Genexa CMO Emily Culp Shares Why Encouraging Failure Creates Opportunities For Innovation

Over the past decade, society has become more health-conscious, not just with food but also with medicine. As a result, people care more about what they are putting in their bodies. The global complementary and alternative medicine market was valued at $82.27 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $404.66 billion by 2028. Additionally, the global herbal medicine market size was estimated to be $83 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $550 billion by 2030. Then some companies are working on making clean medicine, meaning the product is free of all artificial inactive ingredients, available over the counter.

Emily Culp, CMO at Genexa, a brand that calls itself the first clean medicine company, is helping the company rewrite an age-old story and disrupt the $131 billion industry. Early this year, she joined the team and now leads all of the branding, marketing and eCommerce. In 2021, Genexa expanded its retail footprint into 45,000 stores nationwide, including key retailer partners such as Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, CVS and Whole Foods. The company also launched its first national broadcast marketing campaign and closed a highly successful and oversubscribed $60 million Series A that brought together some of the world’s most well-regarded investors in consumer products. In addition, Hollywood’s top wellness advocates also participated in the Series A, the largest ever for a consumer pharmaceutical company. Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pratt, Donald Glover, Regina Hall, and Zoey Deutch were among the celebrity investors.

“Some of the challenges whenever you have a new brand, and I’ve dealt with this in the past, is brand awareness,” Culp states. “It’s all about driving brand awareness, so consumers know what you stand for, especially if you’re disrupting and creating a new category, which is what we’re doing. … I think of brands as a person. I want you to think about us sitting at the dinner table with you or being a friend in a coffee shop. So an honor that I have in marketing is how do I personify a brand? How do I ensure that we’re a trusted friend in the consumer’s mind?.”

Culp spent the first ten years of her career working at various agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather and Arnold. She learned about all the different marketing channels, from television to print ads to consumer insights. That decade of experience crafted her consumer-centric mindset.

She then took on transformational roles at Estée Lauder, Clinique and Rebecca Minkoff. In these marketing roles, she challenged the brands; she helped them with product innovation development and connecting with consumers. At Rebecca Minkoff, Culp launched the Store of the Future. The connected stores featured smart walls that suggested new styles when customers entered the space and smart mirrors in dressing rooms.

During these roles she learned the power behind failing. “Make sure that your team knows that you do actually want them to fail,” Culp states. “If they’re not failing sometimes, you’re not disrupting enough or you’re not pushing the bar enough.”

She then had the opportunity to transition to Keds USA as CMO. Culp was responsible for driving the strategic development and creative execution of Keds’ global marketing initiatives, including retail development and omnichannel marketing. During this time, she was recognized by Forbes as The World’s Most Influential CMOs.

Prior to joining Genexa, Culp served first as president and then CEO for Cover FX Skincare Inc. This was the first time she had worked on a vegan and cruelty-free product. She helped them push into merging color and skin care treatment and bringing those ingredients closer together.

Liking the challenge of working with new products disrupting their respective markets, Culp’s vision and core values aligned with that of David Johnson and Max Spielberg, founders of Genexa. Having children with autoimmune conditions, she understood the value of having over-the-counter alternatives that only use clean inactive ingredients that are gluten-free, non-GMO and certified vegan.

As she continues to settle into her new role, Culp is trying a new approach to leadership: setting a KPI (key performance indicator) around failing. Everyone on her team has to fail at a new idea once a quarter.

“Most people that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with are perfectionists and KPI driven,” Culp explains. “So if you don’t tell them to fail, they won’t do it because they’re terrified. … To disrupt, grow and scale our business, we have to think outside the box. We have to do things differently. One of the ways you do things differently is experimentation. And like all scientific experiments, they’re not going to be perfect. Let’s be clear, you’re not looking for an eighty percent failure rate, but you want twenty percent. For every five ideas, one isn’t going to work out. The key within failure is understanding why it didn’t work out. Optimally, it’s not hugely expensive or has massive consequences. And then everybody learns. And that, to me, is a really important way to also create that optimal environment for our team to thrive and connect with our consumers.”

Culp focused on the following essential steps as she pivoted in her career:

  • Embrace smart risk. The riskiest thing you can do in your career is not to try something new and out of your comfort zone.
  • Become a creative problem solver. There are always solutions to everything. It’s thinking about the three key elements: resource allocation of financial and human capital and time.
  • Articulate where you want to be. Network as much as possible and ensure you pay it forward.

“One of my favorite phrases is ‘the grass is greener where you water it,’” Culp concludes. “So if you’re pivoting in your career, really do the hard work, think about where you want to focus your time and energy because you can never get your time back. And think about where you can have an impact.”

Source: Cheryl Robinson