RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the social media & marketing agency that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into "Marketing as Service."

Smart Phone Killed the SLR (But don’t tell that to Matt Sweetwood)


When thinking about the fate of camera business to frame my conversation with Matt Sweetwood, President of Unique Photo, my mind jumped to the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” thinking it should be rewritten to say “Smart Phone Killed The SLR.” This led to a YouTube search which landed me on the very cool video below.

What I like about the video is that it takes a classic yet passé song and turns it into something fresh yet familiar.  In many ways, this is exactly what Matt has done to help Unique Photo not just survive an industry apocalypse (what else do you call annual declines of 40%?) but actually thrive. The familiar part here is the emphasis Unique Photo puts on customers service and customer education.  The fresh part is how Matt has become a major presence on social media and built a peer network that helps support and amplify his efforts.  The combination of these efforts means Unique Photo is standing tall despite the category head winds and Matt earned a President’s Circle Award from The CMO Club.

Drew: How did you decide to create Unique Photo’s in-store education program, Unique University, and how has it helped the brand achieve its marketing goals?
The camera store business was facing the most challenging period in its history. By 2007, approximately 80% of them had gone out of business as a result of the Internet and the movement away from the film-based model (buy film, return for processing, return to pick up prints, repeat). As the last camera stores in NJ went under and the business moved online, to big box or NYC, I started to look at the business model carefully. It came to me that building an experience based marketing concept in a store could work. It was a natural thought process from there that lead me to build an education program. Digital cameras were computers and more complicated than mechanical film cameras, more people were buying them and education would establish us as an authority and provide a repeatable “experience” for our customers.

Drew: You have been working at Unique Photo since college. How has your progressive movement within the company shaped your marketing outlook?
I was born to be a marketer. Despite my education as a theoretical mathematician I have always been naturally good at and drawn to marketing. When we opened our business to consumers by opening our store in 2008 (previously we were 90% B to B), I was able to employ some “pent-up” ideas and techniques that were not possible in a more simple distribution-type business. As a tech-head, I have been able to use those skills combined with natural progression one goes through in promoting a retail store and as a result my roll has transformed from being the COO of my company to becoming the CMO. Operations are more fundamental to the success of a B-to-B business where marketing is the lifeblood of a technological retail business.

Matt Sweetwood_Unique Photo

Drew: How are you staying on top of all the new digital marketing techniques and opportunities?
Practice what you preach. I network frequently, I am very open to being solicited from digital marketing vendors (you learn when they present even if you don’t buy), I belong to The CMO Club and I have paralleled the company brand with my personal brand as I engage in digital techniques to build my own brand (which I consider somewhat successful). Basically I am always out there looking and learning.  To stay on top you have to view knowledge like food. You need at least 3 servings everyday.

Drew: What tool has been the single greatest improvement to digital marketing for your brand over the last year? 
For my personal brand, it has been Facebook. I know that is not such a desirable answer but I have leveraged my Facebook page to establish me as the most recognized figure in the photography business. That brings enormous benefits to me from vendors, consultants, customers and media who regularly follow me.

For Unique Photo, the most significant tool we use is our email contact manager and it’s integration with our legacy systems. We have built a significant amount of our business and maintain customer contact through a consistent and highly effective local and national email campaign. We use iContact, Movable Inc., and several of our own systems to manage this.

Drew: What role does social media play in your marketing efforts?
It is a fundamental component of my personal and company brand. For 2014 Unique Photo has reduced traditional advertising by 75% and increased our social media spend by three times. That trend will continue in 2015.

Drew: What changes have you and your company made over the last year in order to improve your customers’ experience? 
At Unique Photo I manage customer service in the role of CMO and President. One of the success stories of our company has been our photo industry best customer service. I believe that how you treat and view customers starts from the top. I personally answer customers who contact us on social media and monitor our customer service queues frequently. It sets the standard for your staff when they see the person at the top of the marketing department interact with customers. In marketing you need to know what the customers are thinking and saying. In the past year we have added live online chat and dedicated personnel to monitor social media for customer interaction. We also engage in dedicated marketing campaigns on social media to engage the customer. Not only can this drive brand awareness and sales but many times is fosters customer interaction in a way they feel comfortable telling you what’s on their mind.  When you are close to your customers they give you great marketing ideas.

