RENEGADE THINKING from the Founder/CEO of Renegade AND the author of "The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing."

How SAP Ariba’s CMO Made Procurement Awesome

07/19/16

alicia_tillmanWhen SAP acquired Ariba a few years back, newly appointed CMO Alicia Tillman was faced with the challenge of rebranding the company to include the qualities of both SAP and Ariba. Next, she had to consider how to best communicate SAP Ariba’s new brand identity to customers. It’s no surprise that social media, one of today’s most effective tools of communication, was instrumental in the rebranding initiative. Alicia and her team applied creativity and simplicity to their social content to better inform customers of the intersection between SAP and Ariba. I had the pleasure of speaking with Alicia and hearing more about how her marketing team used social to build brand image, and whether or not she considered SAP Ariba a social enterprise.

Drew: Tell me a bit about your job at SAP Ariba.

Alicia: I’m the chief marketing officer for SAP Ariba, which is the largest B2B network in the world, and part of the Business Networks and Applications group within SAP. Think of us as the Facebook or eBay for business. Essentially, what we’ve created is a dynamic, digital marketplace where buyers and suppliers can find each other, making it easy to buy and sell business goods and services within companies of all sizes. I oversee all of marketing for the business, which includes brand awareness, pipeline generation and acceleration, events, digital and social strategies and field marketing.

Drew: I know Ariba has undergone some major changes in the last few years. One of those being your introduction to the company as CMO. Can you speak to those changes?

Alicia: Ariba was founded in 1996 and was really the first B2B marketplace. Initially, the company focused on automating the procurement function through online catalogs and auctions. Today, it is the largest, most global business network and touches every aspect of commerce. About four years ago, the company was acquired by SAP. That is, as you point out, a lot of change. But the company’s brand really hadn’t evolved to reflect it and it was one of the first things I focused on when I joined the company. My first priority was to assemble a ‘brand voice’ team that represented each functional area of the business so I could hear about the key aspects of our brand that made us great and brought differentiated value to our customers.

Drew: How has your team used social media to facilitate the rebranding of Ariba?

Alicia: With the rebranding of SAP Ariba I sought to make things easily understood – our look and feel, our messaging, our brand promise and the way in which we interact with customers. Social is an ideal way to facilitate this because it forces you to be simple, but it also allows you to be highly creative and to engage with your customers on totally new levels.

Let me give you an example. Earlier this year, our CEO met with one of our customers who had just launched an SAP Ariba project inside her company. She was wearing a shirt that said “Procurement is awesome,” and our CEO loved this slogan. We launched a social campaign around it – #MakeProcurementAwesome – because procurement is digital. SAP Ariba is fueling this and it’s a powerful and witty way to draw attention to our new brand identity without being forceful. It has served as a rally cry for our employees and our customers who are ultimately striving to achieve the same goals.

Drew: Have you been able to extend this idea?

Alicia: It has spread quickly because it is simple and speaks to the heart of so many of our customers. We launched it during our marquee buyer event this year and the response was so overwhelming, we actually had t-shirts printed that we could give away on the last day. And many of our customers immediately put them on and posted pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s a clear example of community and the power of social. When you use it the right way, a way that really appeals to people’s emotions, you can change perceptions and drive a brand story.

Drew: How do you judge success on a program like this?

Alicia: Simply put, by the dialogue it creates. We have seen so many customers run off with it on their own and create conversations in various forums. Customers are using the hashtag to shift the perception of procurement from a back office task to a strategic initiative. It has created excitement among our customers about our solutions and what we can do for them.

Drew: Your challenge was not only to innovate, but also apply this innovation to thinking about procurement. From a social standpoint, is it on your agenda to be a social business? Does Ariba use social as an enterprise and are you focusing heavily on social listening?

Alicia: Absolutely. We live in a world where there are officially more connected devices than people. so every enterprise has to be social. There are various listening posts in the social environment that we use to stay on top of what our customers are saying. But beyond this, we’ve built social technology into our solutions and business network that allows our customers to immediately share feedback with us. We’ve created a community called Ariba Exchange, for instance. Thousands of customers use it to share information and best practices that help them drive adoption of our solutions, and do their jobs better.

Drew: Can you provide an example of how you were able to use your closed customer network to make product changes or enhancements?

