RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based "social inspired marketing" agency that helps besieged CMOs cut through.

If It’s Hinting Season, I Want an Apple Watch

04/20/15

shortyAt tonight’s Shorty Awards, a number of brands and their agencies (including Renegade!) will be recognized for their effective use of social media.  Among the winners is one of my favorites, a campaign called #HintingSeason that was created by CP+B for BestBuy and won Best in Retail and Ecommerce.  I call this particular campaign to your attention because it exemplifies all of things I believe social campaigns can and should do:

 

  • Build off of a social truth (people would love to have permission to drop hints about what they want for the holidays)
  • Help solve a particular business challenge (getting people to talk about gifting long before the holiday season)
  • Features a really fun, clever and wonderfully simple idea (a two word hashtag #HintingSeason)
  • Is inherently social but doesn’t rely solely on organic posts to get the conversation going among a broad target (paid media including bloggers & influencers helped spread the word)

To take a behind the scenes look at this campaign, I caught up CP+B’s Peter Knierim, VP/Creative Director and Britten Wolf, Social Supervisor.  Both offer some critical insights into the success of this campaign that are well worth perusing.  And since Peter notes that “It’s never too early to start hinting for what you want this holiday,” I just wanted to add that an Apple Watch would be lovely, thank you.

Drew: Hinting is certainly an age-old offline behavior — did you all notice that hinting was already being done on social channels for other things? If so, how did this influence your approach to #HintingSeason? If not, what gave you confidence that people would actually use the hashtag?

Peter Knierim: Research showed us that consumers who shop in October are likely to shop again during the holiday season. So, we first looked to solve the problem of talking to consumers about holiday shopping when they were buying their Halloween costumes. Hinting Season solved this by giving people permission to talk about what they wanted without rolling out the Santas and snowglobes that come with the holidays.

Britten Wolf: We used social listening to analyze how people were already hinting for what they wanted and found only a moderate amount of conversation. Considering the idea tapped into a truth we all do in real life, we knew that we could own the conversation come the holiday shopping season.

Drew: I’m guessing your campaign hashtag was not being used prior to launch. How did you build awareness of #HintingSeason? How much of a role did paid social media play in helping you to build this awareness? 

Britten Wolf: Best Buy was not using #HintingSeason prior to the campaign’s launch. We had to build its awareness and correlation with Best Buy from scratch, which is an increasingly difficult task in today’s social media landscape.

We worked closely with Starcom to create an omni-channel media approach to build campaign awareness. From a social perspective, our teams and our influencer partners created really entertaining and engaging content. Paid social was pivotal in amplifying its reach and exposing the campaign to new audiences.

Drew: So once the idea was seeded via paid & Vine influencers (who were also paid right?), how long did it take for regular people to start using the hashtag? Was it a slow build or more like a big bang? Ultimately, do you have a sense for how many times #HintingSeason was actually used by “organically” by regular people?

Britten Wolf: Instantly. People already know how to hint. Best Buy just made it even more acceptable to do so before the holidays started. Conversations started on the first day of the campaign and sustained throughout the holiday season. #HintingSeason was used organically almost 50,000 times between October and December.

Drew: Looking back on this highly successful campaign, were there any “organic” surprises? What are some of your favorite hints? 

Peter Knierim: A big part of the influencer component of the campaign was showing people how to hint in entertaining ways. We were surprised at some of the creative and funny ways people hinted at what they wanted.

Some of our favorite hints came toward the end of the campaign, when people started posting photos of them getting what they had hinted during Hinting Season.

Drew: Organic social media is often extremely difficult to link back to business performance. Were there any effort to differentiate results by paid versus organic social? Is that a fool’s errand? 

Britten Wolf: Data drives everything we do in social. From content strategy to message effectiveness, we’re constantly testing and analyzing both paid and organic social’s performance to measure its effectiveness and show ROI.

Drew: Are there some things that you would do differently if you were to start again? Any lessons learned for marketers looking to achieve similar success? Is it time to start hinting to Best Buy to bring the campaign back for a 2nd round?

Peter Knierim: Now that the campaign is over, it’s easy to look back and see areas of improvement for future campaigns. One of the benefits of social, as a medium, is the ability to optimize in real time. From messaging to targeting to timing, we constantly strived to publish the most engaging and best performing content we could create.

