Can you believe it? It’s our 100th episode of Earned! It’s been such an incredible and insightful ride, and we’re just getting started. Our listenership has grown 190% YoY, thanks in large part to our amazing guests from iconic brands who have so graciously taken time to share their wisdom with us.
To break it down for you, we’ve had:
- 41 Founders
- 34 CEOs
- 8 Presidents
- 15 CMOs
- 3 Chief Brand Officers
- 1 Chief Digital Officer
- 8 VPs
- 13 Directors
- 6 Investors
- 5 Creators
- Rare Beauty
- Alo Yoga
- The North Face
- American Eagle
- e.l.f. Beauty
- Amazon Studios
- Live Nation
- And so many more—just check out our catalog!
And of course, we couldn’t have done this without you, our loyal listeners. Thank you so much for helping us reach this milestone.
To celebrate, we compiled the show’s best and brightest moments over the last 100 episodes, highlighting our guests’ approaches and philosophies around influencer marketing, the creator economy, brand building, marketing strategies, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
Here are 10 common themes and key takeaways from our guests over the first 100 episodes of Earned. Be sure to listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts, or watch the episode above for the full masterclass!
1. The Best Influencer Marketing Programs Center Around Mutually Beneficial Partnerships and Long-Term Relationships
We’ve truly had some of the best influencer marketers in the world on our show. When asked about their philosophies and best practices for working with creators, we heard the same approach time and time again: build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships that help elevate the creator’s career beyond your brand partnership.
One of our earliest guests to describe this approach was Mehdi Mehdi, the Chief Digital Officer of Selena Gomez’s smash hit Rare Beauty. During his episode with us, Mehdi, who had previously skyrocketed NYX Cosmetics to success as the brand’s VP of Digital, emphasized the importance of respecting a creator’s craft, and acknowledging how being a creator is “one of the hardest jobs you can have.”
When it comes to building authentic relationships with creators, Mehdi shared, “You can throw money at them, and that's great, but you build a longer-term relationship by saying, ‘How can I help you outside of paying you for this content? What can I do to help you with other projects that you're working on?’ I think that matters a lot to them, and that's what's been helpful to building some of these longer lasting relationships.”
Calum Watson, Global Partnerships Director at fast-growing apparel brand Gymshark, echoed this approach, stating, “When you work with influencers, you’re working with people, and a lot of companies don’t understand that.” Calum shared that Gymshark’s approach is centered around building mutually beneficial partnerships. “What can we do to help you and give you the value of being associated with Gymshark—and equally, this is how we see you helping us as a brand.”
2. Community Building Doesn’t Happen Overnight—But the Returns Are Worth the Effort
Our guests also attributed their influencer marketing programs’ success to thoughtful, authentic community-building efforts. In our fifth episode of Earned, Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, co-founders of fruit-powered skincare brand Glow Recipe, shared how they built genuine relationships with creators by sending them personalized skincare regimens and prioritizing in-person meet-ups. Sarah shared, “It was an organic approach, but it was built over time. It doesn't happen overnight. You really have to build and cherish and nurture these relationships, and continue to follow up and make sure that you have personal facetime with these people. That was our strategy.”
Live Nation’s Samantha Sichel revealed that her brand’s approach to building effective, long-term partnerships was to “place creators in unbelievable, money-can’t-buy experiences,” while K18’s SVP of Global Marketing Michelle Miller underlined the importance of continual, evergreen community building efforts: “Your big campaigns are moments in the year, but your community is every day.”
3. Give Brand Partners the Creative Freedom to Create Content That will Resonate With Their Audience
We also had the privilege of hearing the unique perspectives of creators-turned-brand founders—like Marianna Hewitt, the co-founder of Summer Fridays who boasts over one million Instagram followers, and Susan Yara, a skincare expert with over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers who co-founded Naturium (which was just acquired by E.L.F. for $355 million!). Having been on both sides of the equation, Marianna and Susan pulled back the curtain on the best ways to work with creators, as well as how to build a community of your own.
According to Marianna, giving creators freedom in their branded content is key: “If you just want someone to reiterate what you're saying, you may as well just run digital marketing ads and do it yourself. But if you want to work with an influencer, they know what works best for their audience. So give them creative freedom to share the product that they think works best for their audience, in a way that they think will resonate with their audience.”
When we asked Susan how aspiring creators can build massive audiences, she shared, “The big thing to remember is that when people follow you, they're following you because they either feel like they're learning something from you, they're being entertained by you, or they feel like they connect with you in some way. So the number one thing is to always remember that they follow you, right? There's a reason for that.”
