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

St. Louis Cardinals SVP Dan Farrell on Customer Experience

Photo by Sarah Conrad

Photo by Sarah Conrad

Marketing a sports team is a rather tricky affair.  Any given day the on-field performance can vary wildly.  This is especially true in baseball.  Even the best of the best win 60% of their games which in the course of 162 game season means 60 or so losses, 30 of which happened with home field advantage.  A favorite player can have a bad night which is often the case for hitters in a sport where going 1 for 3 all season is considered greatness! Compare this to the consistent experience consumers have with a typical packaged goods product and you’ll begin to have some sympathy for the sports marketer.

All that said, you won’t hear Dan Farrell, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the St. Louis Cardinals complaining.  First, he knows he’s riding, as they say, a great horse.  The Cardinals are arguably the winningest team in baseball this century with 11 playoff appearances, 4 National League pennants and 2 World Series rings. And second, he’s built his marketing around the entire customer experience at Busch Stadium rather than just the players on the field. In doing so, Dan has helped the Cardinals become the 2nd most attended home team in baseball in the last three years (behind the LA Dodgers) attracting over 3.5 millions fans the last two seasons. For these efforts, Dan also won the Customer Experience Award from The CMO Club and a chance to be interviewed by yours truly! Batter up…

Drew: Congrats on winning the Customer Experience Award.  Can you share the kinds of things you did to impact the overall customer experience in 2015?  

The Cardinals operate Busch Stadium based on the premise that attending a baseball game in our ballpark ranks as one of the premier attractions and serves as a genuine destination for millions of fans throughout the Midwest.  Our franchise draws from a very broad region, and while we recognize the value and importance of our local fans who average somewhere in the range of attending 8-10 games per year, we also draw nearly 1 million fans from outside the St Louis metro area.  Accordingly, we approach each game with the understanding that we will have fans who will be attending their first game at Busch Stadium, so we strive to consistently provide the highest quality guest experience possible.

The basics in our guest experience model are probably no different than most other entertainment venues: cleanliness, food and beverage quality and service, safe and secure atmosphere, helpful and out-going usher staff, entertaining scoreboard and fan engagement initiatives for pre-game and between innings, efficient ease of access, etc.  If we have a specialty, I believe it comes from a dedicated and very tenured staff that strive for superior customer service with a keen attention to detail.

Drew: How do you measure your customer experience?  How do you know if Cardinal fans are having a great experience? 

We conduct regular in-park surveys seeking fan feedback on a variety of topics, including guest satisfaction and ranking of our various service sectors. We monitor and track the data on a year to year basis to check for consistency. We also hold regular pre-game forums with our season ticket holders and our group leaders and we invite feedback and share information with these core groups of fans who are very important stakeholders of our product.

Drew:  A lot of studies suggest that only 1 in 10 unhappy customers will share their complaints with a brand. How do you process customer complaints and make sure that a systemic issue is not overlooked?  

We have a very active guest services department who monitor online complaints and also we encourage our game day usher and support staff to submit complaints or offer suggestions for service improvements.

Drew: Obviously on-field performance of the team has a big impact on customer satisfaction and you’ve been blessed with a great team for several years now. What have been your top marketing priorities in the last few years and how have they evolved?  

The Cardinals have made significant changes to our promotion programs over the past few seasons.  We have increased the number of in-park promotional dates, increased the amount of money we invest in the promotional giveaway items, increased the quantity and quality of items we give away, and focused our advertising to highlight the promotions, more of a “retail” strategy vs a brand-oriented campaign.

Drew: What other company do you think is doing an amazing job with CX and why?  

Kindle by Amazon; AT&T U-verse (surprising but I am impressed how they can trouble shoot a technical  issue in your system from a remote customer service location), Bank of America.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?  

Continue to learn how to monetize the digital and social media content that is so significant for a professional sports franchise.