Our advice for marketers looking to achieve similar success is to start by tackling a list of challenges, create a simple campaign rooted in human truth, and get more people what they want for Christmas.

It’s never too early to start hinting for what you want this holiday.

Drew: From the agency’s perspective, what did Best Buy do right to help you execute what was both a highly creative and ultimately effective campaign?

Peter Knierim: From the start, Best Buy knew there was potential in the Hinting Season idea. They showed the bravery a client needs to have to drive an idea that we all knew could be hugely successful or fail miserably. They challenged us to focus on it and create a compelling way of owning it. That confidence and challenge helped push our ideas and execution.

Going Long with a Shorty Winner: TD Bank

04/12/15

shorty tdIn the five years since I first wrote about The Shorty Awards, social media has evolved from a quirky playground for the adventurous to a disciplined practice for any serious marketer.  This change is evident both in terms of the size of the brands competing for the awards as well as the quality of the applications.  The case in point for this post is TD Bank’s #ThankYou campaign which won Best Financial Services campaign. While I encourage students of social media to read this case and the others in their entirety, here’s a quick overview of the campaign:

  • In order to thank its customers, TD Bank turned 4 ATMs into Automated Thank you Machines and used a hidden camera to capture the surprising interactions. TD Bank took it one step further by actually delivering various Thank You’s like sending a family to Disneyland or reuniting a mother and her daughter. These engagements were turned into a 4-minute video that ultimately garnered over 32 million views and hundreds of thousands of shares across various social channels.  According to their Shorty application, “Analysis of all comments related to the campaign indicates that we also achieved our qualitative objective of improving perceptions of TD as the most customer-centric bank. In fact, an independent Google study yields estimates that 3.6 million Canadians or approximately 10% of the Country’s population claimed the video positively changed their brand impression while an additional 1.4 million Canadians said watching the video already reinforced their positive image of TD.”

To gain a greater understanding of how this campaign came into being and why it was so effective, I interviewed Chris Stamper, Senior Vice President, Corporate Marketing, TD Canada Trust. I have no doubt that you’ll find her comments instructive particularly in the advantages of customer centricity, an area that never seems to fail marketers.  As Arnott puts it, “The real ROI was finding a unique, authentic way to thank our customers.”

Drew: Where did the insight for this campaign come from?  

It’s as simple as wanting to say thank you. We say thank you to our customers every day, and we’ll say thank you tomorrow and the next day, but this was a coordinated effort to shout it from the rooftops. And, it was more than just thank you, it was thanks for your business, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for you. That’s what we were trying to get across to our customers in a personalized and heartfelt way.

Drew: What gave you confidence that this approach would actually work?

We hoped it was going to be successful but we really didn’t know – and it was beyond even our highest expectations. If at the end of the day we took 100 customers and gave them an experience of their lives that would have been enough for us. And regardless of what happened afterwards, we knew we were going to deliver that. We’re a brand that really connects with our customers — they are at the center of everything we do. We don’t believe that any bank or brand could have created this. We know our customers really well – it’s our local branch staff and the relationships they have with our customers that gave us the insights to these incredible stories.  

Drew: Your Shorty application credits employee amplification as an important catalyst.  Can you describe how the program was introduced to employees and if you worked with tool like Dynamic Signal to help manage and track the program?

Every year tens of thousands of our employees participate in customer appreciation day.  As part of our thank you in 2014, we simultaneously surprised customers who were standing in our over 1100 branches across Canada with a #TDThanksYou envelope containing a small cash gift, as a gesture of our appreciation. Customers who were on the phone with us and banking with us online at this time, also received this special surprise with a direct deposit in their account. Another thing to keep in mind is that we found the customers featured in the videos through our local branch employees who know their customers really well and often have close relationships with them. Think of Mike in Pickering who got to meet his baseball idol and throw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. Employees were genuinely proud of the video and keen to share it online.

Drew: Your Shorty application offers many measurable outcomes.  Which are you the proudest of and why?