Alicia: Ideas can come from anywhere. And many of the best ideas come from the powerful community that we have built in the Ariba Network, in which over two million companies are part of. We recently launched Ariba Community Voting, a program that allows our customers to tell us what features they value most. Voting is done right from the solutions they use every day by clicking a “like” button. We compile this information and use it to prioritize our investments and drive future enhancements.

Drew: What kind of goals would you set for your organization in terms of social and becoming a social enterprise?

Alicia: Social has become the leading manner in which we market today. If I think back to a little less than 10 years ago, social was becoming something that was actively debated within companies. Now, the question is how do you now evolve your marketing budget to effectively have a presence and utilize it in the manner that is beneficial to your business. With the demographic changes of the incoming workforce, social is increasingly becoming the best method of communication – to influence and support buying decisions. We use our platforms to transact, to buy, and to gain influence.

Drew: For marketers, what do you think will be the biggest challenges in this move to social?

Alicia: I think the biggest challenge for marketers today is really about how you best define a digital strategy by measuring what it has the ability to influence. There has to be an understanding that digital is a business driver, it sets the experience a user has with your organization from the moment they begin their search to find a partner who can meet their needs. Think about everything from the experience of your website, to how you use social platforms to extend your story to how that translates into marketing collateral and events. PR, advertising and sponsorships all need to connect to form this experience – digital and traditional are no longer two different strategies – they are both interconnected and there needs to be a single strategy for your business that connects them.

An Inside Look at Dell’s Influencer Program

07/13/16

konnieIn the last few years, a number of brands have realized that to earning the trust of consumers isn’t something they’ll be able to accomplish on their own. The reality is that people trust people more than brands, which explains the emergence of influencer marketing. Instead of going straight to their target market, brands are now looking to a chosen few individuals to augment their message and promote their products. Influencer marketing programs have stepped boldly onto the scene and have set up shop in B2C and B2B environments.

In my book The CMO’s Periodic Table, I interviewed former IBM VP of Marketing and the architect of their B2B influencer program, Tami Cannizzaro. In Tami’s words, the point of such programs is to connect with notable people in the target industry and “make these people part of your overall strategy, treat them like VIPs and give them insider access to your strategy or brand.” Influencers get a seat at your company’s table, and become the voice of your brand for the thousands of people who consume their content.

During the Incite Group’s Corporate Social Media Summit, I had the pleasure of continuing this conversation with Konnie Alex Brown who specifically oversees Dell’s influencer relations. I talked to Konnie about the skills and strategies she deploys to make sure Dell’s influencer campaigns are mutually beneficial for the company and the influencer. Speaking with her not only gave me an in-depth look at the inner workings of a brand/ influencer partnership, it further proved the value that such relationships bring to both the brand and the influencer.

Drew: You’ve been at Dell for +9 years. Talk to me a bit about how your various jobs at Dell set you up for our current one and the skills you need to succeed at running social influencer relations?

Konnie: My experience leading corporate and executive sales and technology communications at Dell have had a foundational role in preparing me to design corporate social influencer programs that reflect Dell’s customer focus, business priorities and long-term strategic vision. Understanding a company’s history and being plugged in to the right news streams and networks within a company of Dell’s size is fundamental in building a social influencer program that creates value for the business, as well as for the social influencer. Understanding the dynamic and nuances of shared value creation is indispensable to be successful in a business-to-business environment.

Drew: Can you give a specific example of an influencer you are working with? How did decide on this individual and what did the program look like?

Konnie: Sure, Drew. I have recently developed a blue print for working with a social influencer focused on Dell’s IoT solutions. This particular B2B example is exciting as it describes the path and evolution of the relationship leading to tangible ROI for Dell and for the influencer and, very important, it is repeatable. This case study also clearly shows the need for company internal collaboration across teams to achieve maximum value. It is important to note that this process will take time and dedication just like any initiative that involves building trust-based, human relationships. Think of it as ‘dating’ where the brand (but really a human representative of the brand) and the social influencer get to know each other.

