“Choose a brand story.” With Fotis Georgiadis & Megan E. Rein

During the crisis, we are donating our products to medical workers, and sharing their stories on our channels. We want to thank them and bring more positivity into the world. We have also been working with our employees to ensure they and their families are safe and secure. Many of our own employees further our […]

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During the crisis, we are donating our products to medical workers, and sharing their stories on our channels. We want to thank them and bring more positivity into the world. We have also been working with our employees to ensure they and their families are safe and secure. Many of our own employees further our mission by helping others, like volunteering in our community to support others, working with organizations such as Meals on Wheels.

I had a pleasure interviewing Megan E. Rein, President, Strategy and Business Development at SIIA Cosmetics.

Megan is the President of Strategy and Business Development at SIIA Cosmetics. To her new role, Megan brings 10 years of experience leading international teams and programs, as well as strong communication and relationship building expertise. Rein joins SIIA from the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the largest aerospace and defense company in the world. Rein is responsible for creating and executing the company’s strategic vision focusing on the powerful people changing the world to whom the brand is dedicated. Additionally, she serves as the brand spokeswoman telling SIIA’s company and client stories to the media and wider community. While serving its domestic market, Rein will position SIIA to launch internationally and raise capital, ensuring its continued fast growth and success. SIIA Cosmetics, based in Dallas, TX, is dedicated to honoring the powerful, strong people who change the world, and to investing in those who will #SIIAChange in the future. SIIA brings the absolute best quality, luxury products with thoughtful design and prices to fit all lifestyles. Rein holds a Master of Science in International Development from the world-famous London School of Economics and an undergraduate degree in International Studies from the University of South Florida.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for having me! I’m so excited to share what we are doing at SIIA Cosmetics and speak with you!

I have had an unconventional path to where I am now — President of Strategy and Business Development for SIIA Cosmetics. Originally, I wanted to work in the international humanitarian field. I saw an amazing documentary in high school leading to dreams of working in Ebola clinics for Doctors without Borders. However, after two years of pre-med in college I realized it was not for me, especially after barely scraping by in organic chemistry.

I still wanted to work internationally and make the world a better place, so I switched my focus to international development, as I always loved economics and decided this was a better fit for my humanitarian drive. After graduating with a Masters in International Development from the London School of Economics, I joined Lockheed Martin, an international aerospace and defense company, where I worked my first few years in international program management, learning the foundations of management and leadership. My final role was in industrial development, where I managed programs worth hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to developing manufacturing and sustainment industries in the Middle East and India. I absolutely loved creating new capabilities and jobs in these countries, as I truly believe we’re all better off when we raise up others and cooperate together.

During this time, I was moonlighting helping the co-founders, Simon Jeon and Hicham Khodri, launch our companies. The first was Rose de Nuit, a hair extension business, which serves the independent beauty supply store market. Out of this business we launched SIIA Cosmetics with Mr. Yoo, a Korean beauty expert. SIIA is a cosmetics company dedicated to honoring strong, powerful people who are working to make the world a better place. We do this by bringing luxury cosmetics based on the best-selling premium products to our customers, who we call our Change Agents, at a reasonable price, designed to fit both their lifestyles and budgets. Our products are designed to fit in with even the busiest persons’ life, with products easy to use and travel with, including a dual-ended product line with makeup on one side and the applicator on the other. We also honor our community by partnering with She’s the First, a non-profit focused on increasing female education throughout the world.

Once SIIA launched fully, it became clear I had to focus on building our company further, so I left my previous role and became the full-time President of Strategy for SIIA Cosmetics. I’m focused on our overall growth in the online direct-to-consumer space, as well as international distribution. I also focus on how best to use our brand to create a positive impact in the world, through both our customers’ lives as well as our own philanthropic endeavors. I’ve been able to utilize my leadership and international experience ensuring SIIA grows and has the impact we want.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made so many mistakes, but it’s always good to laugh while you are learning! One great story we have concerns our beauty bus. The team decided to launch SIIA by taking our product on the road! We planned to create a mobile experience using a remodeled school but that would tour the US, bringing SIIA to our beauty store clients, influencers, and the media in all of our major markets.

We bought a school bus, and in an effort to save money, hired a contractor friend to do the remodel. The first pictures coming out weren’t that impressive, but we held our breath and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the final product was not any better — the school bus interior was painted white, with wall decals and posters hung up. It reminded me of my room when I was 13! It was pretty horrible. We debated for a few days if we could make it work, but decided we couldn’t live with it.

We had to start over and find the right person for the job. We found one of the top interior designers in LA from her wonderful portfolio and hired her to turn our teenage-bedroom into the luxurious experience we were looking for. The final product was fantastic with tiled floors, mini-chandeliers, and well-thought-out spaces for people to experience the brand and products. The bus featured a beautiful product display, a functional beauty counter where guests could test products, and even a mini champagne and snack bar.

