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

CMO Award Winner Alicia Jansen of MD Anderson

Madhur Aggarwal of SAP presents awards to Ani Matson of NEA Member Benefits and Alicia Jansen of MDAnderson Cancer Center on the far right

Madhur Aggarwal of SAP presents awards to Ani Matson of NEA Member Benefits and Alicia Jansen of MDAnderson Cancer Center on the far right

Trying to put oneself in the customer’s shoes is a noble notion expressed by many a marketer.  Remarkably, few marketers actually make this standard operating procedure and fewer still address the shortcomings revealed by such an endeavor.  But the real rarity is the customer who becomes the marketer — which is exactly the case with Alicia Jansen.  Alicia sought the job of CMO of MD Anderson Cancer Center only after having witnessed the extraordinary patient care provided to a member of her family.  And even 11 years after becoming the CMO, Alicia has never forgotten that experience or the need to stay focused on the patient.

With this bit of background, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Alicia received the CMO Officers Award from The CMO Club late last year.  This award is “based on a marketing executive’s demonstrated leadership in leading the brand beyond the marketing department and leading the growth agenda for the company,” and as you will see in our interview below, Alicia accomplished all that and then some.

Drew:  You’ve been at MD Anderson for 11 years but before that you were working at Compact. Selling computers and selling cancer treatment are pretty different things. Were you able to take any of the things that you learned at Compact and apply them to what you’ve been doing at MD Anderson?

Yes, I have. I believe that marketing is a type of job that you can apply to so many different industries.  In my opinion there are a couple of characteristics that you have to have in order to really enjoy it; one of them is that you have to be curious.  You have to be able to raise your hand and say, let me learn as much as I possibly can about this business, because in order for me to be able to market it and tell other people about it I need to know it and you can do that in any industry. I did that with computers and software and I found it very intriguing and I find the same thing at MD Anderson.  One thing about MD Anderson that I find very satisfying as a marketer is that we are doing something to help other people go through this cancer journey, and that’s very satisfying at a personal level.

I think marketers also have to be able to tell a story. They have to be able to learn what the business is about and understand who the audience is that you’re talking to so you can translate that to something that they can understand and that will move them in some way; whether it’s to move them to buy something, move them to talk about it or move them to donate. I think good marketers have the ability to tell a good story and to get others to tell the story as well, and that applies to any industry.

Drew: When you are selling cancer care, the degree of empathy and the sensitivity required is quite a bit different than when you are selling computers or software. I’m wondering how that plays in as a part of the story that you tell at MD Anderson?

My story of working at MD Anderson probably influences the way I do my job.  Many people who work for MD Anderson have similar stories.  My mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and I was the primary caregiver; I was at MD Anderson every day. I witnessed her journey and I was able to see what it is like to fight this disease. It made me a better person because I could have that empathy, whether I apply it towards everyday life or apply it to my job. It influenced me so much so that when I heard a job opening was available at MD Anderson in the marketing department I raised my hand, was hired and eventually took over the department.

That initial experience of being with my mother-in-law through her cancer journey taught me the lessons of why people go through this and what I can do to make the journey better, what I can say, what programs I can initiate, what are the things that I can help MD Anderson do better in order to make it easier on our patients and their families. I realized that this is where I need to be and that’s why I took the job. I find working here very inspiring because of the customers that I work with every day.

Drew:  How have you been able to impact the customer experience in your current role?

The patient experience to me is a passion because I experienced it with my mother-in-law and it is something that I am extremely excited about helping MD Anderson do better.  A couple of years ago we started doing market research by talking to patients and their families while they were going through the treatment here. We also spoke with members of the community to understand their needs and their expectations and how they would behave if they were faced with this decision to treat cancer. I took that information back to our leadership and said, we have a lot of patients here who feel that we do a fantastic job, but when you peel back the lemon there are a couple of things that keep surfacing and I’m seeing a few trends of some things that we could be doing better.

I truly believe that in order to be appreciated and have a seat at the table you have to be more than an order taker.  You have to offer more than the latest ad or brochure or update to the website. You have to show that you’re bringing valuable information to the table that will enhance the decision-making process and help executives and yourself be able to make better decisions in order to satisfy the customer, exceed their expectations, and run the business better.  Marketers today have to have knowledge and this goes back to being curious, knowing the business and bringing information to the table that’s going to help the business.