Drew: Loyalty programs can be tough to get off the ground.  If you have one in place, can you describe the program and talking about the costs/benefits of the program?
I opened our store in 2008. It was on the to-do list from day one. Customers were asking about it and in fact we had so many “loyal” customers we knew we had to do it. The competition beat us to it and that of course accelerated our development. We actually modified our gift card system to speed up the process.  Customers earn points on purchases and after a certain time period those points convert to money on their loyalty/gift cards. Phase one was store only and shortly thereafter we implemented online too. In store shoppers get a physical card and online customers automatically get into our loyalty program by simply clicking a box on account setup. We can combine online to a physical store card if they come in the store.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to your ability to do your job well? (explain benefits)
I enjoy this question very much. I use the ultimate peer network, The CMO Club, as an example. There has been numerous times when someone has simply said something at a CMO Club meeting that has spurred a new program or idea. As a business owner it is so very easy to “stay at home” and not get to see what others are doing or thinking.

For me personally, as the only marketer in my business, having a strong peer network reminds me there are others out there who think like me and that gives me the extra confidence to implement new ideas. When you are not around marketing peers your confidence tends to drop, as others seem clueless and negative about the new ideas you have.

Drew:  What’s on your marketing wish list for 2015?
A better way to deliver, measure and improve the effectiveness of our emails. Continued and rapid growths of our social media reach. A continued decrease in my spend on traditional advertising combined with an increased effectiveness of our social media leading to more sales. Most importantly, more peace, love and money; not necessarily in that order.

Q+A on Innovation with Mayur Gupta of Kimberly-Clark


Mayur Gupta_Kimberly ClarkThe job of the detective is to not simply to take the facts as they appear but instead to dig for hidden clues and ultimately reassemble these into a cohesive fact-based narrative of what actually happened.  With this in mind, I would propose that Mayur Gupta, the Global Head of Marketing Technology and Innovation at consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark, is the Sherlock Holmes of digital marketing.  Though our one conversation transcribed below hardly qualifies me for the role of Watson, I will say that if you read our Q+A, you too may finally have a clue what programmatic marketing is all about.

You will also come to understand what big data can actually do for big brands, especially if (and this is a big IF) you can shift the internal conversation from channel-centricity to customer-centricity.  As Mayur sees it, opportunities abound for the marketers who “break the channel silos and drive seamless or so called “omni channel” consumer experiences.”  Read on.  It won’t take any detective work on your part to see why he received the Programmatic Marketing award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards.

Drew: This is a great quote from you: “We don’t believe in digital marketing; we believe in marketing in a digital world.” Can you explain what you mean and how it impacts your planning process?

Actually, that was me quoting our CMO, Clive Sirkin, who has gone on record to say “we don’t believe in digital marketing but brand building or marketing in a digital world.” As an organization we have adopted that mantra as a founding principle behind all our marketing strategies. It’s quite simple if you think about it – we are engaging a consumer who is living in a massively digital world, she is dependent on digital technology, which is now part of her daily life. She no longer differentiates between the analog and the digital world in her expectations from brands and how they engage, she expects the same value and experience seamlessly across the board. However, on the flip side, brands continue to consider digital as a “thing” or a “silo” which breaks and fragments that experience. We at Kimberly Clark believe in breaking these silos by driving convergence that eventually builds legendary brands in this digital world. It’s a shift from being multi-channel (channel focused) to truly becoming “omni-channel” (consumer focused).

Drew: Also, the same article mentioned you had eight principles for innovation in the corporate ecosystem—can you talk about the top 3 principles your fellow marketer’s should concentrate on first and why?
Sure, will share 3 of them, not necessarily the “top” 3 but I think these are most fundamental in context to driving innovation:

*   #BeConsumerObsessed — For the most part, marketers and, in fact, the entire industry is “channel obsessed”, from strategies to operations we think about channels and touch points first and consumer second. The way plans are laid out, technology landscapes are orchestrated – it’s all channel driven. For marketing and innovation to be successful, it needs to be consumer driven and consumer obsessed, solving consumer needs and desires and when you do that, you organically break the channel silos and drive seamless or so called “omni channel” consumer experiences. Technology and innovation can very easily overshadow this simple fact.

