Meet Sean John’s Marketing Genius! | @SeanJohn #BlackExcellence

by Yah Yah

Marketing professional, Tiffany Ellzy has a career that many of us can only dream of. Having worked for over two decades with world-renowned brands such as Bacardi, Converse apparel, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon Wireless, Vitamin Water and currently Diddy’s Sean John clothing brand, Tiffany has seen and done it all. had the opportunity to speak with the marketing guru about her illustrious career! Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in the marketing industry?

Tiffany Ellzy: Sure. It’s interesting because I majored in Television Production, and my first intern and first job out of school was with the Sally Jesse Raphael show, if you remember that. That’s a long time ago.

SMC: Yes, I do. Yeah, she had the red hair.

TE: Yep. Mm-hmm, yep. Then, I went over to the Joan Rivers show as a Production Assistant. She had a show called Can We Shop. It was a home shopping show. Didn’t last long. Probably only went I think it was two seasons. At that point, I was unemployed after the show was canceled, and I started doing Public Relations with fashion companies. I worked for a company called The Fashion Association, and there is where I got my introduction into the young men’s urban state. At that time, I was working with Perry Ellis America … Trying to think of the brands that were there. It was so long ago. My responsibilities were, at the time, was to kind of give a youth and entertainment spin to fashion companies.

So brands that were established with a certain customer group, were offered opportunities in music videos. They were addressed by magazines such as the Vibe and Source. Publications that they wouldn’t typically engage with. So, that was kind of my responsibility there. After leaving the Fashion Association, I started working with urban brands such as the Davoucci, Pelle Pelle, Akademiks, to name a few. I went back to school to get my MBA in Marketing. So, I’ve been doing Marketing since.

I’ve always had an interest in what motivates … Or creating ideas. And creating concepts that encourage people to act upon something. For me, Marketing was a great fit because it allowed me to be creative. It allowed me to be logistical. It allowed me to be analytical and create ideas and move them forward in a way where we can see instant results, or it can be a long-term effort. I shouldn’t have said instant. But, where I could see my results and they were analyzed. You know, you really get to see what you’re doing. And what I’ve done with my career as it’s evolved, is I’ve started to get more into the digital space.

So, now I have such a passion for learning all that I can around this digital state. So, I’m taking courses. I go to Digital Masterclasses. I sit, and I read a lot and just really try to understand this new digital space looks like now and in the future. So, that’s kind of my career in a nutshell. Right now, I manage the Marketing and actually, the Strategic and Communications responsibility for Sean John. I’ve been leading the Marketing Department there now for about three years, and it’s been a challenge. You know it’s a 20-year-old brand.

Then, being with Sean John it’s been somewhat of a challenge you know. You have challenges that some newer brands may not have. But, then there are some good things that newer brands wish they did have. One thing about Sean John in the past, it was a brand that was probably at the top of the young men’s space. It was probably one of the top brands of the young men’s space. You know, over 20 years, that consumer gets older, and the market shifts. There’s a trend in which the younger guy don’t wanna look like his father. So, those kinds of challenges are what we face now because we have a consumer, a loyal consumer, who is in his 40’s, but then we have a new consumer that we try to speak to that’s a little bit younger. They’re really not looking for the brand that way, so we have to be very strategic in how we address our customer base.

For me, it’s been a great opportunity because I get to work every day with the largest retailer in the world, which is Macy’s. You know that is our exclusive retail partner. I have 10 license categories. So we have boys, girls, hats, ties, dress shirts, tailored clothing, footwear, eyewear, watches, and sportswear. Actually, that’s 15. 15 license categories that I work with daily. So it’s a challenge in making sure that we give all of the license categories a fair amount of attention. A lot of that is also budget pending and projected by their annual sales. But, it does allow me to be a little bit more creative in how we think about doing things. So, we don’t just push a sportswear message. We also push a tailored suit message to an audience that may not wear sportswear much.

