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

You Think Your Marketing Challenge is Tough

08/8/16

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 2.28.07 PMAs my daughter was heading off to Copenhagen for a semester abroad five years ago, my “cheap dad” instincts went into high gear. With visions of thousands of dollars of long-distance cellular calls on my horizon, I suggested to her that we use a free messaging app that one of our client’s at the time had introduced. Her lightning response via SMS was, “Don’t worry dad, when all my friends went overseas they used WhatsApp and I’ve already installed it.” Of course, that settled the issue. We did use WhatsApp, helping her get through a long dark Scandinavian winter and saving me a kingdom of Krone.

That first hand encounter with messaging apps also shed light on what we could call the “community effect.” The adoption of mobile messaging apps typically happens in waves of users, community by community. And scale within a community matters since their value increases with the number of friends and family that also use the same app. This helps explain why one app could be very popular in one country and almost nonexistent in another. Most of these apps grew by word of mouth, spreading from friend to friend and in some cases, daughter to father.

The “community effect” creates a remarkable marketing challenge.  How do you generate community versus one by one adoption?  Can you accelerate word of mouth with a burst of advertising?  And how do you do all of that in the face of ginormous competitors like WeChat, Messenger and WhatsApp? Well enough of the hypothetical questions, join me as I interview Scott Nelson, the North American head of Viber, a five-year-old messaging app with over 750 million users worldwide.  As you will soon see, Scott learned a lot from his recent campaign that included a unique blend of traditional media, digital ads, content and influencer marketing and he was kind enough to share it to good effect with this community.

Drew: I read that Viber launched a marketing campaign in late 2015. Can you tell me what prompted this effort?

Scott: Up until probably a few years ago we had no marketing department. As we grew our base very quickly and learned more about our users, we realized that there was a very emotional connection with our product. Our first real campaign specifically here in the US was mainly to increase awareness around Viber. We have a really good global footprint, with users all around the world, but in the US people are not as familiar with the brand. So, number one was to increase US awareness around Viber. Then, number two was what I called a reappraisal for those people that knew of Viber but didn’t know that we had several different elements in the platform. We wanted to bring them up to speed on the services we offered.

Drew: Can you say a little more about the structure of your 2015 campaign? 

Scott: We launched an outdoor advertising campaign that included the more traditional marketing and then we went deeper with a digital partnership, bringing in several different influencers to help our overall public chat platform. We aligned ourselves with well-known artists, and the likes of the Barclays Center to create live experiences within the app. We did several different things from traditional advertising elements to deeply social campaigns, so it was a pretty robust effort from September into December of 2015.

Drew: Let’s talk about metrics. Did you have a tracking study in place for awareness?

Scott: We conducted a brand connectivity study with our Spotified partnership, so we were able to get tracking information. We worked with performance media so we had a couple of different forms of brand tracking involved.

Drew: What were some of your findings?

Scott: There are a couple of different kinds of things that we looked at like how number of downloads related to awareness of the brand. When we looked at average yearly growth, we saw that our downloads had doubled, meaning we did really well when it came to actually getting people interested in downloading the app. Next, we looked at the daily active users and the monthly active users, which we call our DAU-MAU. A lot of the content that we created, and a lot of the efforts of the campaign were meant to get people coming back to the app on a daily basis. We did well on that front also.

Drew: Did you look at social media in your metric analysis?

Scott: Yes, we found that we had increases to 700% in overall brand mentions of the Viber name throughout all of social media. We saw a 20% increase in overall positive brand sentiments around Viber. We also focused heavily social media which did many things for our brand, and it was a really good learning experience since we hadn’t done much in the social media space before this campaign.

Drew: What are some of the bigger lessons you learned from this campaign?

Scott: One of the things that we’ve learned is the importance of focus. We decided it was best to narrow down to two things and do them very well, as opposed to working at five or six different goals. Then, number two is creating the right content. You’re trying to get people to come back to the service on a daily basis so you have to figure out what that right content is. Then, you have to realize that the right content for the messaging app space is different than what you create for social media or offline partnerships. Understanding the category and helping our partners create the right content that again is relevant to our user in each space is crucial.

Drew: So after getting people to download and use your app, the next step is to monetization. How is this done over at Viber?

Scott: We have two forms of monetization. One is for our Sticker Market. So you know, we have a very large sticker marketplace, and some of these are paid stickers, which is one form of monetization. Number two is Viber Out, which is a calling feature where if you have Viber and you’re calling someone with a landline, you’re charged a reduced rate.

Drew: I’m guessing more than 90% of that base is international. Even though you were focused on the US, was there any ripple effect on a global basis?

Scott: Yes, definitely. We’ve been working to create programs here in the US that will have a ripple effect into some of our larger regions around the world, namely Russia, South East Asia, India, etc.

Drew: How does Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp inform your marketing strategy?

