Perhaps Generation Z (Gen Z for short) has you bewildered. In that case, there’s no one better to listen to than the CMO of e.l.f. Beauty, Kory Marchisotto, and the CMO of American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. (AEO), Craig Brommers. These marketing leaders joined the Visionaries Series for an insightful conversation on how they have overtaken the hearts of Gen Z with fearlessness and genuine connection.
From years of showing up daily to listen and learn from Gen Z, Craig and Kory have heard them loud and clear, resulting in a thriving relationship proven by various awards, stellar performance, and record-breaking fiscal years.
Read what they have learned from Gen Z and how it could influence your team, talent, and future.
- How to Define Generation Z
- AEO and e.l.f. Beauty are Winning Over Gen Z’s Hearts
- Why Gen Z Relates to the AEO and e.l.f. Brand
- Innovative Ways to Connect With Gen Z in the Metaverse
- Is Entertainment the New Way of Marketing?
How to Define Generation Z
When defining the wonderfully complex generation who cringes at anything status-quo, we will leave it to the experts, Craig and Kory. They know it’s best to allow Gen Z to introduce themselves.
- We are a generation with a high BS meter; we can smell the fakers.
- We are a diverse generation.
- We are the most entrepreneurial generation.
- We are a generation of bold, creative thinkers.
- We are a generation that wants to co-create with your brand.
- We want to be self-reliant, independent thinkers.
- We engage with brands that align with our values.
AEO and e.l.f. Beauty are Winning Over Gen Z’s Hearts
Kory Marchisotto: Beyond thinking about who Gen Z is, we need to go deeper by discovering what it is they want. They don’t want to watch things from the outside but want you to invite them inside. This methodology is a bottom-up revolution with everyday people, and we have to make sure our consumer is part of the journey.
AEO and e.l.f. teams share the magic sauce that allows us to galvanize this generation in a way that sets us apart from other companies. Our organizations operate with speed and innovation; we move at the pace of culture.
Craig Brommers: AEO is proud to have resonated with its consumers by adapting to the changing culture since 1977. To stay current and connect with Gen Z, we hired a Director of Metaverse Marketing. I have the best consumer insights team in retail. We go deep with what the Gen Z generation cares about and activate it quickly. Being nimble, flexible, listening to Gen Z, and following through is our key to success. Every day I wake up and read our customer comments. I know Kory does the same thing. When you have that direct feedback, positive or not so positive, you know that it’s probably times 1000 or 10,000 at scale. We also seek out entry-level feedback on ideas by tapping our 35,000 store associates on the shoulder to hear their perspectives, many who are Gen Z. Nothing’s given to you by Gen Z. It requires doing your homework but when you do you will be rewarded.
Why Gen Z Relates to the AEO and e.l.f. Brand
Kory Marchisotto: What matters most is how you think about Gen Z. Be curious to know who they are and embrace everything they care about. That includes partnering with their favorite brands, being in the spaces where they hang out and creating a party that they want to come to over and over again.
We’ve been able to have unexpected, authentic partnerships with like-minded and spirited disruptors. For example, by looking at consumer insights, we realized that e.l.f. and Chipotle were making consecutive waves on TikTok. I woke up one morning and decided that we should collaborate, and we broke the internet, bringing in more than four billion impressions in 72 hours. Once people got over the unexpected partnership, they couldn’t get enough of two brands they love coming together. We thought we could never outdo the earned media impressions of Chipotle and then we hit 5 billion plus with our friends at Dunkin’ recently. CNN broke the news.
Craig Brommers: Both American Eagle and e.l.f. are authentic and optimistic brands; we are comfortable in our skin and clear about who we are. Our industries are in a battle for attention, and we have to be entertaining. Because Gen Z kids are multi-dimensional, we can express our brand multi-dimensionally; this has been a key to why we’ve been so successful with this new generation. I have to also say, I have the distinct privilege of having a CEO and a board who really are supportive of us stretching ourselves to meet Gen Z where they’re at.
Innovative Ways to Connect With Gen Z
Craig Brommers: Gaming is something that AE decided to go after initially to connect with more males, but female gaming participation has also taken off. Roblox (an online game platform and game creation system) has been an excellent way for us to express our brand to the gaming community. An example is that we recently launched our new Roblox Summer Resort experience, a digital resort where you can come in, try on a product, and meet up with your friends.
Kory Marchisotto: The gaming space is critically important to Gen Z; we see it across every platform. I’m excited about e.l.f. entering the gaming space because we want to empower women users and creators. The online gaming community has been a hostile and unfair environment, so we partnered with the second most prominent woman gamer, Kathleen Belston (Lufu), who helps us navigate the space and advocate for other women gamers to rise.
Final Thoughts: Is Entertainment the New Marketing? What Career Advice Would You Share?
Kory Marchisotto: As a marketer, I used to think our role was making products and selling them; now, I like to say that e.l.f. is an entertainment company that sells makeup and skincare. Entertaining is critical; whether it’s with music, gaming, or live-streaming, we create an environment that people want to join.
For Gen Z, there is no distinction between the digital world and the physical world; it’s one world that they seamlessly move around with total fluidity. Your organization needs to be a reflection of who these people are and how they operate.
Craig Brommers: There’s so much innovation and newness happening in marketing that if I had any advice for someone that’s starting his or her career in marketing or even in mid-level, it’s to learn and make something happen for yourself. Our Director of Metaverse Marketing is a case and point. This person literally educated themselves on what was going on in this crazy brave new world. He’s an expert, but he also is the first to admit that no one is an expert in this. Learn every day. Do homework. Roll up the sleeves.
Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every Tuesday at 9am PT and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plans and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.
Kory Marchisotto, CMO of e.l.f. Beauty, BIO: Kory Marchisotto is recognized for cultivating partnerships and building lasting relationships across the beauty and fashion industries, including executive-level communications within global organizations. At e.l.f. Beauty, she leads an accomplished team, and in 2022, her brand was rated #1 in a Piper Sandler survey for Teen’s Top Cosmetic Brand.
Craig Brommers, CMO of American Eagle Outfitters, BIO: Craig Brommers cultivates high-profile brands for geographic, category, and digital expansion and is adept at managing the art and science of modern marketing. As the Chief Marketing Officer for American Eagle, Craig and his team were ranked #2 for Teen’s Top Clothing Brand. Previously, Craig has marketed for retail stores including Calvin Klein, Abercrombie Fitch, and Gap.