4. Creators Are Changing the Face of Marketing. Brands—and Social Platforms—Need to Keep Up
When we started our company over a decade ago, the term “Creator Economy” didn’t exist. We’ve watched digital content creation transform from a side hustle into an entire ecosystem that brands—and social media platforms—are now building around.
We spoke to executives at TikTok, Instagram, and Reddit about how they’re participating in the creator economy, and where they see it going in the future. Here’s what they had to say.
Adrienne Lahens, Global Head of Operations for TikTok’s Creator Marketing Solutions, explained: “The creator marketing landscape is a whole ecosystem that's really changing the face of marketing. To be an effective marketer today, you need to focus on how to be a great storyteller, and how to connect natively and authentically with your consumers. Creators have really changed the voice and tone of what effective marketing looks like today.”
Doug Weiss, former Head of Creator Commerce at Instagram, also underscored the impact of creators: “The emergence of creators and the importance of creators in driving purchasing decisions, and in having influence over users, is potentially one of the most important trends that have happened in the 21st century.” Doug also shared how Meta is continually iterating upon its offerings in order to be “the best platform to help creators be who they are, create the content that they want, and connect to the communities that they care about.”
Roxy Young, CMO of Reddit, also unpacked how the platform’s vibrant creator communities makes it a goldmine for advertisers: “We give a place for communities to flourish and to thrive, and then we allow advertisers to tap into these communities so that they can achieve their business goals.”
5. In Your Mission to Prove ROI, Don’t Forget to Invest in the Brand
While there are now more tools, data, and models than ever to measure the impact of your creator marketing efforts, it’s still not a perfect science. Some things can’t be easily or immediately tracked—but that doesn’t mean those efforts aren’t worth it. We’ve been lucky to have some of the world’s best brand marketers on the show, including Raissa Gerona, Chief Brand Officer at Revolve; Angelic Vendette, former VP of Marketing at Alo Yoga; and Scott Sassa, Chairman of Milk Makeup. All of these leaders have emphasized that in your mission to maximize conversion and prove ROI, you can’t forget about building the brand.
Angelic, who helped skyrocket Alo Yoga to success, says, “Word of mouth and brand building is so, so crucial. A lot of new DTC brands these days, the ones that pop up and fizzle out, they tend to forget that. They invest everything in hyper growth—it's all about acquisition and retargeting—and they forget about building a brand.” She adds, “Becoming a household name doesn't happen by growth or acquisition. It happens by investing in the brand.”
Revolve has one of the most sophisticated and successful influencer marketing programs in the industry, and Raissa echoes the importance of brand building over conversion: “People want to equate every single post to revenue or a sale, and I think that's just fundamentally the wrong way to look at it. I think it's absolutely top-of-funnel marketing.”
Milk Makeup’s Scott Sassa, also points out that “what digital does today is reward greatness, but punish mediocrity. Bad is gone. You've got to create that demand where you'll crawl through glass to get something, because there's too many options.”
6. Focus and Prioritization Are Critical When Launching a Brand
We’ve had so many world-class marketers and veteran entrepreneurs on the show that we like to believe anyone who’s listened to our first 100 episodes has essentially “Earned” their MBA. When asked about the keys to their brands’ success, many of our guests have emphasized the importance of focus and prioritization—not only in your product development, but also in your distribution and marketing efforts.
Ju Rhyu, co-founder and CEO of hit skincare brand Hero Cosmetics, which sold for $630 million, shared how “focus is critical, because it's just so easy to get distracted and to do a thousand things, but do none of them well. I think having the ability to prioritize is a superpower as a founder.”
Serial entrepreneur Ken Landis, who co-founded Bobbi Brown, Tula, and DIBS Beauty, echoes the importance of focus, revealing that “one of the biggest mistakes people make is on distribution strategy. I'm a big proponent of [the idea that] it's not the amount of sales that you have, but the quality of sales you have. I have a mantra called ‘narrow and deep.’ If I'm involved in an early-stage company, I want it to start small and be relevant wherever you are. Relevant in any distribution channel you're in, relevant in any door you're in, if you're going into traditional retail.”
7. Understand the Power of Storytelling
Another key marketing strategy that's been a constant across many of our episodes is the power of storytelling. Katie Welch, the CMO of Rare Beauty—our No. 1 beauty brand by EMV—says that the secret to a strong marketing program is a compelling, cohesive brand story: “Today's marketing is so fundamentally different than what yesterday's marketing used to be, that you have to understand the power of a brand message, the power of storytelling, to then usher through that big idea and cut through the noise.”
