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

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.

B2B Branding 101: The Book That Wasn’t

02/4/15

flowersI wrote this chapter for a potential book on B2B marketing.  Just before the deal was to be struck, my potential co-author and I decided it wasn’t the book either of us wanted to write. That said, if you are in need of a basic primer on B2B branding, the chapter below should be helpful.  If it isn’t, be sure to let me know why!  

Why brand matters

Without a clear brand, your business will be lost in the herd.  It’s that simple. Ranchers in the old west used branding irons that burned what we would now call a logo into their cattle.  Initially meant to identify lost or stolen livestock, these brands evolved into a powerful means of differentiation especially as some marks became associated with superior quality thus yielding higher returns in the marketplace. These days, branding done right goes well beyond a logo, impacting all aspects of your business.  This chapter will help you build the foundation for your brand around a meaningful and differentiating brand promise that you can burn into the fabric of your organization and subsequent marketing activities.

Seeking your brand promise

The key word here is promise.  A promise is a commitment that builds trust.  A promise delivered over and over again is what creates brand value.  Think about the businesses that you regularly do business with–what is their promise to you? Are they promising to deliver your packages on-time like FedEx or aiming higher like American Express that wants to help grow your business?  A promise can be basic like a low price guarantee or profound like helping the environment.  Regardless, a business without a clearly defined promise is a ship without a rudder.

Asking employees for input

Finding THE brand promise for your business is a journey and like most, begins at home, in this case with your employees.  Talk to them, not just those involved in marketing, but to all of them, or at least as many as you can.  Here’s a short list of questions to start the conversation:

  • Why do you come to work everyday?
  • What do you like most about working here?
  • What do you tell your friends about the company?
  • Would you recommend to your friends that they work here?
  • If so, why?  If not, why not?
  • Do you recommend our company to your friends who might need our services?
  • If so, why?  If not, why not?
  • If we could fix one thing about the company, what would it be?

The beauty of this research is that not only will it yield terrific insights but also it will instantly improve morale as employees recognize you value their opinions.  If you have a small company, conducting these interviews in person is ideal as it will allow you to dig deeper during the conversation.  If your company is too large or geographically dispersed to conduct the interviews in person, online video chat sessions can accomplish the same thing.  If and only if morale is poor then you may want to conduct these interviews anonymously via an online survey using a service like SurveyMonkey.

Tip: Finding a brand promise can be a nuanced affair in which an off-handed remark can lead to a brilliant conclusion.  This is why we recommend doing this research in a qualitative fashion (i.e. via interviews) instead of using quantitative techniques like questionnaires and surveys.  This doesn’t mean that more scientific research can’t ultimately play a role.  We just wouldn’t start there. 

Talking to your customers

Now that you know what your employees think, it will be a good idea to have the same kinds of conversations with your customers.  These conversations can be a bit tricky since your customers might not be totally truthful with you, perhaps not wanting to hurt your feelings.  As such, it may be necessary to engage an independent third party to conduct the interviews.

Tip: You don’t necessarily have to engage an expensive research firm to do your customer interviews.  Maybe you have an outside accountant who knows enough about your business to conduct the interviews.  Or perhaps you have a trusted vendor who wouldn’t mind making these calls on your behalf.  Once you have identified the interviewer, then you will need to cajole your clients to participate which you can position as an important means of improving your service to them.

Brand promise research among customers has other pitfalls.  As Henry Ford so wisely said, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” Crafting an interview that explores their current needs and wants is relatively easy.  Figuring out from that a promise that features a car, not a faster horse is the challenging part.

Here are some questions that should yield the necessary baseline information:

  • Why do you do business with our company?
  • Have you ever recommended our company? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Would you want a beloved relative to work for our company? If so, why?
  • What would you tell your peers about our company?
  • If you use other companies like ours, what sets us apart if anything?
  • If you were to leave your current company and go to work somewhere else, would you bring us with you?  If so, why? If not, why not?
  • If our company were an animal (or car), what would we be?

Remember: This is not quantitative research in which the majority opinion carries the most weight.  What you are looking for are veins of truth you can mine for a rich promise like the passion a particular customer may have about your staff or a smile you saw on someone’s face when your product helps them solve a previously daunting challenge.  Sticking with the mining metaphor, the goal here is to find a shimmering solitary multi-carrot diamond not mountains of monotonous coal.