We speak to a mother who has to shop for her boys and girls, so it’s been great in that regard because it’s allowed me the diversity to be creative across different categories. I’m not stuck in just the sportswear world, or just dealing with watches all day. I get to bring watches, hats, and eyewear together. So, that makes my job fun. There is a lot of traveling involved. Because I oversee the Marketing Department, I’m very hands-on with regard to most of the things that are going on. For instance, Sunday I’m flying to Atlanta for three days. Over the last two months, I’ve spent probably three weeks in Atlanta, off and on with different projects.

SMC: Where’s your favorite place to travel to? For work.

TE: My favorite place to travel to for work. I love going to Miami for work. Miami is always a fun place to go for work. L.A is fun, too. I like L.A. You can’t ever go wrong with the beautiful weather that L.A gives you. I love going to L.A. for work. Miami and L.A I would say are probably my two favorite cities to go to. That’s work-related. I do like Chicago. But of course, I gotta do Chicago in the summertime. ‘Cause that wintertime is just something not to deal with. Chicago also is a very beautiful city.

SMC: What would you say, over the years, has been the most challenging thing for you in your job as a black woman in the industry?

TE: For me, the most challenging thing for me has been getting out of the multicultural space. I’ve always had a passion to try other things. I’m not just stuck here. I wanna be that person who can take my experiences and kind of generalize it. We still deal with a world where we all wanna categorize things. When you look at things from a marketing perspective, we get research from the African American community, from the Hispanic community, from the this and the that. And you have these little things that always happen where it’s “OH, I don’t know how that slipped through the cracks.” For instance, … I’m trying to think of one that just recently happened.

The makeup brand. I can’t remember the brand now, but they had the product out with the black girl, and I think what they were trying to say is the makeup was compatible for all skin types, but it just came across all wrong. I think that’s what happens when you don’t diversify your team. You go with the voice and perception of the people on your team but it’s not diversified, and you’re not listening to the points and the nuances that come from people that may look at things through a different lens. So, for me, getting out of this multicultural space, has been my biggest challenge. I’ve always wanted to diversify in my career, ’cause I think I bring a voice and an opinion that will make people look at things differently.

I think that’s probably one of the biggest issues in Marketing right now, is that things are still so divided. Cosmetics, they’re divided by your skin color. Not to say that’s a big problem, it’s just to say that a lot of times when you deal with Marketing it’s around numbers and it’s around statistics. When you are aiming at a certain group, of course, your statistics are gonna get slanted to speak to that audience that, let’s say, you’ve researched. We all, when you sit down at the end of the day, we all need the same things. The same benefits. We do have differences with our skin. We do have differences in our colors and tones, of course. But, when you get into product and diversifying, I still think that there’s a big wedge in between that point of where some products just work for everybody. 

SMC: Your resume is pretty intimidating. What are you like in person?

TE: I have been told that I show up differently for different people. Overall, I think I’m a cool person, but it depends on the circumstance for which I meet you. You know what I mean? And I think that’s with anyone. If I’m gonna meet you in the boardroom, I’m gonna be more professional. If I meet you in the hair salon, I might be joking and kidding and kee-keeing and so forth. I think I’m very approachable. I’ve always been a person that’s approachable. I’ve always been a person that is considered to be very transparent. That can be good or bad, that depends on the person receiving it. Some people like transparent people. No, just tell me what’s going on and let me deal with it.

Some people, they want you to tiptoe around it. I’ve always been transparent, and I’ve always been someone that’s been somewhat like a teacher. I like to teach. I like to mentor. I like to instruct. I think, from a personality standpoint, I’ve always found myself in those roles within my group of friends, and my family. I’m not really a nurturer, I’m more of a teacher. I’m not really the warm and fuzzy type of person like that, to be honest with you. But, I am a teacher. My door is always open. My phone is always on. I accept people’s phone calls. I don’t duck from that kind of stuff. But, I’m not the warm and fuzzy like, oh if I see you I’m groping and I’m hugging. I’m not that type of person.

