RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based "social inspired marketing" agency that helps besieged CMOs cut through.

If It’s Hinting Season, I Want an Apple Watch

04/20/15

shortyAt tonight’s Shorty Awards, a number of brands and their agencies (including Renegade!) will be recognized for their effective use of social media.  Among the winners is one of my favorites, a campaign called #HintingSeason that was created by CP+B for BestBuy and won Best in Retail and Ecommerce.  I call this particular campaign to your attention because it exemplifies all of things I believe social campaigns can and should do:

 

  • Build off of a social truth (people would love to have permission to drop hints about what they want for the holidays)
  • Help solve a particular business challenge (getting people to talk about gifting long before the holiday season)
  • Features a really fun, clever and wonderfully simple idea (a two word hashtag #HintingSeason)
  • Is inherently social but doesn’t rely solely on organic posts to get the conversation going among a broad target (paid media including bloggers & influencers helped spread the word)

To take a behind the scenes look at this campaign, I caught up CP+B’s Peter Knierim, VP/Creative Director and Britten Wolf, Social Supervisor.  Both offer some critical insights into the success of this campaign that are well worth perusing.  And since Peter notes that “It’s never too early to start hinting for what you want this holiday,” I just wanted to add that an Apple Watch would be lovely, thank you.

Drew: Hinting is certainly an age-old offline behavior — did you all notice that hinting was already being done on social channels for other things? If so, how did this influence your approach to #HintingSeason? If not, what gave you confidence that people would actually use the hashtag?

Peter Knierim: Research showed us that consumers who shop in October are likely to shop again during the holiday season. So, we first looked to solve the problem of talking to consumers about holiday shopping when they were buying their Halloween costumes. Hinting Season solved this by giving people permission to talk about what they wanted without rolling out the Santas and snowglobes that come with the holidays.

Britten Wolf: We used social listening to analyze how people were already hinting for what they wanted and found only a moderate amount of conversation. Considering the idea tapped into a truth we all do in real life, we knew that we could own the conversation come the holiday shopping season.

Drew: I’m guessing your campaign hashtag was not being used prior to launch. How did you build awareness of #HintingSeason? How much of a role did paid social media play in helping you to build this awareness? 

Britten Wolf: Best Buy was not using #HintingSeason prior to the campaign’s launch. We had to build its awareness and correlation with Best Buy from scratch, which is an increasingly difficult task in today’s social media landscape.

We worked closely with Starcom to create an omni-channel media approach to build campaign awareness. From a social perspective, our teams and our influencer partners created really entertaining and engaging content. Paid social was pivotal in amplifying its reach and exposing the campaign to new audiences.

Drew: So once the idea was seeded via paid & Vine influencers (who were also paid right?), how long did it take for regular people to start using the hashtag? Was it a slow build or more like a big bang? Ultimately, do you have a sense for how many times #HintingSeason was actually used by “organically” by regular people?

Britten Wolf: Instantly. People already know how to hint. Best Buy just made it even more acceptable to do so before the holidays started. Conversations started on the first day of the campaign and sustained throughout the holiday season. #HintingSeason was used organically almost 50,000 times between October and December.

Drew: Looking back on this highly successful campaign, were there any “organic” surprises? What are some of your favorite hints? 

Peter Knierim: A big part of the influencer component of the campaign was showing people how to hint in entertaining ways. We were surprised at some of the creative and funny ways people hinted at what they wanted.

Some of our favorite hints came toward the end of the campaign, when people started posting photos of them getting what they had hinted during Hinting Season.

Drew: Organic social media is often extremely difficult to link back to business performance. Were there any effort to differentiate results by paid versus organic social? Is that a fool’s errand? 

Britten Wolf: Data drives everything we do in social. From content strategy to message effectiveness, we’re constantly testing and analyzing both paid and organic social’s performance to measure its effectiveness and show ROI.