IBMer + CMO Maria Winans on Personal Branding


Risk taking, as you will soon learn, is an important part of Maria Winans‘ personal brand.  And funny enough, it was risk taking that lead me to her.  Truth be told, I was one of two males who dared to attend the Women’s Luncheon at IBM’s Amplify Conference, thanks to the cajoling of the peripatetic Tamara McCleary.  Leading a vibrant panel discussion on personal branding, Winans struck me as a consummate executive who somehow hadn’t lost her individuality despite 25 years at one of the largest business organizations in the world.  Curious to learn more, I weaved my way through the 300 or so ladies in attendance and almost sheepishly asked for an interview after the panel.

New Maria WinansWinans, whose title is CMO, IBM Commerce, Mobile and Social is a fellow believer in the power of AND.  She describes herself as business executive AND a mother, a friend AND a trainer,  an artist AND a boxing student.  Raised in North Carolina, she is also a first generation American AND a Latina.  Her secrets to personal branding are anything but and she is delighted to share them, especially with young women whom she hopes to inspire to overcome obstacles and do great things.

When it comes to personal branding, Winans is all about substance.  Set goals, figure out the skills required and then march forward, learning every step of the way.  Reputation, as she points out, can not be purchased.  It must be earned.  The reputation that Winans sought for herself was that of a risk-taker and innovator, one who was willing to embrace new challenges and unconventional career paths.  As this approach has clearly paid off for her, Winans encourages if not dares other women, particularly the perfectionists among them, to chose the road less traveled, to take chances and not be afraid of failure given the lessons it can offer.  With that advice, Winans certainly enters my pantheon of truly “renegade” CMOs.

Drew: I’m curious, why at the women’s luncheon at Amplify 2015 was the focus was on personal branding?

We chose that because typically these panels are more on topics like work/life balance and I wanted to focus this year on more practical advice from the successful women on the panel. I really wanted them to talk about how they’ve managed their careers. It gave us an opportunity to think about their growth, where they started and how they progressed forward in their career.   Regardless of your age or career stage, whether you are a Millennial or a Generation X or Baby Boomer, this was a topic just about everyone in the audience could relate to.

Drew: Do you think women executives need to pay particular attention to personal branding?

I think that men and women both need to. I think it’s critical for everyone to really think about how they build, how they cultivate, how they evolve their personal brand. I’m a strong believer that it is your thumbprint, is what represents you, what you believe and I think that your work in itself is another proof point of your personal brand. It’s important that you stand tall, that you really represent yourself.

Drew: Talk to me about your personal brand.

I take great pride in what I do, how I lead a team and what I stand for. I grew up in an environment of tremendous respect for my parents, for actions they took in bringing us to the U.S., for personal growth for my siblings and myself. So I came from a very strong culture of achievement and that diversity is something that you should cherish as a gift, and you should cultivate it, you should embrace it. So my whole philosophy when it came to building my career at IBM very early on was that I wanted to establish goals, I wanted to be successful, I wanted to grow my career and I knew that there’s different stages of that growth path.

Drew: How did this play out early in your career?

I came into IBM with my eyes wide open. I didn’t know if I was going to head into marketing or sales or strategy or finance. And so very early on I said to myself, I need to skill myself, find my passions and learn as much as I can.   But I also had a vision and a goal. I wanted to establish myself as a professional, I wanted to lead from the front, I wanted to become an executive and by the time I turned 40, I want to become a vice president. I had very established goals, and with that I set forward on really understanding what was it going to take for me to continue to grow in my career.

Drew: So how did you differentiate yourself?

I looked for opportunities that were about new initiatives and were about creating new businesses. I started to develop a skillset as an innovator, somebody who took risks and looked for opportunities that were different and required finding new teams and developing new skills. I cultivated that, and with that, created an environment for people to see that through my actions, that collaboration was a top priority, bright ideas were welcomed, innovation was the priority, and no idea was a bad idea.

Drew: Did your personal brand evolve?

