Chief Brand Officer Oshiya Savur on How Creativity and Innovation Transformed Maesa Into the No. 1 Mass Beauty Incubator

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
Oct 3, 2023

In Ep. 99 of Earned, we sit down with Oshiya Savur, Chief Brand Officer at No. 1 mass beauty incubator Maesa. Oshiya is a true veteran of the beauty industry, with nearly a decade of her career spent at powerhouse conglomerate Unilever, followed by heading up the marketing team for Revlon’s luxury division, and most recently serving as the VP of Marketing, PR, and Education Strategy at creator-favorite brand Charlotte Tilbury.


To start the episode, we discuss how Maesa, which began as a private label for fragrances, transformed into the industry’s most successful incubator behind popular brands like Kristin Ess, Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty, and Ashley Tisdale’s Being Frenshe. We then switch gears and dive into Oshiya’s unexpected career journey, from aspiring to be a broadcast journalist to getting her MBA at India’s No. 1 business school, which then led her to nine years at Unilever, followed by Revlon, Charlotte Tilbury, and now Maesa. Oshiya unpacks the pros and cons of working at established corporations compared to nimble startups, and emphasizes the importance of having a company-aligned “rallying cry,” as well as failing fast—but learning faster. To close the show, Oshiya reveals how influencer marketing drove hypergrowth at Charlotte Tilbury, before revealing Maesa’s future plans to disrupt the beauty industry with creativity and innovation. 

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.

“Creativity and innovation is what we are known for, so we're going to double down on it”: Maesa’s Plans for 2024

Conor Begley: Let's talk about Maesa. You’re about six months in, so you're starting to get a handle on the organization, the team, the history of everything. We're coming up on the end of the year, so I'm sure you're starting to think about 2024. What are the big plans for Maesa coming up next year?

Oshiya Savur: I think where I want to take the strategy is to just hone in on where the magic already is, double down on that, and then tack on a couple of gaps that I find and really build that out. So you get a beautiful mix of what works and where we can take it. And if you're doubling down on the magic that already exists in your company and your brand, then you amplify it with the other actions that you put out there.

So where is Maesa's magic? It is in creativity and innovation. We are really known for it in the industry. Our hit rate is the highest in the industry. It is the reason why we've now become the number one incubator, and incubation is a very difficult business because the probability of success is almost 50/50, and actually the odds in the industry would tell you it's one in 10 if you're lucky. [Of the] 10 brands that come out, maybe one is successful. So for us to have had two out of our three brands be successful is very exciting.

Creativity and innovation is already what we are known for, so we're going to double down on it. We're going to continue to say, how do we redefine creativity and innovation in the next five years? What is our point of view as an incubator, and how do we always stay ahead of the market and the investments we need to make?

The two other buckets that I want to add on top of that is what I call talent and technology enablement. In terms of talent, we've now spent a lot of time talking about our shared belief that influencer marketing is a key component of a brand’s success. So you can imagine that that is where a lot of my personal focus and the brand focus is going to go as well. And we are actually working with a lot of amazing founder partners as well, so really getting that rhythm not only with the founder partners and helping them create a story that's compelling and putting it out there, but then also figuring out what's the UGC? What's the word-of-mouth? What is the content creator plan on top of that? And also, [thinking about] our Maesa talent, how do we continue to [foster] our internal talent and help them become word-of-mouth drivers?

So all of those are the key ways that we're going to continue to work, and do more and more of it next year. We are just now at the starting point of where we need to be and where we can be as a company for all of our respective brands.

And the [last area of focus] is the technology enablement space. That to me is almost a non-negotiable. If your job is to always be ahead of everyone else, how can we not be tech-obsessed? Beauty tech is the future. And not beauty tech in the way of, here's another tool and now you can do skin analysis at home, here's another hair quiz, here's another fragrance quiz. It's just how we think about every action we take.

How do we become more productive? How do we become more efficient? How do we measure better? How do we use the internet more powerfully in doing market research and culture-based segmentations? How do we measure the effectiveness of everything that we do in marketing—not just in terms of sales, but also in using tools that, for instance, Tribe Dynamics or CreatorIQ have? How do you put earned media at the center, and how do you measure it and how do you continue to grow it?

So I think that is also where a lot of my mind space is going to go in terms of how do we make Maesa be cutting edge in technology adoption, and not just as a marketing gimmick, but just how we think and act and behave on a day-to-day basis.

“It's how much people love us—that’s what's going to make the difference”: Oshiya Savur on How Generating “Brand Heat” and Leveraging Creator Love Fueled Success for Charlotte Tilbury

Conor Begley: Let's talk about [your time at] Charlotte Tilbury. In the U.S., the brand went from our number 19th-ranked brand [by EMV] in 2020, to number nine, all the way up to number two in 2022. To go from number 19 to number two, you had to pass 17 other brands who are all trying really hard. What do you think philosophically worked well for you there? What were some of the tactics that were successful for Charlotte Tilbury with creators specifically?

Oshiya Savur: It starts with brand heat. Are you a brand that people want to talk about? Inherently it starts from there. Some brands are at different levels of [heat]. I think for [Charlotte Tilbury], that was the advantage that we had when I joined in 2021.

But when I met with a few influencers and I spent time with my team, I realized that we were sitting on a goldmine, and that there was a lot of talkability and heat in this brand. And contrary to my experience, which was a very pay-to-play background, I very quickly pivoted at Charlotte Tilbury, and I said that is what's actually going to make a big difference to this brand: the earned piece of it. It's the talkability, it's how much people love us—that’s what's going to make the difference. 

Also, the Madison Beer effect happened around our Beauty Light Wands, which had gone viral earlier that year too, so there’s also something to be said about having back-to-back viral products. We had the Hollywood Flawless Filter, Beauty Light Wands, Beautiful Skin Foundation, and all those products were really fantastic. 

So I think for us, we made some really intentional decisions and strategies towards making influencers a huge priority. And then from a budgeting standpoint, from a way of working standpoint, to where the priority and mind space was going internally, those were some of the changes I made in North America. Very quickly, we started to see the multiplier effect happening there. The more we did, the more we could do.

And that's where my team was just very competitive. They were very on it—we’d give them something to do, and they'd go do more of it and more of it and more of it. And it was just beautiful. It was very rewarding to see the articles that came out in WWD, which were actually from [Tribe Dynamics]. We were like, oh my God, this is industry recognition. We're in the game. We literally had that clipping in every retailer deck that we had, like, “look at us doing so well.” So thank you for that.

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.