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How John Demsey Became a Social Media Standout

During this period of social distancing, Estée Lauder exec John Demsey is using his Instagram account to bring people together.

It’s not every c-suite executive who has the social media savvy to become a microinfluencer, but for John Demsey, it’s all in a day’s work. Demsey, the executive group president at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. whose remit includes Clinique, MAC Cosmetics and Tom Ford Beauty, has always been a student of pop culture. So no surprise that his Instagram feed has attracted a fair amount of industry attention since he started posting about three years ago, rippling out to a follower count that has reached more than 30,000.

But during the coronavirus quarantine, Demsey’s mix of memes, brand messages, beauty inspo and the odd photo of his eight dogs and three cats has taken off, with the executive adding on average 250 to 300 followers daily. “With the severity of everything that is happening, people are asking me for content all day long, because it’s cheering them up,” said Demsey, who posts about 50 times a day.

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The most popular posts include everything from retro beauty ads to offbeat cartoons like Weird Helga to irony-laced adages such as “They said a mask and gloves were enough to go to the grocery store….They lied. Everybody else has clothes on.”

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“In this social-distanced world we are imposed in, everyone wants to smile and laugh,” Demsey said. “This whole situation is so tragic and serious, but also recognizing that we have permission to talk about what isolation is like is very liberating.”

As for his favorites accounts to follow — it’s constantly changing as he discovers new content creators, but Chris Mann Music and Fashion Week Frog are on the list right now. (“There is a lot of controversy about the Instagram algorithm, but it does understand what I like.”)

And as old school as he claims to be, Demsey gleans key business insights from his social media moonlighting. “I was so late to Instagram — I was still wanting my MTV,” he joked. “But as the world is so fundamentally changing, I had to learn how to change, too.”


Among the most important lessons: content is king and consumers are looking for a point of view and meaningful differentiation.

That holds true now more than ever, Demsey said. “Everyone keeps asking themselves all these very relevant questions — in a world that is facing life and death, what matters?”

Answering the question, he continued, “What matters is your values, what you are about, how you define yourself. More and more, that’s what people will be looking at.”


For more beauty news, see:

Estée Lauder’s Efforts to Aid the Coronavirus Pandemic

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