The Virtual CMO Podcast:
Season 1, Episode 11
Eric Dickmann - Founder/CMO of the Five Echelon Group, Twitter @EDickmann
In this episode, host Eric Dickmann interviews Lynn Power. Lynn is a longtime ad agency executive with a love for beauty. She's been fortunate to work on many iconic brands, including Gillette Venus, Clinique, L'Oreal, and Nexxus. She loves building teams, reinventing cultures, and disruption. And now she's disrupting the haircare industry with MASAMI, clean premium haircare with a Japanese ocean botanical that's all about hydration.
We discuss how the advertising agency business has changed as big consulting firms have taken over what was once the exclusive domain of agencies. Lynn also shares her experience in moving from an agency business to having to apply those same lessons to her own entrepreneurial venture, MASAMI. With years of experience in advertising and working with other businesses, Lynn shares her insights around building a brand and the importance of knowing your brand story.
Transcript: Season 1, Episode 11
**Please note, this transcript was generated by an artificial intelligence engine. It is intended only as a rough transcript and there may be some grammatical, spelling or transcription errors.
Welcome to The Virtual CMO podcast. I'm your host, Eric Dickmann. The Virtual CMO is a podcast designed for marketing professionals at small and midsize businesses. Our goal is to share strategies and tactics from fellow marketing professionals that you can use to impact the trajectory of your company's marketing. Our primary mission is to pass along meaningful insight on topics of interest to marketing professionals. If you have questions, there's a link in the show notes to provide feedback or guest inquiries. We'd love to hear from you. And as always, we appreciate those five-star reviews on Apple Podcasts. It helps the show with that. Let's dive into another conversation with The Virtual CMO. Today, I'm delighted to welcome Lynn Power to the show. Lynn is a longtime ad agency executive with a love of beauty. She has been fortunate to work with many iconic brands, including Gillette, Venus, Clinique, L'Oréal, and nexus. She loves building teams, reinventing cultures, and disruption. She's now disrupting the hair care industry with Masami. A premium hair care product with a Japanese ocean botanical. That's all about hydration. I enjoyed today's conversation with Lynn as we get into her background in advertising and how she is applying her marketing experience to building her brand. Lynn's social handle is at Lynn powered, and Masami can be found at, at love, Masami hair on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. The website is lovemasami.com and, that's M A S A M I let's get to our conversation with Lynn Power.
Lynn welcome to The Virtual CMO podcast. I'm very glad that you were able to join us today.
Thank you. I'm very glad to be part of it.
So, Lynn, you've got kind of an impressive background, I think is going to be very beneficial for our audience to learn more about, tell us really how you got started in the business world.
So I am a 30 year 30 plus here, an advertising executive turned entrepreneur. And I kind of fell into advertising. It wasn't something that I studied in school or even thought about at all. But when I graduated from college, I had a degree. I had a double major of English and criminal justice and, you know, I had applied to, the FBI and. I had to wait to find out, you know, what was going to go on there. And that was like six months. Wait, and I didn't want to wait. So I ended up taking a job in advertising, not knowing anything about it. And I started as a receptionist and kind of worked my way up.
Oh, that's very interesting. The FBI sounds, you know, very exotic and Interesting. thinking about your going from the FBI to the advertising
yeah. No, definitely. I mean, I, I, definitely was a huge flip and like I said, I hadn't thought about advertising, so I didn't even know what it was all about, but I think what, what happened was I realized I love this blend of creativity and business. And, you know, you get that in advertising. I don't know if I would have gotten that in the FBI. Probably not. I think it's perhaps the opposite of creativity, right.
That's exactly right. Very different. So you started as a receptionist you liked what you saw when you were in the business. How did it progress? At the advertising agency?
I mean, I started working at a very small agency. Yeah. It was called Jack Levy associates. I don't think they are around anymore. And I started, and I was kind of helping the pizza hut account. And then, you know, you just end up, you go from the receptionist, the account coordinator, and suddenly you're an assistant account executive, and now you just, you just kind of get promoted. And, I stayed there for three years and then I decided, okay, I need to go to a bigger place and just get a little bit more, sort of blue-chip experience. So I left. But that's kind of the nature of the beast of advertising is like, you can work your way up fairly quickly. But the flip side is you can also get very stale and stagnant if you're not when you're more senior if you're not sort of moving towards something else.