Scott: Again, the category is rapidly growing. It’s the hot sexy category to be in right now, and I’m thankful to be a part of it. WhatsApp is gigantic, Messenger is gigantic, WeChat in China is gigantic. For a US-based service like us, we don’t have as deep a penetration as an app like Messenger or WhatsApp. So then we have to consider, “What do we do and how do we act, and what do we bring to market that might be different and useful for our consumer?” Anyhow, we are constantly brainstorming how we can be better than our competition. But at the same time, it’s all about what Viber is doing, and how we can improve our service.

Drew: You mentioned earlier that your team incorporated influencer programs into your marketing strategy; these are often very challenging for marketers to implement. Can you tell me how influencers were integrated into Viber’s wider marketing initiatives?

Scott: I’ve been working with influencer programs throughout my career, and I think ecommerce is probably one of the best blueprints of how to work with an influencer in the most authentic way. During my time at Converse, I learned how to create the right influencer program there, and have kept those lessons with me throughout my career. For me, it’s all about authenticity. Finding the right people that are authentic to whatever you’re working on, your brand, your company, etc. Our influencers came to us because they saw it as a platform where they could develop their own brand globally within the mobile messaging app space. The next step was to determine how relevant they were in popular culture. If they’re not relevant, then we don’t want them on our platform. We are more interested in people who are up-and-coming. Thirdly, our influencers needed to have large groups following their lead. That doesn’t mean they have millions of followers on Instagram, but more that they have a rabid kind of audience that paying attention to what they do. 

Drew: Is there any individual that you would point to as a success story or prototype for Viber’s influencer program?

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. YesJulz is an entertainer down in Miami, South Beach. She came onto the scene probably two years ago because she started to do some really interesting things on Snapchat. She then became known as the Snapchat darling in South Florida, eventually making a name for herself in New York and LA. She was clearly very tech savvy so we got in talks with her about Viber. At the end, she understood the platform and really loved it. She then started her public chat, and now has well over 1.2 million followers. So, we basically took her from more of a local, US influencer to someone who is now getting calls from Berlin, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, and Rio. So, YesJulz is a great example of how utilizing the Viber platform in the right way can really enhance your personal brand.

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.

Stop the Presses: TV Still Works

05/16/16

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 8.51.08 AMThe presenter spoke with a certainty of a televangelist offering a laundry list of directives to his flock. “Times have changed” he intoned and “marketers must change with it.”  “You can’t control the conversation, you have to discover the context, not try to dictate it,” he shouted. “Context is more important than content” was followed by “You are competing for attention against everything.”  Heads in the audience were nodding dutifully while I started reaching for my Buzzword Bingo playing card just in case he had more. And he did. But then he said two things that made me laugh out loud, “Only Bozos buy eyeballs” which was followed by “You don’t want to be at the airport when your ship comes in!”  Evidently, “TV is dead” and “we’re never going back.”

I laughed because it reminded me of the “Bring Out Your Dead” scene in Monty Python and the Hold Grail when an old man protests “I’m not dead yet” and John Cleese replies, “Oh yes you are, don’t be such a baby.”  Truth be told, TV spending at $42B in 2015 still represented 42% of all ad dollars. Yes, digital spending especially mobile is rapidly gaining ground but it is lunacy to suggest that TV should be thrown on the trash heap when many brands are still deploying it effectively.  Which brings me to my interview below with Tad Kittredge, who at the time was the Associate Director of Global Marketing at Burt’s Bees.

Tad KittredgeNow about to become the Director of Marketing for Clorox’s Brita juggernaut, Tad was once a strategic planner at Renegade, and one of the brightest minds to pass through our doors. He left Renegade to go to business school and has been rising through the ranks at Clorox ever since.  Read our interview below and you’ll see why.  Placing a big bet on TV for Burt’s Bees, Tad and his team saw sales triple, not just at brick and mortar stores but also online. Of course, it wasn’t just about the media, he also made sure the strategy was sound and the execution fresh. Although Tad is no evangelist, he certainly offers an inspiring yet clear-eyed perspective on real-world problem solving.

Drew: Can you give me a little bit of background on the challenge you faced with Burt’s Bees prior to your recent campaign?  

Burt’s Bees has been pioneering natural personal care for over 30 years. Our Original Beeswax Lip Balm with peppermint oil is the #1 selling sku in the category and has really become synonymous with the brand. The flip side of being a trusted icon to millions of passionate consumers, however, is that you can appear old and boring to the next generation and that’s a dangerous place to find your brand. A disruptive, new competitor entered our category and quickly attracted younger consumers. We suddenly started losing households and market share for the first time in our history. We realized that this was the wake-up call we needed to redefine our brand’s future.

Drew: You and I talked about making sure you identify the right problem before you go about solving it. For example, you mentioned that “increasing sales” is not the right starting point.  Can you talk a little bit about the process (how, why) you and your team went through to make sure you were focused on the right challenge?