Tossing out the obvious product benefits

Having now talked with both your employees and customers, its time to start drilling down into brand promises that stem from the basic truths about your business.  Let’s say you’re an accounting firm with happy employees and satisfied customers. The most basic level of brand promise would be something like, “our dedicated employees promise to do your accounting accurately.”  A good start but hardly groundbreaking, right?  It is important to recognize the expected benefits of your product or service and then move on to higher ground that ultimately differentiate your brand.

Assessing the rational components of your brand promise

When seeking your brand promise take a look at all of the things that might make you stand out on a rational basis.  Do you have an area of specialty?  Are you the best in your city, county or state at something?  Is your product superior to your competition in one or more ways?  Typically these rational distinctions fall into two areas, superiority in performance and superiority in value.  The trick here is to define performance and value in ways that work for your business.  Going back to our accounting firm, perhaps they are based in Buffalo, New York and have a lower cost basis than New York City firms.  Now their promise could evolve into “our highly trained employees promise to give you NYC quality accounting services at Buffalo prices.”

Seeking out the emotional high ground

Thus far, we’ve assumed that all business decisions are rational which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Even though business professionals pride themselves in having disciplined vendor selection processes, more than 60% of these purchase decisions are based on irrational hunches.  The most common of these is, “I just liked them better.”  Trust plays a huge role in this process, which also helps explain why the lowest bidder in competitive reviews only wins a modest percentage of the time.  Finding the emotional high ground requires going back to your employee and customer interviews and identifying the irrational components that distinguish your company.  Turns out, our accounting firm had a habit of going one step beyond any client request engendering unsurpassed client loyalty yielding a new promise, “our relentlessly dedicated employees promise to treat your business like it is their business.”

Why Kidzania is Marketing Nirvana & More w Cammie Dunaway

02/2/15

Cammie Dunaway_KidzaniaBefore Cammie Dunaway became the CMO of Kidzania, she was Head of Marketing at Nintendo; so it’s safe to say she understands what kids like. She’s also quite talented when it comes to marketing, helping to expand Kidzania from a predominately local company with only seven locations to a global operation with 16 locations across the world, and nine more under development.

During this period of rapid growth, Cammie’s secret weapon has been her peer network, which served as a sounding board for her new global marketing initiatives. This willingness to connect with other CMOs not only helped her stay on top of a rapidly growing brand, it also helped her win a President’s Circle award at this year’s CMO Awards, sponsored by The CMO Club.

Drew: You were the head of marketing at Yahoo and Nintendo before joining KidZania in 2010. What are the most notable differences between marketing a giant corporation and marketing a smaller, more experimental venture?

Whether the company is large or small the role of marketing is to deliver profitable growth by understanding your consumers and delighting them with your product or service. At Y! we provided content and services that made our users lives easier. At Nintendo we made it possible for everyone from gamers to grandmas to enjoy video games. At KidZania we are empowering kids and training them for future success. Small companies tend to move more quickly and limited resources make you sweat each decision a little more, but the challenges of being relevant to consumers and accountable for financial results are really the same.

Drew: KidZania has plans to expand into the United States in the next few years. How has having such ambitious growth plans impacted your role as CMO?

The expansion of KidZania is truly exciting. When I started we had 7 locations, currently we have 16 open and 9 additional under development. The diversity of cultures and norms from Mumbai to Sao Paulo to Seoul creates some unique marketing challenges. Fortunately we see that parents everywhere want to equip their children for future success and kids everywhere love learning through role-play. I really think the US market is ready for KidZania’s unique blend of education and entertainment and I can’t wait to bring it to our kids. Being able to travel around the world as CMO has given me lots of great ideas for what we can do in the US. I want to take the best practices from all of our KidZania’s and create an amazing experience here.

Drew: Can you talk a little bit about KidZania branding and how that extends to employee titles and roles? While you are at, feel free to talk about your efforts to get the entire company engaged?