I think a personal brand is in the way that you carry yourself as an individual in every walk of life; in your business and in your personal life. And at the same time, I’m learning every day. I don’t think a personal brand is something that you create and then never changes. I think it evolves — if your career evolves, it evolves in the type of jobs. But I think the core of who you are, your character, stays true within that. I am avid believer in the need to never stop learning. And I think when you look at strongest leaders in business most are lifelong students. They remain curious, aren’t afraid to tackle new initiatives and seek new paths forward.

Drew: It was clear at the luncheon that many women seek your advice about personal branding. What’s the first thing you tell them?

In life you can buy anything except your reputation. Your reputation can’t be bought; it has to be earned. And so protect it, live it. For example, just because your title says CMO, just because you lead a very large team, you still need to earn your leadership every day. And this is what I reinforce to people that I mentor, especially in the business, your reputation something you earn, something you work hard for and you stay true to.

Drew: Okay, what’s number two on your advice list?

I always get asked about risk-taking because I’m a risk-taker. I love innovation, I love trying new things and putting projects with people and saying to the team, ‘let’s go try it–the worst thing that can happen if it fails, is that we learn from it and we move forward.’ My biggest fear is regret. I fear looking back and saying ‘if we only had taken that chance.’ A lot of people fear risk taking, especially women, [many are] afraid to take those chances and everything has to be perfect and everything has to be T’s and I’s crossed. My message is that risk taking actually makes work and careers even more exciting.

Drew: How does IBM benefit from having employees like you with strong personal brands?

I think it goes back to a very simple truth–the strongest element of the IBM brand is the IBMer. That’s why we’re called IBMers. We have known ourselves and identified ourselves an IBMer and we’re proud to be IBMers. And so it absolutely is encouraged to go out and share whether it’s from a woman leadership perspective or the business that you’re leading especially at the executive level. This is the strongest element of our engagement strategy to the market. We have over 400,000 employees as you know, and they all are brand advocates of IBM.

Drew: Do you think there’s a point when it comes to personal branding that an individual can go too far, and how do you avoid crossing that line?

There’s always that self-promotional risk that you’re talking about yourself too much. We’ve all seen people that are self-promoters-it’s all about them, you know, their photo on everything. But I think that sometimes, we as women hold ourselves back. Sometimes we’re afraid as women that maybe we’re too visible, maybe we’re too self-promoting, we’re talking too much, we’re showing too much aggressiveness. So I encourage women to be vocal, to be ambitious, to show what they know and who they are, to promote themselves through their work and with that their personal brands.

B2B Branding 101: The Book That Wasn’t


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.”

Q+A on Programmatic with MediaMath’s Rachel Meranus



Embracing change has never been an issue for me.  Hopefully, other marketers feel the same  because marketing is about to change in a fundamental way.  The dream of putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time is about to be realized on a massive scale.  This is the 1:1 marketing idea that Don Peppers & Martha Rogers wrote about 18 years ago finally coming true.  Why am I so confident?

First, “addressable TV” is right around the corner and this means our set-top boxes will no longer be dumb terminals. Instead these devices will be smart, feeding our preferences back to broadcasters who in turn will aggregate and sell our “eyeballs” to the highest and most relevant bidder.  This is not just good for marketers.  It will also be good for consumers in that we would no longer see irrelevant ads–for me, that means no more ads for feminine hygiene or baby products when an ad for a paddle tennis racquet or a new off-Broadway show would actually be relevant.

Second, outdoor is about to become smart as digital displays receive information about us (with our permission of course!) via bluetooth or Wifi and therefore can serve relevant messages in a flash.  Third, retailers use of beacons will enable our mobile devices to receive personalized messages again on a permission basis in real-time inside or outside of their stores.  And finally, the ultimate reason you can trust this prediction is that this sort of highly targeted real-time messaging is already happening online and on our mobile devices!

Ultimately, behind all of this wizardry will be a marketing operating system like the one developed a few years ago by MediaMath, a leader in what is currently called “programmatic” marketing.  These operating systems will enable marketers to tie just about every penny of their ad spending to measurable outcomes, the ultimate dream of our soon to be transformed industry. So it is in this lofty context that I encourage you to read my extensive interview with Rachel Meranus, SVP of Marketing for MediaMath.