The views are great but what it really comes down to is making an authentic connection with your customers – we’re so glad we could do that. Dorothy seeing her daughter in Trinidad, Christine taking her family to Disney Land and Mike throwing out the first pitch – that’s what we’re proudest of.

Drew: Working with real consumers is tricky since you never know what will happen.  Were there any surprises, good or bad, and how did that impact the program?

It’s true that you never know what kind of reaction you’ll get – especially when you’re going for an authentic reaction. Thank you means a lot of different things to different people, but I think we can all agree that it feels good to be appreciated, and that’s what this campaign was all about. At the end of the day people saw that these were genuine reactions. 

Drew:  This program had such a great impact in a short period of time — has it been extended or is there talk of a round two?  

We’re thrilled with the response – views continue to grow past 20MM – thanking our customers is something we will continue to do and that means finding ways to surprise and wow our customers. 

Drew: In your Shorty application, you talk about suspending typical ROI metrics.  How important was this to getting the idea approved and as you look at the results, can you make a compelling case that the program did have a material impact on customer loyalty?

The real ROI was finding a unique, authentic way to thank our customers. We’ve built our reputation on legendary customer service so this initiative was about more than marketing. It was about creating an experience and expressing to our customers how grateful we are that they continue to bank with us. When you put it this way, it’s less about the dollars and more about the experience of saying thank you in a big way.

Drew: If another brand were to attempt a program that involved “random acts of kindness,” what would you advice would you give them? (This question was answered by David Diamond of Diamond Marketing, the agency that created this campaign for TD Bank.)

David Diamond: The most important thing to remember when doing real world activation is that you are working with real people. There are no actors, no scripting, and no re-do’s. People are pretty astute and know when something is up. The second they think the situation around them isn’t right or they don’t feel comfortable you won’t get the reactions you’re looking for – and that will come through in the final product. Unlike commercials you need to let the situation unfold as organically as possible – there is no waiting for a magic hour, no perfect lighting, no perfect sound. You just got to keep the camera’s rolling and trust the process!

Self-serving note: Renegade is looking forward to this year’s Shorty Awards as our work with Leo Burnett on behalf of the NCAA was recognized as best Twitter campaign.

Applying the Change Agenda at Mary Kay

03/29/15

mary-kay-executive-bios-Adkins-Green-SherylWell it’s not quite like being a repeat host of Saturday Night Live BUT I’m delighted to have Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO at Mary Kay back on TheDrewBlog. Our popular interview last year covered the gamut of Sheryl’s activities on behalf of Mary Kay including overall strategy, various campaigns and specific marketing tactics. This time Sheryl and I focused on “leading a culture of change” as it was also our topic for what turned out to be a vibrant panel at the recent CMO Club Summit in New York City.

As someone who has to marshal an independent army of 3.5 million beauty consultants around the world, Sheryl is well versed on the importance of a strong company culture noting “At Mary Kay, we like to say that culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”  Recognizing at the same time that change is also an imperative for just about any growth company, Sheryl advises an “evolutionary vs. revolutionary” approach while never losing sight of the need to satisfy your customers. In Sheryl’s case, that meant finding an aspect of the culture that could be built upon in a nuanced fashion, making it at once recognizable yet fresh. This deft approach to driving organizational change is harder than it sounds and well worth a closer look.

Drew: A classic example of a cultural impasse is when marketing proposes a new positioning (like solution-centric versus feature-centric) and the sales team resists.  As you’ve led an agenda that requires fresh thinking across the organization and maybe even fresh skill sets, how have you overcome the naysayers or those resistant to change? 

People often resist change because they are not confident that they will be successful doing things “differently”. I believe that  a successful change management strategy must provide the support and  the tools that teams needs to feel confident and capable taking on new challenges.

Drew: Assuming you’ve identified a change in culture to be necessary for you to achieve your overall objectives AND that you’ve embarked on an internal program to get there, is culture change something that is measurable and if so, what are the key metrics for you and your organization?

At Mary Kay, we monitor and measure the key aspects of our culture via an annual employee engagement survey. Key opportunities are then assigned to cross functional action teams. Our culture is reinforced by a comprehensive, 3 day, New Employee Orientation program, led by the Executive team, that EVERYONE must attend. We also have a Culture Committee that promotes and “protects” the Mary Kay culture.