Drilling into Content Marketing with Hu-Friedy CMO Patrick Bernardi


PBHeadShot (1)Hu-Friedy is a mouthful of a brand name which may or may not have been on the mind of Hugo Friedman when he founded his dental instrument company back in 1908. More than a century later, Hu-Friedy is a global leader in its category and yet, quite remarkably still completes 80% of the manufacturing process by hand.  According to their website, “they meticulously mold, treat, and sharpen instruments to perfection, which is why we call them artisans.”  And while their dedication to craftsmanship may be old school, their marketing is anything but.

Led by CMO Patrick Bernardi, Hu-Friedy has been on the cutting edge for some time now especially in the area of content marketing.  That’s why I was so pleased Patrick could join one of my panels at Incite’s Content Marketing Summit AND that The CMO Club recognized him with their Content Engagement Award.  Our interview below is definitely something you can sink your teeth into, helping to flesh out these bite-sized nuggets of content marketing wisdom:

  • Take a campaign approach;
  • Empathize with your target;
  • Measure more than leads & sales generated;
  • Get your employees involved;
  • Keep it simple, smiley!

Drew: What was your overall content strategy in 2015? What role does it play in your marketing mix?  

Hu-Friedy casts a wide net in terms of the functional areas of dentistry we play in, so to support our broad portfolio, we have instituted a content calendar format that we like to call the “Thud Factor.” Our approach here is that during each quarter we focus on a specific area of our business, anchor it with a significant piece of content and execute a series of integrated campaign elements to drive maximum impact.

Hu-Friedy is a world leader in dental products and instrument manufacturing, and while our brand has a tremendous amount of affinity, the fact that we sell through distribution presents certain challenges in terms of developing direct relationships with our customers. We have fantastic distribution partners, and they support us extremely well, but it really is our job to drive demand for our products. So, we have been working on getting closer to our customers over the last few years by improving our web site experience, our social media platforms, and this year we really focused on delivering utility by creating and distributing value-add content. And in terms of the marketing mix, content plays a vital role, as it is a critical part of our overall inbound marketing strategy.

Drew: What motivated you to launch the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign? Has it been successful?

Hu-Friedy has many different product lines and customer segments, but a group that has always been near and dear to our hearts are Dental Hygienists. Think about the experience you have with your own dental hygienist when you go to the dentist. Can you describe that person’s personality? What is so interesting is that these folks are all kind of described the same way. Friendly, gentle, smart, caring, fun, passionate…the list goes on. At Hu-Friedy we feel that the Dental Hygienist is really the heart of the dental practice and should be celebrated for all they do. So, that is why we created the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign – to express our gratitude and to deliver a rallying cry for this special group to celebrate one another. And it has been very successful, as we’ve had more social sharing and engagement tied back to this campaign than anything else we have done this year.

Drew: How do you measure the success of your content efforts? 

We measure success in a number of ways. First, as we are trying develop stronger and more direct relationships with our customers, data collection is very important. It has been gratifying to see how many new emails we have been able to collect this year based on engagement actions like ebook digital asset downloads and email newsletter registrations. The other success metric we look at is new members added to our online dental hygiene community, Friends of Hu-Friedy –

We have over 40,000 dental hygienists as members and our content marketing efforts are designed to deliver information to this group so that they can perform at their best clinically, in addition to how they can take care of their overall health to ensure career longevity.

Drew: So many brands have started cranking out content. How do you make sure your content really stands out from the pack? Is there such a thing as too much content?

Not sure if there is such a thing as too much content, but for sure there is such a thing as poor content. Any maybe that is really the issue, because I am a firm believer in quality over quantity as it relates to content. I say that because I know from personal experience that the second a brand “jumps the shark” by delivering content that is not relevant or valuable, then I will be more judicious in my engagement going forward. There is nothing worse than being hooked by a subject line like “the top ten things a marketer should never do,” and the come to realize the content is of limited value. So, at Hu-Friedy we ask a lot of questions to customers which informs our content creation. We also do our homework on industry trends. For example, general practice dentists are doing more and more specialty procedures themselves instead of referring those cases out. To address that trend, we developed an eBook designed specifically to deliver education on this topic.

