Marjorie Chelius

November 13, 2020

In this episode, we talk about how Marjorie moved from management consulting into her DTC role at Native, her convictions about the balance between brand and performance marketing, and more.


David: Hey, everyone, this is David Hoos, and you're listening to the Modern Attention podcast, where I bring together DTC marketers and other experts to tell their stories about personal, professional, and brand growth. I hope you enjoy this episode.

David: I'm pumped to introduce you to today's guest, Marjorie Chelius. Marjorie is the director of user acquisition for personal care DTC brand Native. She started her career in consulting, got an MBA at the University of Chicago, and then spent a few years at one of the world's most iconic consumer giants P&G, realizing DTC was missing from her experience, Marjorie then went to native, a high growth natural personal care brand. Today, she runs Native's DTC paid acquisition program, which she took over from the former CEO and founder of Native Moiz Ali. In this episode, we talk about how her liberal arts background played a role in her career, how she moved from consulting to DTC, her thoughts on omnichannel, her thoughts on the relationship of brand and growth marketing, and much much more. It's a great episode and I'm really excited to share it. So without further ado, here's Marjorie.

David: There's a lot of podcasts that are all about tips and tricks and hacks for the brand work. And I'd rather kind of tell the story of the marketers in these DTC brands. I think how I built this has done a really good job of telling the story of entrepreneurs that are starting companies and more of the founders story. And I'd like to tell more of the like the DTC marketers story. Yeah. So it's a little more...I think there'll be elements of that'll cover professional strategies and things like that, but it might also cover career stuff. And like any sort of like, you know, breakthroughs you've had kind of mindset wise,M that sort of thing.

Marjorie: Yeah, totally. I love this mission. So first of all, I'm a huge podcast person. I like to claim. I mean, and it's true. Right? I was in the podcast way before Serial, way before right? You grow up in Seattle. You're a radio person. I love that idea because you're right, there's lots of founder podcast and they're wonderful, but there's not a whole lot of sort of operator like. Let me hear your background, you know what I mean? So I love that idea.

David: Totally cool. I guess with that, can you tell me a little bit more about your origin story?

Sure. So I mentioned I grew up in Seattle. I actually grew up watching my dad work with software startups in the 90s. So I was always really interested in business. I mean, he still does that today. So I like to think there's some startup blood in me I just couldn't help it. And then I graduated from Dartmouth in 2011, was a classics major, majored in Latin, and then I started my career in consulting and investment banking. I was at a firm that was founded by the former secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. So we did strategy consulting, investment banking, private equity, mostly did consulting, and that's where I really fell in love with growing businesses. Right. And I was doing it on the organic and inorganic side. I just didn't love the industry. I was in cybersecurity, defense, and technology. So I really wanted to get into the consumer space. I think, frankly, consumers are just so fickle that it is just so interesting to me. And so I decided to go back to business school and actually spent the summer at a really early stage startup in Seattle advising them. It's a brand called Tomboy X. They're doing great now, which is wonderful. And that's where I sort of fell in love with Consumer World was starting to be everything I wanted it to be. Right. So you went to University of Washington University, Chicago for business school and Internet. Procter Gamble joined full time about three years ago. And you know what I what I love what I did like about changing and it made me fall in love with it.

Just start and interested in it was the scale of the responsibility. Right. You are the CEO of your brand and you're working on these iconic billion-dollar brands and you can see your impact immediately. I just quickly realized I wasn't a big corporate position. And to be honest with you, I wanted to be a killer marketer and there's like nowhere else to learn classical retail, brand management, marketing that P&G. But I need DTC. I wanted to be omnichannel. So I, the Native opportunity actually came in through P&G. Native is a P&G acquisition and the role was Moiz, who was the former CEO and founder of Native for until I joined he was running excuse me most of all of the acquisition program himself, which I see you can imagine that created some complexity. And so they needed somebody to come in behind and shadow him, learn the program and take it over. So it's been an incredible opportunity. I've learned a ton, I think, being brought into this world by Moiz. I couldn't have asked for a better sherpa, frankly, and it's been and he and I are so close today, which is wonderful. You know, he's no longer with the company, but it's been a wonderful mentoring relationship and it's been super exciting. I've loved it.