SMC: What do you do in your downtime?

TE: In my downtime, I like to travel. I spend a lot of time with family. I travel between New York and Philadelphia a lot. That’s where my family and my friends are. I read a lot. I do a lot of researching. I love statistics. I love learning about what’s going on in my industry, surrounding industries. I found myself, lately, looking at a lot of politics and I think that’s just because of this Trump election and I’m really looking at things differently. I found myself being a lot more involved with politics. I like to work out. I’ve always been an athlete. I played college basketball. I’ve always had some type of work out ethic. My mission now is to lose 30 pounds. I’m like in the gym four days a week, I’ve changed my eating habits. I’m like, I’m gonna knock out this 30 pounds. So, that’s become the new thing that I’m focused on right now. That’s where I am right now. So, those kinds of things.

I like spending time with friends, family, working out. I am, as I’m getting older, I’ve also found myself becoming a little bit more to myself in a way. Where, I find myself really engaged in reading certain things and, like I said, researching and I take a lot of these online courses and stuff. So I found myself not being that social butterfly that I used to be. I used to be in the street all the time. Like, I didn’t even feel like being home. Now, I look forward to getting home. 

SMC: Do you have any guilty pleasures?

TE: You know what, my guilty pleasures all revolve around food. I love cake. I love cake. I’m not a cookie person though. It’s so crazy. I love birthday cake. Just the traditional vanilla and buttercream. I don’t need the bells and whistles. I don’t need red velvet. That is a guilty pleasure of mine. Also, and because I am diabetic so for me, I shouldn’t be eating cake, so I will eat cake. That’s a guilty pleasure. Another guilty pleasure I have is watching these reality shows. It’s embarrassing sometimes to say I watch them. But, I’m hooked on them. So that’s a guilty pleasure. If I have a reality show and a piece of cake. Oh, my God. I’m in heaven. I will say that I’m loving memes. I’m loving Instagram and memes. I love ’em!

SMC: What do you think about the Tyrese meme Flying around at the moment?

TE: I’ve seen them. I think that he is in a very bad place in his life. However, Tyrese is very … He’s knowledgeable about this business and you know, to take his personal business like that on the internet, it’s either two things going on. He’s really calling out for help. Or, it’s a part of something bigger that he’s trying to do. I just … He doesn’t come from the reality television world, you know what I mean? He’s been around before that. He’s poised in this business differently. He’s just a different type of celebrity. He started R&B singing. He’s got into movies and so forth.

He’s a different type of celebrity that we have now, that I think he’s smarter than that. So, I gotta say he’s either really, really, really calling out for help or it’s something that he’s crying. Some kind of attention he’s seeking for something. But, I was kind of surprised to see that myself. Especially the one where he was like, “13,000 dollars? What else do you want from me?.” That kind of thing. I was like, what is going on? Like, are you having a nervous breakdown? Like, what makes a person … That’s one thing I’ve never really understood myself, though, is what makes a person want to put their personal business, their hurt their pain, even their good moments out to the world like that?

It’s one thing, you and I, who we kind of control our social media platforms and that I can pick and choose my friends. I’m not looking to have 3 million followers where ten of them I know, and the rest I don’t. I kind of know who’s on my social platforms. So, for me to put a message up is a little bit different than someone in his position with 4 or 5 million people that are looking at him. I just don’t understand that.

SMC: Right.

TE: Because there’s always an entertainment side and there’s the person who you really are. And that … At least, that’s how I’ve always understood celebrities. You have your entertainment side. I show you who I am on a screen, on stage, in my music. But, then behind the scenes, that’s what you really don’t see. You don’t really know who I am. I think that the internet has either knocked that world down, or they’re still performing. You know what I mean? I would like to think that they’re still performing because I’m not a person that runs around after celebrities and influences to dictate how I live my life. Like so many people do. So, I would like to say that that’s the entertainment piece. Then, professionals like we are, we work behind the scenes.