Drew: Can you talk a little bit about MediaMath and your growth in the last few years?
We’ve come a long way since we made industry headlines when we introduced the first demand-side platform (DSP) in 2007.  Today, we’re one of the leading change agents in the advertising industry, helping the biggest brands and agencies evolve through programmatic buying and maximize their marketing performance and ROI.  We are on the path of making marketing a software function and continuing to innovate in the industry by adding capabilities to our TerminalOne Marketing Operating System.  For example, we recently introduced closed-loop attribution functionality, in which T1 ingests attribution data to optimize the bidding and decisioning, enabling advertisers to realize the full benefits of advanced attribution in an RTB environment, and automated guaranteed deals to facilitate automated media buys that are traditionally done directly with a publisher.  We are currently developing our propriety cookieless cross-device targeting and measurement solution, and continually enhancing our data management, creative optimization, and analytics offering.

In addition to growing the scope of our technology, we are experiencing incredible human capital growth – more than doubling our number of employees in the past year and on track to do the same this year.  In June, we raised more than $175 million in additional funding; funding that will support our rapid global growth. We have put experts on the ground around the world with our recent office openings in Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, and Singapore, and in 2015, MediaMath will relocate its New York City headquarters to more than 100,000 square feet spanning three floors of the new 4 World Trade Center.

Drew: Can you give an example of a client that is doing amazing things with programmatic? 
Many of our clients – both agencies and brands – are seeing success with programmatic tactics, leveraging geo-targeting, look-alike modeling, and even building proprietary models to identify new prospects through TerminalOne.  One example of a client that is accelerating their programmatic efforts is ShopStyle by PopSugar, the social shopping and fashion website.  They were looking to leverage programmatic media to create scalable return on ad spend, with a focus on campaigns in both the middle and lower funnels.  Using our TerminalOne Marketing Operating System and working with our OPEN partner AddThis, ShopStyle was able to create more robust and scalable profiles based on user data and implement more granular targeting around behavior and contextual variables.  Additionally, utilizing FBX, ShopStyle by PopSugar was also able to expand its retargeting pool and tactics beyond traditional display.

Drew: The big media buying agencies are all over programmatic and have been for a while now.  This doesn’t seem to be case with most brands and their CMOs. Why the understanding gap and why do you think it is so important that CMOs understand the power of programmatic?
We see quite a range when it comes to a CMO’s understanding and level of sophistication with the technology.  Some jump right in and get their hands dirty. Others are treading lightly on unfamiliar territory.

Traditionally, agencies had more exposure to the ins and outs of digital media buying, but for many brands and their CMOs, they haven’t had this much control over or transparency into their digital media buying.  There is still a lot of confusion about how the technology works, but it’s critical for CMOs to understand the power of programmatic, especially when more marketing dollars are shifting to digital.

With a central marketing operating system, CMOs gain the visibility into how their money is being spent, the impact of their media buying decisions, and the ability to identify real-time opportunities with their audiences.  Furthermore, the more CMOs embrace programmatic – within their own brands or together with their agency partner – the greater opportunity they will have deploying first-party data, integrating with internal systems, and normalizing marketing across disparate media types for greater performance.

Drew: MediaMath has made a concerted effort to engage CMOs through your partnership with The CMO Club. Can you talk about your approach to this partnership?
The value of our partnership with The CMO Club is two-fold.  Firstly, we are able to learn, first-hand, from CMOs across a variety of industry verticals what is keeping them up at night.  We are able to be on the pulse of the major challenges that CMOs face, what they view as the biggest opportunities, and how they’re building out their organizations to keep up with the evolution of digital.

Secondly, the CMO Club gives us tremendous exposure to an engaged, interested audience of CMOs, allowing us to educate and inform them on programmatic marketing, which is where our expertise lies.  We’re helping them to understand how our technology applies to their broader goals and addressing the challenges that they face on a daily basis.

Drew: What’s the hardest part of trying to engage CMOs and what kinds of things are you doing to cut through?
When it comes to engaging CMOs, we look to explain why programmatic should be the basis of any digital marketing strategy and have the lion’s share of digital budgets.  This requires us to explain how the technology fits into their stack, the new or different skillsets that are needed, and the ideal team structure that should be put in place to fully take advantage of a central operating system.

