Columns / Insights

Razor-Sharp Branding

Cassidy Blackwell
How have your background in French literature and your interest in architecture influenced your career in brand marketing? My training in the history and theory of design via architecture and my language abilities help me think globally when it comes to communication. I use lessons from French literature training and architecture almost every day, whether it’s as small as tweaking grammar—to which a literature degree in any language makes one very attuned—or thinking about how to design a brand with the ultimate goal of purposeful change, something talked a lot about in architecture. That said, I never planned to go into marketing; it’s something that found me naturally!

I have always been involved in things where marketing was the common thread. Whether it was acting as the social chair of my sorority, planning a huge festival to raise money for Hurricane Katrina or working in policy, communication was always my strength—specifically in writing, storytelling and messaging. I never woke up one morning and said I wanted to work in marketing; I’ve always had an open mind and gravitated towards the things that align with my skills and inspire me. Marketing, which encompasses art and strategy, is that catch-all space in which I have been able to thrive.

You started your own popular blog, Natural Selection, which empowered women to wear their hair naturally. Has being a part of the community of naturally tressed women guided how you think about branding in general? When I started blogging, there were very few resources available for those like me looking to wear their natural hair. However, I found myself part of a growing community and discovered that the more we wrote, hosted meet-ups and told our own stories, the more people felt empowered to join our movement.

When I think about brand marketing and what we’re building here with the Bevel brand at Walker & Company, the more we are able to empower men with the tools and education they need to have a successful shave, the more effectively we’ll be able to build a community of advocates to support our brand. Without people sharing their authentic stories of an experience with the brand, it’s very difficult to move the needle today.

Without people sharing their authentic stories of an experience with the brand, it’s very difficult to move the needle today.”

Bevel offers men’s grooming and shaving products. How is Walker & Company’s flagship brand integrating personalization into its marketing—without it feeling creepy? At its core, shaving is a personal, intimate experience—whether you’re a woman or a man. It’s important that we speak to you at that individual level, to connect with you and your own experiences directly. We talk with people all the time, both online and offline, then take these learnings and apply them directly to our content, marketing strategy and other brand touchpoints. It’s about establishing a consistent, repeatable and scalable platform for one-to-one dialogue. People are always telling you what’s important to them, what they want to see—it’s up to the brand to listen and take action.

You’ve said that Bevel’s “target consumer[s] [are] still very traumatized by a razor, because they have historically been served tools that are not designed for them.” Does this make your job of reaching them as a marketer more difficult? Absolutely! But therein lies the challenge! I personally love digging into our Twitter feed or the comments sections on our ads. There are so many times where we have served an ad and people actually comment and say, “This won’t work for me or my skin,” and to me, that’s a marketing lay up. Not only do we get to respond to them, but we can do so in a way that levels with them, empathizes with their fear and then educates them about the product. It’s a personal relationship with a customer, built on trust and respect. I also love meeting people in person and getting to put the product in their hands for the first time, making eye contact with them and telling them how it works. It’s really powerful to close that online/offline loop.

One of Bevel’s significant platforms is Bevel Code, a website sharing style and grooming insights with men of color. When did you know that Bevel Code was really starting to connect with Bevel’s target audience? We hear it all the time! “Wow! I’ve never seen content like this that speaks exactly to me!” Most men’s health and grooming content featured on the web doesn’t talk about hair moisturizer, how to deal with hyperpigmentation or the importance of using sunscreen on darker skin tones. We do. It’s relevant. It’s important. Nobody else is talking about it.

How do you integrate influencers, like hip-hop artist Nas or Barack Obama’s personal barber, into Bevel’s brand? Our content strategy is about normalizing grooming education for men of color, so it’s important to identify those points of entry for the conversation: Obama’s barber. Nas’s half-moon hair cut. Grooming before a homecoming tailgate. These are all natural conversations for men of color and provides us an opportunity to also talk about the brand in an authentic way.

What advice do you wish you’d known when you were first starting out in your career? It’s a lily pad, not a ladder. Be open to new ideas, experiences and collaborations, and never stop learning.

Cassidy Blackwell leads brand marketing at Walker & Company, a family of brands designing health and beauty solutions for people of color. In her role, Blackwell manages communications and content for the company’s flagship brand, Bevel, which provides grooming products and services designed to help reduce razor bumps and skin irritation. She also runs partnerships for the company. Named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2016, Blackwell is dedicated to empowering and educating men and women of color about their options in health and beauty. Before Walker & Company, she managed social media for Stitch Fix and served as global editor for TextureMedia, the world’s largest hair care platform. Blackwell also founded and edited Natural Selection, a blog that serves as a resource for over 50,000 women on how to wear their hair naturally. A Minneapolis native, she graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in French literature.



Create an Account
Sign In

Sign In