Drew: On the topic of championing your employees, let’s talk about your Apprenticeship Program – Hu-Friedy University. This idea of taking training back to a fundamental level and creating ‘apprentices’ out of your best employees is a huge internal investment on the part of the company. What have been some of the outcomes of this project so far? With such a long-sided vision of success, how do you project that this will prepare your newest team members for future challenges?

One thing that maybe we should have realized, but didn’t, is the amount of pride this program generated internally – especially when the story got picked-up the Wall Street Journal and leading dental publications. Externally, it has played an important role in our employee recruitment efforts. But more than anything, it is an example of a brand really walking-the-walk to ensure that its’s value proposition continues well into the future. Long term, the art of instrument making is being passed to the next generation, who will then ensure that the craftsmanship of our instruments, and the high-quality reputation that our artisans have made legendary, will continue on for years to come.

Drew: Where does content rank in your marketing priorities and why?

It ranks as a very top priority. The bottom line is this – relationships are the vehicle for brand advocacy and that vehicle requires fuel in the form of value-add content, loyalty experiences and simple ways to engage with our brand.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 

Simplifying customer experiences. I am inspired here by the point of view of Margaret Malloy, who is the Global CMO for Siegel+Gale. She has stated that winning brands consistently deliver clear, useful and beautiful experiences for their customers. At the heart of this lies the concept of simplicity. An ambitious goal for sure, but one that is no longer optional for brands who want great relationships with their customers.

Gearing up for Gen Z: The #Selfie Generation?


HeadshotPattiGirardiEmailJust when you’d thought you’d wrapped your marketing minds around millennials, along comes Gen Z to really mess with your head.  Born between 1996 and 2013, the oldest part of this group is just now entering college, wreaking havoc with their multi-tasking mobile mindset and no doubt, creating huge challenges for the marketers trying to engage with them.

One such marketer is Patti Girardi, VP of Marketing with Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, a division of Compass Group that feeds the students at 270 colleges and universities across the U.S.  Patti and I got connected through Incite’s upcoming Content Marketing Summit, where we’re on a panel together. And it turns out, she’s has had serious success engaging Gen Z with content — user generated content. Based on our conversation, we might just have to call them the #selfie generation. Read on to find out why.

Drew: I read about your “Where Hungry Minds Gather” program, which was designed to address the “unique attributes of Generation Z.” Can you talk about the strategy behind this repositioning?

Chartwells’ new brand identity positions its brand for the new generation of college students, Generation Z, which is replacing the Millennials on college and university campuses. With its extreme affinity for technology, Generation Z is described by thought-leaders like the Harvard School of Public Health as “over-connected, yet under-related,” and its work suggests that brands promoting high-intensity relationships will be the key to helping prepare this generation for the future. We looked at what we do naturally to promote high-intensity relationships — our dining programs bring students together and serve as centers of academic life on campus, for example — to arrive at our new slogan, “Where Hungry Minds Gather.”

Drew: How did content marketing fit into this program?  What kinds of content did you develop to appeal to Gen Z? 

Content marketing helps us stay true to communicating with Gen Z “in their language.” This group wants a story, not a sell. So our emphasis is on developing visual content that is quirky and playful, versus a more traditional sales-oriented communication approach.

Drew:  What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in the content space?

Gen Z multi-tasks across five digital screens (versus two for Millennials). So we are always striving to tell our story consistently across multiple digital platforms.

Drew:  How do you measure the effectiveness of your content marketing activities and how have things been working?

We look at the volume of interactions (likes, shares, retweets, etc.). In some cases, we’ve been able to boost same store sales.

Drew: Is there a particular type of content that is really working well for you right now? 

Gen Z communicates in images: emoticons, emojis, video. Regardless of the platform, we emphasize visuals over text as much as possible.

Drew: How does social media fit into your content strategy?  

This group is really all about social. As the first generation that has always had social media and the Internet, this demographic does not differentiate between the two. User generated content programs are highly popular with this generation – this is the age of the selfie!

Drew:  What are the 2-3 key lessons you’ve learned when it comes to developing effective content programs?