Story is at the heart of everything we do. We believe that KidZania exists because kids were frustrated with how adults were running the world and decided to create their own city to practice for the day they will take over from us and improve things. We bring this story to life in all aspects of our business from our titles (I am a Minister of Communication and a Governor not a CMO and President!) We have a national anthem, monuments, our own special language and holidays. Infusing this into our culture starts with hiring practices – we have to hire people who really like kids! Then we constantly reinforce the culture through training and our daily practices. Everyone from the CEO down spends time in the facilities working with the kids. If employees are having fun and constantly learning then they will be fulfilling our mission to empower kids.

Drew: What role does social media play in your marketing efforts? Are there any networks that are working better for your brand than others?

Social media is huge for us. KidZania is really a marketer’s nirvana. We have a great experience that our guests want to share with their networks. We just need to ignite the spark. Our marketers spend a lot of time creating interesting content and interacting with our fans. The most effective networks vary by country. For example in Kuwait Instagram is the most important while in Chile it is You Tube. Facebook, however, is pretty consistently important across the globe.

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

As a CMO you have to spend a tremendous amount of time partnering with your peers. You really need to find a way to bring the voice of your customer into the conversation so that you can impact parts of the experience that lie outside your direct control. I sometimes have to remind people internally that we don’t need to just rely on our own perspectives. If in doubt ask the kids. We have a kid’s CongreZZ in each KidZania. It is essentially a group of children chosen annually that help us stay current and provide feedback on our experience. As long as I am channeling them, I am usually able to move us in the right direction.

Drew: Loyalty programs can be tough to get off the ground. If you have one in place, can you describe the program and talking about the costs/benefits of the program?

Our loyalty program, called B·KidZanian, is one our most powerful marketing tools. Our CEO recognized that the investment, which was quite significant for a company of our size, would provide benefits both in more deeply engaging our kids and in developing an efficient new marketing channel. In our program, kids become Citizens of KidZania and receive a passport and stamps for the different activities that they do. The more often they visit and the more they participate, the more privileges they receive. Parents opt into the program and receive very personal communication about their children’s activities and offers geared to their unique interests. We have been able to demonstrate a measurable lift in visits and spending among our members and, most important, kids love the program.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to your ability to do your job well? Can you describe an instance in the past year when your peer network helped you?

Wow, I can’t imagine doing my job without my peer network. I think most CMOs are very relationship oriented and yet within our companies the job can be pretty lonely. You want to always project a sense of confidence and yet with all the changes in marketing over the past decade you can’t possibly know everything. I use my peer network for supplier recommendations, talent management, and most importantly for honest conversations about challenges that I am facing. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t either ask for help or give help to a peer.

Why CSR is Good for Business w/ Tom Santora of Omni Hotels & Resorts

01/28/15

Southern Utah Montana footballNo one denies that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a noble endeavor, but even staunch supporters will admit that it can be difficult to justify from a business perspective. Tom Santora, a recent Social Responsibility award winner at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards, challenges that notion. As the CMO of Omni Hotels and Resorts, Tom has managed to turn corporate responsibility into big business, and helped build the largest LEED gold certified hotel outside of Las Vegas.

During my interview with Tom, he explained why CSR is good for business. He believes that marketing executives should “find CSR programs and initiatives that aren’t just good for the community, but are good for your business too. That makes it easy to justify the investment, and makes the efforts seem more genuine and sincere, as well.”

Drew: How have you approached Corporate Social Responsibility?  Do you have a distinct set of metrics for CSR (vs. product sales) that help rationalize these investments?

Sustainability is central to Omni Hotel & Resorts’ entire business – from operations to procurement to architecture to construction. For example, our two newest builds, the Omni Nashville Hotel and Omni Dallas Hotel, are LEED Silver and LEED Gold certified respectively. Our goal is for all future new builds to become LEED certified.

While this is a tremendous achievement for both Nashville and Dallas, earning Gold certification for the Omni Dallas was particularly notable. With 1,001 guest rooms and 110,000 square feet of meeting space, the Omni Dallas Hotel is the largest LEED Gold certified hotel outside of Las Vegas, and one of the only LEED Gold hotels in Texas. We are extremely proud to be able to say this.