Take a look at the blueprint for building a relationship based on increasingly more information sharing and trust building via carefully chosen and designed touch points.

konnie2

Let’s start at the beginning. Following the identification and pre “first date” vetting of the social influencer, we begin with building the relationship by inviting him or her to a first meeting, ideally an event where both parties can find out about goals, capabilities and business priorities. Over the course of additional touch points, designed to uncover the value for the brand and the influencer, the evaluation to deepen and nurture the relationship (think months, not days) can be made. Once a mutual level of trust has been established, the depth of information sharing and authentic, mutual endorsement can take place without compromising the influencer’s independence of voice. It is also important to note that there will be ongoing assessment of the relationship’s value – from both sides.

Drew: What does Dell hope to get out of the relationship? How do you measure success? (feel free to share how long it can take)

Konnie: Great question, Drew. Let’s talk about the mutual value that a long-term, trust-based relationship creates for the Dell brand and the influencer. Dell seeks to help the influencer understand our purpose, customer commitment and value proposition by sharing our strategy, technology POVs and details about current and future plans to meet and anticipate customer business needs. The value for Dell clearly lies in expanding our audience each to raise awareness and educate the social influencer’s audience about the Dell value proposition in an authentic way for future consideration and action. We constantly monitor the value of the content in terms of frequency, authenticity, subject matter expertise, preserved independence of opinion, social engagement and reach as well as dynamics, such as leadership and interactivity, at in-person events.

Drew: Let’s talk about the value exchange here. What’s in it for the influencer and how do make sure that persons is getting what they want out of the relationship?

Konnie: The value of the relationship for the influencer resides in several areas and may vary dependent on the influencer’s particular goals. In general, however, the value resides in gaining insights into Dell’s technology strategy, particular POVs, future plans as well as access to customers and partners of Dell. This information access allows the influencer to deliver insightful, trust-worthy content to his or her audience and, with that, increase his audience, trusted status among them and his or her relevance in the industry.

Drew: How important is it that you personally have relationships with the influencers? Is this something you can outsource and if not, why not?

Konnie: Dell’s social influencer programs are built on the premise that relationships are owned, maintained and nurtured by Dell via frequent virtual touch points and white glove experiences via in-person meetings or events throughout the year. To answer your question, Dell’s point of view is that these relationships, due to their long-term, trust and value-based nature, cannot be outsourced. Aspects of social influencer identification, logistics and measuring processes, however, can well be handled by an agency.

Q+A w Stephanie Anderson, CMO, Time Warner Cable Business Class

07/4/16

Stephanie-Anderson_TWC-Official-150x150As you all know, I never pass up an opportunity to sit down with a marketer and hear which practices worked and which didn’t work for their company. I mean, what better way to learn more about this ever-changing industry than to listen to leaders in the field share their insight, the lessons they’ve learned, and the strategies they stand by. Through these conversations, I’m able to add value to my company and our clients.

On the blog today is former CMO of Time Warner Cable Business Class Stephanie Anderson, a friend of mine, president of The CMO Club New York chapter and a veteran of TheDrewBlog. I spoke to Stephanie in 2012 when she first joined TWCBC, and although much has changed since then, her stance that “knowing your customers and prospects will never go out of style,” still holds true. I’m sure Stephanie would agree that this way of thinking is largely responsible for the success of her team at TWCBC. It was interesting to talk to Stephanie as she wrapped up her time at Time Warner Cable, and to partake in a much different conversation than the one we had in four year ago. Now, we’re talking customer communities, loyalty programs, content marketing,  and the way television has strengthened digital.

Drew: You’ve been in the job about 4 years now. Can you provide an overview of your overall approach to marketing at Time Warner Cable Business Class?

Stephanie: When I arrived at Time Warner Cable, we were many businesses and we were marketing at a very local level- which I believe in- but we were missing an overarching message and communications methodology.. The goal of my team was to find the place where localism mattered, and then compliment that with a consistent campaign across the country. We had to find the best breed of each of those local areas and then pull it up to one common message.

Drew:  How did you decide that the consistent campaign was going to focus on your customers and get to a point where you thought that would be effective?

Stephanie: It started with a focus on what we called an “outside-in approach.”  This meant we could never lose sight of our customers and our competitors. If we weren’t doing that, then we’d be missing the boat.  By always thinking about our clients we knew we had a chance of developing programs the competition would fear.  From there it was an easy step to testimonials, telling customer stories online and on television , which ended up being great for all parties.

Drew:  How did you find the customers to feature?