  • Keep it short: this generation communicates in snack-size portions (when it does take the time to read).
  • Produce content that is sharable. If Gen Z isn’t sharing your brand, you don’t exist.

Networking + Blabbing w Julie Garlikov, Nuvesse Skin Therapies



If you had an advance copy of my book (hint, hint), you’d know already that Julie Garlikov is the master of making the most of “tiny budgets” having done so at Torani Foods and in her current role as VP of Marketing at Nuvesse Skin Therapies. What you wouldn’t know is that Julie nurtures her know how by maintaining a strong network of peers.  In our interview below, Julie shares some of her secrets, insights that are just part of the reason The CMO Club recognized her with its President’s Circle Award.

This interview is followed by our recent Blab on budget busting, complete with a number of great recommendations on how to cut research costs way down and when/when not to work with outside partners.  Consider this a Garlikov twofer, an efficient treat indeed!

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to doing your job well?  Can you provide a specific example of some action you took as a result of your network?  

I’ve used my peer network as a valued resource and sounding board.  Most frequently, I get tips on agencies, partners and even staffing my team.  I also run programs and ideas by my peers to see what they think of a strategy.  You really need someone else with a similar headset to push on your plans before you bring them forward.

Drew: Have there been any unexpected benefits to your networking efforts? 

I’ve made some wonderful friendships along the way.  Some of the people I initially just used as a business sounding board are now friends.  We go to lunch frequently or catch-up on all things, both personal and professional.

Drew: Making time for networking is always a challenge.  How much time do you invest in peer to peer exchanges and how do you rationalize this investment?  

I spend a few hours a week at least on these efforts.  I don’t need to rationalize the efforts anymore, as I know the value the fresh perspective gives me and my company.  I’ve created bigger ideas, found new ways to solve my problems and just been pushed into new territories.  And, the energy of connecting with a peer lifts me up and inspires me, giving me a new perspective.

Drew: Effective networks are ones in which there is a lot of give and take and some would say, start with giving and the taking will follow.  What’s your approach?  Do you keep a mental scorecard?  How do you handle the takers?  

I am always willing to help out others and don’t see the world as a scorecard or a big mental scale.  Some of my network help me more than I help them and are more mentors.  But then I mentor others that way.  I see it a bit differently and think that if you’re helpful and give the time, you’ll always find others who will do the same for you.

Redefining Success w Missy Walker, Strayer University


2885a7aAs many of my readers know, I’m a big proponent of Marketing as Service, an approach that seeks to replace polluting ads & messages with marketing that delivers genuine value.  Marketing as Service is categorized as a Noble Pursuit in my upcoming book, The CMO’s Periodic Table and is represented by my interview with John Hayes of American Express.  AmEx, by the way, has been taking this approach for years, providing small business with advice and support via a variety programs including Small Business Saturday, Open Forum and Membership Rewards.

At this point it would be fair to ask, “why are you telling me all of this Drew if not just to plug your book–again?” Well, the answer will soon be apparent as you read my interview with Missy Walker, Vice President of Brand Strategies and Communications for Strayer University.  Now in her second year at Strayer, Missy is helping the world, including Webster’s Dictionary redefine the meaning of Success, an effort that I absolutely define as Marketing as Service.  In addition to being a newsworthy idea, the program included events and even coaching services. This effort also earned Missy recognition by The CMO Club as a Rising Star at this year’s CMO Awards. Read on to find out how she got this program off the ground and more…

Drew: Can you talk about one of your marketing initiatives in 2015 that you are proudest of? 

One of the many 2015 marketing initiatives that I’m most proud of is The Success Project, a long-term initiative aimed at breaking down the perceived barriers that keep individuals from succeeding in their personal and professional lives. This is a unique campaign in a category that is riddled with cookie-cutter marketing efforts. As part of this campaign, we partnered with Steve Harvey to launch our Success Coaches and hold a Success Summit, which we produced as content for TV and our social channels; and partnered with Rainn Wilson’s company Soul Pancake to produce two inspiring video series exploring people’s views around success and what it means to them.