*   #DontKillTheButterfly — I don’t think any explanation can do more justice than this video itself:

Innovation is about letting the ideas fly which can be challenging in a corporate world that is increasingly driven by ROI from day one

*   #ConnectTheDots — Finally and most importantly, I strongly believe that creativity and innovation is all about connecting the dots. Most times, it’s all out there; all it needs is wiring.

Drew: What innovations are you proudest of leading in 2014?
We are still in early stages of driving disruptive innovation in a digital world – we introduced our Digital Innovation Lab (D’LAB) at CES in Vegas in 2014. We have a number of pilots that are currently in flight, some of them are in market right now and some ready to launch in early 2015. But personally I am most proud of innovating how we drive and orchestrate the complex data and technology ecosystem across marketing. We have established a global marketing technology organization within marketing reporting into our CMO while working very closely with our CIO and her organization. We have innovated our organizational model that has allowed us to drive innovation across the board with data and technology, launching capabilities like programmatic, data management platforms and other content and eCommerce capabilities with speed, agility and nimbleness across the globe.

Drew: Can you talk to one area of innovation you’d really like to crack in 2015?
Don’t know if I can share the actual ideas on this forum but a big area of focus for us in 2015 is driving data convergence, an ability to stitch the fragmented data ecosystem across 1st party, 2nd party and 3rd party data. In order for us to drive relevant, personalized and frictionless consumer experiences across channels and touch points, we need this universal data set just in time and the ability to make decisions and predictions relevant to our consumer as she hops from one touch point to the other. This is more critical for us than “big data”, in fact we put big test and big learning far ahead of big data which for us is a good “buzzword”.

Drew: How has programmatic marketing helped you reach your overall marketing objectives?
It has helped us become smarter as well as more relevant and personalized from a media buying and consumer engagement standpoint across paid channels. Having utilized and scaled the obvious benefits of programmatic, we are now in the next horizon where we are starting to leverage the impact of programmatic across rest of the ecosystem including our owned and earned channels as well as weight our retailer partnerships. The early horizons of programmatic have helped us optimize our media buying efforts and maximized the ROI but the subsequent horizons will include leveraging consumer data and insights in driving stronger consumer engagement and inspiring behavior across the board which arguably is the most under utilized and ignored benefit of programmatic buying.

Drew: What were some of the challenges of adopting programmatic and what advice would you give to another marketer who is just getting started?
Programmatic has been at Kimberly Clark for a few years now even before I had joined, so the credit goes to our media leadership and Clive Sirkin, our CMO. We were clearly one of the early adopters and pioneers in the space. The challenge for us now is to go beyond the obvious and scale the capability globally. We have already seen tremendous success with our current trading desk and programmatic buying capability, we are now challenging ourself to take it to another level and impact the broader marketing ecosystem, smartly leveraging consumer data and insights that will drive seamless experiences and inspire consumer behavior across paid, owned and earned.

Drew: Have you leveraged any new technologies or platforms in the last 12 months and if so what were the results relative to your expectations?
We have spent the last 12-18 months to establish a marketing technology ecosystem at Kimberly Clark that includes technologies in three broad buckets – 1. enterprise capabilities that need to be globally scaled, 2. tactical and localized capabilities that need agility and speed and pertain to local market and consumer needs, 3. lastly technologies and start ups that we need to partner with to drive innovation. Underneath these buckets, there have been a number of new capabilities that have successfully been launched this year but more importantly we have focused on wiring these technologies, ensuring it’s a connected ecosystem and not isolated technologies.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story?
Sure it is and don’t we love these buzzwords, I think storytelling is the “big data” of 2014. On a serious note though, we believe in the power of having a brand story but not necessarily in “storytelling” because that still represents the old mindset that lacks participation and engagement. We believe in “story building” where as brands we share stories that are connected to our brand promise; these stories inspire consumer behavior and participation where eventually our consumers end up creating their own stories on a canvas and foundation that we provide. That is the ultimate state for us that we call “story building.”

Q+A on Repositioning with Jennifer Warren of RadioShack


Jennifer Warren

Creativity has always been tough to define, and even tougher to measure. But when it comes to marketing especially for a brand like Radio Shack, creativity can be the difference between another year of retrenchment and a major turnaround. So, how do you know which creative idea is the one you need? And once you have it, how do you execute?

Searching for answers, I caught up with Jennifer Warren, VP of Worldwide Marketing at RadioShack and recent winner of The CMO Award for Creativity. Our conversation ranged on a variety of topics, but her main takeaway is something that sounds a lot easier to talk about than actually get right: make sure you have a creative idea that resonates with your audience, and tell them your story in a way that inspires sharing.