Well, do you want to talk about, this is interesting, one of the other people I talked to kind of just doing another one of these background calls where they also kind of had a they had a humanities like liberal arts. Yeah. So it's like basically I'm starting to dissect the pattern so far.

Well, listen, it makes sense to me. Like, here's the deal.

You know, Latin sounds sort of off the wall, but Latin is very analytical. There's formulas. There's you really have to follow this pattern. But it is also so incredibly creative because one word can honestly mean one hundred and fifty different things, the context. So like the the match of that analytical and creative is like what gets me going and what I loved in my career. And frankly, my training in Latin was such an incredible foundational tool to help me use both sides of the brain. So I loved it.

Oh, that's interesting. I like that. I started a little bit of Latin to I'm yeah, I'm super, super rusty at this point.

But here's what's really embarrassing. I'm super rusty too, and I like you're watching Jeopardy!

And it was like I was like, God damn it, I can always right. And I think I went like three, four, five. But I love it.

Yeah. It's one of those things like we went through. We like, OK, this is a long time ago now, but. Yeah.

Yeah, I had an on again off again relationship with learning foreign languages, but I feel like it did help me with just learning more about the English language and things like that. There's tons of Greek and Latin roots.

So the more vocab I knew, the more I could kind of understand what what words meant when I hadn't actually looked like a 100 percent my my favorite Latin derivative is passion, which is an obsession.

Frankly, they're kind of similar, but it comes from the verb to suffer, which is just so viscerally like you are. Your passion can be so intense and all encompassing that it actually comes with the word to suffer, which is one of my favorite ones. The other one is companioned, which is literally like to eat bread with them, which is kind of fun.

Yeah, that's cool. I like that love. So you kind of came in and basically pivoted to the business school thing, then got in, and then that kind of brought you into negative. Can you talk a little bit more about today, like what is or what is an average day look like for you? And maybe how do you feel like what you've done in the past? Has kind of brought you to where you are and confirms what you're doing today.

Yeah, so today I run are roughly thirty five million dollars paid user acquisition program. My focus is on the social side, which is that that size of the business rights of Facebook, Google and Pinterest, predominantly Facebook. Right. And the the complexity or frankly, the fact that the program is run by the CEO formally means there are some upsides and downsides. Right. And so one of the challenges actually native is incredibly sophisticated in many ways. But the program itself and our infrastructure and support of it was sort of lacking. Right. So it's just me internally. I do manage multiple teams which help execute a lot of that stuff. But a typical day for me is. You know, always in the platforms, I don't do a lot of the buying myself, my philosophy and frankly, the philosophy from native in general is brain power strategy in-house. Anything that can be commodities is external. So a lot of a strategy sits with me. Right. But obviously, I'm constantly checking our performance. Right. And it is a lot of monitoring and understanding of, OK. So, for instance, right now, I could just be super candid with you. We are native as a company, so we are beholden to how teams use approaching this Facebook thing. Right. So we have just earlier this week, there was a little bit of a fire drill where I'm having to turn off certain placements on Facebook. Right. Because the broader community is making a decision about a limited boycott. So now I'm understanding, OK, now two days worth of data. How much can I actually scale to the incredibly aggressive growth targets, 30 percent growth per month. So I'm saying, OK, can I still hit my first purchase at this rate, which we switched our buying model, 30 percent growth numbers with essentially like half of my channels cut off.

