Sephora Influencer Marketing Manager, Ashley Ha has more than makeup brushes lining her belt. Before Sephora, Ashley worked on PR and influencer campaigns for Athleta, Intuit, Delta Air Lines, Papyrus, Aperol, Zappos, and Michael Kors.
Ashley is no stranger to the power of fashion and beauty influencers, often finding herself filling a virtual shopping cart after hearing a glowing product endorsement from a trusted source. Ashley harnesses her innovative campaign experience and the power of influence and authenticity to dive deep into the Sephora marketing strategy.
Listen up as this #cleanbeauty advocate and marketing powerhouse shares her thought process on some of Sephora’s most recognizable influencer campaigns.
- People like influencers because they feel connected to them. They feel like they are getting advice or recommendations from a friend.
- Influencers have nearly taken over the role of an editor because they write about PR and brand events on their channels.
- Influencers are a great marketing choice for awareness campaigns because they will get the word out about your product to their trusting audience in a positive light.
Interview with Sephora
Perlu: Hello and welcome to the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined. Today we are speaking with Ashley Ha, the influencer marketing manager at Sephora. She’ll be sharing tips on making it big in fashion and beauty.
Prior to her time at Sephora, Ashley was part of an influencer marketing agency team and worked with brands like Athleta, Intuit, Delta Air Lines, Papyrus, Aperol and Zappos. Ashley also comes from a public relations background and work in PR at Michael Kors. Thank you so much for joining us, Ashley. We’re so happy to have you.
Ashley Ha: Of course. I’m so excited to speak with you today.
Tell us about yourself and what made you want to get into influencer marketing.
Ashley Ha: Of course. I’m from Los Angeles and right out of college I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in this beautiful town in-between San Francisco and LA. I was watching The City with Whitney Port when I decided I wanted to be a fashion publicist. Something about it really excited me, and I decided I was going to make the move to New York City. And right when I got there, I worked at a fashion PR firm and I got to work at all the fashion week shows. It was such a cool experience. And after my internship, I got a job at Michael Kors as a public relations assistant and I felt like I’ve got a pretty good taste of PR but wanted to go into a different realm.
That’s where I found influencer marketing. I decided to move out of New York and moved to San Francisco and I got a job at Collectively, Inc, an influencer marketing agency in San Francisco run by two female bosses. They’re the coolest women I’ve ever worked with and such a cool company. So, that was my first encounter with influencer marketing.
What attracted you to influencer marketing specifically?
Ashley Ha: During my first fashion PR internship, I started working with influencers seven years ago, and we would just send them samples of jeans and hope for them to post it on their fashion blogs. I remember Fashion Toast with Rumi Neely, and then Song of Style… influencers were not a huge huge thing yet, but I knew that they were going to get big. So that’s where I got my first experience with them. And then I just started falling in love with all the fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, and I think what got me into working in influencer marketing was that I just loved influencers. They influenced me to purchase so many products. And I was like, “Wow.”
They kind of felt like my friends giving me advice and recommendations. And I was like, well, influencer marketing works.
Perlu: That’s so funny. So you came from that consumer background: “Well, they make me want to purchase stuff, so I’d love to work with them.”
Ashley Ha: Yes, I purchase stuff from influencers I follow all the time and I’ve never been disappointed.
What are some big differences you’ve learned between influencer marketing at agencies versus in-house at a popular brand like Sephora?
Ashley Ha: I got my start in influencer marketing in an agency, which I highly recommend for anyone trying to get into the field. I think it’s such a great way to see the beginning to end processes of working with the influencer talent agencies, and selecting who you want to work with. But obviously, in the agency you work with multiple clients, so you turn around a lot of campaigns and don’t really have time to just digest and strategize for the next campaign. And then working at Sephora, you work with so many cross-functional partners and you get to see what their goals are and trying to align them with yours, and how our influencers can support each of the teams. From my experience in-house, there’s a lot more opportunity for strategy, whereas an agency turns around a lot of campaigns.
Perlu: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And it sounds like agencies may be just the more nimble fast version, whereas in-house it’s going to be longer-term, higher-level strategy.
Are you quite in the nitty-gritty of it as you would be in an agency?
Ashley Ha: Yes we are. But working at an agency, you are turning around campaigns and a lot of the campaigns are awareness, so we want to work with influencers that will share the message of the brand or maybe their new products or amplify the messaging of their current campaign. When you’re in-house, you definitely strategize more.
So Ashley, what do you look for in your influencer marketing partnerships at Sephora?
Ashley Ha: The two main things I personally look for are engagement and authenticity. For engagement, we want to make sure that the influencer is getting comments and likes from their followers. They’re not just putting a post out there and no one’s engaging with it. That’s really important because we want to track any sales that they drive or any traffic that they drive to support our cause.