Drew: One could argue that your brand is in the hands of your independent beauty consultants–does this have an impact on your approach to driving change?  

The Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants actually ARE the Mary Kay brand. So yes, the Mary Kay brand is most definitely in their hands! In regards to change, that means first, changes must be evolutionary vs. revolutionary. Secondly, there must be clear and compelling reasons for change. Finally, key elements of the Mary Kay culture and values cannot change – these are the elements are fundamental to the relationship between the Mary Kay company and the Independent Sales Force.

Drew: “Culture trump strategy” is said a lot in the marketing world but do you really believe this is the case? 

YES! At Mary Kay, we like to say that culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Culture connects employees to a company and its mission. This connection can make or break a strategic plan.

Drew: For CMOs new to their jobs, when should culture change become a priority?  Is this something to tackle in the first 100 days? 

The first 100 days in a new role should be devoted to understanding the current culture, the language of that culture, how things get done ( or not!) etc.  As Stephen Covey advices in  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”

Drew: Can you provide 3 key things  for CMOs to think about when approaching change, two that they must do and one that they should avoid? 

  • CMO’s need to keep the customer in the center of their agenda, not their career.
  • Develop alliances with one or two C-suite team members, and make sure that they understand and support the change agenda
  • Avoid pursuing any big initiative that does not clearly map back to the company’s stated priorities

Driving a Change Agenda at MasterCard

03/21/15

Elisa Romm

Today at The CMO Club Summit, I had the honor of moderating a panel called Leading a Culture of Change as Growth CMOs with an all star team of marketers including Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO, Mary Kay Cosmetics, John Costello, President, Global Marketing and Innovation, Dunkin’ Brands and Elisa Romm, EVP B2B Marketing, MasterCard.  Knowing that we’d only scratch the surface in the time allotted, this is the first of my interviews with the panelists.

Here Elisa Romm shares the fundamental culture transformation required when MasterCard went public in 2006, the challenges of a ‘change agenda’ and how such initiatives can and should be measured. For me, the “Priceless” moment of this interview comes near the end when Elisa espouses “show don’t tell” as a means of driving change. By way of example, Elisa noted that some members of the MasterCard sales force didn’t fully appreciate the power of the “Priceless Surprises” campaign until they themselves were beneficiaries.  Yet another great reminder of the value of “drinking your own champagne.”

Drew: Can you talk about the realities of leading a “culture of change” and more specifically, can you share a recent challenge that your organization faced and how you went about tackling this challenge.

When MasterCard (MC) went public we shifted from banks as owners to banks as customers. MC needed to sell where we didn’t sell before, we were solely relationship managers. I speak about the broader business, not just marketing, because Marketing must be part of  leading the change. Marketing had to help the rest of the company define product and service differentiation to customers and to consumers. I helped drive this change agenda byworking with our sales teams for our largest customers to drive differentiated communications and then the sales team endorsed the approach, because the metrics proved it worked. From that point, the company bought the approach.

Drew: How have you overcome the naysayers or those resistant to change?

When I first took a role of running the marketing division within MC for our advisory services, I had one of my peers, a non-marketing person, teach me the 4 Ps of Marketing. Three years later, this “peer”  is a general manager for some of our international markets and I run B2B and we have the tightest alignment and relationship to the point that we are together demonstrating my new agenda.  The idea is to find those who are your toughest critic and turn them into advocates. They will then sell your platforms to their peer group. Having my new projects are filtered through this “peer” gives me a gateway to the international markets. Of course the proof is in the results. There must be metrics for success to show that your strategy was correct.

Drew: Is culture change something that is measurable and if so, what are the key metrics for you and your organization?

At MC we measure culture change internally and externally. Internally we run an employee engagement survey every year, with action plans designed to address the culture shift we want. For example, owning decision-making at middle management. We want everyone to feel empowered so we measure how middle managers perceive their ability to make decisions, and then we measure their managers via 360 surveys on how they demonstrate empowering their teams. For external demonstration of change we run customer satisfaction surveys to determine if we’ve progressed on things such as “easier to do business with.” Everyone at the company owns these ratings.