Stephanie: We initially identified a few companies largely because they were loyal customers of ours. They also had interesting stories to tell and were hugely popular in social media, which demonstrated a lot of energy and engagement.  So we focused on finding those kinds of customers, and then telling their stories on television, print, and digital.

Drew: Did this have an impact on their business?

Stephanie: One of the companies we actually became quite close with is Beekman 1802. They have an online service that they we’re really trying to grow with a very unique product base. Once we put them on TV, their popularity grew significantly. We even did a follow up story with them, which was thrilling for both parties.

Drew: Did your approach to finding customers for the campaign evolve?

Stephanie: Yes.  We’ve been using an online resource we created for customers called PerkZone to help us find more great stories, and then turn those into testimonials.  In this case, the customers nominate themselves by submitting their stories.  The response has been amazing and these small business success stories are truly inspiring.  When we do our long form testimonials, the story “inside the story” is always amazing.

Drew: What’s the story behind PerkZone?

Stephanie: One of our partner agencies is Renegade and they helped us create this retention strategy and loyalty program for small businesses called PerkZone. Accessed through our “MyAccount” portal, which customers use to pay their bills and manage their account, PerkZone has two areas, “Deals and Discounts” and “Ideas and Community.”  In the first area, small business can find discounts from national brands as well as post deals for their local customers.  It is in the other area that we were able to source hundreds of stories, a few of which were featured in our TV campaign.

Drew: Wow, so you could go from the online portal to become a star on TV?

Stephanie:  Yes, like the Voice or something; it still happens. The best talent sometimes comes right to you.

Drew: Has Perk Zone had a material measurable impact on loyalty as far as you can tell?

Stephanie: Absolutely. Like many companies, we’re very focused on Net Promoter Score (NPS) and we’ve seen a really strong correlation between any digital engagement and customer satisfaction.  Customers who use our MyAccount portal are significantly more likely to recommend us than those that don’t.  The numbers get even better with PerkZone users.  My gut told me that this was the right thing to do, and it was nice to see that the data proved me right.  We’re continually trying to think of ways to engage with the customer, and we know we need to continue to invest in these areas.

Drew:  Let’s zoom back to the big picture.  How has all of this customer-centric marketing paid off?

Stephanie: TWCBC been very successful from a B2B standpoint having had 18 quarters of consecutive quarter-to-quarter growth!  That’s remarkable considering TWCBC not a small business–it has over $3 billion in revenue and it gets harder to grow when you’re big. The company is not only acquiring customers, it’s also keeping customers, and some of these tactics that TWCBC has been talking about like establishing this community and getting to know its businesses better has actually helped our results considerably.

Drew: Pundits have been saying, “TV is dead” for years yet here we are in mid-2016 talking about how well TV has worked for your B2B brand?

Stephanie: First, we’re TV people and TV is still very much part of our culture. But more importantly, TV does really work.  It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It guides the inquiring person to your website, or wherever you want and helps get them engaged in the process. That is what it’s meant to do, just like a print ad or something else. Some of these traditional tactics get people motivated to go see more or engage with you, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Drew:  So TV gets the conversation started and then they go online. How are you making the two work together?

Stephanie: We have a great vendor partner that we use in the digital space that can make real time adjustments based on how much traffic TV is driving online. It’s amazingly sophisticated.  Making sure that our offline and online tactics are coordinated has really profited us.  It’s one thing to be coordinated with campaigns; it’s another thing to be coordinated on the delivery side, making sure that people are going where you want them to go. It saves both parties time.

Drew: I’ve heard you talk about a fifth P beyond Product, Price, Promotion and Place. Can you elaborate on it?

Stephanie: Everyone knows about the 4 Ps, and they are very important in marketing, and I think they fulfill most of everything that’s going on out there. I contend that there is this 5th P that is Proof. This probably comes from my long history of being in sales at different levels in technology. Notoriously, there was always this moment in the demonstration when the tables turned and the customer says, “okay I get it,” or “okay I’ll take it.”  That was the moment we provided the Proof, when we helped people really see how others were using the technology.

Drew: Let’s shift gears here.  TV and digital were not your only tactics.  You also got into content marketing, right?

Stephanie:  Absolutely.  Working with our partner RSL Media, we actually created a publication called Solve that goes to our 160,000 customers and prospects in the mid-market space.  It’s both a 24-page printed magazine and an e-zine, with content that’s relevant to that mid-market space. With highly topical and informative stories, we’re able to keep the conversation going by delivering really useful information that just happens to from Time Warner Cable Business Services. The response has been great – we’ve had customers actually call us to make sure they’re subscribers and to get other employees on the list.