Additionally, we found through a commissioned survey that 90 percent of Americans define success as being happy and having a strong support network, which differs greatly from the definition in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, which focuses instead on fame and wealth as measures of success. So we’ve launched a national petition to get Merriam Webster to change their definition of success to better align with American’s values.  The results have been amazing, both in the conversations we’ve started and engagements with the brand, as well as the impact of The Success Project on all key brand metrics we track.

Drew: You’ve achieved quite a bit in a short period of time. To what do you attribute your success thus far?

I attribute my success to loving what I do, having a positive can-do attitude and a great support network. I am not the type of person who says “we can’t do that,” I will always try to find a way to do something that I think is right for the business and right for our students. I am also blessed with a supportive boss and high-performing team at the office, as well as a great husband and supportive family who take care of things on the home front when times get crazy at work.

Drew: If you were addressing a bevy of marketers at the beginning of their careers, what advice would you give them to help them reach the CMO position? 

Take your time in the early stages of your career learning the ropes. Spend time learning from those around you – both in your office and in your field. Don’t say no to any opportunities that come your way.  Learn about your customers. Talk to them. Walk a mile in their shoes and really try to understand what motivates them to choose your product above all others. Learn to love them and be their champion – even if they are nothing like you or anyone you know. Use your own product. Working to cultivate this deep understanding is one of the most important parts of your job as a marketer.

Drew: Do you have a mentor or is there a person in your career that has been particularly helpful? How important is having a mentor?

Mentors are incredibly important and I have had many invaluable mentors at different stages throughout my career. One of my first mentors allowed me to spread my wings and try out things that were uncomfortable for me as a person or a young professional. She let me make mistakes at times, but was always there to support me and teach me how to improve the next time. She really never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself at times.

Drew: As you look back on your career, what was the biggest risk you took that worked and what emboldened you to take that risk?

I’ve spent the majority of my career as a client working for large, established tech companies such as Aol and Sprint. Switching to the for-profit higher education space felt like a huge risk at the time,as many bad actors had been revealed. I decided to take the risk because of the incredible leaders I met in my initial discussions at Strayer and the sense I got that Strayer really was trying to change higher education for the better.  Making that leap was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I’ve been able to witness first-hand that Strayer is a good actor in the space with remarkable people who work tirelessly to innovate higher education to better serve our students and continue to change their lives. We work to make a difference for people in ways no previous industry I’ve worked in really has. It’s amazing to be a part of it all.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?

Strayer University is unique among other for-profit institutions. We are constantly seeking out ways to innovate the learning experience to create successful graduates that are ready to compete and thrive in the workplace. Our leaders are lifelong learners who are deeply invested in uncovering how people learn and how we can teach important skills that other institutions don’t – like grit, persistence and curiosity. Our biggest challenge in 2016 will be cutting through the noise in our space to be able to showcase our truly innovative culture and how it benefits our students.

FAQ: Blabbing About Blabs


Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 2.39.15 PMMaybe its because my late mother had a talk show in the early 70’s on a local cable channel in Newport Beach, California. Her show, Broadly Speaking, a punny name coined by my father (so you know that apple didn’t fall far from the tree,) attracted a remarkable collection of celebrated figures including Henry Kissinger and Herb Klein, both in town because of Nixon’s Western White House. Well anyway, I share this background as an explanation for why I really enjoy a new video podcasting platform called Blab. The audience may be small, as was the case with my mom’s show, but that doesn’t mean the guests and the conversations need be limited. In fact, I suspect this platform is going to be huge and I offer the following FAQ (frequently asked questions) in order to prep you for this eventuality.

What is a Blab and how do you set one up?

Think Hollywood Squares meets Facetime. Essentially anyone with a web camera, internet access and a Twitter account can set up a Blab. You can also Blab from your iPhone or Droid with the app. That part is super easy. Just visit and register. Then hit the purple “Start a new blab” button in the upper right hand corner of your screen and follow the instructions. You will need to come up with an 80-character or less name for your Blab, pick 3 topic tags and then schedule it. If you want to start right away you can or you can schedule it several weeks in advance. Important tech note—Blabs work best on Chrome.

