Title: Vice-president for corporate digital marketing
Company: Estée Lauder Cos
Size: $28.6bn market capitalisation; 40,200 employees
ONLY CONNECT: Using social causes to connect with customers
For Marisa Thalberg, social business has never been about the technology. “What really mattered was finding the place of empathy to connect with the world,” she says.
Ms Thalberg joined the Estée Lauder Cos in 2007 as vice-president for corporate digital marketing, a new position, following stints with Unilever Cosmetics, Revlon and ad agency J. Walter Thompson. At the time, many luxury companies recognised the emerging power of social technologies, but worried that using them to reach a broad audience could diminish their high-end mystique. But Ms Thalberg believed that Estée Lauder and its collection of 30 beauty brands should take inspiration from the open attitude of company founder Estee Lauder.
“Telephone, telegraph, tell a woman” was one of Mrs Estée Lauder’s famous quotes. “She was the original social networker,” Ms Thalberg says. “We were not ignoring who we are, but embracing it.”
A key way Estée Lauder has connected with women is through the social causes they care about—particularly breast cancer education, research and funding. The company’s commitment to the breast cancer cause runs deep: Evelyn Lauder was a co-creator of the pink ribbon campaign in 1992, and the company continues to take a leading role with its Breast Cancer Awareness campaign—enhanced by the global power of social media.
The effort has provided particularly meaningful work for Ms Thalberg, who lost her own mother to cancer. In 2013, her team kicked off Estée Lauder’s “Stronger Together” web campaign to encourage breast health and help women in 70 countries, speaking 16 languages, connect through online “circles of strength”. She believes social media to be an optimal way for social causes “to tell a story and connect around the world”.
“I love the idea of beauty and enabling and empowering women,” says Ms Thalberg. “Finding ways to connect to their passion has always inspired me.”
Ms Thalberg advocates connecting the professional with the personal. In 2002, after having a daughter, she launched Executive Moms, a social-networking site and content provider with a mission to empower professional women, connect them with one another and help them find balance in their lives. She cites her own mother as the most influential person in her life, even though she was not at all corporate in her personal style. She encouraged people to have an “inner compass, to be true to yourself, to be the person you want to be”.
Ms Thalberg is using the same social principles to empower employees. She encourages Estée Lauder’s worldwide marketing teams to share their insights and help shape and target brand messages to local consumers, and she uses this internal feedback to inform her global strategic outlook.
“I’ve implicitly, if not explicitly, incorporated some of the key tenets of social business in how we work together,” she says. “Creating internal engagement and participation has proven so important practically, emotionally and culturally.”