Drew: Creativity can emerge in a lot different ways from how you approach problems to creative marketing campaigns.  How are you being “creative” in your current role and how has that helped you?
As a retailer in the middle of a turn-around, creativity comes into play a lot especially when it comes to day-to-day problem-solving and making the marketing budget work harder. There is always a solution for a problem, you just have to keep pushing to find the answer. And when it comes to advertising, we are majorly outspent by our competitors so one of the filters we put the advertising through, is whether it is creative enough to get people talking about it and making it easy to share.  

Drew: Some agency sages believe “it isn’t creative unless it sells.”  Do you share that belief and if so, is there still a role for branding building activities in your marketing mix that may not have an immediate or directly measurable impact on sales?
Without building your brand and standing for something beyond just price, it’s impossible to compete with some of the online only retailers. I do agree that a marketers’ job is to drive sales, but the way in which you do it is different depending on the challenge at hand and meeting both short and long-term goals.  For example, our biggest marketing challenge is that our brand has struggled in the past therefore we were not making it onto customers consideration set.  We do our share of product/price promotional activity, to drive immediate sales, but we’ve also done things (i.e, the Superbowl campaign) to try to dramatically change the way people think about our brand and get back on their consideration set.

Drew: Radio Shack has faced some strong headwinds in the last couple of years, with changes in how people buy consumer products (a lot of it has shifted online) and changing demographics. What role has marketing played in helping the brand to overcome some of these challenges?
First, you have to understand your current customers and what they need from you in order to keep them. In our case, we have a customer base that still values face-to-face interaction and someone to talk to about technology and bounce ideas off of before they buy it.  To compete, we need to dial up our strength and marketplace advantage— our in-store expertise and store experience.  At the same time, you can’t be a relevant consumer electronics retailer today without a strong online presence, because even those that want to buy in-store turn online to do research before making a decision.  With this in mind, we recently launched a new dynamic (mobile friendly) website that balances promotional selling with solution-driven and idea centric content. It’s a much better experience than before, and we see it as a foundation to continue to build our online presence.

Drew: From an overall marketing perspective, what recent program or initiative are you particularly proud of?
The development, re-platform, and launch of our new web experience- which launched on Wednesday, was a major initiative that was accomplished with a cross-functional team and in 8 months time.

Drew: What challenges have you faced in your efforts to get the entire company engaged with the brand and how have you overcome them?
I joined RadioShack because re-positioning the brand was one of the key pillars that our CEO identified within the turn-around strategy, and our entire management team believes in the importance in achieving that goal.  Nobody views it as a “marketing thing”, but rather something that we all own together and are responsible for bringing to life within our individual areas.

Drew: Mobile seems like an ideal opportunity for local engagement – what kinds of things have you tried on mobile and what if any has been working for you?
We use promotional tactics, such as Retail Me Not, to geo-target customers on their mobile devices which have worked well for us. We were also one of the only retailers to immediately begin accepting Apple Pay, and we hope to get learnings and use them to our advantage once more capabilities roll out. We’ve only scratched the surface in our mobile opportunity.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story?
Our brand promise “Anything is possible, when we do it together” is a great platform for storytelling.  We generate a lot of content that show how customers can use technology to solve problems or bring ideas to life (turn lights on and off with their cell phone and a wemo switch) or bring ideas to life (3d Print your latest prototype, and put it through our product incubator process to bring it to market). We want to partner and build a truly collaborate relationship with our customers.  Our goal is to help them realize their goals, help answer their questions and solve their problems.

Q+A on Keeping an Eye on the Pie w/ Papa John’s Bob Kraut


Bob Kraut_Papa JohnsA conversation with Bob Kraut, CMO of Papa John’s, is a wonderful reminder that despite all the new communication channels and the potentially transformative power of big data, successful marketing can still be boiled down to a few simple truths: product quality matters, customer satisfaction is the bellwether metric, employees are a critical part of the brand experience, get your message right and then, perhaps hardest of all, stick with it.  