Drew: Why not just create a digital version of Solve? Why go to the expense of printing it?

Stephanie:  Some of it stems from years back when I needed to accumulate a book of testimonials for our sales force and also links back to my early point about Proof.  Sales people need to be able to demonstrate proof of what you’ve done for other companies.  Solve is great for that since many of the stories feature customers.  It gives the sales person something physical that can help start a conversation.  It’s really hard to do that with a digital-only version.  Also, our customers felt more important being featured in a well-produced magazine.  It was prestigious enough that customers started asking how they could be featured!  In this case, the medium was also the message.

Drew: What would you say was the biggest lesson you have learned that you would pass along to future marketers in your industry, or any industry?

Stephanie: I think going back to the customer or competitor focus, and keeping your eyes set on the external. Whether that be your competitors, or your brand or your prospects that are so important. It’s so easy in marketing to get distracted by the stuff or the creative, or the results. Sometimes you need to step back and think wait a minute, who am I trying to talk to? And if I were them, would I listen, or if I were the competition, would I be afraid of what they’re saying?  Those are the things that we are committed to because they work. If you keep that forefront on your mind, you will be successful.

Q&A with Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy

06/26/16

Evan Greene_Recording Academy

The Grammys have brought us some of the best moments in television, and the most spectacular performances in music. From Michael Jackson’s moonwalk across the stage in ’88 to the Elton John and Eminem duet in ’01, and most recently Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie, the Grammys have been the place for historical moments in music. And if you’re like me, you brim with excitement before the show, and are unable to stop rehashing the night’s best moments for days after. One night a year, the telecast captivates people around the world and easily dominates the conversation on social. However, is the show on your mind for other 364 days? Well, I spoke with Evan Greene, a friend of mine and CMO of the Recording Academy, to hear how his team approaches the challenge of marketing a show that airs one night per year. Key words here: social, social, and more social.

Drew: What does your marketing purview include?

Evan: I can tell you that anything that touches the Grammy brand ultimately runs through the marketing area, whether it’s marketing and brand strategy, PR, social media, digital content and yes, partner strategy. We represent the biggest brand in music, and for other brands, there is value in aligning with us. We partnered with other brands to utilize the impact and the marketing reach of brands that are complementary to our own. Also, we are a 501(C) 6, a not-for-profit trade organization, and this affects our marketing strategy.

Drew: How does it affect your marketing partnerships, specifically?

Evan: We put together marketing partnerships so that we can leverage the impact of the Grammys, which is unparalleled in terms of credibility and prestige. On the flipside, the value that partners bring to the table opens up other marketing channels. Now, because of the prestige of our brand, there is a value associated which means there still needs to be an economic model in place.

Drew: Was there partner integration for Lady Gaga’s performance? Did Intel do the projection?

Evan: Yes. This was the first time when we partnered with a company to actually help us enhance the performance. If you notice, there was no Intel visibility or attribution on the telecast because we wanted it to be subtle. We focused on making the performance memorable, something that people would be talking about for a long time. At the end of the day, Intel received a tremendous amount of credit and earned media.

Drew: And with that comes months of hard work and constant communication between Intel and the Grammys.

Evan: Yes, there was a lot of heavy lifting and coordination. We put something together that had never been done before. There were things that happened on the Grammy stage from a technology standpoint that have never been put on television. It really was the next generation of Grammy moments, right before our eyes.

Drew: Every year, you challenge your agency to do some new things. Let’s talk about the new things that you did this year in terms of marketing and social.

Evan: This year we started thinking about the inspirational power of music and the intersection between music and sports. Sports came in because it was SuperBowl 50 and it ran on CBS, eight days prior to the Grammy Awards, which created an extraordinary opportunity to bring the two together. We engaged our agency of record, Chiat/Day, which in my opinion is one of the best shops on the planet.

Drew: How was the concept further developed?

Evan: We started from the standpoint of how do we celebrate sports and music. How do we align the best in music with the best in sports, globally? What came out of that was a powerful tagline, called “Witness Greatness.” We looked at the music that inspires the athletes who in turn inspire the world. “Witness Greatness” really is about the inspirational power of music, and we could apply that in a number of ways.