While we are so proud of our beauty bus, we definitely learned a huge lesson. This, among other mistakes, really taught us the value of hiring the right people with proven experience from the beginning. Even if it’s more expensive initially, hiring experts save more in the long term, as you’re less likely to pay for rework and you’ll have a superior experience for your customers. We have always regretted trying to saving money by not going with the best for items critical to our brand and customer experience. Let’s just say it’s a lesson we are happy to not repeat!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

First of all, our products are absolutely fantastic — we’ve proudly partnered with Korean beauty experts and the best factories in the world. We took the best performing products from luxury cosmetic lines, and based our formulas on these products. We added our own blend of botanicals and skin-improving agents to these products, and we offer these products at half the price of the luxury lines. Korean beauty technology is the best in the world, and our products incorporate the latest to provide clean, high-performing cosmetics at a reasonable price.

But more importantly, our company stands out by truly honoring and standing with our Change Agents and community in everything we do. We know our customers are doing everything they can to help their families and communities during this time, and we are doing the same standing with them. The coronavirus situation is incredibly challenging and scary for everyone. However, I am so proud everyone in our company has the same focus. We constantly ask ourselves — what can we do to help others?

During the crisis, we are donating our products to medical workers, and sharing their stories on our channels. We want to thank them and bring more positivity into the world. We have also been working with our employees to ensure they and their families are safe and secure. Many of our own employees further our mission by helping others, like volunteering in our community to support others, working with organizations such as Meals on Wheels.

We know all of this adds up and authentically resonates with our community, and we’ve received great feedback from our Change Agents. We want them to know we stand with them, by not only providing amazing products but by doing everything we can during this time, just like they are.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely! We’ve been doing a series of giveaways and recognitions of healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight, in order to thank them and inspire positivity during these trying times. We know this is helping our Change Agents by giving a sense they are appreciated, which is so important when they’re doing everything from working long shifts, working at home while taking care of their families, and dealing with all of the other difficult situations they’re encountering. It also brings positivity to our wider community — we are all dealing with mixed emotions and difficulties at every level, and we believe telling these positive stories and highlighting the good happening helps all of us.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Branding is the act of defining who you are as a company and brand — what you stand for, what your brand’s story and the world are, and defining how you’re different within your industry. It’s the fundamental story you tell yourself, employees, and community. This drives every decision you make. Our company during the past four years was a business-to-business focused company. As we launched our brand direct-to-consumer online we’ve had to soul search and create our story. It feels like every industry now is very crowded and noisy, the beauty industry more than most. By having a solid foundation and creating a world allowing you to stand out authentically while building a relationship with your customers, makes our brand strong and meaningful. Branding isn’t something you do once, but like a marriage, is something you must continue defining through every up and down, in order to develop your world as we continue building relationships.

Advertising is the tactical level introducing your potential customers to your products, as well as the brand world. Product marketing can be as simple as a one picture ad on Facebook, but when done well it should serve as the branding foundation telling potential customers exactly what you and your brand are all about attracting them to the world you’ve built. For SIIA, our brand world is based around strong, powerful people changing the world. Our product marketing shows our community and potential customers our amazing products and how they fit into their life.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Investing time and energy into building a brand is very important! Without this, it’s very easy to get off track, both internally and externally, and can lead you to be unhappy with your marketing and advertising efforts.

Companies and brands are built by teams, and the most important thing you can do as a leader is to ensure everyone knows what are your brand’s world, meaning, and goals. If this isn’t clear, from the CEO to the intern, not only will you get off track, but your team won’t have the same mission understanding. They’ll never get the level of fulfilment and passion teams with a consistent mission experience. Brand building is key to ensuring the brand story reaches your customers in the way you want it to, and builds a strong team to tell that story.

In SIIA’s earliest days, the work into building our world and meaning wasn’t done to the level needed. The ideas and their implementation weren’t communicated clearly to everyone. We ended up with a marketing output the leadership wasn’t happy with, but at the end of the day, we only had ourselves to blame. We hadn’t put work into building our world and ensuring the whole team understood it. Since then, we’ve done much as a company building this foundation, and are now working with our fantastic branding agency, Partners & Spade, to further world-build and translate it online in the best possible way. If we had invested earlier, we wouldn’t need to redo the original marketing work — but as all builders know, sometimes you have to learn through mistakes, and we’re grateful we to have put these lessons into action.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Choose a brand story and world authentic to who you are and what your origin is. We chose our brand story because it is who we are — we are a team of strong people from a different backgrounds who are working to make the world a better place, so it only made sense to make that our brand foundation. If the story is authentic to you, it will be easy to communicate and feel authentic to others, which makes building trust much easier.

Flesh out the brand story and mission and make sure your whole team buys into it. As I mentioned before, we initially did not do this foundational work, and did not communicate it effectively. Our first marketing campaign came out very differently from what we had in mind. Because we did not flesh out the branding and make sure the whole team understood it from every angle, it was impossible for our team to then implement it.

Hire the right team and outside agencies, who believe in the brand vision and can translate it to your audience. It is so important that the people you trust to translate the brand to different mediums, whether your website or advertising, truly believe in and are excited about the brand. Likewise, hiring people with the right skills and experience is equally important so they can translate the brand vision in the best way possible.