In our interview below, Bob expounds on all of these points in a way that is refreshingly matter of fact, sharing his insights while making them seem common sensical.  Of course, to borrow upon the wit and wisdom of Harry Truman, “If common sense were so common, more [marketers] would have it.”  The truth is that talking about these things is relatively easy, the hard part is implementing them and on that front, Papa John’s certainly has its “eye on the pie,” so its little wonder that Bob is a recent recipient of  The CMO Club‘s CMO Award for Customer Experience.  

Drew: Customer experience does not always come under the control of the CMO yet can have a dramatic impact on the brand and ultimately the believability of your marketing initiatives. How have you been able to impact the customer experience in your current role?

For us, the consumer is at the center of all we do. We always “keep our eye on the pie”, so that the ultimate customer experience is bringing people together to eat great pizza at a great price with an exceptional ordering and service experience. As for marketing’s role in the customer experience, we do the heaving lifting in creating emotional connections with our customers in our branding, online experience and social media and engagement. The pizza business is dominated by heavy price promotion which I don’t think contributes to a sustainable customer proposition. At Papa John’s, we have incredibly loyal customers and they love the brand experience– the American Customer Satisfaction Index has ranked us the #1 pizza brand in satisfaction 13 of the past 15 years.

Drew: A lot of marketers are talking about employee advocacy – is this a priority for you and if so how are you going about it? If not, perhaps you could talk about how you as a marketer have had an impact on the whole customer experience.
When I came to Papa John’s a little over a year ago, my biggest surprise was how happy the people are and how aligned people are against our vision and positioning. Simply put, when you are in the service and delivery business, “happy employees equal happy customers”. So I think we count all of them to be great customer ambassadors. One of the ways that our employees feel like an owner of the business, is through our “open innovation” culture. We solicit and source product ideas and ways to make things better for our customers and I think it shows up in customer ratings and in our business results.

Drew: “Better ingredients. Better pizza.” has been your tagline for a while now. A lot of marketers of change campaigns too quickly in my humble opinion. What has allowed you to stick with this one for so long and what would inspire you to move away from it?
Papa John’s has done what is equivalent to the textbook case on how to build a brand based on quality and consistency. Quality is the core value of the company–I think its in our DNA and has given the company the strength to resist changes over the ups and downs of the business cycle.  And I think its a testament to the leadership of our Founder, John Schnatter–great leaders have discipline. “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza” continues to work well for us–I am type of leader that doesn’t try to fix things that aren’t broken–but I think we are making progress in enriching our brand promise and injecting a more contemporary currency to the brand.

Drew: How have you used social media to advance your brand’s overall marketing efforts? Are there any networks/platforms that are working better for your brand than others?
We use social media to talk to our brand believers and to reach broader audiences in ways that are authentic, real-time and meaningful to them. Pizza is the perfect platform for social media–at its core, pizza bring people together  as social platforms virtually. In 2014, we greatly expanded our social reach beyond Facebook and Twitter–we are now active on Instagram, Google Plus, Vine, the publisher platforms etc–and we have taken our highly visible NFL sponsorship into social media, especially on local level–where we sponsor 21 NFL teams.

Drew: What have your experiences been with mobile marketing been to date? 
We run an e-commerce with nearly 50% of sales coming from online–so we have a greater share of customers accessing our brand online than any other pizza brand-that kind of us makes the #1 digital brand.  An increasing share of our sales is coming from mobile so we have increased our investment in all-things mobile –advertising, apps, alternative payment and localization. And we are seeing all these initiatives work well for Papa John’s.

Drew: Loyalty programs can be tough to get off the ground. Can you talk a bit about Papa Rewards and how it is working for you? What advice would you give to a fellow marketer if they were contemplating a loyalty program?
We introduced our Papa Rewards Loyalty Program in 2010. The pizza market is so price sensitive and this creates a relationship and another point of connectivity to our most loyal consumers and gives us opportunities for segmentation and more precise marketing. Our customers love the program–Papa Rewards was recently named as the #1 loyalty in the restaurant category by Bond Loyalty. With that said, loyalty programs alone won’t work if the pizza isn’t good. We know our customers come back for our better ingredients and attention to quality – and it is important to us to reward them for their loyalty.

Drew: Finally and perhaps a bit early, what’s on top of your 2015 marketing resolutions list?
That’s easy– “eat more pizza!”  But seriously…  we love to top our best.  We’re committed to continuing our commitment to have better ingredient on our pizzas, leadership in online sales and deepening relationships with our customers, partners and employees.