Achieving LEED Gold status required careful planning and a disciplined approach to design and development. We worked with recycled and regionally-sourced materials, incorporated significant natural day lighting into our design, implemented a keycard-based guestroom energy management system, utilized construction process to significantly reduce construction pollution and rolled out a number of water conservation initiatives. Omni Dallas Hotel’s dining venue, Texas Spice, is even a certified Green Restaurant – two stars. Plus, the housekeeping associates collect unused soap to donate to the Global Soap Project.

We also are finding other ways to minimize our carbon footprint. We are increasing local and organic dining options by partnering with local farmers, growers and seafood purveyors, as well as sourcing – and in some cases producing our own – environmentally preferred products. In addition, we are engaging our employees and guests in conservation efforts. For example, each Select Guest loyalty club member is invited to select “Eco-Friendly Services” in his/her guest profile, indicating whether bed linens and towels should be changed only when requested. By giving our guests the option to re-use items that would normally be laundered in-between uses, we can reduce water, chemical, and energy use.

Obviously, there are long-term operational cost benefits to building properties that consume fewer natural resources. This is one of our ways we rationalize our investments. But we also analyze guest feedback from Medallia to pinpoint how sustainability practices directly influence guest favorability and loyalty.

Drew: CSR activities are often handled outside of the marketing team’s purview yet the hope is that these activities will provide a positive halo for product sales.  What is your role related to CSR and are there some initiatives that you think have been particularly effective? 

As a smaller, privately held company, we are very nimble and communicate well across channels. As a result, I am usually involved in our CSR initiatives from the outset – particularly if they have the potential to benefit the guest experience and/or our brand reputation.

While our construction and development initiatives naturally fall outside the scope of my role as CMO, I often collaborate with that team to provide input on aspects of the design and development that will make Omni Hotels & Resorts more marketable to customers. For example, many large associations and groups seek venues or destinations that meet specific sustainability requirements. Naturally, our LEED Silver and Gold certified properties are extremely marketable to those groups.  In fact, we have secured business solely because we have a LEED Gold certified hotel in Dallas.

Drew: How do you make sure that your CSR initiatives come across as a sincere commitment to doing good versus being self-promotional? What advice would you give to fellow CMO’s who are just getting started on CSR programs?

We are fortunate in that our sustainability initiatives are not just good for our brand reputation; they make good business sense too. As I mentioned earlier, there are long-term operational cost benefits to building properties that consume fewer natural resources. We would utilize these practices whether or not they were marketable for our company.

These practices also deliver guest experiential benefits, making them even more appealing to our company. One of our core brand attributes is providing hotel properties that are unique and authentic to their local markets. By using building and design materials that are indigenous to the local region and providing culinary creations based on locally sourced ingredients, we can cater a true local experience.. It’s what makes us special and it’s what guests look forward to when staying with Omni.

My advice to other CMOs is this:  find CSR programs and initiatives that aren’t just good for the community, but are good for your business too. That makes it easy to justify the investment, and makes the efforts seem more genuine and sincere, as well.

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

I’m sure I’m not that much different than other CMOs. I am a veracious reader and have an insatiable intellectual curiosity spend a lot of time educating myself through a variety of news sources to find out what is going on in the digital marketing space and what is new and exciting in the marketplace. When I come across something truly unique, I try to find out as much as possible about it – what the planning process was for making it happen; how the idea was inspired; what similar programs have happened in the past; etc.

On a more tangible level, some good sources I would recommend for this information include: The New York Times; DigiDay Publishing; The Hub’s Daily Roundup; Retail Online Integration Report; and of course the new CMO Solutions Clubhouse!

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

Our website, omnihotels.com continues to be our strongest platform for hosting material and providing guests with useful information such as culinary recipes, special packages, photos and other details about our properties and destinations. To enhance that service, we recently rolled out a new website that has a complete new look and feel.  We implemented response design which creates a seamless experience for our guest regardless of the device they are using.  Based on early customer feedback, it has been enthusiastically well received by travelers and we’ve seen traffic, booking and sales increase at a double digit pace in just 90 days.

Drew: What have your experiences with mobile marketing been to date? What’s working for you? What’s not? What challenges have you faced in optimizing your mobile marketing efforts?