Right. And just kind of hamstringed ourselves. This week has been a lot of that. It's a lot of nowadays, lots of things matter, but probably creative most. Right. So it's a lot of developing that content, working with my other marketing partners. Right. My influencer personally. One of the things I'm probably most proud of having done it native, is really strengthened that collaboration between the growth side of the brand side. It was incredibly firewall's. I mean, literally, we sat on the other side of the office, which we still do in the office. But there was just a total disconnect. And I think one of the questions you asked was like, what is a foundational. Yeah, what strong convictions relative to specialization? I strongly believe that performance and growth marketing can grow the brand. Right. I, I do not believe that they need to be separate. We can get into some of my other strong convictions about whether you should be doing awareness campaigns or not. But I strongly believe that the scale that I'm at right behind our program, I what I am doing is growing our brand. That is our responsibility. So it has been a journey of strengthening how we show up online while still maintaining that principles of what is going to convert somebody instantly. And it also unlocks, which is a tremendous all these opportunities around content like we have this whole influencer program with this beautiful content that speaks directly to some of the ideas that we have. And I've worked with her to get updates on that brief to make sure that what we're getting back can work for my needs, too. And so it's been this wonderful relationship where we strengthen really how we're telling our story and I think improved how we show up online.

So is there kind of a back and forth collaboration on between your side and the brand side? And I guess maybe for other people out there who maybe still are firewalled like us or any sort of advice you would give other folks about kind of how to.

Yeah, great question. So I think the first thing was educating everyone. Right. And doing it in a way that was not intimidating. The CEO running the program previously. You might not ask all the questions you have, right, if you might, you might not say what's the strategy? So I needed a real principal. And frankly, it's also a necessity because the new CEO that came in me is a person from Singapore.

They have he's also going through a journey of learning these some of these channels. Right. So it has been a necessity for me to ensure that everybody speaks the same language. What does this mean? That what are my KPIs that I'm looking at right now saying grow enough of that, but return on outspend? As in what? How much money are they getting back to spend on advertising, really improving the fluency of everybody to have the same conversation, frankly, with step one, step two, wise sharing the strategy, like just setting up time. And that's been the strategy and performance which the team didn't have insight into. It's also a small thing. Well, small but incredibly impactful is joining the marketing meetings that wasn't happening before. So and making sure that during this marketing meetings. I have 10 minutes to go. Hey, guys, last seven days. Here's what's working for me and why. Right. And then that unlocks this incredible. Oh, well, I have an idea other thing that has been really kind of a joy and makes my life a lot easier because I set up an Instagram group just directly on the platform and I'm constantly sending through Instagram insights, findings, examples, etc. to my team is a much easier way to be bringing that flow and vice versa. Right. They'll send content and be like, we take this. And sometimes I'm like, no way does that do well. That sucks. Or sometimes it's like, wow, what a great idea. So that's that's an incredibly important dialogue for us. But again, it goes back to everybody speaking the same language, everybody super clear on what that strategy is. And then that has unlocked this sorry, the computers that unlocked this conversation on both sides where they're now proactively coming with, hey, I just made this YouTube video with this influencer. I think it would do great, which makes its way easier.


So you're basically saying here's some of the numbers and we're all speaking the same language and then they're like, oh, that makes me have an idea. Maybe we can use some of this creative idea that we came up with that maybe is performing decently well on the organic side and put some paid energy behind it or something.

Yeah. So at the specific level, it's things like, OK, here are my top line KPIs. But hey guys, when I broke that down on Facebook, the barrier, it sort of comes down to that funnel, right? Attention, interest, desire and action and where my funnel was broken right. Now, if you think about attention as video views over impressions and you're interested, how long are they watching the video and that desire to click through rate and the actions of purchase, you guys are click rate is like below a benchmark. So I what my focus is all things equal. I bring up that lever and our business takes off. So my focus right now is how to find content that is really driving that click. How do I drive into a landing page, make it a full funnel experience. And so getting everybody on that same language of like these are the core business levers I'm looking at. Right. And here's the superior that I'm facing right now has enabled people to say, oh, OK, I understand. Hey, I think this would do really well. Or, hey, I know you're looking for cohort consumer specific content that's going to drive out so we can be doing it on a consumer level. Hey, here's a really great video from men who are sort of are not not our white whale, but like very much a growth opportunity for us. I think this would do really well. So getting them really understanding of where it's broken or where we can improve has really unlocked that.