I've heard that a lot where people at these various ad agencies move around quite a bit since, you kind of started at the beginning of your career, how have you seen things change in the advertising business?
Oh my gosh. So many ways. it's, it's a challenging time for agencies, for sure. I think it has been for the last few years. And I think the big thing that agencies are wrestling with is, you know, the business model is based on people and hours. And when clients are not willing to pay the fees that they used to pay, cause they can get a lot of the services online or just automated or digitized, whatever. Then, you don't have the ability to pay your people. At an agency, you know, the same, the same way. And chances are, you've had to cut a lot of people back because you can't afford it. Now those four people on the account. Now there's two, and they're working twice as hard. And so, you know, agencies have not figured out how to reconcile that piece of it. Which means that you know, it's just kind of a miserable environment right now. If you work in an agency, because as I said, you're, you're doing multiple people's jobs and not getting paid for it. And, clients are continuing to squeeze.
One thing that I heard the other day that surprised me is that for some of the big agencies, they're seeing a lot of their business being taken away by some of the big consulting firms these consulting firms have all this visibility into an organization, so they know exactly what's going on. They can bring in their marketing people and offer something that's much more compelling than some of these agencies can offer. Have you heard or seen that as well?
Oh, absolutely. that's, that's been—kind of in the works for a while. You know, if you Deloitte is buying, buying the digital agency heat, and Accenture, obviously getting big in the game. And so, it makes sense, you know, I think they, the consultancies have what agencies desperately want, which is access up to the C levels. And it's tougher these days more than ever for agencies to get that because, CMOs just, you know, don't have the cache, I think that they used to, and CEO's, don't seem to be super involved in marketing. So, you know, the consultancies already have those relationships. So why not? Why not close the loop right. And offer full service. Soup to nuts of their strategy, not just the, paper, weight deck that they usually deliver.
I know that when I deal with a lot of my clients, one of the areas of particular focus is on creating that comprehensive strategy, really understanding what the business needs, where they want to grow in the marketplace, and then developing the marketing strategy around that. And I think that's where these consultants, as you said, are—positioned well within these accounts because they're already part of that strategy discussion. So they have all that inside information, and it puts them at a real advantage to an outside agency, which doesn't have those kinds of executive-level conversations.
And I hear they're approaching a lot of good people as well from the agencies. So some of these talented creatives are moving from the agencies over to these consulting firms.
Yeah. I mean, I think, If you're a creative and you're looking to make a move, you know, it's tough. There's just, you're looking around. You're not seeing any bright spots, but maybe for them, it makes sense. They can, I'm sure they're better paid. Cause I think that's the other benefit of the consultancies. They're, you know, they know how to manage that talent model and, you know, have some, have some cash to burn still. So yeah, I think there's a lot of talent on the market also right now. So if you're a consultancy, you have a lot to choose from. Cause a lot of people have been, let go. So why not go and try working for them?
So you, you worked in the business for a while, and at some point, you decided to branch off on your own and start your agency. So talk to me a little bit about the decision there and what that looked like.
Yeah. So I was at J Walter Thompson, New York. I was the CEO and. You know, it was a very sort of tumultuous few years that I was there. We had a very public, me too lawsuit, that, you know, took a lot of my attention and, you know, just dealing with a lot of the implications and fall out of that. So I was not exactly like loving my advertising life at that point. And, I just decided, you know, I've done so much work for other people and building their brands. I think I need to just do something on my own. So I left, I started the HMS beagle with a partner, Joseph Joffey he's written five books. One just came out last year on the death of the corporation, which I think feels quite relevant. Yeah. And, We decided to start a business. That's, that's just about the strategy of survival, you know, helping, helping companies survive and thrive, which also seems even more relevant now. So that was what we did, and we've been working almost exclusively with startups. It just, just kind of happened that way. You know, most of my experience was not in the startup world before, but now I feel like I have a lot. And you know, the beautiful thing about working with startups. A lot of times they don't have a marketing person in their team or, you know the founder might be an engineer kind of thing. And, so they really and need the help. And I found them to be very. Appreciative and open-minded about the feedback, which you know, to us, is like it's the brand to them. The brand is sort of just the wrapper
that's an interesting point because a lot of startups are focused around an idea, a specific product. Offering. And that's where you get a lot of these engineering talents. A lot of these really smart people who are trying to apply that and build something out, but they're not thinking about how to sell it so much as they are, how to build it out. And so when the VCs come in, they provide that funding. They're the ones that say, okay, now we need to scale this thing up. We need to get this thing out to market, and we need to show that it's viable so that we can sell this thing. Do you find that the venture capital community is pretty open-minded when it comes to investing marketing resources into a company, into a startup, especially?