You write and so forth, and I do Marketing, so I know that I can pay celebrities to say what I want them to say. I can position them in situations that I want you to see that has nothing to really do with how they are or what my product may be. You know what I mean? But, I’m selling to you a concept, so I’m very cautious about what I fall into because I know how it would work behind the scenes. If that makes sense.

SMC: Yes. It makes a lot of sense. What is one book you feel that everybody should read?

TE: One book everyone should read. Hmm. That has changed for me, too over the years. My latest book I say everyone should read is “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. That’s the latest book that I’m kind of hooked on. I read it two months ago on the suggestion of a friend of mine who was trying to get me involved in a business. That’s the book she said, “well read this book for me and tell me what you think”. It shed a different perspective for me on Network Marketing, because that was something I was like, “nah I’m not into that Network Marketing thing”. It shed a different light on it. It shed a lot of perspective on how you really get rich.

You really don’t get rich from working a 9-5. Very few people get rich like that. Wealth is usually generated through self-employment or wealth is generated through spending other people’s money. So, basically, that’s what that book instructed me on. So, that’s probably one of the books I would push right now. A personal read that I like is “The Shack”. I love that book. I loved the movie when it came out. I like the perspective of how it shows how God speaks to you and His different faces. So, I enjoyed that about the book. The movie I thought was pretty cool, too. But, I did enjoy the book more. I’m trying to think what else. I’m a Bible reader. I read the Bible here and there. I’ve never read front cover to back cover, but I read according to need if that makes sense.

I’ll find verses that I feel appeal to me at a time in my life. I do read the Bible. I study Buddhism, which is interesting because I do read the Bible. Grew up in a Christian household. I still pray to God, but I also study Buddhism for self-development. there are days that I’m chanting for self-development and peace amongst the world. But I will also pray as well. You know I think that all religions kind of the same philosophy is pulled from a lot of different religions.

SMC: Who are some of your own personal favorite clothing brands?

TE: My favorite clothing brand. I love Calvin Klein. I’ve always loved Calvin Klein. I love BCBG. Who else would I say that I really look for? Calvin Klein is a classic for me. I have a clean, classic style. I don’t have a very trendy style. Then I love the fit. I’m not a small girl, but I’m not a plus size girl either, so for me, like right in between. I wear a 12. I’m like I always float between a 10/12 and then 14, so Calvin Klein fits me really well. What do I wear? Calvin Klein. I like BCBG. That’s really it. If I’m going to look for a particular brand, those are the two that I really look for. Other than that, I buy stuff according to what I like. I wouldn’t say I’m really loyal to any brand particularly.

I buy according to their style, if that makes sense. More than what the brand may offer.

SMC: Here’s a desert island, question for you! You’re gonna spend a week on the desert island and you have one hair product that you can take with you, only one. What do you take?

TE: My one hair product. I’m going to take coconut oil. That’s what I’m going to take with me.

SMC: Well, that’s universal. You can cook with that and put it on your skin. And you can brush your teeth with it!

TE: Right. I’m gonna take coconut oil!

SMC: And an album you’re listening to currently.

TE: Jill Scott. I still love her music. I don’t think she’s come out with anything since her last one, but she is always on rotation for me.

SMC: What one piece of advice would you have for new business struggling to brand themselves accurately?

TE: A new business trying to find themselves. Know what their purpose is, stick to their plan, and don’t give up!

SMC: Perfect. And last question. What is Black Girl Magic to you?

TE: Black girl magic is everything that we entail. It’s our struggle. It’s our laughter. It’s our walk. It’s our conversation. It’s our reaction to things. It’s our attitudes. It’s our growth. It’s our push. It’s our being the backbone to our families, to our kids, to our husbands, to our communities, to each other. It’s the arguments we have. The cattiness. It’s everything. But, we continue to overcome and rise. They can count us out, but we still right there. We continue to push. I love, love, love being a black woman.

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