A great strategy or idea always starts with asking the right question. In a world where there is so much data at our fingertips and a demand for immediate answers, I find inspiration in a quote from Albert Einstein: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Design thinking has some great tools for properly defining the problem. One of my favorites is repeatedly asking “Why?” or “How?” to ensure we’ve struck the right balance in defining a problem that it’s specific enough to focus a team but ambiguous enough to allow in creativity. In our case we had to translate “Why are we losing market share?” into “How can we drive more impulse purchases with younger consumers?”. We then found a simple insight, most consumer only know our peppermint flavored balm, that led us to our strategy and campaign idea of “Uncap Flavor”

Drew: We also talked about how product development and marketing should be in lock step.  Can you describe how product development for your lip balm line was an essential prerequisite for the new campaign?

Marketing begins and ends with the product. You can spend as much money as you want on an ad campaign but your core product or service is what the consumer builds his or her relationship around. We took the insights behind our marketing strategy and instead of just applying them to our marketing campaign, we looked at how to infuse them into our products, our packaging and even where and how we distributed our products in store and online. This led us to develop new lip balm flavors, a different naming architecture on packaging and a new sales strategy. They might be old school, but with the growth of social media, it’s even more important to ensure that you get your “4 Ps” right before driving talk and relevance online.

Drew: So now you have a new line of lip balms and this being 2015, one might assume that you put all of your marketing dollars into digital, right?  But you didn’t.  Can you talk about your media mix for this campaign?  

Again, it goes back to asking the right question and ensuring you are answering the question versus chasing a solution. Beware the marketer who starts the conversation with “We need a new digital campaign” or “We need to be on Snapchat”- you’ve already missed the most important part of that decision process. In our case the media objective became how to drive rapid awareness of our flavor variety with a seasonal product. As sexy as social media is, TV is still the best hammer to hit that nail so we started building our toolbox around it.  Of course we supported it with a full marketing mix but that became our big bet.

Drew: Wasn’t that a risky bet putting so much emphasis on TV?  Was there any evidence that TV would work or was it more a leap of faith?  

Risk is an often misunderstood concept. As any good investor knows, risk and return are often correlated. So when your growth aspirations change you need to ensure that your acceptance of risk is adequate to support those. In our case, we looked at our potential options and identified the smartest bets to best address our problem and hit our growth goals. TV was simply the smartest bet to make.

Drew: If this hadn’t worked, it might have had a negative impact on your career at least in the short term.  What emboldened you to take this risk?

There are three approaches I’ve found helpful for addressing risk. The first is to really asses the risk of doing nothing. All too often we assume the status quo looks like today, when in reality competitors will keep pushing and consumer preferences will keep shifting so the do nothing scenario is really negative or often an accelerated negative option. I call this the burning platform. Sometimes you need to look down and see your feet on fire to make jumping look a little less scary.

Second is to define a “no regrets bet”. I like to think of business choices in terms of an investment strategy. If you can make enough safe choices that act like bonds for your business, that frees you up to make a bigger bet on a risky stock. Start by identifying how much loss your business can afford to absorb in pursuit of a new growth vector and that’s probably a good starting budget.

Lastly and most importantly is to win the battle before it’s fought. Marketers need to get out of their bubble and partner with their sales counterparts to leverage bold marketing choices and secure incremental displays, distribution and merchandising programs. Meeting with a retailer and saying, “We are turning on TV for the first time in our 30 year history. How can we help you disproportionately win over those consumers in your store?” is a really compelling conversation that leads to better integration across online and offline, in-store and out-of-store execution. Ultimately that kind of Marketing-Sales collaboration helped us put a lot of incremental revenue on the board before the first ad ever aired.

Drew:  How did it all work out?  Did sales meet or exceed expectations? Did the TV impact both online and offline sales?  

We’ve been thrilled with the success of our integrated program. We’ve seen our sales growth triple in the year following the launch and Burt’s Bees is again the fastest growing lip balm in the US. Interestingly we saw our biggest lift happen online despite the heavy investment in TV. Seeing more than triple digit growth in those online channels was a very nice surprise.

Drew: Looking back on this campaign, what are the key lessons you’d share with your fellow marketers?  

First of all, a good marketing idea can become a great one when it’s integrated across all consumer touchpoints. That means looking at how to influence the product, the package, the retailer and then the marketing campaign, all behind a common, consumer-driven insight. Second, the biggest risk is often the risk of doing nothing. So don’t be afraid to swing for the fences when the right pitch comes at you. And lastly, an insatiable curiosity is a marketer’s greatest asset. Never stop asking that extra question which can unlock the answer for the team.