However, there are steps that we’re taking to help educate CMOs about the opportunities, what they can do to maximize the return on investment in the short term – from their current digital efforts, as well as what they can put in place for the longer term.  We’re educating them through tailored content, which varies depending on their level of experience with and understanding of programmatic, case studies, and interactive training sessions.

Another way that we’re doing that is by working with brands’ agency partners who bring trading best practices, cutting-edge tools, pooled media buying, and data co-ops into the relationship.  Programmatic technology creates new roles for agencies in which they are able to leverage proprietary modeling and optimization approaches and data-driven creative services, among others.  This benefits the client outcome and that’s what has led to more CMOs having a greater interest in and understanding of programmatic.

Drew: As a B2B brand, what role does social media play in your marketing mix? 
Social media is an important part of our marketing mix, which we use to raise brand awareness, identify influencers, and engage brand advocates in a competitive space.  As a B2B brand, LinkedIn is particularly beneficial to engage influencers, seed our messages in specialized groups, and participate in timely and topical conversations.  Furthermore, as social channels expand their programmatic capabilities, we are able to leverage our partnerships with them.  For example, we use TerminalOne’s decisioning engine and data sources to power campaigns on Facebook and engage target tailored audiences on Twitter.  For these channels, we regularly leverage our original content – blog posts and research – and news to spark conversations that can generate new leads.

Drew: MediaMath recently unveiled new positioning. Talk me through what led you to make this change and some of the challenges you faced along the way.
The industry has been moving at such a quick pace, with new players emerging seemingly every day.  The industry has reached a level of sophistication in their understanding of technology and is recognizing that a complex chart of logos to represent today’s online advertising ecosystem isn’t the answer to their need for scalable marketing.  Rather, they are realizing that it’s achievable through technological unification and a flexible, open platform. Our new brand message, ‘Performance Reimagined. Marketing Reengineered,’ epitomizes both our goal-based approach to drive transformative marketing results, as well as the technology platform that powers it.

Drew: What advice would you offer a fellow marketer who was about to consider a rebranding campaign?
Evolution is inevitable, especially in the fast-changing world of digital marketing.  Therefore, when it comes to a rebranding campaign, there are a few essential steps to consider before diving in, including the need to:

  • Gauge market readiness for change and have a clear understanding of how your brand is perceived in market.  This requires research and due diligence with a brand’s key stakeholders – current employees, clients, prospects, and industry influencers, as well as having a pulse on the competition.
  • Have a clear, concise mission statement to which everything you do as part of the rebranding maps.
  • Know how this change will impact your company and prepare communication plans – internal and external – that also include a roadmap for what will happen post launch.
  •  Manage expectations.  Shifting perceptions and seeding a market with a new message takes time.
  • Agree upon the metrics by which you evaluate success on an ongoing basis and establish a feedback loop to capture reactions to the effort, including the accuracy of your mission statement.

Drew: Given that MediaMath operates in a relatively new field, do you think bringing greater awareness to the field itself is just as important as marketing MediaMath?
We do and it’s the reason why we are so bullish on our educational initiatives.  We introduced our educational arm, the New Marketing Institute (NMI), in 2012.  It’s an extension of our mission to educate, empower, and engage a new generation of digital marketing professionals, providing an educational platform and different levels of certification.  NMI’s team meets with these professionals where they are and brings our best-in-class onboarding process to them – best practices, access to a central repository of knowledge, and an understanding of the digital marketing technology in which their employers have invested.

We also recommend marketers visit our OPEN portal, which includes a Partner Marketplace, enabling them to gain clarity around the vast number of data, media and technology providers that comprise the ecosystem.  By understanding the value proposition and differentiators among partners, they are armed with the information and tools to make more informed buying decisions.

Drew: Your product is really good at helping brands track performance of their marketing dollars. How do you measure your own marketing success?
We measure our marketing success based on a number of factors, including leads generated, opportunities that can be mapped back to specific efforts, engagement with our original content (blog posts and research), how our messages resonate across social channels, and, of course, revenue.

Disclosure: I’m proud to note that Renegade created the “Train Your Brain” CMO engagement program for MediaMath. 