With the proliferation of mobile devices, it’s not only important to have a responsive designed website, but also ensure its adaptive based on mobile designed sites. More and more consumers are researching and booking using their mobile devices. We are serving up this experience to reach consumers where they are booking. Our mobile is a channel showing great promise and needs to be continuously optimized.  We offer the full range of mobile capabilities you’d expect for guests booking accommodations, as well as those who already have a reservation and are checking in.

Drew:  I noticed you have a loyalty program for customers and one for event planners. Can you talk a bit about the challenges & benefits of having target specific programs?  

Our Select Guest program has been an important loyalty driver for us for years, and we have the benefit of guest and event planner insights gathered through the program for more than two decades. In fact, it was the data we collected as part of our loyalty program that inspired us to move to a combined reward-based (e.g., earn free room nights based on your number of stays) and perk-based system (e.g., complimentary Wi-Fi, free water, shoe shines, etc.).

Having this combined platform (versus offering simply a points-based program) allowed us to develop robust, meaningful and long-term relationships with our guests, who are making higher-cost, more “considered” purchases. Offering a wide array of benefits is beneficial as it helps constantly remind members of how much we value our members – every time they log in to Wi-Fi for free, grab a complimentary bottle of water or shine their shoes before heading out to an important meeting.

Select Guest, our outward facing loyalty program, and Select Rewards, our meeting planner loyalty program are very targeted to their audiences – and there is not a challenge to having two specific programs. In fact, having both positively affected the bottom line.

Meeting planners can sign up for both Select Guest and Select Rewards. Therefore, they can enjoy the benefits of both. The key differentiator is Select Rewards not only provides benefits to our planners as it relates to their jobs/events/etc., but also their companies. When they book a qualified meeting with us, they may choose from a variety of rewards like gift cards, master account credits, professional development or even a charitable donation.

Making Meaningful Connections w/ Heather Newman of Content Panda

01/19/15

Heather Newman_Content PandaHeather Newman, EVP & CMO of Content Panda, knows how to work a connection. In fact, Heather and her team are so willing to reach out to others that Content Panda’s entire business model is based off of partnering with enterprise businesses. As you will see in the interview below, her enthusiasm to network means she’s an ardent supporter for building a personal brand­—whether you’re looking for a new job or not. Overall, her willingness to run everything from ideas to entire pricing models by her peers isn’t just a major asset for Content Panda; it also helped her win a President’s Circle award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards.

Drew: How did founding and serving as CEO and CMO of Creative Maven for nearly ten years help prepare you for your current venture as a co-founder and CMO of Content Panda?

It’s been an incredible journey.  My time as a full time employee on the original Microsoft SharePoint marketing team led directly to my work with Creative Maven.  At Creative Maven, I worked with clients back at Microsoft to originate the concept of the “theatre” demo area and other innovations in hundreds of tradeshows/events.  We also produced the first ever SharePoint Conference, which led to amazing connections and partnerships in that ecosystem.  My current work with Content Panda (where I am partnered with one of the original release managers for SharePoint, by the way) is the culmination of the last 15 years of understanding partner and third party needs within the Microsoft culture.  I am thrilled to be bringing much needed solutions to the marketplace with Content Panda.

Drew: Content Panda Professional is launching soon. How are you marketing this premium version of your software to users who currently use the free version? 

We are building a campaign to reach out to current customers via email and direct call downs.  The pro version is all about the ability to customize and viewing usage reporting data.  It appeals to Enterprise businesses who have SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 SharePoint Online deployments and want to go from our freemium version into a richer experience for their employees.

Drew: What role does social media play in your marketing efforts? Are there any networks or platforms that are working better for your brand than others?

Social media plays are massively important in our overall efforts to promote impactful thought leadership articles, podcasts, product reviews and brand recognition.  We use Hootsuite to schedule out tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts.  I love being able to schedule repeatable posts out 2 months out.  I’m looking at Buffer right now as well.

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

I drop into my twitter feed and LinkedIn to stay up on what’s in the marketplace once a day.  I love Gizmodo, Tech Crunch, GeekWire, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. I read all of those pretty regularly.  I also find an awesome amount of great ideas and articles by being on the newsletter lists and Twitter feeds of all of our CMOs and their companies.

Drew: Can you describe your primary content marketing initiatives this year and how they benefited your company? 