Drew: Given that the MasterCard brand in many ways is in the hands of others, does this have an impact on your approach to driving change?   

Yes, your path to market is through others, who have sometimes similar goals, other times competing goals. It is a balancing act, because you have to influence your distribution network, which we do through our insights, expertise and superior knowledge of the future trends, and you have to have a sound strategy that differentiates you from your competition, otherwise your distribution partners will level the playing field. Priceless is our differentiator, as is our knowledge and innovation.

Drew: For CMOs new to their jobs, when should culture change become a priority?  Is this something to tackle in the first 100 days? 

Culture change is necessary to achieve your marketing goals but absent firing everyone and starting over, there always must be a culture shift, but 100 days is not long enough for the journey. You can identify the changes that need to take place, find folks within that represent the new way of thinking, but moving too fast, you risk leaving too many behind and not having a team to back you up. That said, your leaders/direct reports better be aligned with your vision and sign up to make the culture shift happen.

Drew:  On Tuesday, we’ll have a bunch of ambitious CMOs in the room, please give them 3 key things to think about when approaching change, two that they must do and one that they should avoid if they can.

The Do – Lead by example – the culture change must permeate beyond marketing to the company, but Marketing must demonstrate it first.

The Do – Show Don’t tell – treating the sales team like consumers let them experience priceless surprises and they became advocates instantly. No powerpoint presentation or video could’ve produced that effect.

The Don’t – create a siloed culture for marketing. Marketing must be seen as integral to driving business results and culture clashes are often a reason that marketing isn’t internally perceived as a business driver.

Meet Emilie Baltz, Food Experience Designer Extraordinaire

02/24/15

emilie baltz

After hearing Emilie Baltz speak at a PSFK conference about Lickestra (an orchestra made of ice cream lickers!) I felt compelled to learn more about her and her creative process.  Her ideas were simply too original to ignore and her workspace seemed like a foreign country — I mean how exactly does one get hired to develop a drink experience for the Museum of Sex?  So we talked.  In fact, after my recorder failed the first time, she graciously agreed to chat again resulting in the interview below.   We covered a lot of ground while I circled around my primary question — how could we non-artists be more creative?

Not surprisingly, Emily did not provide a pat answer since originality and creativity are the result of several factors including perspective, process, personality, practice, passion and whole bunch of other things that don’t start with P.  So enjoy the interview and stay tuned for a follow up article that attempts to clarify how we all can (at least try to) be more creative.

Drew: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your interests as an artist?

I work as a food and experience designer as well as an artist and educator, and my interest is primarily in understanding how sensory experience can change our perception of taste. That’s been my focus for the last few years. And I come from a background in screenwriting and industrial design as well as modern dance and photography, so I sort of blend all those experiences like a cook in the kitchen to ultimately bring an idea to life in multiple dimensions.

DrewTo begin discussing the creative process, maybe we could start with Lickestra and you can talk through how it came into being.
LICKESTRA3@emiliebaltzLickestra is a licking ice-cream orchestra. The project was created as a food design and smart object project, developed in collaboration with Carla Diana, who works at the intersection of technology and design, while I work at the intersection of food and design. So Lickestra became a project where we basically poked and tasted and rubbed things together to understand what it was that we wanted to do. We asked ourselves, what if we started to find ways where sound and food could intersect? To do that, we started bringing technology into a variety of food materials, and that included making something that we called a jam band session.

Prototyping led us to discover that the most fun thing you could do was to bite something or use your mouth and then make sound. That was very novel and got a lot of great positive feedback. Through that, we just ended up testing a lot of different materials and realized that here was ice cream, this thing that already had a built-in gestural interface that asked you to lick. From there, it just very easily then developed into Lickestra, where participants got to lick a series of conductive ice cream cones that would trigger different tones and sounds.

Drew: When you’re initially running through ideas, how do you get past that prototyping stage and know how and when to take the next step?
This is where the critical mind comes in to play. It has everything to do with the knowledge of the landscape that you’re in. Some ideas we have, but have already been done, so they’re automatically off the table. Other ideas we come up with are just not as clear in their direction. I think the best ideas are ones that you look at and immediately say, oh yeah, oh duh, that works. That’s the best way I can describe it.