Drew: So you were able to move beyond just the “Witness Greatness” tagline?

Evan: Yes, it was not only the theme and tagline, but also the visual representation and how we applied it. We then applied the theme to social and made sure that any visual we associated with represented greatness. We made sure to elevate that conversation whenever and wherever possible.

Drew: How did your team focus on the witness portion of “Witness Greatness”?

Evan: We have a companion stream, sort of a shoulder programming experience called “Grammy Live.” It shows different angles and elements, not necessarily the telecast itself, but it shows backstage etc. This year, we inserted a camera inside the base of the Grammy statute so that we could actually witness greatness in a different way-from the position in the POV of the statue itself. We got some great footage and content that had never been captured before. 

Drew: After the Grammy team fully adopts the theme, I’m guessing the next step is for the media to pick it up?

Evan: Yes, and was amazing when the media starts quoting our taglines, and when other members of our social ecosystem started organically using the “Witness Greatness” hashtag. When I think about all the touch points, from those doing social to the persons pitching media stories, to our marketing partners, there is a consistent look and feel across the board.

Drew: Any favorite projects from the “Witness Greatness” theme?

Evan: There were a couple of components that I found particularly exciting. If you go on our YouTube page, youtube.com/thegrammys, there is a video that we did with Kendrick Lamar in his hometown of Compton. We went on the street, and asked people to sing a couple of lines from his song Alright, which has become sort of an anthem over the past year. We created a video of all of these individuals singing particular lines of the song, and at the end, it culminated with an impromptu performance and the tagline was “Greatness Comes From Everywhere.” This served as a drive to the Grammys. 

Drew: I know the Grammys has worked with user-generated content in the past. Can you give an example of how you used UGC in past seasons?

Evan: Several years ago, we had a campaign called “We’re All Fans,” and it underscored the idea that what makes an artist great are the fans. With that in mind, we invited fans to upload videos of themselves and become part of the campaign. That was probably the most organic example that we had. People actually got to see themselves as part of the national Grammy campaigns, creating mosaics of Lady Gaga and other global superstar artists.

Drew: How was UGC executed for this Grammy season?

Evan: The idea really drives the execution. This year, our campaign was about creating the conversation, engaging with fans and having them share what about their favorite artists represents ‘Greatness.’ So in terms of UGC, we didn’t invite video submissions this time around, but we focused on having respectful dialog with our fans and followers about inspiration and greatness.

Drew: The reviews have been very successful on social. Obviously, you’re at the center of the social media conversation during the show, but you’re still very present months after it aired. How is that even possible?

Evan: I think we’ve been very successful and I am happy with the work of our social team and everybody involved in that effort. I think we can get better, I really do. The core reason for this year-round success is respecting fans and speaking with trust and authenticity.

Drew: What are some of the mistakes you are seeing other organizations make with their social media?

Evan: When communication seems gratuitous, and it is focused purely on making a sale or driving behavior, consumers see right through that. We simply want to be a credible part of the music conversation. When you look at the brands that resonate and break through, it’s the ones that earn your trust. If you speak with authenticity, and you respect your audience, then that becomes the cornerstone of trust. Trust is how you build a long-term relationship.

Drew: Being a nonprofit, how do you allocate the money brought in from the Grammys?

Evan: The money that we make doesn’t go to pay dividends, meet a quota or achieve net profit goals. It’s filtered right back into the music industry so we can create more in-school music programs and empower the next generation of music makers. We give back in a variety of different ways to enhance and srengthen the industry platform that the Recording Academy sits on.

Drew: One of the other things that you’ve done over the years is expand the Grammys from Grammy night to Grammy week. I feel like this was Grammy month. Where are you right now in terms of the scale of the Grammys?

Evan: I think we’ve made a considerable amount of progress over the years, but we still have a ways to go. What has struck me is that we’ve built this massive brand with a tremendous amount of impact by virtue of a single television event held for three-and-a-half hours, one night per year. The marketing opportunity that creates is enormous. If we take a proactive brand management approach, how impactful and powerful a brand could we be if we continue to extend throughout the year?

Drew: What a challenge! How do you rate progress? 

