Olga, you have a wealth of experience as a digital marketing manager. Was it a path you always knew you wanted to follow? What have been your career stepping stones to get you where you are today?
I was interning in the audit department at KPMG during my fourth year majoring in world economy and politics at the Higher School of Economics in Russia when I realised that wasn’t the job for me. Then, during my fifth year of university, I was offered a job as a financial analyst at an international beer company.
I would have stayed there but I won an international competition by Samsung – I was the only winner from my country. It included expenses-paid education in the MBA program at a prestigious Korean university, which collaborated with the MIT Sloan Management School. The winners were required to work for one year at the main office in South Korea and another three years in our home country. My further career was determined by the Samsung Global Scholarship Program, which led me to the development of digital services and participating in the launch of the Samsung Apps mobile app store.
My first job in digital marketing was at Samsung, where my role developed into a managerial position. It was at this point that I realised this was what I wanted to do. After working in internet marketing at Samsung, I became a digital marketing team lead in Adidas, then I moved to Unilever, looking after the company’s largest category ‘Beauty and Personal Care’.
Then I moved to TikTok. I was responsible for FMCG/CPG industry growth at TikTok, partnering with large international companies such as P&G, Unilever, Kimberly Clark, Nestle, and others. TikTok gave me the chance to expand my expertise.
Why do you think the job as a digital marketer captured your attention? Why did you make the change from a potential career in finance? And what is it about the industry that keeps you interested?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve enjoyed solving mathematical problems, and I was good at exact sciences – and I have an analytical mind. But, after my first job in finance, I realised that I loved the creative side of work and I missed working with people.
After winning the Samsung competition and joining its digital department, I knew that was where I could see my future. It was a mix of everything that interests me, and due to the dynamic development of technology, it’s constantly evolving. It’s also multi-layered; I enjoy conducting research, identifying consumer problems using qualitative and quantitative data, generating ideas for solutions, trying out and conducting A/B tests, and analysing the results.
Now I’ve been in this field for more than 13 years, and have gained a wealth of knowledge. I have experience in social media, CRM marketing, and short video services. I now specialise in finding comprehensive solutions for client tasks, building brand presence strategies in digital, launching new products using digital channels, and expanding the customer base.
Was there a particular project or campaign you worked on during your time at Samsung that is your most memorable one? What was your involvement in it?
There was one project , which I led, which was the #BeFearless campaign. It was significant for many reasons, not least for the ethos behind it, which was to show how modern technology can help people overcome their fears. It was a course with special software that was developed by professional specialists in Korea, that linked all the Samsung devices – smartphones, puls-measuring watches and virtual reality glasses.
The idea behind it was that by completing this course, you could face your fears and become more confident. As part of the campaign, we invited young people to share stories about their fears – whether it was public speaking or heights. Then, after completing the course, they were invited to face their fears head-on.
One participant jumped with a parachute for the first time, while the other gave a speech in a theatre before a large audience. As a direct result of the campaign, figures showed that the brand metric ‘the most preferred brand in consumer electronics’ increased by 4 pp, and from a brand image point of view, the brand’s ‘unique’ characteristic increased by more than 9 pp. My country was among the top 4 countries with the most successful results worldwide. It was also rolled out internationally.
Tell us more about some of your other campaigns. At Unilever, what do you think was one of the biggest challenges faced when it comes to digital marketing? Tell us about some of the projects and what their results were.
I joined Unilever at a time when the company was restructuring its processes and actively implementing digital tools. It was going through a digital transformation, and I was leading its biggest category – beauty and personal care.
With my team, one of the subtasks was to work with data at all stages of the marketing funnel, to analyse it and ultimately to create and deliver personalised messages. With these details, it was possible to compile personalised offers for different audience segments. For a specialist in internet marketing, collecting high-quality data is one of the biggest challenges faced, especially in the FMCG category. So, I found new ways of collecting data, such as stickers and chatbots on VKontakte, partnering with the mobile loyalty card service “Wallet”, and installing sample machines in cosmetics stores.
Together with my team, we started actively collecting data, using any signals that customers left in the online space. We then analysed and segmented the audience, and created personalised messages for all stages of the marketing funnel. One of the projects brought in an incredible 180,000 new contacts in just three hours after it was launched.
The reason this was so important was that it allowed us to better understand our customers and what their needs were, and then we were able to provide them with the best user experience at every touchpoint with Unilever brands online. The results were huge, and thanks to the efforts of me and my team, Russia entered the top three countries in Unilever for this indicator, and the Russian results of some individual brands, such as Axe and Dove, were recognised as the best in the world.