To get there, one needs a process and one needs clarity in the process because the “duh” is really the revelation that all the pieces are fitting together. It’s saying we want to make food and sound come together, we want to make it interactive and physical, we want to be delightful and joyful, we want to make a band. Those are our self-imposed constraints. Then we come up with some ideas and ask ourselves which ones we find more interesting. We usually decide this based on our emotional reaction to them, but the decision also comes from some training and an ability to look at them objectively and decide whether or not an idea actually fits within our constraints that we’ve set. Drawing helps you organize the thoughts and prototyping actually helps you see really what that thought looks like and figure out if it works or doesn’t work.

Drew: Can you talk a little bit about the recent project you created at the bar Play in the Museum of Sex?
PAREDOILIA2©EMILIEBALTZ PAREDOILIA2EMILIEBALTZWe had the idea to give desire a form, which naturally lends itself to food and drink because that’s where we become the most emotional in our consumer habits. The most natural venue for this was a bar. I served as the Art Director for Play and developed the brand and interiors with the Museum of Sex, as well as architect Eric Mailaender and restaurant consultant Brendan Spiro. In addition, I developed an experimental cocktail menu that presented artist crafted cocktails that push our relationship to desire through drink. The first cocktail I developed was with the Dutch London-based artist Bart Hess and called Pareidolia. It’s a black porcelain plate that has a ribbed texture, almost like this alien skin. When I contacted Bart for this project, it was with an interest in looking at gestural interfaces, because I think so much of our sensory communication also comes through literal muscle memory.

When we started working together, I was poking around with him and looking at projects and saw this piece of fabric that he had developed, which is totally alien and very weird looking. We both decided that it was really very interesting, because you naturally sort of wanted to lick it but also didn’t want to lick it. It was so bizarre and alien, you couldn’t really understand what it was, but it was incredibly suggestive as a form. And so part of the intent with Pareidolia was to offer this vessel, and then through its usage what you actually end up seeing is a visual landscape of people bending over and licking, like a piece of performance art.

Though the artist isn’t present, all these guests are engaging in this really intimate action in a public space. And it’s great that it took place at the Museum of Sex, one of the institutions that I think is so interesting because it does allow people the permission to look and now with Play, the permission to act on their desires. This is especially true in American culture, where the topic of sex and sexuality is still continually taboo. It doesn’t have to be weird for it to be fun.`ss in other dimensions and in other work. It’s all about getting perspective.

Drew: Can you talk about the LO.V.E. Foodbook and how that came into being?
The L.O.V.E Foodbook was inspired by working with the Museum of Sex while I’d been researching aphrodisiacs to make a prototype café in the basement called Oral Fix before beginning to work on Play. What was amazing to me during this research was finding that all of the definitions of aphrodisiac were archaic: stories and mythologies about things like Casanova and Greco-Roman times and Montezuma. It seemed to me like we were in a time when we should have new stories and new languages around this idea.

So I ended up working with a French publisher in Paris and proposed this idea that we would make a cookbook that was about love. We put together a list of chefs that we would approach and ask to translate a definition of love in their material: food. That’s how the L.O.V.E. Foodbook was born, consciously chosen to be described as love rather than desire, because I think desire is actually quite linear and love is much more complex and in its complexity much more representative of contemporary culture.

Drew: What are you working on now and what do you see in the near future in terms of artistic endeavors?
I’m most interested in performative pedagogy, a term I’m toying with where the “education” exists as an act, both witnessed and performed by an audience, in which we learn by doing, not simply watching. I believe that education exists everywhere and I’d love to be able to educate people on just how much of an experience taste is, rather than merely flavor. I’ve been doing these more performative dinners. I actually just came back from Stockholm this week with Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson and we held a dinner in a former nuclear reactor.

This is exactly the type of thing I would like to keep doing, because here were these incredible settings and it was completely transformative. You’re totally out of your world and out of your comfort zone. The goal of the night was to create an experience that was fueled by taste and would allow guests to explore not only a part of themselves through ingestion, but also a part of their city that they had never seen before. I think what that does is start to cultivate curiosity. That’s what I hope to do, to cultivate curiosity, because with that you get people who are empathetic, who are playful, who are collaborative and who have interest in others.