You mentioned earlier that you had some strong opinions around awareness and feel like you just kind of touched a little bit on that, mentioning kind of the idea framework. Yeah. You want to expand on that?

Yeah. So I will caveat this with I come from a PMG background. I was running 30, 40 higher million dollar TV programs. So I do believe there's a place for awareness. I just. Don't think it's the best use I'm going to get in trouble for this one. Not the best, if not the best use of dollars on especially on Facebook. It's just not the scale that we're at on the performance side of things. Drives the brand and the data, frankly, and the intel. It's broken, right. I've only reached twenty six percent of women on Facebook and three percent of men. I have room to scale right there. There's just there's just not I don't think it's the best use of the platform from that perspective. What I will tell you, though, and this is another interesting point about native that I thought is a little bit unique. We're one of the early pioneers of it, but we are omni channel. They opened it doubled retail stores this year, which in a corporate world looks a little bit different, but. You know, personally, my my enemy might even be those people risking leaking to retail, right. But I want what's best for the business. So you want to grow that side of it, too. So there is a little bit of I work on the dark side, but there is aggressive efforts underway to test how how might some of those awareness campaigns drive some of the retail sales, which is a lot more difficult of a measurement issue, frankly, but something I'm familiar with from Fiji. But regardless, I still think you can use I still think it's the best use of the best use of data. And frankly, I just think it's the best use of dollars to be putting that promote conversion optimization standpoint. I don't think it's that controversial, a great marketers. I think that's pretty standard. But a little bit unique for a new CEO coming in from.

What do you think? You know, you're kind of coming in from like the very large company side you have, do you have any insights for people who maybe are kind of coming from the bootstrap, just kind of like starting to maybe or they're trying to improve their acquisition, but they don't have the same sorts of budgets or things like that that you do? Is there any sort of learnings that you've had from kind of being able to work with larger budgets that would have some insights for some of those smaller brands?

Yeah, I think, you know, I think the principle doesn't change. And even today, when I'm testing new things, I know if it's working like forty dollars in. Right. And I'm not putting huge spend behind any new test you kind of know or you don't know. Right. And so I think getting really clear on. OK, well, it's like, you know, it's a little bit of a complicated mapping, but if you're doing a 20 day attribution window, right, trying to understand, OK, well, what is the what is the conversion and realize we need to hit one weekend in order for that ultimately to become my twenty eight point twenty day success rate. And so some of that relies on past data, but yet really clear on what are the unit economics. I need to hit instantly to know whether this is going to work or not. And I also think. And it might sound silly, but, my God, is it important that your infrastructure and foundation in place? I am talking naming conventions, I am talking how you're building your campaigns, right. Simplification, consolidation, get that stuff right early. And then that enables really agile testing and frankly, getting up to speed right away. Right. And even for the smaller brands like getting out of learning mode quickly, still so vital. Right? So it's getting that infrastructure in place, getting that campaign structure in place to enable that is going to make your life so much easier.

Well, that's helpful.

Did you mention I think you mentioned Pinterest and Facebook. So as far as platforms where you're kind of going to market, what are I guess, what has worked well for you? And and why do you think that's been that way?