I've seen it kind of across the board, you know, different points of view on that. Which, you know, I guess, is not surprising. So I, I think the more evolved VCs, there's one that we've worked with on a couple of different clients in their portfolio called streamlined ventures out in Palo Alto. I think the, you know, they represent a more evolved Type of view on how to grow, you know, grow their portfolio. And then flip it out, and marketing is like a really big component there, but not just marketing. It's really like understanding your brand; you know what your North star is, what your values are, how all that hangs together, you know, that informs product, innovation, talent, everything else. So. I found there are these VCs that get it. And then there are the ones that, you know, would think it was a waste of money. The problem with that is, you know, we've worked with some startups where we've had to sort of, retrofit, you know because they'd already put stuff in the market. It wasn't right. You know, and, and, and then you're kind of like trying to cobble together after the fact. And stitch things together, it's way harder to do it later, you know, cause you've already got a lot of things out in the world, that have one branding on it, so my advice to anyone who's in that phase of you've got a product or an idea, make sure you think about the brand first and get all of your brand tenants in order. And then, and then. You know, roll out your, go to market strategy.
I think that's such a good point because I've been to a number of startup conferences where you have these small companies. Demonstrating their product, you know, pitching to VCs, trying to get funding, trying to get interested. And you can tell the ones that have had some marketing involvement and the ones that haven't, there's usually a tremendous difference in terms of the quality of their materials in terms of their overall brand messaging. Even, you know, down to their logos and presentations, you can just tell marketing brings a lot of expertise to the table in terms of positioning and branding. So I, I couldn't agree with you more. So speaking of branding, the HMS Beagle, give us the story there.
So, the HMS Beagle was Darwin ship. So, that was his catalyst for the whole kind of, you know, Evolution thing. And, so we're like I said, we're all about survival. So, you know, we help brands figure out that, that what we were just talking about, the brand narrative, the brand positioning, the white space, and then, you know, we, we tend to help with the go-to-market strategy. we'll help them figure out their team and talent and capable facilities they may need. And sometimes we do business transformation, so, it's really, a lot of it is foundational work for startups. I would say.
I think that's great, though, because having a name and a story. It gives you something to leave with a potential client. Oh, you're the shipping company; it gives you something more than just a name and a logo. it's great that you've taken that narrative and sort of put it in your marketing, put it across your website. It builds a story that I think people can latch on to.
Well, I think it's very visceral, you know, it's like the idea of survival and fight or flight. It's like, I think, I think people get that. And you know, now you start to see all these venerable companies like GE struggling, and you know, how many have declared bankruptcy in the last month or two, you know, several rights. So, you know, you're kind of watching this happen all around you. So yeah, I think it's a very relevant positioning right now for us as a consultancy. Because, yeah, you, you, you are in a survival game these days.