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 12.12.28 PM



Who is on Blab now?

From my experience thus far, it’s a rather eclectic crew ranging from social media influencers to random folks who simply stumble upon the conversation. In my recent Blab with Chip Rodgers, VP of Customer Experience at Ciena we had guests from as far a field as Manchester, England and Bangalore, India. Not surprisingly, a number of social media influencers like Brian Fanzo, Bryan Kramer, Joel Comm, Ted Rubin and Tamara McCleary are early adopters of Blab and have a habit of popping in and out of each other’s sessions.

Do I have to be on camera to participate?

One of the cool things about Blabs is that watchers can ask questions via a chat stream right next to the video stream. These live questions help enhance the overall conversation and allow the camera shy to still participate. Blab has its own social universe – by that I mean you have a Blab identity that you can use to follow other Blabbers and vice versa. Another way viewers participate is by virtually clapping — there are a couple of yellow hands on the lower right corner of each person on camera — and viewers show their appreciation by clicking on these hands.

How do you manage the Blabbers if you’re the host?

Just to be clear, up to four people can be on the video portion of Blab at once and the host/moderator is in complete control of the other three. When someone wants to be on-camera, they just click one of the empty Join boxes and the host can accept them or not. At any point in the conversation the host can kick someone off camera by clicking on the X.

Are there some technical hacks to improve sound and video quality?

Joel Comm, a Blab/podcasting vet, recommends using a Yeti microphone for sound quality but I had a bit of a problem with that my first time around. It turns out, I had to reset a sound setting on Skype to prevent the microphone from jumping to full volume and thus causing all sorts of mayhem. To simplify things, I just used a Bluetooth one-eared headset and this seemed to work pretty well. On the lighting front, definitely think about having extra light sources to brighten up your face. I actually have started using some pro lights that we already had in the office for in-house photography.  And giving credit where credits due, I’m taking a cue from another master Bryan Kramer who I happened to notice uses pro lighting as well.

How do people find out about Blabs?

Once you sign up for a Blab, you will be notified about other Blabs as they are going live. Others will probably hear about it through social media. Blab is really well integrated into Twitter so during a Blab, viewers can share what they are watching on Twitter with ready made tweets that include the Twitter handles of those on camera. I suspect the audience will grow as word spreads and the quality of the content improves. [Some sessions are meatier than others!]  Also, as you collect followers within Blab, I believe these folks are directly notified about your sessions.

What if I can’t watch it live–are their recorded versions?

Every host has the option of recording their Blab session. That it is also really easy although I missed this fact on my first Blab with Bob Kraut, the former CMO of Papa John’s. Fortunately about 10 minutes into it, a friend posted on the chat stream that I should be recording it! Doing so was just a matter of clicking the Record button on the left hand side of the screen. Another thing I really like about this platform is that they make it very easy to upload your Blabs to YouTube and then from there its easy to embed these videos anywhere.  Here, for example, is my Blab with Chip Rodgers from yesterday.

When’s your next “Elements of Marketing” Blab?

You’re the best.  Thanks for asking.  I have Blabs scheduled every Monday and Friday at 2pm EST for the next couple of months with many of the folks featured in my book.  Here are links to a few of these upcoming Blabs and by the way, you can register in advance for these and you will get a reminder right before it starts:

10/16: on Tiny Budgets with Julie Garlikov of Nuvesse

10/20: on Social Media Success with Scot Safon, former CMO of The Weather Channel

10/23: on Networking with Matt Sweetwood, former President of Unique Photo

11/05: on Organizing with Stephanie Anderson, CMO of Time Warner Cable Business Class

Who is behind Blab?

The two founders Shaan Puri and Furqan Rydhan are veteran developers having worked on Bebo before selling it to AOL for $800 million. Shaan is actively involved and was kind enough to jump into my conversation with Bob Kraut. These guys also have some big money VC backers and I suspect will come out of Beta with a splash any day now.

Older Posts »

Copyright © 2015 - Drew Neisser