Marketing as a Game Changer

Playing in the Big Game

In a soft market, belt-tightening and emphasis on efficiency are often an organizational knee-jerk response – especially in the Marketing function. This piece spotlights two recent industry examples of how the polar opposite of playing it safe in Marketing – demonstrating vision and boldness– can have outrageous pay-offs, regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand. We sat down with two Chief Marketing Officers who took their brands to dizzying heights of visibility and bottom line success this year thanks to bold vision and action. Kory Marchisotto of e.l.f. Beauty and Jennifer ("JJ") Johnson of CrowdStrike cybersecurity each oversaw the rollout of their companies’ first-ever television ads on one of TV’s biggest nights: the 2023 NFL championship game.

Meet the Marketers


Kory has been CMO at e.l.f. for four years. She came on board as the company was looking to enter a new chapter after 15 years of disrupting the cosmetics market. Launched in 2004 with the goal of selling premium cosmetics at a low cost—then $1—totally online, e.l.f. was an early adopter of the now-ubiquitous direct-to-consumer premium online retail marketplace.

Speaking of the ethos of e.l.f., Kory remarks “We are focused on creating the cultural conditions necessary for innovation to happen over and over again, and that elusive red tape and velvet ropes: we leave that for everybody else. We work directly with our community to not only disrupt our industry, but also to change the world.” That change is not just product oriented; e.l.f.’s board of directors is 2/3 women and 1/3 diverse. They are one out of four among 4,200 publicly traded companies in the US who can claim those numbers.



While there are many parallels between Kory’s and JJ’s journeys to the big game, one notable distinction is their tenure in their respective chairs. While Kory had been at e.l.f. for a few years, JJ came to CrowdStrike mere months before the big ad. She notes, “My predecessor had a very, very wonderful run at CrowdStrike. And my job was to take it and pass the torch and take the company even to the next level of greater heights.”

CrowdStrike, like e.l.f., prides itself on being a disruptor and a trailblazer. Without a consumer-facing product, they have staked out an over $2 billion position in the market. Their overall revenue grew by 54% last year, closely mirrored by their subscription revenue increase of 55%. They’ve accomplished this in a market sector that’s getting more crowded by the day by never resting on their laurels.

Why TV? Why This Game?

In a single word: visibility. The average TV viewership for the game was 115.1 million people. That’s a lot of eyes on your ad, especially for a TV event that draws viewers who see the commercial breaks as the point of the thing.

“Every human being cares about cybersecurity,” said JJ. “And so how do we continue to increase our brand awareness while we're starting to think about how [to] take on these larger, established, household name brands in a much more meaningful way?” While CrowdStrike may not sell directly to consumers, TV viewers are still technology buyers for their companies.


Kory similarly had visibility in mind while undertaking this project. “The work that needed to be done was really to bring the brand to the level of emotional resonance to create…deeper level of fans and obviously super fandom to have evangelists.” To create those evangelists, she reached out and linked their biggest selling product with one of the biggest stars of the day. In an unbelievably short timeframe, e.l.f. got Jennifer Coolidge to agree to the ad, contacted Mike White, wrote a script, got everything through legal, shot, and edited a TV spot. The average ad for the Super Bowl takes 12 to 18 months to produce; e.l.f. did it in three weeks.



What’s the Benefit?

The goal of an awareness campaign isn’t an immediate sales lift, but both brands saw a bump following these ads. CrowdStrike measured a 45% conversion lift among people who saw the commercial vs. those who didn’t. More to the point of the ad, however, they heard both publicly and privately that they had elevated not just their own brand but the entire cybersecurity industry. “The one thing that I will say that I loved the most was…a tweet by someone who was a thought leader in the industry that said something like, ‘Holy S, cybersecurity just went mainstream,’” JJ recalled. She also shared that friends and neighbors who had seen the ad could finally understand what CrowdStrike does.

For e.l.f., the result was much the same. In terms of brand awareness, the ad brought them 57 billion impressions. To call that “a lot of eyeballs” would be an almost cosmic understatement. As for sales of Power Grip, the product actually advertised at the game? Kory remarked that “Before the [big game], we were selling one of these [Power Grip] every eight seconds. Since the [big game], we're selling one of these every three and a half seconds. And it's out of stock in most places.”

There is no way to look at these numbers and not see success. Both of these women came into established brands with a mandate for change and delivered. They are two powerful examples of Chief Marketing Officers as agents for change, stewards of their brands, and drivers of revenue.

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