Evan: I think we have expanded the impact of the Grammy as a brand, beyond simply one night per year. I do not believe that we are anywhere close to being there yet where people started thinking about the Grammys as a relevant brand they need to interact with in June, July, and August. But like I said, we’re making progress and there are a number of exciting things on the horizon.

Element 65: The Undeniably Power of PR

06/13/16

An apology is in order. Probably not the only one that you’ll see from me on this blog but certainly one that is a long overdue.  This one goes out to the thousands of public relations professionals, particularly the ones who almost always find a way to plant the seed that becomes a story, who uncover the news when others just see a plain old brief, who instinctually know a potential buzz machine from the proverbial blind alley.  To these fine folk who helped drive the success of many of Renegade’s classic guerrilla marketing successes (BankCab anyone?), I officially apologize for omitting Public Relations as an Element in my book, The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing.

Please note that this was not a conscious omission but rather a statistical anomaly.  In retrospect, it seems impossible that PR wouldn’t become front and center in one of the over 150 interviews with senior marketers I conducted prior to finishing the book.  To make amends, not that any of you are all that upset or not used to receding from the marketing spotlight, I am thrilled to present part 1 of my interview with Caralene Robinson, CMO at Vh1. A recipient of last year’s CMO Award for Creativity, Caralene was kind enough to share her thoughts on the importance of PR and how that aspect of marketing is so critical to the success of VH1 programming.

Caralene robinsonDrew: Last year you won The CMO Club’s creativity award. Can you talk about a program you’ve done at VH1 that you’re particularly proud of?

The sheer volume of projects times rate of change demands constant innovation. So there are many programs I quite proud of. For example, the launch of our original scripted movie, Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story. TLC was cultural phenomenon that came to life in the most authentic way. It was an incredible multifaceted campaign. The film and the campaign were used as momentum to launch a new TLC album. Epic Records saw the opportunity, decided to release an album simultaneously, and this collaboration amplified the impact. In general marketing has changed so much. When I first started, there was no such thing as social media and print was the big thing. The dynamics of the marketing mix have completely changed. I am particularly proud of campaigns where we effectively partner with Press, which I see as a critical part of the marketing mix. I have a great consumer marketing team that constantly looks for activations designed to get people talking in a very unbiased way.

Drew: Is there another example you’d like to share?

Dating Naked is a great example. For Season 1, we released a viral video that generated more than 2 million views. What we spent on that is nominal compared to the views. So creating adjacent content that captures the pop culture zeitgeist and gets people talking is huge. For Season 2, we created an outdoor board in Hollywood that was essentially peel-off stickers. Consumers could walk up and peel for prizes, eventually revealing the two nude leads of the show. I like the stuff that gets people talking.

Drew: My book The CMO’s Periodic Table covers 64 elements of marketing but there is one element that I know I haven’t really covered very well, and that’s PR. Could you talk a little bit more about the role that PR plays in your business, and how you make sure that your marketing is buzz-worthy and press-worthy?

Since the beginning of my career I’ve always considered Press part of the marketing mix. We can’t survive without our amazing Press team, which reports directly to our President, Chris McCarthy. Press is equally as important as paid media, social and on-air. So there is never an instance where we’re not walking hands-in-hand with the press team, regardless of where it lives in the organization. Extending the overall strategy via press not only on the consumer side, but also the trade side as well is crucial.

When you’re evaluating a potential marketing campaign, do you compare them based on how much press one might get over the other?

Well, I think we all do that. We look at a number of factors and prioritize launches. In terms of press, some shows are stickier than others. But that’s why our press team is really good at what they do. They figure out the starting point and ask the right questions – what do I have to work with? They look at everything–the actual concept of the show, the talent, our marketing plans, etc. Then they figure out how to create excitement.

Drew: It’s got to be easier to get press for VH1 than it would be for Coke. Are there some lessons that you think that someone outside the entertainment space could draw from your experience at the VH1 in terms of getting press coverage?

I’ve had projects where it’s easy to get press, and I’ve had projects where it’s difficult to get press. It really depends. I’ve marketed carbonated beverages, dish liquid, and cell phones. I’ve gone from selling tangible products to intangible content. It varies on a project-by-project basis. In terms of press as a crucial part of the overall marketing mix, I think it’s important to customize pitches to verticals. Our VH1 press team is extremely good at this. What you pitch to a Fast Company is different than what you might pitch to Billboard, and different than what you might pitch to The Wendy Williams Show. And I don’t always feel like the brand needs to lead the story. It could be a pitch to the New York Times about adult millennials, for example. And if we’re just referenced in the article, that works for me too. Because that means we’re perceived as being culturally connected or culturally cognizant.

