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

How SAP Ariba’s CMO Made Procurement Awesome

07/19/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew: Have you been able to extend this idea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Inside Look at Dell’s Influencer Program

07/13/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A 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.

Finding the Right Elements for Your Brand

02/15/16

A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be interviewed by Dan Raviv, a correspondent for CBS Radio. During our conversation, Dan asked me what “elements” he should mix together to help build an audience for the CBS News Weekend Roundup radio show. I hemmed and hawed a bit, suggesting he start with his target audience. He probed on this suggestion but I remained steadfast in the need to start with your customer, listen to their needs, find an insight and build from there. Of course, in classic writer-like wit, I thought of the perfect response an hour after I hung up with Dan. To redress the vagueness of my real-time suggestions, this post will outline a more precise path for Dan and the show to build a broader audience by applying a few of the “Elements” from my book, The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, and, at the same time, offer insights on how we can all become the CMO of our personal brands.

Element R = Research
Since CBS Radio most likely already has Nielsen data on the size and demographics of its target audience, Dan can focus his research efforts on these two areas:

  • Superfan qualitative: The goal here is to identify the predilections of his most dedicated listeners.  What do these folk really like about Dan and the show? What do they hate?  What inspires them to tell friends about Dan? Are there particular topics that resonate with this group? Do they just like his radio-perfect voice? This research could be done via small groups or 1:1 interviews, creating the added opportunity to gather recorded testimonials.  Also, after the interviews Dan could meet these folks face-to-face to reinforce their connection to him and perhaps create potentially viral (see element GV: Going Viral) content.
  • Superfan quantitative: Like the qualitative research, quantitative research could serve multiple purposes. First, it could provide further insights into the target. Second, it could generate ideas for future stories and make the fans feel more involved (bringing in another element, Ug: User Generated Content). Finally, this research, if structured correctly, could become a source of news in and of itself.

Element S = Strategy
In reconsidering Dan’s question, it seems to me that there may have been two brand strategies to discuss: the personal brand of Dan Raviv, as well as the radio show, CBS News Weekend Roundup.  And while these brands may be intertwined at the moment, Dan has the long-term interest of building his own brand (see Pb: Personal Branding) but doing so in a way that is also of benefit to his employer.  In both cases, the strategy needs to be boiled down to two-and-a-half questions:

  • What makes Dan unique? What makes CBS News Roundup unique? And where is the overlap?
  • Who is the customer and who isn’t?

I don’t know Dan’s work well enough to determine if he has a unique point-of-view, a unique sound, a unique personality or a signature phrase that would distinguish him from other on-air talent.  What I do know is that many of his predecessors at CBS did become brands in their own right, from Edward R. Murrow to Charles Kuralt. These individuals were distinguished not just by their unique voices but also by bringing a consistently distinctive perspective to their reporting. Pre-meditated thinking about becoming a brand may be heretical to a dedicated, integrity-first newsman, BUT I would argue that taking the time in the early part of one’s career to map out a personal brand strategy would be time well spent.

Element Bc = B2C Content Marketing 
Content-rich brands like CBS Radio have a huge advantage over most in that they already have a steady stream of content to draw upon to engage current customers and attract new ones.  They also have the staff on hand to edit and repurpose this content into everything from podcasts to topical social media posts (see element Sm: Social Media Success and how The Weather Channel did this to great effect).  Of course, it would help Dan and his employer if CBS Radio had an enlightened employee advocacy program to make intriguing content accessible for him to promote via his personal social channels (see Sp: Sharing Passion).  Additionally, CBS Radio and Dan personally could be active listeners for topical conversations on social media channels, creating the opportunity for content sourcing and audience engagement (see Rm: Real-Time Marketing).

For non-media brands, creating content is obviously more difficult but just as essential.  The key here (again) is to start with your target and create content that answers the top 10 questions that they have about your particular product or service.  For Dan, this might mean opening the kimono a bit and sharing how they decide on what to report, how stories get produced and what it is like to be a correspondent.  I could go on here about how to parse out this content, how to optimize it for search engines and social sharing, but we’ll have to leave that for another post.