Since we are a B2B software company we spend our time creating content around building out use cases and video scripts.  We will continue to spend money on creating video demos, product specific downloadable items from our website and thought leadership pieces for our blog going into 2015.

Drew: Do you think it is important to spend time on your personal brand and if so, how do you do this without being in conflict with your organizational goals?

Absolutely, no matter what you are doing, one should always be looking for your next job or project. With all the uncertainty in the job market, spending 30 minutes a day on your own brand is an absolute must. I think the larger the corporation you are with the harder this can be though. Putting yourself out there and being thought of as a bit of a superstar can stir up a ton of politics and jealousy.  I think discussing personal brand with one’s team and leadership is the way to stay out of conflict.  You can easily make “personal brand” into a campaign/initiative that everyone participates in.  This can be simply ensuring that there is consistency on LinkedIn around how you all describe your company.  That alone can start the conversation and lead the way for everyone to participate.

Drew: What advice do you give to junior marketers when they ask about ways to manage their careers?

Join. Read. Network. Be a part. Don’t be afraid.  Through our careers, Most of us will have terrible managers & poor leadership, so you have to really DIY on guiding your own career and how you feel about your worth/work.  I would always say toot your horn, be confident, know that you do know what are talking about (most people fake it most of the time anyway and are afraid someone will figure out they don’t know as much as they do). Join marketing or other social groups to build your tribe, read books by Brene Brown, The Heath Brothers and Al Ries and participate in social media voraciously (watch the SnapChat).  Don’t stay in a job if a manager treats you badly, there are lots of opportunities out there for great people.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to your ability to do your job well? (explain benefits) Can you describe an instance in the past year when your peer network helped you?

Having a strong peer network is how the movers and shakers of this world get to be at the top.  I reach out all the time to colleagues to run ideas, pricing models, content by them and they do the same with me.  This is so important whether you are in startup land or the corporate world.  I left a company last April and the first thing I did is reach out to my close colleagues in my industry and to CMOs in the club.  My transition was quick to working with amazing colleagues at IT Unity.com as their CMO and also being able to really dive into driving the launch of my start-up, Content Panda’s first product. Peers should be there for you just like friends to celebrate with you when you rock it and to support you when things go sideways.  That person you need in that one moment should already be a colleague.  Ever job or project I’ve landed in the past 20 years has been through a peer or friend.

The Right Spirit of CSR w Patrón’s CMO Lee Applbaum

12/31/14

Lee Applbaum_PatronStick with me here as I drift back momentarily to one of the more profound books I remember from high school–Murder in the Cathedral. In T.S. Eliot’s classic, the protagonist Thomas Becket contemplates martyrdom and the possibility that just thinking about becoming a saint could disqualify him.  I believe that brands walk a similarly fine line with their Corporate Social Responsibility activities–it’s a great idea to do these things but celebrating them too loudly comes with some risk.  One person who clearly gets this conundrum is Lee Applbaum, CMO of Patrón Spirits.  When asked about CSR, Lee is very careful not to over sanctify Patrón’s activities and instead shares them with a matter of factness that is simply refreshing.  At the close of this two-part interview (check out Part 1 of this interview), you will get a sneak peak into Lee’s plans for 2015, which include a keen desire not to “eff it up!”  My guess? He has a really really good shot at it.

Drew: Let’s talk a little bit about corporate social responsibility. I know that as an industry you self-regulate and dedicate a certain amount of space and time to the “drink responsibly” message. What are you doing in the CSR area that goes beyond a “drink responsibly” message?

Obviously we do largely self-regulate and actually, being new to this industry, I’ve been incredibly impressed by the level of self-policing that goes on. I think for the most part, especially in the ultra-premium segment, you’ve more sophisticated companies, more sophisticated marketers, bigger brands that have a lot to lose. I think we always err on the side of doing the right thing, responsibly.

But I think one of the areas that we do a poor job communicating is in the sustainability space. Making alcohol, it does produce carbon dioxide—it’s a natural by-product from Mother Nature’s fermentation process. Nobody is going to tell you that’s not the case. But one thing that we turned up the dial on this this year that I am really proud of is our water ozonation and compost program.

