Ted Rubin: How A Chief Marketing Officer Drives Sales With Social Media

Chief Marketing Officers in the era of brand advocates and social media. A conversation with Ted Rubin, e.l.f.'s CMO and the architect of its successful social media campaign. [Update: Ted Rubin is not longer with e.l.f. He can be found on twitter @tedrubin]

“The next important growth feature for social networks will be ubiquity. Social networks must be woven into everything we encounter and social media/marketing should be integrated into the fabric of all marketing channels, strategically managed from 360 perspective. Social Media is a platform... Social Marketing is how it is leveraged by a brand." -Ted Rubin

Times are changing fast. Companies need to learn how to interact and respond in an efficient and positive manner to their audience via social media and to understand how to pool positive word-of-mouth and energize their brand advocates online. Through our conversation, there was a strong and recurring emphasis on a theme that ties e.l.f.'s marketing strategy together: social media and the power of the advocate.

Companies need to learn how to move away from passively listening and instead spring into action when the needs of their customers are not met. It is not enough to be an active listener; your brand needs to be an active and engaged participant. This is not the same as participation by broadcast. Participation by broadcast is when a brand is visibly active but establishes a one-way broadcast communication style with their audience.

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer is shifting

According to the best empirical evidence to date—from oft-cited research by the global recruiting firm Spencer Stuart—the average CMO tenure is a mere 23 months, less than half the average tenure of chief executive officers in the same firms. This data takes on ominous tones when enhanced by anecdotal narratives, such as Starbucks’ record of five heads of marketing in seven years, or Coca-Cola refilling its CMO position four times in six years.

Given the relatively short tenure of a CMO and the new marketing landscape, it is of utmost importance that the approach to the CMO role changes. Evolution needs to start with the C-suite and refocus the role of the CMO not as the mythical figure behind the strategy, but as the guiding rod and public face in the market where the CMO can exert influence. Part of the CMO role evolves into a chief relationship manager of sorts.

This is a transcendental evolution, where the customer is at the center of brand value creation and the CMOs strategize across new and classic marketing channels by making the brand part of a fluid conversation.

The shift from old to new marketing is hard work but pays off

Ted has managed to make this shift for himself and for EyesLipsFace as well. This has taken a lot of work, but it has paid off handsomely for the company and for his personal brand as well. EyesLipsFace, under Ted's leadership, has been at the forefront of social marketing and innovation by using social media to turn advocates into sales and quantifiable ROI.

According to a study by Zuberance, the advocate channel outperforms more traditional online marketing channels like search engine marketing and display by a factor of five on average. EyesLipsFace has been able to tap into that advocate channel by energizing their passionate customers and turning them into a large virtual sales force that is driving quantifiable sales.

Obstacles that CMOs face

There are two main obstacles that CMOs need to sort through before they can take advantage of social media. They need to decide when to get involved and how. The challenge today is that CMOs are either waiting too long or going in too quickly. There are two things that could happen in either scenario.

Waiting too long means the competition will take that first mover advantage that can effectively give your competition full ownership of your

However, if a brand gets involved too quickly they might get end up in a broadcast-only mode that might prove more costly than no presence at all.

So what is a CMO to do?

Research the medium and become knowledgeable.

There's nothing better than first hand experience. According to Ted, he spent some valuable time researching and learning the field before he applied it to e.l.f. cosmetics

Build a following for your personal brand.

If you are able to build a sizeable audience for your personal brand then you will have a better understanding of what it takes to develop a social marketing strategy for you company. Ted started way ahead of his peers by building and engaging a sizable audience that he can now mobilize

Build a strategy with measurable goals.

But don't get stuck in the areas that cannot be measured right away as these are potentially very valuable to the company's bottom line down the road. Set your CEO's expectations properly and don't over promise.

Get your hands dirty.

Interact with your audience and provide that personal touch that your brand needs

What are the results that Ted has been able to get for e.l.f. cosmetics this year?

Growing exponentially from early numbers of 300,000 to now over 2,000,000 subscribers with less than a 0.5 percent unsubscribe rate. 30K group members in Facebook in less than 12 months. 40K followers on Twitter since launch. 5400 followers on YouTube with over 50K views to e.l.f. videos which is only the tip of the iceberg since there are many more user generated videos. Askelf.com as a feedback channel where 99% of the feedback has been positive. The campaign "The New Face of e.l.f., Beauty at All Ages" and the "Wish for This" app generated over. 14,500 wishes, 2,000 retweets, 200,000 impressions in the first 3 weeks

CMOs looking at 2010 and 2011

Ted mentioned a couple of things that will mark the evolution of the role of the CMO. First of all, 2009 was the year when companies and CMOs learned and applied the basics of social marketing to their program by entering social networks and building audiences. However, the strategy was either not clear or not existent in many cases.

In 2010 CMOs will see the following developments and challenges:

A valuable tool that allows brands to measure not only mentions of the brand but how to tie that back to ROI will emerge thus making it easier for the CMO to build a stronger case for an overarching social marketing strategy.  CEOs will step back and will let CMOs implement and experiment with newer ways to engage brand advocates thus allowing social marketing to grow as a fabric that ties sales and marketing together instead of just one more program in the mix.  CMOs will be forced by customers to engage online and move beyond a broadcast-only relationship


CMOs face steep challenges and obstacles in the new marketing era. It is not enough to be well versed in the strategy and execution of a top-to-bottom marketing campaign that follows the classic structure of a marketing program. We are beyond that.

New marketing forces CMOs off of their comfort zone and into the playing field where they have to put the needs and wants of the customer at the forefront of the strategy, effectively turning the classic notion of marketing on its head.

You start at the "bottom" and build on top of tangible goals. You start with the customers and engage them fully. The challenges and marketing channels are different, but the fundamentals behind the marketing strategy remain the same.

It is time to rethink where the value resides. While it is true that classic media marketing still holds the lion share of marketing budgets, that does not imply it is engaging your audience or reaching them at all.

People expect brands to engage, to listen and to act. Your advocates are waiting, now it is your turn to move the engagement dial and reach out to them. You will be pleased with the results.