 

Our parent company, 24 Seven, specializes in helping you find exceptional marketing and creative talent for your teams.