Speaking of Content: The Economist

05/27/16

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If you’re a reader of The Economist, chances are you’re looking forward to the long weekend, not just for the barbecues and beer but also for the opportunity to read this week’s issue from cover to cover and maybe even finish previous editions.  Your devotion to this pub, one of the few news magazines that has weathered the digital tsunami, is grounded in a shared appreciation for insightful commentary from a very clear and consistent point-of-view.  A point-of-view that just about all news can be interpreted through an economic lens expressed via language that is sharp, sassy and to my ear, singularly British.

For content marketers, the lesson here should be obvious.  Without a distinctive brand voice, your content will drown in the 30 trillion pages of content Google indexed last year!  One way to overcome this challenge is to partner with a brand that already has a unique voice and a devoted audience.  To understand how that works, I talked to Jeff Pundyk VP of Global Integrated Content Solutions at The Economist a few months back. I’m confident you’ll find this interview worth reading before you fire up your next content program. [For more sizzling insights, join Jeff and me at the upcoming Corporate Social Media Summit in NYC June 20-21st.]

Drew: This may seem like a weird question for a content creation company, but do you have a content strategy for marketing The Economist beyond publishing a magazine and ezine? 

Our content strategy is simple and basically unchanged since the publication was founded in 1843 — serve the reader first. That’s true whether we’re doing print, film, digital, social, our aps or VR. That may sound obvious, but these days it’s not. Today as the media landscape morphs and as more and more alternatives to media companies emerge — and as the lines between content and marketing blur — readers don’t know who to trust.  We build trust and credibility by putting our readers’ interests above our own, by being fully transparent about our commercial relationships, by having a deep understanding of who our audience is and how to serve them uniquely.

Drew:  Years ago I used to attend lots of Economist events and they were always excellent. Many times these were centered around a new research study which today would be touted under the content marketing umbrella.   Do you still do a lot of events & studies and are these integrated into your overall content creation strategy?

Yes, we do many events and we continue to create sponsored content for our clients.  As the traditional advertising business declines, both of these are important services we can provide for our clients.   Happily, our readers are very open to the proposition of connecting to our clients through original content — whether that be an event, digital media, or an old-school report — because we have earned their trust and do not violate it.

Drew: With seemingly every brand thinking they need to be in the content creation business, where does that leave a long-time quality content creator like The Economist?

It’s never been a better time to be a company that makes quality content for a quality, global audience.  Given all the companies creating content, the question is how do you rise about the noise.  Our answer is by creating high-quality work that connects with our audience in ways that nobody else can match.

Drew: I read recently that Meredith made a deal with Georgia Pacific to create a lot of that brand’s content.  Are you looking at similar arrangements with marketers?

Yes, we have many clients for whom we create content, and have being doing so for a long time.  Some are traditional research programs like you remember and others are more innovative digital projects.  Our most well known is probably the program we do with GE, called Look ahead.  It’s a three-year program.  We create content for this program every day.  The content is not about GE but is about topics that GE is associated with — Transportation, Health, Advanced Manufacturing and Energy.  It is sponsored content created by a dedicated team of journalists who are separate from Economist journalists.  See it here: http://gelookahead.economist.com/

Drew: As a publisher, you know only to well how costly it is to create really high quality content and then build an audience for that content.  Do brands really have a chance at getting this done right?

It doesn’t have to be expensive to get started and to start learning what works for you and for your audience.  There’s lots of ways to do small, smart experiments that will inform your bigger decisions.  Frankly, there is no alternative.  The people you are trying to reach  have clearly moved beyond the old school marketing-communications tactics.  If you don’t find new ways to engage, they will  get what they need somewhere else.  There’s no shortage of choices.

Drew: What are the most common mistakes you are seeing brands make in the area of content marketing?

 There’s a few simple questions anybody creating content should be able to answer:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What are you trying to get them to do?
  • How will you reach them?
  • What can you tell them that is distinctive, relevent to them and credible coming from you?
  • What does success look like?

Before you start pumping out content, take the time to answer them.

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