On the creator side, Marc Hustvedt, the president of MrBeast—the largest YouTube channel in America, and fourth-largest in the world—talks about the importance of storytelling in Jimmy Donaldson’s content, explaining how they weave ad reads and sponsorships into the main plots of their videos so that they become part of the story: “High retention ads are something we really do specialize in. It’s not an interruptive ad, it's so weaved into the story.”
8. Test and Learn With a Bias for Action
With the ever-evolving social media and creator landscape, taking a test-and-learn approach to new channels and platforms has been critical to many of our guests’ marketing strategies.
Kory “the lightning bolt” Marchisotto, CMO of e.l.f. Beauty and President of Keys Soulcare, explains how her bias for action has reaped many rewards for e.l.f., including being one of the first—and most successful—beauty brands on TikTok: “I've always had this bias for action because I understand the importance of the now. If you dream it, you have to do it. A dream without execution is just a dream. If you wait too long, the moment has passed. Timing matters.”
Similarly, our very first guest Ashton Wall, former Head of Marketing at ColourPop, believes “the magic happens in real time.” Thanks to ColourPop’s vertical integration and quick product development timelines, the company prioritizes social listening. “What are people saying in real time? Because we have the operational capacity to react to that, and not many other people can say that.”
9. Cultivate a Positive Company Culture With Trust, Respect, and Empathy—and Without Fear of Failure
You can’t build a strong brand without first building a strong team. One topic we touched on consistently across our interviews with founders, CEOs, and brand executives was leadership. Many of our guests have highlighted that in order to cultivate a positive company culture, you need to treat your employees with respect and empathy, trust their ability to do their job well, and assure them that failure is a welcome part of the process. Here are a few of our favorite leadership philosophies from guests including Ana Maria Henao, CMO of US Consumer Channel at Microsoft; JuE Wong, CEO of Olaplex; Toto Haba, SVP of Marketing at Benefit Cosmetics; and Reuben Carranza, former CEO of Kate Somerville and current Group CEO of Amika and Eva NYC.
In her 25+ year career as an executive, Ana Maria Henao shared that she embraces three concepts every day in order to be a successful leader: Compassion, Curiosity, and Courage. Meanwhile, JuE Wong emphasized the importance of providing autonomy and support: “When you hire the talent, let them do what they do best, but be there to provide a net for them should they fall.”
Benefit’s Toto Haba revealed that he takes a failure-friendly approach to setting goals for his team: “The broad goal I set was that we have to be failing 75% of the time in order to be successful just 25% of the time. If you're not failing enough, you're not trying to reach high enough. I also wanted to instill a culture of being okay to talk about our failures.”
Lastly, Reuben Carranza believes “you catch more flies with honey,” and shared that “if you create an environment that is challenging and fun, but there's respect—and respect isn't just being nice, respect is also having the courage to have tough conversations and hear tough feedback from your employees—what I found was those environments created much more acceleration.”
10. Be the Change You Wish to See in the Industry
Finally, we’ve had some badass women on this show. So to wrap up this 100th episode compilation celebration, we wanted to highlight a few women who are true trailblazers in their industries, and have helped pave the way for more young women to achieve similar success in their careers.
Jesse Draper, founding partner of Halogen Ventures, a VC firm that invests exclusively in female-founded businesses, explains why investing in women is not a charity: “Women raise half as much capital, but they make a dollar more, they double the return, and they actually often exit a year earlier. Their capital is much more efficient.” She continues to note that “companies with a female in the founding team perform better, as well as companies with diversity overall. You can't talk about women without also talking about diversity of age, race, and gender every single day.”
Let’s end this (very long) blog post with an icon: Danessa Myricks. When asked what inspired Danessa to launch her eponymous beauty brand, she replied, “There's a responsibility to be the change you want to see. When I think about what was missing for me in my journey as a woman, my journey in beauty as a Black woman, when I couldn't do simple things like match my skin, when I could never see somebody who was a reflection of me, all of those things resonate with you. When you realize that there's a real, live person at the other end of the things that you're making, I think it changes your perspective on how you create, how you communicate, and different things become important to you. Everything changes.”
For even more insights and learnings from our top-tier guests across today’s most iconic brands, be sure to check out the full compilation video above, or take a look at our complete catalog and catch up on the last 99 episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. We can’t wait to make Earned even bigger and better. Cheers the next hundred!