Alongside this, I was also involved in launching major social campaigns for the Dove brand. These included the hashtags #ShowUs and #LetThemShine. I was responsible for the digital part, where a data-driven marketing approach was also applied.
You have worked for global brands such as Samsung, Unilever, and Adidas. Are there any common trends that run through the development when it comes to their digital marketing?
Yes, data. Working with data is vital for all of these companies. Each of them was interested in working with big data, including collecting it, processing it, analysing it and using it. As they say, data is the oil of the 21st century! Technological products from Adobe were used in all these organisations.
The data would be segmented into audiences, and personalised offers would be developed based on the interests of each segment – and that would be different for each of the brands too. For example, in Adidas, there could be an email campaign that highlights an offer for children’s clothing, but it could be only targeting mums with children.
At Samsung, it might be an offer just for owners of flagship smartphones to complement their image with fashionable Samsung watches. While at Unilever, it could be informing an audience loyal to the Dove brand about a new social project. And that’s across the board, not only email marketing, but also banners, videos, and other creative materials used for launching on various media channels.
That’s also something these three companies have in common, they all actively used online video as a tool for building coverage.
What attracted you to work at TikTok? How was the role different to your previous experience? Did you have to develop or adapt your existing skills?
There was so much buzz around TikTok in 2020, everyone was talking about it. It was gaining a multi-million audience faster than any of its competitors. Of course, this was influenced by the Covid-19 epidemic, which meant everyone was at home, and the entertainment app became a go-to to those who wanted some enjoyment.
I’d also heard a lot of really positive things about working at TikTok from my colleagues in the industry. Another aspect that I found attractive was that TikTok was a relatively small company, unlike my previous employers. This meant there was greater freedom as well as meaning it could create opportunities to show myself and work in different markets.
TikTok was growing rapidly and I wanted to be a part of that. It had excellent prospects to change the market. I knew it would also allow me to learn something new and to expand my knowledge of the advertising market as a whole.
The obvious advantage was the opportunity to work with all leading international companies at once, as well as to try myself on the platform side. All my previous experience was on the client side, and TikTok gave me a chance to expand my expertise, which I eventually did.
What challenges did you face at TikTok? The social network was a new and growing brand. How did you work with companies to convince them it was the right platform for their advertising?
For many global brands, TikTok was an unfamiliar platform with its own rules of the game. Everything had to be thought through from this unique perspective – it wasn’t just a case of copying the approach and creatives from competitors because standard advertising doesn’t work on TikTok.
As TikTok’s platform is user-generated content, it would mean no one would watch it. Users wanted to see content created by ordinary people, just like them, not perfect commercials with an intrusive call-to-action to buy the product. But some clients were really afraid to take a risk and change their digital strategies, as it was all unfamiliar to them. So I made presentations, conducted training, developed digital strategies, and solved client problems related to product launches.
For one company alone, it took 11 seminars for nine product categories before we saw a significant change in their advertising creatives. But it was worth it, because it yielded brilliant results. This led to advertisers asking us to develop an annual strategy for their presence on TikTok – they had stopped treating it like just another social network. I also found non-standard solutions that allowed clients to launch their first campaigns and see instant results.
For example, for the Huggies brand, I found a way to shoot videos in 2 weeks and launch the campaign just before the New Year. The client was very satisfied and redistributed much more resources to TikTok. All of this was done so that clients would consider TikTok not as a platform for special projects, but as a necessary channel in their annual media plans. In financial terms in one year, I increased the revenue from FMCG/CPG industry by 180%.
Do you have any examples of situations that you were able to overcome in terms of digital marketing while working at TikTok?
Due to global guidelines from its HQ, my previous employer, Unilever, was unable to start working with me at TikTok. But, through an agency, I’d heard how Unilever was surprised by the high sales of their Magnum Double ice cream in March – clearly not the season for ice creams!
I looked into it, and I found one TikTok user had posted a video about the ice cream, and it had gained momentum – with more than 2.3 million views in just two days. It led to lots of people searching for where to buy the ice cream.
The fact it wasn’t easy to find – it was sold online only – and that it was expensive added to the narrative. The interest continued, with other users asking questions, sharing videos, and the views were rising rapidly. I compared the graphs of our internal statistics and relevant search queries in Google Trends and Yandex Wordstat. The March peaks were completely identical. It was the best proof that TikTok was the cause of the success. It was this example that gave me the leverage to persuade Unilever to consider working with TikTok. A few months later, they launched their first campaign with us for the Axe brand.
The deodorant campaign turned out to be very successful in terms of media metrics, and the results were twice as high as our closest competitor.