You talked a little bit about the fact that you wish some startups would not. Push their message out before they develop their brand a little bit more. if you could talk a little bit more about some of the common mistakes that you see, companies that you've worked with beyond that, what are some things that you just see over and over some of these smaller companies doing
Well, I think it's very easy to fit a mold. You know, there was a while DTC brands were called subway brands because they were all, you know, doing subway takeovers. But yeah, I see, I see the first mistake being one where, you know, the founder knows the space, lots of competitive analysis around what's going on. And then they launch a brand that looks like everyone else. It, you know, same buzzwords, same, you know, sort of, illustration style graphics, you know? So that is, I would say, you know, one of the biggest things I see is it's, it's just, there is kind of certain conventions that I think maybe you have a bias towards and you just want to do them, and everyone else does them. So you just end up yeah, me too.
me too. Yeah. I see that. Even in website design, there are some standards that come and go. And I, I really wouldn't also call them rules, just design principles. And then everybody falls in line, and every website starts to look the same after a while. It's tough to differentiate yourself. And I was listening to a podcast the other day. And one of the things that the speaker was emphasizing was to get noticed in the market. You. Can't be afraid to be different, to speak in your language, to speak in a way that truly draws attention to why you're not the same as everybody else. Sometimes. Maybe that can be a little controversial, or it can be a little bit out there in terms of what you're saying, but just falling in line. You end up looking like everyone else.
Oh, absolutely. I think that is, that is the big watch out. You have to define your voice and your personality, and, yeah. Bring that to life for sure.
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So now, after years of doing the HMS Beagle, you took another turn and decided to get into entrepreneurship in a completely different way with a haircare line. Talk to me a little bit about that.
I know it seems like another crazy thing, but you know I, I've worked in beauty for a lot of my career. I've worked on brands like Clinique and L’Oréal and nexus. So, you know, I've always liked working in beauty and I met my partner for Masami. His name’s James met him, and he'd been working on these formulations for almost ten years, pretty much by himself. He hired a chemist, but. Was doing a lot of the R and D work himself. And when I met him, he had the formulations probably 80% done, and he just didn't know what to do with them because he's not a brand or marketing guy. So, I tried the products, they were fantastic, and we decided to partner up to launch Masami, which is clean premium hair care. And you know, one of the things that got me so excited is it performs it’s a super high performing, which a lot of clean products are not.
That's where a lot of the marketplace is going, but there's not a lot of it out there.
That's right. it's caught on in terms of consumer awareness. I think people realize that you know, you shouldn't put toxins on your body or in your body, and if you can avoid it, you should. And there are a lot of products, but it's, it's been, I think, dominated by skin hair so far. Because I think people perceive, you know, when you're using skincare, it gets absorbed into the skin, and therefore, you know, that's some, it's an easier leap to make for why clean. But with hair care, the interesting thing, there are people, you know, think it's just, you know, you're, you're shampooing your hair, which isn't you're washing it off. It's not staying. But you are scrubbing your shampoo into your scalp, and 90% of shampoos in the U S have toxic stuff in them. And your scalp is also one of the most absorbent parts of your body. So it's a little bit like, yeah. If you thought about it, you wouldn't want to be doing that.
Well, and I would think that people are putting on shampoo and conditioner and hairsprays and gels and coloring. there's a lot of chemicals that people put on their hair that probably don't apply to your body as a whole. Right. There's a lot of things that go on your head.
so you've got this great experience as a marketing executive, history in advertising, and now you're an entrepreneur with your firm. That's a business to consumer venture. So how do you start to apply than those principles that you've learned over the years to your business venture?
Yeah. I mean, the good thing is it's been somewhat second nature. Cause again, I've done it so long. So one of the very first things we did was develop our brand narrative. And we wanted to have a clear purpose and mission and have that inform everything. So, you know, we decided that we wanted to, you know, we take something from the ocean, we want to give back to the ocean. And so we set up the Masami Institute, which is a nonprofit organization that helps support research in Northeast Japan around the ocean. So we set that up from the beginning. I think, it wasn't an afterthought, you know, and I think a lot of brands don't do that, necessarily, you know, I think we talked about this before, but it's even with drilling through the whole consumer experience, you know, they don't think about certain pieces until later. But if you can get all that mapped out in advance and have that clear vision, I think it helps everything else.
Oh, for sure. Have you seen that? The pieces that you put in place at the beginning have slowly started to show some real visible results in your business because marketing takes time, right? It's not like you flip a switch, and it instantaneously, you're successful. you've got to put it out into the world and let it stew a bit.