Yeah. So the business was primarily driven on Facebook, which isn't that surprising. The first two really sophisticate. Right. And frankly, it's still the most powerful platform. So when I came in, we were 80, 90 percent invested in Facebook and then Google and Pinterest. So one of the first things I did, we did a full like it's actually a fascinating graph. I did a full data poll past five years from when we first started doing it and just tracked performance across the platforms. And unsurprisingly, Facebook is very much had a little bit of a hockey stick situation. And so I think the program was it needed a little bit of a status quo shakeup in terms of like, well, what are we actually investing in? Does this make sense today? Facebook is still predominantly most of our spend, but it is a lot more balanced. We scaled Google up a lot more. I personally think marketers are sleeping both on Google's non search stuff and on Pinterest. Google has really come a long way in terms of you can put like display ads look like and they've got red it. I'm not saying every display ad isn't is amazing because there's a lot of junk out there, but they've come a really long way. Shopping ads have come a really long wait.

Discovery ads have the Gmail ads, like there is ad inventory out there from Google that using janky that that is working for us, frankly. Right. And is relatively quick to scale. So I think there's been rebalancing from that perspective. I will also tell you that we are now, again, retesting excuse me, YouTube, but a CPA basis. Right. And, you know, we previously tested that last holiday period, which is not the best timing during the holidays to be doing that. And frankly, we didn't really have the right assets for it. So I'm not super bullish on that one. But we will see on Pinterest, actually, our Pinterest strategy had been basically replicating what we were doing on Facebook and to radically different consumer journey to radically different consumer experience. And so a lot of the work there has been, frankly. Again, shaking up the status quo and so like to get specific, a strategy that has worked really well for native is white listing ads at the prospect level. So by that, I mean sending out like actually delivering ads through a third party page, delivering ads through a influencer page that then leads to a blog that has our picture on it or even our own blog, and then hitting them at my bottom and bottom of funnel with a native branded ad.

So the same strategy on Pinterest, but Pinterest consumers are looking for branded stuff like that is a platform where they want they trust it. They know what they're like. What the hell is just like women's healthy lives? Things like I want trusted information from a brand. So it's been restructuring it from that perspective. It is still very, comparatively very small investment for us. But with those three channels, those things are still working. Well, I'll tell you this, this run fiscal year. So this is the first month of the of the new fiscal year. I am now aggressively looking for and starting to get the infrastructure in place to start testing on new platforms only because some of them, frankly, if you like nonperformance, things have have exposed some platform risk. Great. So it's not that things aren't working on Facebook, it's that people are boycotting it. It's that there's a different consumer. There's all these other things that frankly make the urgency in terms of diversifying and getting smart on and getting a foothold in some of these other channels is becoming even more important. So I'm looking at Snapchat and take stock right now.

Right? I mean, that's kind of like, you know, if you were only in retail getting into covid, you were going to be in a world of hurt. But if you if you're in both places, then you you have a little more room to pivot and adjust.

There's actually a lot here in Portland. There's a really popular donut chain, Bluestar, of course, but they like they have multiple places all over town. And they had to think real quick because it's like we're going to shut down all of our donut shops. So they went into donut holes and they got like their top three most popular flavors. And I think it was the or maybe it wasn't popular ones, but it was ones that they could actually get into production and get into grocery stores as quickly as possible.

And they I think they did that in like a week's time. And all they're doing is they're doing more in grocery stores now than they ever were in their how freestanding store. So I think they're going to be either opening up fewer or maybe not any of them at all when it comes about like when it goes away. Yeah, I think they'd have to at least keep one, at least in my mind. Yeah.

You kind of need to take a break. Definitely. Yeah.

But I thought that was a really interesting story where they kind of like pivoted into something that's actually working even better for their company.

