leadership

Sephora vet Heidianne Pillsbury is joining Three Ships at its first CMO

Tale as old as time: Woman at big retail brand exits in favor of small DTC upstart.
article cover

Three Ships

· 3 min read

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.

This just in: Heidianne Pillsbury, an eight-year veteran of Sephora’s marketing team, is jumping ship (no pun intended) to become CMO of beauty upstart Three Ships. In some ways, she’s now a statistic, joining 2021’s so-called “Great Resignation” that’s seen a whopping 63% of marketers plan a job or career change.

“Certain marketers are realizing, ‘Hey, this isn't where I want to be,’” Pillsbury told Marketing Brew. “There's now a lot of opportunity out there for them to find their fit and what's right for them.”

Over the past eight years, Pillsbury worked her way from manager to director-level at Sephora, most recently serving as a senior directorof marketing for its branded cosmetics. Pillsbury told us she was Sephora CMO Deborah Yeh’s first hire at the beauty brand, as the two knew each other from their Gap Inc. days; Pillsbury was a media manager at Banana Republic, while Yeh headed up marketing strategy and brand management at Old Navy.

But after climbing the ladder of what’s now a household name, Pillsbury is excited to work at a company that’s still in its early stages. She’s been yearning for a fast-paced environment, as well as the freedom that comes with working at a nine-person company rather than a 700-person one.

“There are fewer people to make approvals, so you have the ability to take some calculated risks,” Pillsbury told us. For example, she wants Three Ships to “be the first” to up-and-coming social platforms (she sees TikTok as “table stakes” for the brand and wants to keep an eye out for newer platforms with less obvious opportunities) as well as take part in unexpected collaborations.

Three Ships started as a DTC skincare company in 2017, but it’s rapidly expanding—Pillsbury told us that while other beauty brands hopped on the struggle bus in lockdown, Three Ships got onto shelves at Whole Foods and Target. She thinks its success came, in part, from the company’s emphasis on sustainability and transparency regarding ingredients (case in point: its detailed, easy-to-read digital ingredient glossary), as both coincide with trends she’s seen in the beauty industry.

Pillsbury is setting sail as CMO of Three Ships with one word in mind: innovation. Her drive to experiment stems from her early career experience at Condé Nast, where she was in ad sales for Lucky magazine during the early aughts. There, she learned what not to do as a brand in the 21st century.

“I got great training at Condé Nast, but I saw them getting honestly closed in by so much technology,” she said, explaining that the company wasn’t exactly an early adopter. “They just didn't believe that the digital age was going to take over,” she noted.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.