Q+A on Content Marketing w Colin Hall, CMO of Allen Edmonds


Colin Hall_Allen EdmondsCreating relevant content has quickly become one of the most effective ways to engage with an audience. But that’s just part of the story since content marketing in isolation rarely moves the needle.  Today’s CMO needs to being able to understand how to pull all of the available marketing levers working to get the mix just right for his/her brand.  Based on my conversation with Colin Hall, VP of Marketing at Allen Edmonds, few understand this better as he capitalizes on both the latest digital techniques and old school product catalogs to achieve double-digit sales growth.

In the interview below, Colin provides specific examples of how content is an integral part of Allen Edmonds’ overall go to market strategy, starting with the need for a campaign idea, valuing quality over quantity and extending exposure via PR, social media and paid digital advertising. It’s no wonder that Allen was rewarded with The CMO Club‘s Content Engagement award.

Drew: Can you describe your primary content marketing initiatives this year and how they benefited your company? 
Our goal is to create relevant content to consumers through mediums they most often view.  We start with marketing themes and then build integrated content to the channel.  For example, a Rediscover America Sale around Columbus Day helps position our company’s differentiated brand pillar of Made in America.  We develop direct to consumer catalogs featuring made in American product and heritage stories of the company.  We leverage social channels to feature our Wisconsin craftspeople to help prove we’re an American manufacturer.  DSP and dynamic retargeting banner ads are used for those who are most likely to purchase.  Finally we develop films to show our Wisconsin area.  Add some great PR and Blogger reviews, and all of these elements work together to drive awareness and sales. This year, our RDA sale was up over 20% vs the previous year and represents our biggest selling period for the year.

One of our new content initiatives was to develop a partnership with America’s top design school Parsons School of Design in New York City.  This student design competition supported our made in America positioning and told the story of shoe making.  The competition is fun for the students with a lot of social and PR following.  It helps us reach young people and our craftspeople love to work with students.  The winner receives scholarship aid from Allen Edmonds and the winning shoe was featured in our Rediscover America Sale.

Drew: Do you have any lessons learned on content marketing issues like quantity vs. quality, nurturing vs. lead acquisition, self-created vs. curated?
It all starts with great looking product and great photography.  As a domestic manufacturer, our advantage is that we can continually tweak products until we’re sure they’re ready for the market.  In other words, we’re not beholden to foreign manufacturing schedules, international shipment timing and products arriving that are not to our quality standards.

We partner with three different photographers, each specializing in specific environments to ensure our products always look great.  We create almost all of our content in-house which gives us strong control of our brand messaging. Then we measure everything so we can optimize content over time for continual improvement. About the only thing we don’t fully control is PR by fashion editors and bloggers.  But, we supply their closets with our seasonal best products and give them access to our photos and line sheets to help ensure their communication efforts are correct.

Drew: Your brand in heavily dependent on the retailers that sell your product. How does this impact your marketing priorities?  Do you focus on sell-in or sell-through?
We focus on both but place more emphasis on sell-through.  Sell through means our wholesale customers are succeeding and our product is turning.  Sell through success leads to more confidence in our brand and ultimately stronger sell-in.  We support our wholesale accounts with various co-op materials including digital photos, in-store signage, catalogs, videos, in-store appearances by reps, trunk shows and Recrafting services just to name a few.

Drew: What marketing initiatives worked for you in 2014?  Did you try anything new?
We initiated two new marketing efforts; an old school approach using big data and a new school approach.

  • Our old school approach was to ramp up our paper catalogs leveraging co-operative big data for prospecting.  We match back to our database and these efforts are driving sales of existing customers and new customer acquisition.
  • Our new school efforts include Display Network advertising targeting new customers.  We have enjoyed huge increases in sales through digital media including retargeting, affiliate, email and other channels but DSP allows us to serve ads to those who look like our primary customers but have never been to our site.  We’re seeing a $5 revenue return for every $1 we spend on DSP customer acquisition. 

Drew: What’s on your radar to try in 2015?  
From a media standpoint, we’re working on stronger segmentation of our customers which will lead to more strategic contact plans.  It sounds basic but with all the various ways to reach customers it can be quite daunting.  As the CMO, I straddle the desires of my retail and Ecommerce teams to reach customers more frequently versus the brand’s needs of maintaining a premium image.  Hitting customers over the head with more messages in more channels is a very slippery slope towards brand annoyance.

