I’ll start by openly confessing that I’ve never given much thought to Tyra Banks, the director, producer, and host of “America’s Next Top Model.” So I never would have guessed that the quirky supermodel would be invited as a keynote speaker at Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience.
A supermodel and former talk show host at an Oracle conference? The connection seemed a bit of a stretch, so naturally, my curiosity was piqued.
I expected Tyra to bring her bold personality to the stage, but what I didn’t expect was in the first few minutes of her interview, she abruptly stopped mid-sentence to shout, “I love saying ‘ass’ at an Oracle event!”
“It was in that moment that my interest in Tyra Banks went from lukewarm at best, to total fangirl.”
It was in that moment that my interest in Tyra Banks went from lukewarm at best, to total fangirl.
Tyra persists as her authentic self (and consequently, her brand), regardless of the context. She positions herself as someone committed to “beauty, business, and badassery,” which she describes as breaking from the norm and pushing back against stereotypes.
She is a master marketer and brand builder, and anyone willing to stretch and challenge their marketing craft can learn a lot from her. Here are some great nuggets of wisdom from her keynote:
Use What You Have to Get What You Want—Don’t Fake It
Tyra shared with us that as a 20 year old model, she was forced to learn the importance of building an authentic brand, rather than one that is forced. After being turned away from many runway opportunities and urged to lose weight, Tyra began to market herself to brands that promoted the lifestyle and body type that she had and was already proud of. Thus, Tyra’s coined term “booty-ful” was born in an effort to empower women to embrace what strengths they have to get what they want, rather than spend their energies trying to become what they are not.
This commitment to hold true to this value resonates deeply with a young female audience, and was affirmed in both the Disney films, Life Size and Life Size 2. It was this opportunity that nudged Tyra to officially commit to building a brand that reaches out to this audience, as an entertainer, an entrepreneur, and an advocate for young women.
While I may not be marketing beauty products or running a talk show, I have much to learn from the way Tyra tirelessly focuses on building her strengths and knowing her audience inside and out, rather than try and force a brand that doesn’t fit.
Appeal to the Psychographic, Not Demographic
Tyra Banks’ beauty line, Tyra Beauty, is rooted in three core values: funny (self-deprecating), fierce (snappy and bold), and heart (inspiration).
These core values are not random, they were deliberately selected as a direct result of knowing what her audience wants. And every piece of content, every interview, every television show, reflects these values.
While her brand primarily reaches a younger, female audience, Tyra is clear that she targets a psychographic, not a demographic. This is demonstrated as one of her most successful sales reps (aka Beautytainers), is an 80 year old woman who loves hosting makeover parties at her nursing home.
In the B2B marketing space, we can compare this to persona development. But many of us fall prey to the temptation to put people into boxes to check off and generalize in an effort to, frankly, make our jobs easier.
But Tyra doesn’t generalize her audience by speaking only to millennials. She speaks to people who are excited about no-nonsense beauty products, sassy brands, building community, and empowering other women.
This commitment to her brand values is reflected in the names of her lipstick line, including some of the most entertaining, “Younger Man” and “Show Some Cleavage.”
Set Up a Room JUST for Brainstorming because It’s a Great Idea
So many times, we’re afraid to express interesting ideas because we haven’t fully scoped them out yet. We believe that unless we can present a 10-minute TED talk on the idea, then it’s not worth throwing into the mix.
Certainly there are times for a poised and prepared presentation, but great brands also must make time for throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks.
“Tyra’s gonna think I’m crazy, but…”
So naturally, Tyra tore down that wall and built a totally new one, built specifically for creative brainstorming. The room even proudly and loudly displays the words “Tyra’s gonna think I’m crazy, but…” where staff are encouraged to put sticky notes on the walls. No idea to crazy for the room.
There is a lot to be said for cultivating creative spaces, and Tyra achieves this masterfully with the flair that defines her and her brand. This room is where I imagine her trademark terms “Flawsome (Flaws + Awesome)” and “Smize (smile with your eyes)” were born.
If you’re still not convinced of the brilliance of Tyra and her team’s ability to market her three core values across her beauty product line, check out this video promoting Tyra Beauty’s core values: funny, fierce, and heart. If it doesn’t get you smiling, then maybe it’s time to purchase Tyra’s lipstick, “Ask for a Raise.”