Element In = Influencer Marketing 
The basic idea behind influencer marketing is that a brand cultivates advocates who, in turn, spread the word about that particular brand. In most cases, there is some exchange of value between the brand and the influencer, whether it’s cash money, goods and services, or social currency.  For example, IBM invited a broad range of influencers to one of its annual customer conferences with the simple promise that these influencers would get unique access to potential news sources. Admittedly, replicating this approach would probably break ethical boundaries for CBS Radio BUT that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for Dan (and perhaps CBS) to cultivate a wide range of influencers in an ethical manner.  For example, the currency in this case could be as simple as a shout-out via social channels, which the recipient would take as an affirmation of their existence!  Here’s proof that it works: this so-called influencer shared the heck out of the tweet below:

Reality Check
For all I know, it is quite possible CBS Radio and Dan are already blending the elements mentioned above, which is why I was reluctant to conjure up a solution while on-air and why agencies like mine have a discovery process to make sure we define the challenge correctly and know what’s been tried already.  But the intent of this post was not to provide a ready-made solution for Dan, CBS Radio or your brand. The point here is that each of us needs to become the CMO of our personal brands, taking charge of everything from strategy to execution, and blending the “elements” of marketing that are just right for your life goals.

And just in case you want to listen to my interview with Dan, here’s your chance to find out why I don’t have my own radio show:

Lost Opportunities to Engage During #Blizzard2016

01/29/16

This past weekend, New York City had one of its biggest snowstorms ever, and, as usual, this presented an opportunity for brands to engage in the social conversation. Not surprisingly, New Yorkers expressed a lot of joy, surprise and down right frustration across social channels. What was surprising is that as the snow and chatter piled up across Gotham, most brands stayed pretty much out of sight. We believe this was a lost opportunity. [Note all of the research for this article was done by our social analyst Andres Monsalve]

NETFLIX: #Netflix&Chill.

Across the social chatter, it was pretty obvious that #Netflix&Chill was going to be present and dominate a huge part of the conversation.

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Did Netflix use this opportunity for their benefit? Not so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were their tweets about #blizzard2016:

Could Netflix have taken advantage of this social happening in a more buzz-generating fashion? Most likely yes. For example, Netflix could have rolled out a group of special releases for the #Blizzard, encouraging their users to watch a few and of course, chill. Or bundle a bunch of bad weather related films into a binge-watching marathon.

ALCOHOL BRANDS

For many New Yorkers, spending two days in one’s tiny apartment can feel a bit like a jail term. Some people were worried about suffering cabin fever during this “extremely long” period of confinement. In order to bear with this suffering, many find a bit of alcohol a welcome companion. Note that NYC now has the 5th largest number of craft breweries in America. However, most alcohol brands did not engage in the conversation at all and ignored the opportunity to “come to the rescue.”

Brooklyn Brewery, at least, demonstrated how to use #blizzard2016, enlightening us with this innovative way to take advantage of the snow.

FOOD DELIVERIES

The real unsung heroes in this blizzard were the #FoodDelivery guys as thousands of New Yorkers stayed in and ordered out. As George Herbert Palmer said about the postal workers once, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” The men and women who deliver food ‘round the clock truly help make NYC the greatest city in the planet, and New Yorkers recognized this during #blizzard2016. More than 600 mentions were about tipping your delivery guy more than 20%. Unfortunately for their brands, neither @Seamless nor @Grubhub chose this as an opportunity to join this conversation and support the folks that make their service possible. Like empty seats on a plane, this was a lost opportunity.

THE WINNER

The big winner in joining the blizzard conversation was the @NationalZoo who shared a gleeful video of #TIANTIAN, the panda, rolling in the snow. #TIANTIAN garnered more than 13,000 mentions over the weekend and stole our hearts. What can we say? Guess we all have a soft spot for furry animals playing in the white stuff. Here is the video of #TianTian enjoying #Blizzard2016.

Responding to social conversations like the #2016Blizzard in real-time is tricky business, requiring a great deal of preparation and then, lightning fast wit. Clearly most brands rode out this particularly storm but perhaps others will plan ahead for the next big opportunity. We hope so.

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How 100-Year Old Brands Stay Relevant

12/28/15

share a pairLast Saturday I had the pleasure of witnessing Duke’s first bowl victory in 54 years.  By all measures it was a momentous occasion as two basketball powerhouses battled it out on a gridiron carved out of the baseball diamond that is Yankee Stadium!  Indiana University, whose founding dates back to 1820, has a long track record of success both on and off the field and its fans, turned out in red & white droves to cheer on their Hoosiers. Duke University, which traces its roots back to 1838 though it didn’t actually get its current brand name until 1924, also attracted several thousand delirious Blue Devils who were thrilled to learn about an obscure rule in college football — field goal attempts that rise above the goal posts can’t be reviewed after being called fair or foul.  It was upon this rule that Duke’s victory was sealed and history rewritten.