Why CPA is a Horrific Metric and Must Perish


Author’s note: a significantly shorter version of this post ran on today, so read on…

CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) is a monster.  In slavish devotion, 41% of businesses consider CPA their top metric (according to recent DMA study) thus making ill-advised marketing decisions that further nourish the CPA beast.  Fiendish is an understatement when you consider the hypnotic power of CPA. After all, who wouldn’t, on first blush, want to determine how much it costs to acquire customers and then figure out how to minimize these costs?

Before providing proof to this thesis and suggesting an alternative metric, let me stop and pay homage to the monster’s creator.  Thanks a lot Google.  Before your arrival, businesses had a somewhat vague notion of what it cost to acquire a customer and even if they could make these calculations, it often took weeks or months.  Now the smallest of businesses can spend a dollar via Google and just about instantaneously know if that dollar resulted in a sale.

But herein lies the true villainy.  Because CPA is so easy to calculate, especially in the case of digital media spending, business leaders have become obsessed with this number and critical decisions are made in an effort to achieve the lowest possible CPA.  This seeming no-brainer for marketing then wreaks havoc across the organization as complaints, returns and churn rates rise while lifetime customer value averages drop.

CPA is Destroying Businesses
Lest you think I’m being melodramatic, let me provide two representative real world examples with the names changed to protect the innocent.  Company A is a tech company that when it first launched a decade ago had a game changing value proposition that helped them acquire several million customers who heaped praise on their service and served as willing brand evangelists.  But in the last 2-3 years, their competitive advantage slipped and the market stopped growing.

At weekly staff meetings, “new customers acquired” was the predominant metric determining not just the mood in the room but the actions for the subsequent week.  If one media type or promotional program was achieving a lower CPA than another, then dollars were shifted accordingly.  Meanwhile, the weekly lost customer count was completely ignored even if it exceeded the newly acquired figure that particular period.

So now we get closer to the real problem with a CPA obsession.  Company A drove down its CPA by running price promotions that attracted “switchers,” those savvy seekers of special deals who abandon ship once a better deal comes along.  These folks were also the first to complain, sucking up expensive customer service time, driving down sentiment on social channels and depressing employee morale.  This particular case does not have a happy ending so let’s move on to Company B.

Company B is a young digital services company that is growing leaps and bounds thanks to a ferocious sales culture.  Dialing for dollars, the sales team calls upon prospects, offering their services with one solitary goal—close the sale.  Management and marketing are all aligned behind this singular obsession, rewarding top sellers for their efforts and spending marketing dollars on lead generation that results in the highest close rate.  And though this goes well beyond CPA as a metric, the menace is parallel.

For Company B, the trouble emerged online as their reputation began to suffer.  Complaints about the ineffectiveness of their services bubbled up on organic Google searches as hundreds of newly acquired customers ranted on Yelp and other social channels.  Undaunted, Company B hired a reputation consultant hoping to drown out the negativity online rather than address the fundamental problem—as an organization, they were focused on the wrong metric (sales closed) leading to the acquisition of a consistent percentage of customers they couldn’t satisfy.

It’s Time for a New Metric: Cost Per Satisfied Customer
Here’s a fundamental truth: what you measure defines your organization.  Company A’s fanatical focus on short-term CPA meant ignoring churn, creating a customer service nightmare and diverting resources from new product development to fill the pipeline.  Company B’s dedication to acquiring any and all new customers as quickly as possible spawned a reputation problem that still dogs them to this day.

Having established the villainy of CPA, we can now turn our attention to a radically new yet simple metric solution: Cost per Satisfied Customer or CSPC (because an acronym is essential here!).  In this calculation, we seek to differentiate between all customers acquired and those that are actually satisfied with your product or service.  By isolating the characteristics of your happy customers and how you came to acquire them, you can then replicate this in future acquisition efforts.

Practically speaking, this is a bit more complicated than I make it sound but fortunately in the world of big data, not beyond the reach of most companies.  The key is the willingness to recognize the problem (not all customers are of equal value and some are even of negative value) and the solution requires more than changes in media buying and data monitoring, including an entire organizational shift from gaining customers to satisfying them on an epic scale.