Authenticity is equally important because, if you’re creating content, it has to resonate with what you believe in and your audience. Your followers can see right through it. Sometimes when I’m following influencers and they post about some random brand that just doesn’t align with their own personal brand, it doesn’t feel good as a follower to see that. So I think authenticity is equally as important.
What do you see as some big similarities and differences between PR and influencer marketing?
Ashley Ha: When I did my first PR internship, we worked with influencers, but they were just a small little fraction
of it. But in PR you’re pitching your product, you’re hoping that the editor writes about your brand, your new launch, which I feel like is kind of the same with an influencer when you’re gifting them a PR package or hoping that they posted on their Instagram stories and they wear your clothes. So I think in that sense it’s pretty similar. And you know, for a lot of the brand events that people have only editors were invited to those. But now it’s basically all influencers, which I thought was pretty fascinating. They’ve almost taken over the role of an editor because they write about the event on their blog and their channel.
Perlu: And they may have closer relationships with their readers.
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Ashley Ha: Yes, exactly. And then I guess the biggest difference in influencer marketing, especially when you’re in house is you build partnerships with the influencer. You want to collaborate with them and if it’s a long term partnership, you want them to promote a product that they’re proud of or they’re used to promoting on their channel. I think the partnership aspect was a little bit different. Yeah, I mean it’s still pretty similar in my opinion.
Perlu: Well, so let’s go back to the authenticity side of influencer marketing.
How do you authenticate influencers?
Ashley Ha: We want to make sure that their followers are real. But then also when I was working at an agency and I’m looking for people to collaborate with for maybe Papyrus or Aperol. If it’s for Aperol, we want to make sure that they are food and drink bloggers or lifestyle bloggers. Maybe not necessarily a fashion or beauty influencer, but I think it really just depends on the clients. And then with Sephora marketing, we just want to make sure that they are interested in beauty.
What are some awesome Sephora marketing programs you are running right now that you’d like our audience to know about?
Ashley Ha: For February we have the skincare campaign talking about all the essential ingredients that your skin needs. And since I come from a fashion background, I know about skincare, but just not to the extent of what I’ve learned at Sephora. There are so many products that we should be using on our faces. So Sephora breaks down the big words like niacinamide and lactic acid and we just want to educate our audience on what these ingredients are. I think that’s been a really fun campaign so far.
How does a Sephora marketing campaign like this differ from what your favorite campaign may have been when you were working at an agency?
Ashley Ha: So for your first part, my favorite Sephora marketing campaign was probably the first one I ran when I started. And it was all about clean beauty. I had no idea that the beauty industry is the least regulated. Learning more about all these ingredients that are in the products that we put on our face, it was such an awesome campaign for Sephora to share as well as all the influencers even amplify that message. Have you heard about clean beauty, and how different products have different ingredients that are not good for your face?
Perlu: Yeah, I’m seeing that in a lot of ads on Instagram right now.
Clean Your Makeup Brushes…and Your Influencer Marketing Process
Ashley Ha: Yeah. So that’s very interesting. I’ve been trying to move a lot of my products to clean beauty when I can. But yeah, that was a really fun campaign because I was learning a lot and that was great to also share that message.
I also loved working with Athleta. They had an awesome campaign about Power of She, all about women empowerment, and we did a campaign showcasing influencers, a mom or aunt or just a mentor, and then their mentees and they did a fun physical activity together wearing the leggings. I think any campaign that showcases a really sweet message or empowering message is always a good one for me.
Is there anything else that you feel like you’d like to add to the interview, Ashley?
Ashley Ha: I’ve been really into Tiktok lately, and I think being in influencer marketing is really exciting because there are so many new platforms that come up and I think I would encourage a lot of influencers to just try on all platforms. TikTok is a fun one.
What are you doing with Tiktok today and how do you go about finding influencers on Tiktok right now?
Ashley Ha: So right now we’re creating content on Tiktok. Sephora is on Tiktok (@sephora), so be sure to check them out. And yes, it’s such a fun platform. I think it’s such a great platform to be authentic and it’s low production, which is always cheaper to create for influencers as well. The platform is awesome because honestly, anybody can go viral.
Perlu: Oh, beautiful. That’s so cool. Thanks so much for speaking with us today, Ashley. We loved hearing from you and we all love Sephora and thank you to everyone listening.
Ashley Ha: Perfect. Thanks so much for having me.
We hope you really enjoyed hearing about Sephora marketing strategies from Ashley Ha. If you like our show and are interested in what it takes to succeed in influencer marketing, check out our blog at blog.perlu.com for more podcasts and blog posts, and sign up for Perlu at perlu.com to meet mingle, connect, collaborate, and grow your career. We hope you’ll join us for our next installation of the Perlu’s influencer marketing podcast: Influencer Marketing, Reimagined.