At the heart of communication lies reciprocity and understanding. Throughout Sarah Henry’s career, people have fascinated her. How they are multifaceted, their depth. The magic of marketing, according to her, happens when a brand can tap into that humanity, and speak directly to its audience while remaining rooted in its core values. This potential for real connection also became the reason Sarah decided to relocate from New York to California. Moss Studio + Magazine sat down to speak with Sarah about her role as Chief Marketing Officer for San Francisco-based luxury skin care brand, Tatcha.

Tatcha is a brand built on service, understanding, and humility. Never an authority; always a student. These core values clearly stem from the strong Japanese roots the brand’s Founder, Vicky Tsai, founded her business upon. The beauty of Tatcha’s marketing and creative strategy is that the values also inform every single strategic decision the company makes. Unlike the shiny ball syndrome that’s so easy to adopt when trying to keep up with the times and remain relevant, driving marketing and creative that stays true to Tatcha’s essence is one of the most important aspects of Sarah’s Henry’s CMO role.

“There were many things that drew me to Tatcha. The brand story is beautiful. Vicky succeeded in harnessing the experience she had as a human being traveling in Japan, living and learning in a transformative period of her life. And how she created a brand that honors Japan beautifully, but brings it to the world in a way that’s unexpected and different, at a time people were ready for it, with inspiration and real results, was really incredible to see,” Sarah said.

In Sarah’s eyes, every single piece of communication between the luxury brand and its customers is a chance to engage and cultivate true connection. Which is why it’s so important to honor the brand’s core at all times, whether that’s in a conversation between a Tatcha team member and a potential customer, or in a new product video. Sarah views them all as opportunities for showing empathy, and to facilitate mutual learning, demonstrate empathy, breakthrough in a relevant way, and inspire awareness and trial.

“What interests me most about marketing is the opportunity you have to connect with people in a unique way. To be a marketer, you really have to be a student of humanity, of culture, of trends, of consumption, of human behavior. And that’s something I’ve always been intrigued by …not just what people are doing, but what they must be feeling…and macro trends. To be a brand that’s meaningful in someone’s life, you need to be rooted in purpose and a breakthrough value proposition. You really have to understand your target audience, including who they are and what they’re seeking—an authentic emotional connection based on mutual understanding,” Sarah said.  

Another facet Sarah loves about her field is the range marketing gives for combining the analytical with the emotive and creative. Constantly figuring out puzzles of everything from how to show up in a global pandemic to facilitating meaningful connection in a virtual world. The importance of active listening and constant learning; diving deep into the customer’s needs and aspirations. Consumers expect brands to be human, empathetic, and transparent – and that means the marketer’s job is to facilitate connection and serve content that allows their community to have a holistic view of their brand.

“Marketing allows you to live through this challenge of, ‘How do I take this amazing brand story, do it justice, bring honor to that story, and connect it with people in a way that’s relatable, relevant and inspiring?’ And how do you inspire on a level that’s going to break through in an incredibly cluttered market?” said Sarah.

Tatcha is by no means an old-fashioned brand. While it is strongly connected to the traditional Japanese beauty rituals, it is equally dynamic and innovative, drawing on its San Francisco base and cultural influence. One of the things Sarah appreciates most about Tatcha is that the brand drives disruption by maintaining a consistent and unwavering connection to its roots. Rather than focusing on disruption as the instigator for a marketing campaign or other creative piece of work, it always starts the process with a visit back to what makes Tatcha, Tatcha. After looking at the market, the atmosphere and its consumer, it ultimately figures out the path that will allow it to purposefully and authentically connect the dots.

“I think in our world we use the word disruption a lot. ‘We want to be disruptive. We want to be bold.’ And the one thing I’ve learned is that it really is about being true to those core values…Ultimately, you need to understand them. What is your anchor? What is your brand? Are your brand roots on the table at all times? That’s what’s most important for us. We might change the certain way we express things, (depending on the platform and the specific campaign), but the focus is always on how we communicate our brand roots in the strongest way possible.”

2020 has highlighted a deep need every individual has for human connection and value-based communication, from the meetings we have with one another to the brands we choose to engage with. Responsible and empathetic marketing is what real consumer/brand connection is based upon—and what Sarah strives for every single day. In 2021, Tatcha will take its purpose-focused and mission-based work to the next level. Always rooted in service; a genuine passion for wellness and beauty, and a desire to help, whether that’s through caring for consumers through their skin or supporting education equality all over the world with its “Beautiful Face, Beautiful Futures” program, or its partnership with Room to Read, which supports and inspires the next generation of leaders.

“We’ve really been exploring and learning this year about the ways that we can continue to build and connect with our community, and share more about the work that we’re doing from innovation to supporting education equality, scale it up, and continue to do that work in a resonant and meaningful way. Going into 2021, I’m excited to really hone in on our role in the greater community and our purpose, and to look at how we bring that to life in an even stronger and bolder way,” said Sarah.