For Company A, calculating Cost Per Satisfied Customer is not a stretch since their CRM system already tracks means of acquisition and length of service.  These two data points alone can root out the “switchers” who can then be further profiled against the rest of the customer base acquired in a similar timeframe, allowing for the isolation of problematic promotions and preferred prospect characteristics.  This data could deliver a rudimentary CPSC by dividing the marketing spend by the total of non-switchers acquired.

For Company B, getting to Cost Per Satisfied Customer is also doable.  First they would need to look at their customer satisfaction data and isolate both promoters and detractors.  Then they would need to model both groups looking for trends in terms of how they were acquired (lead source, sales person, pitch process) and business characteristics (size, ownership structure, vertical, location, years in business, etc.).  With this info in hand, it would then be possible to concentrate sales efforts on those types of prospects most likely to be satisfied and divide the costs of these efforts by the number of promoters acquired.

A slightly more sophisticated CPSC calculation requires the ability to bring together marketing spend (M), customer satisfaction data in the form of total satisfied customers (SC) and lifetime customer value (LTV). The formula looks like this:  M ÷ (SC x LTV) = CPSC.  And I have no doubt that data geeks out there could refine this more by factoring in the additional costs of servicing unhappy customers as well as a reputational quotient that blends in recruitment and retention savings when complaints decline.

Here’s the bottom line—Cost Per Acquisition is the wrong bottom line and leads to organizational problems that can indeed be disastrous.  All customers are not equal; some can help you grow and others might just put you out of business.  By focusing on Cost Per Satisfied Customer, you can shift marketing/promotional/sales efforts towards those programs that deliver customers you actually want today and for the long haul, thus extinguishing the CPA monster once and for all.

Social Media Innovation + GRAMMYs CMO, Evan Greene


evan greene

As CMO of the Grammys (officially titled National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences),  it would seem that Evan Greene doesn’t have to go out on a limb to create engaging content. Most fans are already engaged, eagerly awaiting the next photo or tweet about their favorite music artist. But he and his team maintain that the biggest contributor to their success is their dedication to listening to those fans and joining them in dialogue, which is not quite as easy as it sounds.

To dig into this more, I had the pleasure of moderating a breakout discussion with Evan at The CMO Club Inspiration &  Innovation Summit in New York City last month.  It was a lively conversation with about 40 other CMOs covering a wide range of social media challenges, many of which Evan and I addressed on the spot (and rather pithily I might add!).  Since I am not a great notetaker, I recorded Evan’s responses, which are transcribed below for your reading pleasure. Given the GRAMMYs extraordinary success overall (ratings were 2nd highest in 21 years) and on social (13.8 million tweets during the show generated 862 million impressions), you’ll want to read on…

Could you talk a little bit about your planning process?
Our campaigns need to engage people and if they don’t, then social media is not going to help and we usually abandon it. It’s really for us about having a very respectful, two-way dialog that we think is engaging on a daily basis. We don’t come from the standpoint that we’re the authority, that we’re the expert, that you should listen to what we say, that we want to tell you what to listen to, who to follow, how to dress, what to do. We simply want to be where music is happening. We want to be a credible voice in music.

And the thing that we’ve discovered, the sort of the universal truth that we’ve hit upon over the last couple of years, is that people generally are looking for two things. They’re looking for discovery and they’re looking for community. And if we can enable the idea of discovery and empower the concept of sharability, then we are, by default, going to be leading to a greater, more robust community.

Can you share some of the innovative things that you’ve done in the last couple of years?
Innovation really is simply how do you add more to the conversation to make it more interesting on a daily basis? So some of the things that we did this year were simple, but engaging. For example, we’ve now live gif-ed our nominations show and the Grammy awards telecast. So we’re now creating gifs in real-time.

We also expanded the size, the scale, and the scope of what we call our social media command center onsite at the Staples Center during the show where we have more bloggers from more diverse areas from more diverse music genres and we try to get more people to tell our story for us. Because it’s one thing if the GRAMMYs talk to you about it and tell you about it. It’s another thing if people that you know and like and respect and trust are telling you about it.

How does content marketing fit into this discussion?
For The GRAMMYs, it’s all about content. Granted, we’re a non-for-profit trade organization, so we don’t have the budgets that you probably think we do. But we’ve made a pretty sizable investment in our content infrastructure because we want and need to be creating a lot of content. For example, we want to be creating engaging, short, episodic video pieces that are easily digestible and easily shareable.