Believe in the brand vision and keep focusing in on it. You can always adjust the tactics of how to approach it, how to tell it and advertise it, but don’t change the foundation. When a brand is new everyone has different ideas and suggestions, and it can be very easy to lose focus and get scared that your ideas aren’t good enough. At the end of the day, the brand story needs to be authentic and true to you, or it will never feel authentic to your customers. You must keep focusing on your brand story — while you can certainly take in ideas of how best to translate it, advertise it, and interact with your community and stay true to your vision.

Intentionally, tell the brand story in new ways, and ensure everything you do inside and outside of the company is true to the brand. The coronavirus pandemic is challenging for everyone, and a newer cosmetic brand is no exception. We’ve been intentionally thinking about how to use this time as an opportunity to prove who we are and show we truly represent what we say we do. Thinking through every challenge as an opportunity to further build the brand and mission, both with your internal team and to your community, will make your company stronger and more resilient in all circumstances.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

In absolutely love Kendra Scott, who created an incredible brand which is also focused on charity and giving. Her visual style is so distinct and really creates the vision of the KS world — it is so beautiful, free, and optimistic. I’m so impressed by both its execution and her ability to maintain the consistent style while constantly reinventing it over different campaigns and seasons.

To replicate, I think it’s important not to try to copy your role model exactly, but copy their strategy. For SIIA, we have taken Kendra Scott’s focus on visual style and we are approaching our next campaign in that light. We’re constantly honing in on what the SIIA image is, and ensuring each image tells the SIIA story.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

The success of the brand building is measured by its customer’s acceptance of it. It is different in that brand building needs to be measured holistically. Advertising can be measured campaign-by-campaign, so each ad, including the specific text and photos, can be measured for how effective they are. However, since your brand is the foundation that everything, from your internal team cohesion to your relationship with your customers, is based on, it must be measured in many ways.

The first layer of measuring your brand building campaign is from a PR perspective — brand sentiment. On social media, in the press, and among influencers, how is your brand spoken of? Is it mostly positive, negative, or non-existent?

The next layer would be the consistency of your brand story and messaging across all of your platforms and communications. Do your social channels tell the same story as your website? Does the material you send out to influencers hit your messaging in a way they can retell easily?

And the final and most important layer is the brand building within your team. Does every member of the team understand the brand world and mission? Do they believe in it? Do they feel like what they are doing is part of that mission?

Brand building is something you have to continually do, and evolve, so instead of thinking of specific metrics you can reach, I measure our brand-building campaign by thinking through the items I’ve mentioned, and ensuring that the brand story is clear, is consistent across all of our platforms, and creates a world that is compelling and builds the relationship we want with our community.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media is central to our branding efforts. Beauty and cosmetics live and breathe on social media, between makeup artists, influencers, and tutorials, so it’s extremely important we engage. We build relationships with influencers and makeup artists on social media, which is so important in building trust among future customers. Buying cosmetics online can be scary, since you can’t see and try it before taking that leap of faith. Social media, and our community on it, allows us to show who we are, how great our products are, and reach out to potential customers before they make that leap.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

I have experienced burnout many times, and I always have found it’s at times I felt either stuck or not challenged by my work. When I feel I’m in a loop and the work I’m doing isn’t inspiring to me, I get burnt out and feel either frustrated or listless. The only way I know out is giving myself some space and really think about my future goals. Then I create a plan for how to achieve them. I write down my 1-, 3-, and 5- year plans with specific milestones, then break down what to do on a weekly and monthly basis to achieve them. For example, when we were first launching SIIA, I planned to carve out time on evenings and weekends to work through branding ideas, strategy, and networking. Putting it down in an agenda helped me feel I had control over where I was going. It also lets me prioritize my work seeing what work was not important to my future goals. This way I could maximize my time on tasks critical to my success. Knowing I was taking steps every week to get closer to my goals made the work I was doing every day feel more meaningful allowing me to move past burnout.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

That is so kind of you to say, and not something I take lightly! 😊

I would absolutely love to inspire a renewed sense of service — service to each other, our communities, and the wider world. The classic Kennedy quote — “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” — is a spirit I want to see renewed. What can you do for your community? For the wider world? How can you help others, make the world better, even in your own backyard? Especially in these divisive times, I would love to inspire others to be of service and think of the whole world as our community. We created SIIA to honor people who have this spirit, those already working to make the world better, and I would be incredibly proud to contribute to this movement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As many times as this probably is said, “Be the change you want to see in the world” always impacts me the most. It drives me to think about the power I have, right now, to change the world, and reminds me I’m able to make changes, even if just modeling behavior I want to see. It goes with my previous comments on being of service, but I truly believe what we all need right now is to think more about how to make our families, communities, and wider world better for the future. If we all act and behave the way we want the world to be, we could see this change.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many inspiring leaders out there, and I would be honored if any of them saw this interview! Probably my top leaders are Bill and Melinda Gates — they’ve been incredibly successful in the business world, but then turned their success into probably the biggest humanitarian effort ever accomplished by private citizens. I would love to grab a coffee (my biggest addiction) with them, and would gladly meet them in Seattle, my treat

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/megan.rein), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/meganerein/) , and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-rein-09a7a76a/) — and would love to speak more with the brilliant Change Agents out there!

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