Earned Ep. 72: Armani Beauty’s Silvia Galfo on How Luxury Brands Can Leverage Creators

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
Mar 21, 2023

In Ep. 72 of Earned, Conor sits down with Silvia Galfo, general manager of Armani Beauty. Silvia is no stranger to the beauty and fashion industry, with previous experience as Global Brand President at Revlon, SVP of Marketing at Lancôme, and CMO at David Yurman. 


We start the episode by talking about influencers: when Silvia first realized their potential, and how the narrative—and budgets—around influencer marketing have shifted in recent years. Silvia describes how important it is for luxury brands to strike the right balance between establishing a brand-led narrative and giving up some control to creators. We also discuss how to divvy up the marketing budget with the increasing number of channels available today, and Silvia shares her test-and-learn philosophy. We then explore the world of fragrance marketing—a historically difficult vertical to market across social media. Silvia emphasizes the importance of entertaining your audience, and shares the success of a recent TikTok activation for Armani’s Acqua di Giò Profondo fragrance. To close the show, we discuss how to adapt your brand’s message to resonate across international markets, and why Silvia’s leadership style prioritizes nimbleness and agility. 

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“Everybody wants to be entertained”: Silvia Galfo on Cracking Fragrance Marketing 

Conor Begley: I think fragrance historically has had a harder time on social and on digital. You can't smell it and it's hard to describe what a smell is. What have you found in terms of fragrance marketing and how that's different? Acqua di Giò I would imagine is the primary SKU, but I'd be curious how big is that revenue stream on a relative basis for the business? Then, how do you think about marketing hero products versus new innovation?

Silvia Galfo: Acqua di Giò for us, it's huge. It's like 40% of our business in terms of retail. It's obviously a fragrance that has been around for 20 years, it’s iconic and has had a very distinctive territory—the great model with the water and the whole inspiration of it. 

But [about] two years ago I was like, “Let's try TikTok for men's fragrance, for Acqua.” We had Profondo, which was a new launch, and we were like, “Okay, what should we do? Is it a fragrance review? Is it a hashtag challenge? What should we do?” We did an activation, which actually was very interesting and pretty successful. We [thought], why are men actually on TikTok? They're not there to review your latest fragrance. They want to have fun, there should be entertainment and humor.” We worked with a couple of male TikTokers, and we gave them a very open brief: “This is the new Acqua called Profondo. The whole angle is, how does it make you feel when you apply it and how will you use it?” There were a couple of guys who were really taking the humorous approach to it, and they definitely had the most engaging posts, because I think on the men's fragrance side, you need to be entertaining. You cannot be very serious. At the end of the day, where you find the most engagement is when you have the entertainment piece, at least for men on TikTok, for fragrance. 

And you [shouldn’t] be stressed out that it's a bit off-brand, the way they communicate about your brand. At the end of the day, it's about their audience, what they like about [the creator] and how the fragrance plays into their [life]. There was one [post from a creator] where he was with another friend and he was trying to steal the Acqua [fragrance] from him because he smelled so good. It was really funny and very simple. I think this is what brings success on TikTok, because of the simplicity of the messaging and the authenticity to it. When it's too staged, too produced, when they try to replicate your [brand’s] advertising, it will not work—and it didn't work on some of [the posts]. Another [activation] with Acqua was more like a fragrance review, and it was not as successful. Because again, it was lacking the entertainment piece. The education piece maybe should be more organic. 

I think we also learned that the male fragrance market is much simpler compared to the female market, where women want to know the exact ingredients, the different types of notes. With men it's like, is it fresh? Is it woody? It's much simpler. You don't need to spend 15 minutes explaining the notes, because they don’t engage with that. When you're so into the expertise [behind the fragrance], you’re like, “Oh my god, we have to teach them exactly what's in there.” No you don't. They don't care. Make it fun and entertaining, and that's it. 

For women's fragrance, it's different. We made a big hashtag challenge on TikTok two years ago. Very impactful, billions of views. It was about My Way. Each of the influencers was supposed to showcase things their own way, which was very authentic to them and it really blew up. What we learned there is, before we do the challenge, let's send some key influencers the scent so that they can review the scent. Once people start talking about the scent, how it smells and how it makes them feel, then you do the My Way activation to understand the world of My Way. Fragrance is not easy to crack, to be honest. We try things, some things work, some don't, but it's obviously a learning process. But again, everybody wants to be entertained at the end of day. Even on women's fragrance, the entertainment piece probably is the most relevant and interesting. 

“You need to understand the key cultural differences” Silvia Galfo on Staying Relevant Across International Markets

Conor Begley: I know for you, a big part of your experience is international marketing. What are the challenges associated with translating that? Because obviously what's funny here is going to be very different from what's funny there, or what's interesting here is going to be very different from what's interesting there. How do you understand what works where and how to do it?

Silvia Galfo: You need to understand the key cultural differences—what motivates people, how they feel about certain beauty products, what the cultural taboos are. It can be very sensitive to do things that are inappropriate, and it can backfire very quickly. You have to also make sure that you listen to the people who [live in those] countries. They know what works for their consumer. You can have your brand vision, but then how does your brand vision adapt to the local relevancy? 

It's the same thing for me today in my job. How do I make Armani relevant in the U.S.? There’s the Italian DNA and what the brand stands for, but how do you then translate it to the U.S. relevancy to make it right for the U.S. consumer? But again, [it’s about] listening and observing and asking a lot of questions to make sure that you don't make missteps. Because sometimes it's okay to make little missteps, but you don't want to do a mega faux pas when you have such a big brand and want to be relevant.

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.

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