One of the things that comes as a byproduct of making tequila is oxygen deficient water, basically waste water. If you take that water and you just pour it into a river, it has this nasty tendency to kill everything because nothing can breathe. Rather than doing that, we actually worked with a company that developed a water ozonation system for India that’s traditionally used for very serious water treatment issues. But we use this system in a proprietary manner to re-ozonate our wastewater.

When you make tequila and crush the agave plant to extract the juice, what you get is this fiber. We decided to take our re-ozonated wastewater and add it to immense amounts of this fiber and compost it. We compost it under hectares of these beautifully white, billowy tents that are like two stories high. And then we take this compost, which is some of the finest, most oxygen rich compost in the world. And we give it away to local farmers, not only agave growers, but the men and women who locally farm in the area. All of that is done without PR, under the radar. We just do it because it’s the right thing.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that the land that we work, our most precious asset other than our people, will endure. And that’s really important to us. I don’t want to stand here and tell you that we get a halo and wings, because making tequila does emit carbon dioxide, my toilet still has a lot of water when it flushes and we don’t have solar power all over the place, but we do do our part to make sure that we’re ecologically responsible in the way we make our tequila.

Drew: What you’re talking about is interesting to me because I think a lot of companies do struggle with when to talk about the good things that you do and when not to talk about them, right? As a marketer, when do you toot your own horn and talk about the good things that you do?

I think you pick the moments. I’ll give you a practical example. We ran an ad on Earth Day and the headline was, “This Earth Day, drink responsibly.” It was not only about the fact that every day we want to encourage you consume it responsibly, but to remind consumers that our bottles are made with recycled glass. This refers to all of our core tequila bottles, which is a vast majority of our sales volume.

I think if we had just made wide-open statements about what great global citizens we are, it could have been problematic. Instead, we were very focused on the couple of things that we do really, really well and that we are immensely proud of. It’s funny because we’re this big brand with a lot of cache and swagger, but when it comes to some of the charitable things that we do, we just are always very quiet and very humble. There is an immense amount of humility. And I think people appreciate that about us, even if it’s not conscious.

Drew: What’s on your wish list for accomplishments in 2015?

I think we still have a task in front of us, which is continuing to drive home the handcrafted artisanal nature of all of our products. It’s funny, we have these consumers who say, “Oh, it’s so cool that you’re making this handcrafted tequila.” And we respond, “Hold on a second, all of our tequila is handcrafted. Roca is one that is just hyper handcrafted.” But we’ve got to continue to drive that message.

The innovation group in our company reports into me and I challenge them to not just come up with product for product’s sake, but to reimagine artisanal tequila and what it could. We’ve got some really special limited edition stuff that will hopefully help consumers reimagine the category.

At the end of the day, we enjoy this tremendous market share. We just got our most recent brand audit back and the numbers would be almost unbelievable if they weren’t longitudinal. Brand awareness, brand consideration, brand loyalty — they’re numbers that I’ve never seen at Coke or anywhere. And so to be quite candid with you, it’s as much about not screwing it up as anything else, because there is like 98 percent to get wrong and about 2 percent to do better. So my task is to just make sure that we do what we’re doing better. For us, it’s like “just don’t eff it up Applbaum”.

Drew: That’s hilarious. The truth is that there is a lot of hungry competitors out there that would gladly steal share. And as the leader in the category, you either compete with yourself or someone else will do it for you, right?

Oh absolutely. Our tendency as CMOs is to walk in say, “What can we change? How do I put my mark on the brand?” But I think this is really a situation where there is so much right. We continue to gain share, lead the marketplace. The brand health is at its highest it has ever been. It’s really about the emotional intelligence to say, let’s amplify what’s working, let’s refine what’s not working really well and maybe we shed the very few things that are even remotely close to broken. It’s much more about having the emotional intelligence to resist changing for the sake of change, because so much is right.

If my legacy here is just making what I inherited a little bit better, man, I am happy. That is fine by me. I don’t need to do a 180-degree pivot on this brand. That would be wrong. There are other opportunities in this company. There are other categories. And by the way, there is a whole marketing organization to shape. So those things are really where I’m spending most of my time, on your people development, organization development and design, rather than deciding how to make the next pretty tequila ad.

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