Drew: Are there some things that you would do differently if you were to start again? Any lessons learned for marketers looking to achieve similar success? Is it time to start hinting to Best Buy to bring the campaign back for a 2nd round?

Peter Knierim: Now that the campaign is over, it’s easy to look back and see areas of improvement for future campaigns. One of the benefits of social, as a medium, is the ability to optimize in real time. From messaging to targeting to timing, we constantly strived to publish the most engaging and best performing content we could create.

Our advice for marketers looking to achieve similar success is to start by tackling a list of challenges, create a simple campaign rooted in human truth, and get more people what they want for Christmas.

It’s never too early to start hinting for what you want this holiday.

Drew: From the agency’s perspective, what did Best Buy do right to help you execute what was both a highly creative and ultimately effective campaign?

Peter Knierim: From the start, Best Buy knew there was potential in the Hinting Season idea. They showed the bravery a client needs to have to drive an idea that we all knew could be hugely successful or fail miserably. They challenged us to focus on it and create a compelling way of owning it. That confidence and challenge helped push our ideas and execution.

Going Long with a Shorty Winner: TD Bank

04/12/15

shorty tdIn the five years since I first wrote about The Shorty Awards, social media has evolved from a quirky playground for the adventurous to a disciplined practice for any serious marketer.  This change is evident both in terms of the size of the brands competing for the awards as well as the quality of the applications.  The case in point for this post is TD Bank’s #ThankYou campaign which won Best Financial Services campaign. While I encourage students of social media to read this case and the others in their entirety, here’s a quick overview of the campaign:

  • In order to thank its customers, TD Bank turned 4 ATMs into Automated Thank you Machines and used a hidden camera to capture the surprising interactions. TD Bank took it one step further by actually delivering various Thank You’s like sending a family to Disneyland or reuniting a mother and her daughter. These engagements were turned into a 4-minute video that ultimately garnered over 32 million views and hundreds of thousands of shares across various social channels.  According to their Shorty application, “Analysis of all comments related to the campaign indicates that we also achieved our qualitative objective of improving perceptions of TD as the most customer-centric bank. In fact, an independent Google study yields estimates that 3.6 million Canadians or approximately 10% of the Country’s population claimed the video positively changed their brand impression while an additional 1.4 million Canadians said watching the video already reinforced their positive image of TD.”

To gain a greater understanding of how this campaign came into being and why it was so effective, I interviewed Chris Stamper, Senior Vice President, Corporate Marketing, TD Canada Trust. I have no doubt that you’ll find her comments instructive particularly in the advantages of customer centricity, an area that never seems to fail marketers.  As Arnott puts it, “The real ROI was finding a unique, authentic way to thank our customers.”

Drew: Where did the insight for this campaign come from?  

It’s as simple as wanting to say thank you. We say thank you to our customers every day, and we’ll say thank you tomorrow and the next day, but this was a coordinated effort to shout it from the rooftops. And, it was more than just thank you, it was thanks for your business, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for you. That’s what we were trying to get across to our customers in a personalized and heartfelt way.

Drew: What gave you confidence that this approach would actually work?

We hoped it was going to be successful but we really didn’t know – and it was beyond even our highest expectations. If at the end of the day we took 100 customers and gave them an experience of their lives that would have been enough for us. And regardless of what happened afterwards, we knew we were going to deliver that. We’re a brand that really connects with our customers — they are at the center of everything we do. We don’t believe that any bank or brand could have created this. We know our customers really well – it’s our local branch staff and the relationships they have with our customers that gave us the insights to these incredible stories.  

Drew: Your Shorty application credits employee amplification as an important catalyst.  Can you describe how the program was introduced to employees and if you worked with tool like Dynamic Signal to help manage and track the program?