Storytelling is Not a Walk in the Park

05/9/16

You could say that the three of us were walking to the park, but in truth Pinky was merely along for the ride. Sitting tall in his new chariot, our Frenchie sniffed in the sights as if his ‘hood had been transformed. Hands, those most desired instruments of affection, were suddenly at cheek level, drawn in by his come hither gaze. Few were immune to his entreaties especially his fellow geriatrics who enjoyed comparing heart meds though one contrarian vigorously recommended homeopathic hawthorne with a touch of cayenne. Inured to all but attention, King Pinky was bemused. Thus began our new normal.

I offer this window into our Sunday sojourn as a reminder that a change in perspective, even one forced upon you, can open your eyes to new opportunities. Storytelling, as explained by Douwe Bergsma, Georgia Pacific’s CMO, is indeed a different way of looking at marketing communications, one that requires new processes, metrics and staff. In this last part of our interview you will find some of the fascinating details that often separate a good story from a great one concluding with three secrets to success should you want to embark on a storytelling adventure of your own.

Drew: Are your KPIs different than you would have had in a pre-storytelling era?

Douwe: On a high level, I don’t think so. We still look at brand awareness and key brand attributes and the impact it has on penetration, loyalty and ultimately our profit. We just noticed that the way we were approaching it, we were not optimally achieving our KPI. We still want to see how Brawny does with the idea of toughness and gentleness. We still want to know if our core consumers- our key target segments- still appreciate Brawny in a way that they are receiving the right value for their money, compared to their alternatives. At the highest level, it didn’t change. At the lower level, it did, because before we were single-mindedly measuring the impact of a 30-second ad on this metric. Now we look at the combined impact recognizing that at the end of the day, it’s still about driving conversion from intent to purchase.

Drew: Do marketers need to be more patient with storytelling?

Douwe: Good question, I haven’t thought about that. In the development, yes. It takes longer for a fully integrated story to develop because design plays a key role. One of the things we’ve learned is that a story needs to be holistic including the design of the brand packaging as well as the design of the products inside. One example of this is the way the Brawny giant comes to life on our packaging. And packaging, in our industry, has a longer lead-time. So in order to do it right and holistically, it takes longer to prepare and develop. In actuality, I don’t think the level of patience is different from what we used to do.

Drew: Let’s get specific. What’s your leading example of storytelling?

Douwe:  Brawny is the only brand where we have completely overhauled our packaging as well as our other touch points. We’ve developed our story frame work– the conflict is really between tough and gentle. And then the fundamental human truth is about protecting yourself and those you love.  This requires you to be understanding and open to what life throws at you, but also have the tenacity, toughness, and strength to tackle any challenge. We were inspired by a quote from Roosevelt: “speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far.” We translated that into a campaign, featuring the Brawny giant. How do you tackle and handle life’s challenges? By staying strong while continuing to be gentle as these challenges come at you. We showcase The Brawny® Man with the larger-than-life look he had in the 1970s — so there’s kind of a double meaning here  — in our campaign, which represents kind of a gentle giant, which is gentleness and strength in there.

Drew: Tell me more about your partnership with AOL.

Douwe: With AOL, we were able to develop and sponsor content that helped tell our various brand stories. For example, in Brawny®’s Everyday Giants series, we featured Khali Sweeney, who started the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit, which basically became an afterschool academic support program, where he gives kids free boxing lessons after they finished their homework. The program was for inner city kids in Detroit and every student who went through his program that’s been going on for several years now, there’s a 100 percent graduation rate and 80 percent went to college.

Drew: In a programmatic real-time world, how do you adjust to storytelling or does that play any kind of role in all of this?

Douwe: Programmatic is more into where and when and what frequency; it’s less about the content. And our storytelling predominantly focuses on the content of our communication, which closely relates to our media placement. So programmatic has not really impacted the story we’re telling, more when and where we telling it. And obviously, it allows us to find those people that are in our target audience. It allows us to find our specific audience better and faster than we normally do.

Drew: What are some of the pitfalls to be avoided?

Douwe: First and foremost, it’s very tempting to just focus on the storytelling. You first need to really focus on the story framework. Because our whole industry is so used to drafting a brief to develop an ad. Draft a brief; write a Tweet. But before you do the brief, you actually need to know your story’s framework. It’s like sending an improv artist on stage who doesn’t know what a story framework is.

Second, with storytelling there is not a single linear pass to it. You need to be very agile and experimental and embrace the mistakes and the failures you have along the way and have a very experimental mindset. You need to do a lot of trial and error and go down specific pathways to figure out what’s going to work for the brand or what doesn’t.

And last but not least, we’ve learned that you also need to make sure that you recruit and cherish the few storytellers in the building who have the passion and the talent to develop story frameworks. I discovered that there are quite a few people that have that innate balance at companies like Coca-Cola. In fact, Shari Neumann, who leads all our storytelling here at Georgia-Pacific is a former Coca-Cola person.

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