Well, you have to put it out in the world, and if you're a startup like we are, we're bootstrapped. So we don't have money. So. You know, the things that I've applied from my, from my previous life were things also like, you know, how to create assets, for very low, low costs, low to no cost. And then, you know how to think about the whole ecosystem of consumer experience, which I kind of just touched on, but this idea of. You know, the role of PR the role of reviews and influencers, you know, the role of social media and how you can work all these channels within a very, very, very small budget, you know to, to drive some results.
I'm glad you brought that up because I know it doesn't apply to all of them. Businesses universally, but certain businesses, for sure. There's real power in reviews and being able for other customers to see how people rate and review your products, whether that's on Amazon, Google, Yelp, wherever it may be. And also the power of social media, which. Is it a free platform, right? There may be a small cost to creating some content, but it's an open platform that you can use to put content out there without really having to pay for advertising unless you wanted to. And then obviously you mentioned the influencer channel, which is this new thing. And I think there's a whole generation of people who think that that's a career choice, but it's going to be interesting to see how it develops because there is real power in some of these people being able to promote products.
Oh, absolutely. I think the challenge now is there are so many like you're saying would be influencers or actual influencers. I don't know. It's, it's become such a crowded space that it's, it's starting to lose a little bit of that. You know, the punch it had her a few years ago, I think, but It's still a very powerful way to reach your, your consumer. So yeah, thinking through all of those different pieces and what, what you can activate, and how quickly you can do it and how to start to get the word out. That's all, that's all part of building a good marketing plan, you know?
I'm a little smug about it, but generally, if I see somebody in their profile say that they're an influencer, that means that they're not.
Right. If they have to say it right.
Right. The influencers who have the cache and who can move the needle, I think, on product promotion, they don't need to advertise that. They're that it's well known.
Yeah, I think that's true.
So what's next then for the brand, are you just doing a direct sales model or are you working with other businesses, salons, and whatnot to sell the products directly to them? Are you doing a mail order? How are you getting it out to consumers?
it's kind of all of the above. So we're, we are a DTC business at heart, meaning we have our e-com site. We're also on Amazon. But, we are now building out some salon partnerships because I think it's really important for consumers to touch and see and smell and feel the brand, especially if you're a beauty brand. You know, that's part of the experience again. So yeah. that's why I think for us, we wanted to have some physical presence as well as our online. And then you said mail order, but we are in a number of subscription boxes, which are also a great sampling vehicle to get our product in people's hands.
That's something new that's come on within the last couple of years. And obviously, COVID has changed things a little bit as people have cut back on spending, but it's a great idea. I just saw a stock recommendation today for stitch fix because they think that, you know, for fashion. Those kinds of subscription models are just going to continue to grow in popularity as people are used to getting things delivered. And I think it's a great concept to have sample boxes where you can put your product in maybe with some others and expose people to a product that they may not even know about before getting that box.
Yeah, I think it's going to work out great. And there are some that are very specific targeted, in beauty, which is great. Like we were in a vegan box. we're going to be in a pregnancy box, you know, that kind of thing.
Well, it sounds like an interesting model and an interesting career that you've had as you've gone from the advertising world into this world of beauty, So I wish you all the best on that. I'd love for you to just share with our audience some places where they could get in touch with you and understand a little bit more about Masami.
Sure. So my, social handle is Lynn Powered, just L Y N N P O W E R E D. Masami social handle is LoveMasamiHair on every channel. And then my website is, lovemasami.com, L O V E M A S A M I.com.
That's great, Lynn, thanks very much. I will put all of those in the show notes as well. Thank you very much for being on the virtual CML podcast, and best of luck in this new business venture.
That wraps up another episode of the virtual CMO podcast. As a reminder, if you'd like to learn more about virtual CIO, strategic marketing consulting services, or anything else discussed here today, please visit us at fiveechelon.com. There's a link in the show notes. If you'd like to send us comments, feedback, guest inquiries, and your five-star reviews on Apple, podcasts are always appreciated. If you'd like to reach me. I'm @edickmann. That's E D I C K M A N N on Twitter. If you'd like to connect on LinkedIn, please let me know. You heard about me through The Virtual CMO podcast. I look forward to talking with you again next week and sharing some new marketing insights on The Virtual CMO.