Drew: Marketing budgets are getting increasingly complex as new options and tools become available.  How as CMO are you staying on top of budget allocation and optimization?
This is one of the biggest questions year in and year out.  Our approach is to build on what is proven, optimize what we know should work and always test new efforts in small ways.  If I had to put an allocation on it, I would say we allocate 70% on proven media, 20% on optimizing and 10% on testing new ideas.  As a private equity owned company driving by EBITDA, we never bet the farm on anything unproven.  We stair step our way through testing, optimizing and then investing in media.

Drew: Have you made in major changes to your budget allocation in the last year and if so, can you share what lead to those changes and how these changes have impacted results?
We’re shifting more traditional media dollars to cataloging.  We can measure the ROI of our catalog efforts with margin contribution per customer being the KPI.

Drew: What specific measures have you taken in the past year to build credibility with your CEO and board?
We have new owners and a new board as of last Thanksgiving when the company transitioned from one PE firm to another.  Like any new owner, they have a lot of questions and their own ideas.  Rather than bog down a board meeting with very detailed marketing questions, I began “Marketing Milestone” meetings separate of the board meetings.  These are generally scheduled every other month and tied to our database refresh calendar.  Board members are invited to attend (which they all do) along with internal leadership and younger PE employees who gain great business insight and experience from the meetings.  We spend about 2 ½ hours going into details of learning from prior efforts, optimizing near term efforts and planning ahead.  These meetings allow the board and others to ask a lot of questions, get a great understanding of what we’re doing and why, and allows them to be involved.  When we get to the board meetings we spend very little time on marketing as they’re up to speed and feel the marketing team is on top of things.  This allows the board to focus on other agenda items.

Drew: What advice would you give to fellow CMOs when it comes to building credibility with your CEO? Are there some things to be avoided?
I am lucky to have a great CEO.  We have worked together for 6 years and completely trust each other.  I over communicate with him to ensure he knows what’s going on. Over time I have developed a great sense as to what he needs to know and when.  I always prep him for any appearances and my communication style is fairly to the point.  This means he doesn’t have to search for answers… they are provided in a manner that’s easy for him to digest.

Other than this award, I never seek the spot light. My CEO is the voice of the brand to our customers and I support him in front our leadership team and behind the scenes. While this approach may not garner me headlines in any marketing magazines or get noticed by executive recruiters, it really helps build trust.  At the end of the day, we both do what’s right for the brand.

Q+A on CSR w CMO Award Winner Alison Lewis of J&J


Alison Lewis_J&JAdmittedly, I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  I really truly want to believe that companies that are driven by a purpose that includes the betterment of the world will outperform those that simply want to make a profit.  As the theory goes, a clear mission translates to a more aligned and motivated workforce, a superior product/service offering that delivers against the “triple bottom line.”  

This is not just wishful thinking on my part. Robert Safian, Editor of FastCompany tackled this subject in his fascinating look at some mission driven companies that are indeed doing well by doing good.  So it was with great interest that I interviewed Alison Lewis SVP and CMO of Johnson & Johnson on the subject of CSR.  J&J has had its ups and downs in the last few years so I was quite curious to get an insider’s view on how a huge business can approach CSR without coming across as self-serving or insincere.  Read on and it will be clear why Lewis is a Social Responsibility award winner at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards.

Drew: “Doing well by doing good” sounds like a great idea but it is much harder to put into practice given the complexity of running a public company with quarterly earnings reports and ever-hungry competitors. How have you approached Corporate Social Responsibility? Do you have a distinct set of metrics for CSR (vs. product sales) that help rationalize these investments?

As a healthcare company, caring for the health of the planet and the communities in which we operate are natural extensions of who we are. Therefore, Johnson & Johnson has been setting goals to improve the sustainability of our business for decades. Currently, our Healthy Future 2015 goals are our broadest set of goals yet. They include goals related, but not limited, to:

  • Safeguarding our planet by reducing waste disposal, water consumption, and reduced fleet and facility carbon emissions
  • Commitments to responsibly source ingredients throughout our consumer supply chain
  • Including product sustainability information on all our beauty and baby care brand websites
  • Educating the public on recycling bathroom products
  • Engaging all employees throughout the company on how to live more health-conscious lives

We measure these goals in our annual progress report that is available at:

Drew: CSR activities are often handled outside of the marketing team’s purview yet the hope is that these activities will provide a positive halo for a company’s brands.  What is your role related to CSR and are there some initiatives that you think have been particularly effective?
Sustainability is an end-to-end value chain effort. When we make progress, our brand marketing teams can help translate that progress in a meaningful way to our consumers. Marketing can play a key role to engage consumers and help brands make a difference – Our NEUTROGENA® Naturals brand is an example of how a brand can build progress on sustainability into its consumer communications.

