A Cut Above: Building "an army of brand advocates" at Scissors & Scotch
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A Cut Above: Building "an army of brand advocates" at Scissors & Scotch

A Cut Above: Building

Azalia Hoelting always dreamed of a television career. She spent more than 15 years in the field. She wrote and produced for broadcasts and ultimately worked as a promotion director for several TV stations. She honed her craft for developing and implementing marketing strategies that helped grow ratings and revenue. But the world of franchising was just around the corner.

In 2014, she was hired by Massage Heights as a communications coordinator before quickly moving to field marketing manager. Her franchise career was off and running.

During the ensuing years, she worked as a marketing executive for Mr. Gatti’s Pizza and Gigi’s Cupcakes. She then served as VP of marketing for a large multi-unit Amazing Lash Studios and Massage Heights operator before being hired as director of marketing for WellBiz Brands’ beauty division. Here Hoelting was the marketing lead for Amazing Lash Studio and Radiant Waxing salons and marketing support for Drybar Shops. All of this experience prepared her for her next stop at Scissors & Scotch.

In June of 2022, she was hired as VP of marketing at Kansas City-based Scissors & Scotch. The emerging brand offers its customers grooming services along with a fully-stocked bar. It has grown to more than 30 locations and more than 17,000 members nationwide. Hoelting has been busy continuing to build the brand’s story by taking a holistic marketing approach to attract new customers.

She says the brand does so by “leveraging market insights, consumer trends, and competitive analysis to develop initiatives that enhance brand visibility, engage our target audience, and drive business growth.”

The core marketing focus at Scissors & Scotch is driving new customers to try the brand and then retaining them. “The ultimate goal is to establish a loyal customer base that consistently returns,” she says. The brand executes that strategy with a heavy focus on digital marketing and grassroots efforts.

Hoelting says it’s all about the guest experience: “If your clients genuinely enjoy the experience, feel acknowledged, and perceive value, you not only secure their loyalty, but also earn their recommendation. You build an army of brand advocates.”


Describe your role as CMO. I am responsible for shaping and executing holistic marketing strategies for both consumers and recruitment that align with the brand’s objectives. I work closely with cross-functional teams to ensure a consistent and compelling brand message across various channels both online and offline. This involves overseeing the development of creative assets, campaigns, and promotional materials that resonate with our audience and reinforce our brand values. 

In addition to brand management, my focus extends to optimizing customer experiences. This includes refining the customer journey, enhancing touchpoints, and implementing strategies to enhance satisfaction and loyalty.

What’s the most challenging part of being a CMO today? The ever-evolving digital landscape has undergone a significant transformation with the emergence of AI, revolutionizing marketing strategies by introducing new avenues for personalization, automation, and data-driven decision-making. While these advancements present incredible opportunities, they also bring challenges, such as finding the balance between harnessing technology and preserving brand consistency. It’s not just a matter of understanding how to leverage AI for the brand; it involves navigating the aspirations of owners and local teams eager to embrace and utilize this technology at their level. Striking this balance is crucial for ensuring a cohesive and resonant brand identity across all levels of the organization.

How has Covid-19 impacted the way you have led your brand’s marketing efforts? While I wasn’t with the S&S brand during Covid, I can speak to the broader impact it had on shifting perspectives regarding the significance of self-investment. Working from home and living in virtual meetings suddenly put everyone in the spotlight. When those usual services weren’t around, it hit home just how crucial it is to make that investment in yourself to feel super confident and on top of your game. This realization has been beneficial for our industry as more men acknowledge the positive impact grooming has on their overall appearance and self-confidence.

What are the three most important keys to being an effective CMO leader today? One crucial aspect of being an effective CMO leader today is transcending the traditional role of a brand marketer. It’s imperative to be fluent and deeply understand the business operations and how those operations intricately weave into the customer journey. I refer to myself as an operational marketer. By understanding the full consumer journey, you gain insights into the levers that need to be pulled to impact both the profitability and sustainability of the brand.

Another key attribute is the art of listening. It goes beyond verbal communication. It involves attuning oneself to the unspoken nuances of franchisees and teams. As the saying goes, “All boats rise with higher tides.” Being a perceptive listener allows you to identify underlying challenges, aspirations, and opportunities that might not be explicitly communicated. This empathetic understanding contributes to fostering a collaborative environment where everyone’s insights are valued and, collectively, the entire organization thrives.

The third key element is effective communication. In executing any brand campaign, gaining buy-in is crucial, requiring you to be an adept communicator and establish trust within the system. This trust is foundational for ensuring that our message resonates, leading to successful campaigns and the overall success of the brand.