So why perchance am I sharing this scintillating bit of trivia in what is perhaps my last blog post of the year? Of course, there’s the reveling part but fortunately for you there’s more to it than that. As I mentioned both of these institutions are household names, have weathered the test of time and occasionally risen to the top of their competitive set–JUST LIKE KEDS. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming!)  Turning 100 in 2016, Keds is indeed a well-known brand that has played the fashion game effectively, getting hot at times without the usual melting away.  No doubt many have contributed to this success over the years, yet like new players on a college team, big gains often come with the new arrivals, a pattern I expect to see repeated with the arrival of Emily Culp, who was kind enough to spend time with me just before receiving The CMO Club’s Rising Star award.  This is part two of our winning interview (read part 1 here).  In it we cover the gamut from social listening to emerging channels like Snapchat, a marketer’s need for passion and the challenges of global initiatives.  I certainly got a big kick out of talking to Emily and I’m sure you will too.

Drew: I was at a customer service conference recently and one of the things that really struck me was how social listening and social customer service has advanced in the last couple of years to the point that not only are these people listening, obviously for the product issues but they’re also preemptively recommending changes to products based on things they hear. In some cases they even have a seat at the table for new product development because they’re so close to the customer. I’m just curious if social listening has played a part at all in your program or what role it does play?

It absolutely does. We listen to our consumers, engage them & make real-time changes to programs and products. We strongly believe our customers have the most important insights, hence we invite them to participate in Beta releases of new services and seed products early on to get feedback.

Because we have these amazing customers who love us and who are vocal when things go well and equally vocal when they don’t go well it is important to provide them with the level of engagement they desire with our brand. So this could take the form of providing feedback on advertising, testing to price elasticity, to literally just saying, “we’re between these two product names, which one do you like more?” And that way you create a loyalty, a genuine loyalty because you invite your customers into the process and you’re listening to them and asked upon their feedback.

Drew: It sounds like that could also be beginning of an influence service/advocacy program was well?

Yes, you’re right, there is nothing in exchange for it. Meaning, it’s just genuine love. I do this myself for three or four other brands that I’m ridiculously passionate about. I want to give feedback because I love to create products that I need or that would be slightly modified to my taste. In turn, if a company listens or engages me, then I will be a vocal advocate for them forever. I have told one story about Patagonia (100s of times) and their customer service simply because I love the brand and how they treated me.

Drew: You mentioned Snapchat. Every brand wants to figure out how to use it, but a lot have struggled. What’s working for you?

I fundamentally believe in Snapchat. So when I joined within the first 30 days, we officially launched our presence on the platform. For us right now, we are in the test and learn phase. Hence, I don’t think there is any secret sauce to share unfortunately, but we will learn quickly because it is where most of our 18 or 28-year-old woman are spending their time. Snapchat has became her favored platform along with Instagram and she has left Facebook for other uses, so that’s why it’s really, really important to me that we fully embrace this and drive forward with it but we’re still learning.

Drew: When you talked about your passion for other brands and how you get actively involved, how much does that impact how you attack your marketing and your approach to marketing at Keds?

I have loved Keds for decades. So when the opportunity arose to join the team it combined all the key elements that are important to me: a brand with rich heritage, a brand I personally love to wear, a brand that stands for female empowerment & a brand with an amazing senior leadership team. So a large aspect of my job is to tap into other people who feel that way about our brand and how do I give them a megaphone or at least an opportunity to share their feedback with us. Because somebody who’s worn Keds, even if they just switched from another product to ours or just rediscovered them, I love to hear from them. And my job as a marketer is to make sure that I do hear from them and I provide them platforms to share with us whether it’s on social, it’s in e-mail, you know, comment cards in store.

Drew: Lets talk about the challenge of global branding — the desire to be consistent on a global level yet still somehow localize as necessary has to be difficult.

It’s one of the most intriguing Rubik’s cubes you can work on. There is no question about it. As a marketer I think it’s very humbling and important to understand, you can have the perfect strategy, the perfect brand campaign, the perfect messaging and then you need to enter what I affectionately call the double helix matrix which is the global domain. And what I mean by that is all of these things that you’ve been very methodical and strategic about sometimes go out the window because I was not born and raised in X country and I didn’t understand the cultural nuance of a color, symbol or styling choice. So what may resonate visually or from a techy perspective in one market isn’t going to work than another but what’s amazing about this is your global partners who are in different regions teach you about what these things mean and help you think about the brand in a different way and help you think about how do you adapt to their market to have the same kind of same DNA and messaging but in a way that’s culturally relevant to them. So I actually really love it. For me a big reason is I am extremely curious, so global brands and messaging has always kept me on my toes.

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