In a lot of ways we’re fortunate because music overlaps and enhances so many different areas. A good example is the intersection between music and sports. So six years ago, at the Beijing Olympics, the biggest story was what’s on Michael Phelps’ iPod as he’s going in to compete for 8 Gold medals.

So we thought, since there’s always been that overlap between music and sports, we created a content program called Champion’s Playlist where we talk to professional athletes and say, “What’s on your iPod? What do you listen to to train, to get motivated before the big game, before the championship?” And this starts to become a shareable experience where you can now overlay what your playlist is with your friends’, you can see how some of these famous athletes, how their playlists overlap with your own. This gives us the opportunity to create a leaderboard, et cetera.

So you’ve done all this stuff. How do you measure it and do you try to differentiate social metrics from your broader metrics?
The easy answer is what are your ratings and how much money are you generating. Well, I look at it another way.  I see all of that as a consequence of everything else that we’re doing right on the front end. If we spend a whole lot of time on the front end, being really true to and respectful of our brand, and really making sure that we do the work to fill the pipeline, and if we create that conversation, if we create that relationship with music fans everywhere, then we’re going to be rewarded by people watching the show, we’re going to be rewarded by 99 percent positive sentiment. We’re going to be rewarded by the fact that our marketing partners are more engaged and happier than they’ve ever been before. Our revenue is going to increase. I think if we focus on the revenue and we focus on the ratings as the objective, it skews the narrative and it skews the story.

It used to be how many Facebook friends you had, right? And then it was, what’s the sentiment? But now the questions are getting a lot more detailed and a lot more sophisticated. And so that’s why listening is changing all the time. That’s why you need people who have access to the full Twitter fire hose. You need people who are doing more than just sort of skimming the surface with Google analytics.

We spent a lot of time talking about listening as a customer service channel and I think everybody recognizes that as a doable thing in social. I’m curious if any of you are listening for customer acquisition opportunities and if you’ve been able to systematize that and talk about that.
It is about credibility, and gaining the trust of your customers. You need to be where your customers are, and not necessarily only your own Web-site, and seek to create evangelists. So if your business is photography sales, you go to a photography forum where people are talking about a new camera. So, from a social media standpoint, don’t try to sell people with a link to your website and a price. Rather than talk about this new camera, utilize the buzz that is already happening organically, and re-tweet or re-post other credible voices in your community. Trust and credibility are powerful tools toward acquisition.

Well, you also brought up an interesting point which is sort of empowering employees to be social voices for the company as opposed to trying to control the conversation centrally.  Can you explain the advantages of this decentralized approach?
The key is, I think there’s so many divergent conversations happening all the time about all our respective businesses and the key is how do you channel those conversations. How do you channel all those disparate conversations into a cohesive dialogue? And I don’t know that there’s one answer to do that but one of the things that we did is we created what we call our Social Media Bible which has all of our correct URLs. It has all of our proper hashtags, all of our handles.

We distribute that to all media, and all of our friends, fans, and followers. We distribute it to artists and managers, labels, anybody that can possibly be having a music conversation. Now whether or not they’ll follow it is another story. But when everybody’s got the same consistent inputs and the same data, the results are usually stronger than they would have been otherwise.

Do you have any ideas as to how one can track word-of-mouth marketing and be able to then put some type of ROI to it?
I think one of the biggest fallacies and one of the biggest misnomers about social media is that it’s free and easy. And I think right now, the next big step is figuring out how you can track word-of-mouth marketing and be able to put an ROI on it.

How do you measure measurement analytics? What’s the value of having a bunch of Facebook friends? Is it the aggregation of tonnage? Is it who’s passing it along? All of that is being parsed right now and I don’t think anybody’s got the answer but there are some companies that are getting a lot smarter about it.

How do you approach social media innovation?
We try a lot of different things and the down side of trying a lot of things is that you fail sometimes. But every once in a while, you get it really right. And if nothing else, we’re always learning. Sometimes we make the right move, sometimes we don’t but we’re always in there. And frankly, the deeper you are into social media, the more you hear about trends first. So you can sort of pivot down the river and play around over here and see if it works and if it does, great! If it doesn’t, you just come back to where you were.

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