How do you prepare a marketing plan and execute the strategies? I analyze what KPIs are most important in moving the needle. From there, we start to delve into research, identify necessary components required across all the departments to effectively execute, establish a realistic timeline for seamless implementation, and apply tracking mechanisms to monitor progress and measure performance against predetermined benchmarks.

Communication plays a pivotal role throughout the process. Clear and concise communication involves articulating the “why” behind the chosen strategy, outlining the approach, and aligning on goals. This ensures alignment across the team, fostering a shared understanding and commitment to the marketing plan’s success.

How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness? Within our specific brand, our primary drivers of success revolve around encouraging new client trials and fostering client retention. While there are additional factors that contribute to our success, closely monitoring these two metrics helps provide initial insight into how our campaigns are influencing overall engagement and satisfaction.

Discuss your core consumer marketing strategies and objectives. Our two core strategies are digital marketing and grassroots efforts. We have a fun and playful consumer voice that allows us to infuse creativity into our digital marketing endeavors. We’re an experience-based brand, so actively participating in community activations and highlighting our unique qualities has proven to be highly effective.

How do you go about creating a customer-centric marketing and brand philosophy? Our tech stack is exceptional, enabling us to conduct segmentation based on the consumer’s position in their journey and engage with them consistently throughout the journey.

Why is it so important for the marketing department to have a personal touch when it comes to helping the brand connect with franchise prospects? Guided by our core values as our North Star, we prioritize establishing a people-first philosophy from the beginning. By prioritizing the well-being of our team, we believe they, in turn, will take care of our guests. Additionally, we guide prospective franchisees through the entire process, ensuring they are well acquainted with the team that will support them at every step once they become part of our franchise community.

How does this help your franchise sales and development effort? It’s incredibly advantageous for franchise prospects to see the early investment our founders made in technology and data stack. This investment serves as a testament to the dedication and commitment we have toward ensuring the success of our brand and our franchisees.

What ways/tools do you rely on to do this? Two of our core values are to create real relationships and to give a damn. Prospects encounter these values firsthand when interacting with our team. We ensure they have diverse touchpoints, both virtually and in person, facilitating opportunities for in-depth discussions. They explore our operational approach and witness the passion each team member brings to the table. This provides insights into our organizational culture and demonstrates the unwavering support they can expect throughout their journey when they become part of the S&S family. 

How is today’s consumer and marketing data helping you fine-tune your marketing initiatives? Leveraging our technology and data stack empowers us to make informed, metric-based decisions. This data-driven approach ensures that our marketing strategies are finely tuned to align with current consumer trends and preferences, fostering a more targeted, personalized, and effective outreach. 

Describe the evolving role of social media in your brand’s marketing efforts. Our primary focus is educating our locations on the pivotal role Google My Business plays in enhancing visibility and boosting the effectiveness of our paid digital campaigns.

As the social media landscape shifts toward a more pay-to-play model, our emphasis has shifted from organic strategies to crafting compelling content that seamlessly aligns with our paid efforts. In response to the evolving features and algorithms of these platforms, our strategies have adjusted to leverage social impact for local visibility and engagement.

How do you work with other internal departments and does technology help? Our collaborative approach is fundamental to the success of our endeavors. The execution of all programs and campaigns relies on the smooth integration of insights, resources, and support from every internal department. This collaborative synergy increases our chances for success as we analyze data from various perspectives, considering all aspects when implementing subsequent steps or projects. 

Do you see vendors as business partners? Why/why not? I view our vendors as an integral extension of our team. They must be able to grasp the intricacies of the brand and our processes, enabling them to serve as valuable resources for our teams. Their input, ideas, best practices, and expertise support and enhance various aspects of our operations. 

How have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade? How have you adapted? The digital landscape has undergone significant shifts. I recall a time when leveraging organic social reach was prominent; however, in recent years, there has been a shift toward a more pay-to-play model. Despite these changes, it’s truly exciting to witness this evolution, presenting opportunities for more personalized and mobile-centric approaches. Additionally, the impact of AI on strategies adds another layer of excitement to an already dynamic landscape.

How is your marketing/branding strategy developed, and how does it flow through the system? The core of the approach is aligning our strategies with the overarching goals and values of our brand. We operate as a cohesive team, conducting in-depth analysis of metrics, consumer behavior, and the competitive landscape to identify both opportunities and challenges. From there, we engage our brand agency to develop creative and compelling marketing strategies and work cross-functionally to develop training and educational tools. Implementing the strategy seamlessly throughout our system is facilitated by our “four times, four ways” process. This involves communicating the strategy through various channels and multiple approaches, ensuring comprehensive knowledge dissemination across the entire system. We encourage the teams to use the same process to communicate with their shop teams. This structured approach helps strategies and tools to be better understood and embraced at every level.

Published: May 26th, 2024

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