Marketing Music’s Biggest Night w/ Evan Greene of The Grammys

02/7/15

Evan Greene_Recording AcademyIf you think the nominees for the GRAMMY awards are nervous, imagine for a moment you’re the CMO of what is officially known as The Recording Academy.  That man is Evan Greene and every year he is tasked with outdoing the previous year, a bar that keeps getting higher and higher.

In 2014 for example, TV ratings were the 2nd highest in 15 years, reaching over 28 million viewers who in turn generated roughly 15 million tweets and 13 million Facebook interactions. That’s a whole lot of buzz, buzz that is by no means accidental.  Evan and his team, supported by long-time agency Chiat/Day, continue to find innovative ways to engage, inspire and motivate an army of fans to not just watch but also share their experience.  This fan-centric approach requires management of thousands of little pieces, but Evan has done it in style, and it’s no surprise that he won a Marketing Innovation Award at this year’s CMO Awards, sponsored by The CMO Club.  Here’s our interview just in time for the show Sunday night and to send good karma out to Evan in LA.

Drew: One of the presumed reasons some CMOs don’t innovate is that there is more risk involved. Is there a tolerance for risk in your organization and/or do you have ways of mitigating the risks involved in bringing truly innovative programs to market?

There is tolerance to risk…to an extent. I have pretty broad latitude to implement forward-looking initiatives. However, we are still a pretty conservative organization, so that upside risk must be balanced by the potential downside consequences, which for a not-for-profit entity, whose primary asset is its brand/IP can be significant.

Drew: The Grammys is such a unique brand. What do you think is the biggest thing other marketers can learn from the on-going success of The Grammys?

While we are certainly a big brand, we aren’t really that different from other brands in that ultimately it comes down to trust. Authenticity is the cornerstone of trust, so you must respect your audience, and be as authentic as possible in everything you do.

Drew: What did you do in 2014 that you are particular proud of from a marketing perspective?

I don’t think it was any one thing. When you look at the ultimate result of our year-round efforts, which is our metrics around the GRAMMY telecast, we over-delivered on every possible measurement – ratings (2nd highest in 20+ years), social engagement (34MM+ comments on GRAMMY Sunday), sentiment (99% positive), revenue (consistently up year-over-year), it is our overall success that comes from carefully planned strategic efforts that I am most proud of.

Drew: Looking ahead, what do you hope will work better in 2015?

Better, more engaging content, better use of analytics.

Drew: How are you as CMO staying on top of all the new digital marketing techniques and opportunities?

Reading everything I can, and constantly auditing the market. I’m always trying to learn from others’ successes…and failures…

Drew: What tool, product, or service has been the single greatest improvement to digital marketing for your brand over the last year?  

I don’t think there is any one tool. I think our strategy has gotten smarter…and we are finding better, more effective ways to use data than before. I believe the ultimate winners and losers will be determined by who is best able to identify, understand and harness the data available to us as marketers.

Drew: Do you have a content marketing strategy?  

This is an important area for us, and we are in the process of reviewing our entire content strategy, and revising it in a pretty significant way. I will have more to share on this in the coming months as our new strategic focus comes into play.

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?

The best, most immediate example I can point to is our yearly telecast marketing campaign. We have endeavored, rather than simply placing a bunch of music artists on a spread or in a tv spot, with the message to ‘Watch the GRAMMYs,’ to weave a compelling narrative that connects with the music fan in an emotional, visceral way. I’m very proud of the work we have done with our agency, Chiat Day to more deeply weave our GRAMMY brand into the fabric of popular culture. We will launch this year’s effort in early December, and we will again approach it from a dynamic storytelling standpoint that will set our communication apart from anyone else in our category.

Drew: As social media matures, what adjustments are you making to your approach to social in 2015?

We’ve been trying to take a more holistic view of our social activities, meaning that we want to be smarter about the conversation we are having with our social ecosystem on a daily basis. We want to provide more value to the conversation, and become more of a trusted resource, and this requires a longer-term view of the relationship we have with our friends, fans and followers. It is not as much about short-term gratification. Rather, it is modifying tone, vibe and spirit of our dialogue to have a more consistent, engaged dialogue.

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