Yeah, well, you know, you bring up a great point, right? We are about 50 percent retail. So, you know, when things start to get shut down, I am aggressively said, hey, my my numbers are real good online. Let's spend, spend, spend right now where it's working. Right. I got really aggressive there because eyeballs were cheap. Right. Attention was I mean, unprecedented numbers of people on the Internet. And during March and April especially, there was not quite that consumer fatigue around advertising. Right. People were clicking on things. Frankly, the world hadn't faced some of the challenges. Well, I think some of them had happened right. But there was still a lot of energy and eyeballs and attention online. Right. So I really double down on my spend and then spent May and June cool, eclipsing those leads that I had. Right. And making sure that those audiences that we had built weren't wasted. Right. With, like, super efficient conversion as best we could. So it's been a really interesting time for us as well. We also been we've had a lot of changes because of I'm sure everybody has. But we we also leaned into some new content. Ideas started. And we are a brand that at its core wants to change the way people think about and the products that they use and they put on their body like we are very committed to sort of revolutionizing personal care products. And so that fits so nicely and that healthy, safe, effective positioning, which that's what was on people's minds.

So we got into it thinking, OK, great, because there is a story that we can tell sort of on now more than ever. You want the safe products for family. And then I think two days later I was like, nope, everybody doing this. We're not doing that. We are doing advertising. Absolutely not. That's not our play here because that just quickly got really uncomfortable, really out of touch. So. Dead, we actually leaned into the biggest trial barriers for me are one, people think it's not going to work, and two, it's expensive, right. And tied up in that idea of a natural deodorant not working. Is this fear of a transition period? Because when you're going from a antiperspirant to deodorant, there's a two week period where, like, your body's getting used to not having a woman having your arms. Maybe I can smell great like the transition does pass, but I leaned into pretty heavily some content around. Now's the perfect time, right? It's not social distancing season. It's switching season. It's time to switch to that natural deodorant. You're at home. There's a much lower risk. And that content really well for us, not so much now because things have changed, but that we quickly pivoted to that again versus that very out of touch. Uncomfortable. The one that killed me was the Lexus one. They put millions on that campaign where they were like, we're not a car company, we're a people company. I'm like, your fucking Lexus.

We talking about like what they're like, please buy a car. We are not driving anywhere. And also, like, buy our luxury car, like, oh, man.

Yeah, that's actually one of the things my wife actually really enjoyed this one. Have you seen any Hotels.com ads lately?

Is that the guy with a mustache feels like he's kind of dressed up like a ship captain or something like that.

And then the whole thing is like, remember places?

And it's like, oh, it's kind of like, oh, here's a winery. You know, it's not for wine that's not from a box. And then, yeah.

And, you know, hotels where you have unlimited toilet paper, you know, and word is kind of that showing kind of the humorous side about, yeah. You know, what used to be and their whole thing is like, yeah, we know you can't go to these places right now, but with Hotels.com there's like a I think there's a hope in the future and there's like a guarantee that you can get it refunded if things don't open back up or whatever. But I thought that that was kind of did a good job of using kind of the humor side of things. Yeah, everyone's stressed out right now anyway, so you will get some levity to the whole thing and acknowledge the very real human feelings of like what?

I can't find toilet paper like you don't like sort of acknowledging that people appreciated that level of candor. You know, one of the other things that's been interesting for us and very important to our business and frankly, to our brand equity and who we are is our profile. We have a lineup of classic sense. We also launch for seasonal or seasonal scents, three new each season, and we also launch novelty scents. So that's things like pumpkin spice latte, that's things like Rose Nadie, odor and body wash, etc.. So we were actually planning to launch a hemp deodorant on for twenty and quickly realized, hey, this not the time is not going to play. We're not even going to delay this one. We're just going to we're going to step this one on the shelf for this year. And the other teams that we make with our Rosie campaign was all about roses season and it was all about vacation and it was all about enjoying that summer. So that was a pivot to a staycation message. Right. Enjoy the finer things. And very much so. Like, you know, you can still have the feelings of that summer vacation. Let's just do it at home. And this is actually the first time that we put support behind one of the seasonal launches and. I didn't think it was going to be great because it's a novelty set rates through and actually it has been one of my top performing crosscutting campaigns. So it's been really exciting understanding to unlock. And we're going to continue to put support behind the seasonal launches upcoming. Cool, cool. Thanks so much.

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