For the third year in a row, NEUTROGENA® Naturals launched its Every Drop Counts campaign, where the brand educates consumers on the importance of water conservation. This year, throughout the month of October, NEUTROGENA® Naturals will contribute 10% of the purchase price of the NEUTROGENA® Naturals Purifying Cream Cleanser to the Nature Conservatory to support its water conservation efforts*. In 2013 the NEUTROGENA® Naturals brand exceeded their goal of saving one million gallons of water by more than 300%, over 4.2 million gallons of water were saved based on consumer pledges – - that’s the equivalent of a swimming pool the size of nearly four football fields!
*up to $50,0000

Drew: J&J received more than its fair share of negative publicity before your arrival.  How did you make sure that your CSR initiatives came across as a sincere versus self-promotional? What advice would you give to fellow CMO’s who are just getting started on CSR programs?
The key is consistency. Regardless of the business climate, our values and commitment to social responsibility have remained steadfast. One of Johnson & Johnson’s early leaders, General Robert Wood Johnson, spoke about social and environmental responsibility long before the term “corporate social responsibility” or “sustainability” became well-known in corporate circles. My advice to other CMOs is to embed your CSR commitments into your core values (what you care about) and your business strategy (how you focus) and your brands will have a strong foundation to make a meaningful difference.

Drew: Handling organizational change can be tricky particularly if it involves reorganizing / replacing long-time staffers.  What advice do you have for fellow CMOs when it comes to handling reorgs?
Just as marketing must continue to evolve to keep pace with our consumers’ needs and expectations, so must marketing organizations. When it comes to change, the important thing is to always put the consumer at the center. At Johnson & Johnson, we have a long history of being guided by Our Credo values, the first tenant of which is our responsibility to the people we serve – everyone who uses our products. Change for the sake of change doesn’t work but changing to meet consumer needs is always right!

Drew: How have you used social media to advance your brand’s overall marketing efforts? Are there any social media channels that are working better for your brand than others? If so, please elaborate.
Social media is about connecting with your target audience, therefore, every Consumer brand at Johnson & Johnson has a different “formula” for how to successfully engage and connect on social channels.

One example of how a Johnson & Johnson brand has utilized social to evolve our marketing efforts is on our teen focused CLEAN & CLEAR® Brand – - here, we recognized that social media channels at the core of a teens world. Knowing this, CLEAN & CLEAR® was an ideal brand to build the interconnected ecosystem of owned, earned, shared and paid content that would enable the CLEAN & CLEAR® See The Real Me™ campaign. By launching and activating several social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), we are able to listen to what teens want, engage in direct conversations with them and entertain, educate and inspire them with authentic content.  By engaging with teens in the social space the brand is able to forge an emotional connection and become part of their everyday lives. We have coffee with them in the morning, provide advice to them on the go, and help them relax before bed while celebrating the confidence that they portray on a daily basis by just being themselves.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story for one of your brands?
JOHNSON’S® is one recent example of how we’ve enhanced the story of one of our most beloved brands. Increasingly, we heard from our consumers that they had concerns about certain ingredients in our baby products. All the ingredients used in our baby care products have always been safe, and meet or exceed government standards for safety. But trust is at the heart of our baby equity, and we wanted to communicate to our consumers that we listened to their concerns and we know their trust is something that we must continue to earn. We knew that our actions would speak louder than our words, and we made the decision to reformulate our baby products for trust. As our reformulated products hit shelves, we launched a new campaign, “Your Promise is Our Promise” to illustrate our heartfelt commitment to the moms, dads and families that use our products.

To tell the story behind our promise, we launched our biggest social media campaign with more than 40 informative and entertaining videos that speak to our JOHNSON’S® brand promises, baby care education and the parenting journey. We’ve seen millions of consumers interact with our video content, comment on our social channels and learn more about what our brand stands for due to our ability to connect through storytelling.

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