When she’s not across the pond, Permele Doyle runs her groundbreaking influencer marketing firm’s New York office out of Blender’s Madison Avenue luxury coworking space. Billion Dollar Boy officially opened in 2014. As they put it, it all started with a phone call to an old friend. Almost six years later, BDB continues to make waves with its agile influencer and marketing strategies for heavy hitters such as Bobbi Brown, BMW, and Garnier.
The Flair Index recently sat down with Permele to learn more about her journey from inside the corporate beauty industry to the forefront of Instagram-driven influencer marketing.
Tell us who you are and what you do:
I am a New Yorker with a background in PR, in beauty PR specifically, and left to launch with a partner in London an influencer marketing agency four years ago. I spent a lot of time between New York and London, but I’m based in New York and also down in New Orleans. I’m lucky enough to head up this great team in New York of BDB, together with our London office we now have 50 people.
Tell me a little bit about your career path to launching this company. You were at Tom Ford in beauty, correct?
Exactly. I was brought in right before the cosmetic line was launched as part of this tiny communications team–myself and an executive director. It was really my first real job. I’d worked in London a bit a year out of college, but it was a rough recession year. I wanted to worked at Estee Lauder where I’d interned a few summers before in their internship program which was incredible, but they were on this hiring freeze when I graduated. It was a tough time. I had the opportunity to move to London and then came back. Estee Lauder was where I wanted to work and then this great opportunity at Tom Ford came up.
It was an incredible experience to be a part of this crazy small team and help launch the collection internationally across all aspects of communications, which was print, digital and, at the end of my time there, slowly, slowly social media. It was interesting because I was part of the big corporate structure of Estee Lauder, but Tom Ford was this sort of small, chic underdog at the time and it just got bigger and bigger each year.
That must have been an amazing learning experience and an opportunity to do so many things.
It was an incredible experience; I got to plan events internationally, great press events in London or Venice. It was also this very desirable product; pitching it was not challenging because everyone loved him and loved it. Then it was also interesting to be a brand that has a living, breathing, really big personality behind it and honoring that and making sure everything we did was specific and didn’t go outside his very distinct point of view and brand identity.
So then what made you go off and co-found Billion Dollar Boy?
It was 2014 when social media and Instagram were just picking up and some brands were figuring out “We’ve got to be on this and start telling our story on this”. I was young, I had Instagram, and I liked it. I thought, “this is something we should be doing.” But it was met with a bit of resistance even from the top up at Tom Ford. At one point he had this quote saying “I’ll never be on social media. Twitter is stupid. I’ll never be on it.”
That was luxury fashion’s take at that time on all of that.
I thought it was such an opportunity and they let me get involved in the strategy for getting Tom Ford on social, working closely with the fashion team, and the digital team which was brand new. They let me run a first tiny influencer program when we launched this lipstick collection called Lips and Boys, which was this 50 lip colors named after men and boys’ names. I said we should send them to digital personalities, I don’t even know if we were using the term influencer yet, who have men in their lives with those names, boyfriends or husbands or sons. There was some really good pickup.
But there was only so much I could do at Tom Ford, I knew this is where everything was going and I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve been talking to my friend Ed for a long time and he had the idea to do a blogger database, before anyone. I was giving him advice on the brand side, how we were working with bloggers, and he said “Permele you should help me.” I said “No, but you really should be working fashion, beauty, lifestyle. That’s the direction it’s all going.” He was like “well, will you come help me do that?”