Every year tens of thousands of our employees participate in customer appreciation day.  As part of our thank you in 2014, we simultaneously surprised customers who were standing in our over 1100 branches across Canada with a #TDThanksYou envelope containing a small cash gift, as a gesture of our appreciation. Customers who were on the phone with us and banking with us online at this time, also received this special surprise with a direct deposit in their account. Another thing to keep in mind is that we found the customers featured in the videos through our local branch employees who know their customers really well and often have close relationships with them. Think of Mike in Pickering who got to meet his baseball idol and throw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. Employees were genuinely proud of the video and keen to share it online.

Drew: Your Shorty application offers many measurable outcomes.  Which are you the proudest of and why?

The views are great but what it really comes down to is making an authentic connection with your customers – we’re so glad we could do that. Dorothy seeing her daughter in Trinidad, Christine taking her family to Disney Land and Mike throwing out the first pitch – that’s what we’re proudest of.

Drew: Working with real consumers is tricky since you never know what will happen.  Were there any surprises, good or bad, and how did that impact the program?

It’s true that you never know what kind of reaction you’ll get – especially when you’re going for an authentic reaction. Thank you means a lot of different things to different people, but I think we can all agree that it feels good to be appreciated, and that’s what this campaign was all about. At the end of the day people saw that these were genuine reactions. 

Drew:  This program had such a great impact in a short period of time — has it been extended or is there talk of a round two?  

We’re thrilled with the response – views continue to grow past 20MM – thanking our customers is something we will continue to do and that means finding ways to surprise and wow our customers. 

Drew: In your Shorty application, you talk about suspending typical ROI metrics.  How important was this to getting the idea approved and as you look at the results, can you make a compelling case that the program did have a material impact on customer loyalty?

The real ROI was finding a unique, authentic way to thank our customers. We’ve built our reputation on legendary customer service so this initiative was about more than marketing. It was about creating an experience and expressing to our customers how grateful we are that they continue to bank with us. When you put it this way, it’s less about the dollars and more about the experience of saying thank you in a big way.

Drew: If another brand were to attempt a program that involved “random acts of kindness,” what would you advice would you give them? (This question was answered by David Diamond of Diamond Marketing, the agency that created this campaign for TD Bank.)

David Diamond: The most important thing to remember when doing real world activation is that you are working with real people. There are no actors, no scripting, and no re-do’s. People are pretty astute and know when something is up. The second they think the situation around them isn’t right or they don’t feel comfortable you won’t get the reactions you’re looking for – and that will come through in the final product. Unlike commercials you need to let the situation unfold as organically as possible – there is no waiting for a magic hour, no perfect lighting, no perfect sound. You just got to keep the camera’s rolling and trust the process!

Self-serving note: Renegade is looking forward to this year’s Shorty Awards as our work with Leo Burnett on behalf of the NCAA was recognized as best Twitter campaign.

Marketing Music’s Biggest Night w/ Evan Greene of The Grammys

02/7/15

Evan Greene_Recording AcademyIf you think the nominees for the GRAMMY awards are nervous, imagine for a moment you’re the CMO of what is officially known as The Recording Academy.  That man is Evan Greene and every year he is tasked with outdoing the previous year, a bar that keeps getting higher and higher.

In 2014 for example, TV ratings were the 2nd highest in 15 years, reaching over 28 million viewers who in turn generated roughly 15 million tweets and 13 million Facebook interactions. That’s a whole lot of buzz, buzz that is by no means accidental.  Evan and his team, supported by long-time agency Chiat/Day, continue to find innovative ways to engage, inspire and motivate an army of fans to not just watch but also share their experience.  This fan-centric approach requires management of thousands of little pieces, but Evan has done it in style, and it’s no surprise that he won a Marketing Innovation Award at this year’s CMO Awards, sponsored by The CMO Club.  Here’s our interview just in time for the show Sunday night and to send good karma out to Evan in LA.

Drew: One of the presumed reasons some CMOs don’t innovate is that there is more risk involved. Is there a tolerance for risk in your organization and/or do you have ways of mitigating the risks involved in bringing truly innovative programs to market?

There is tolerance to risk…to an extent. I have pretty broad latitude to implement forward-looking initiatives. However, we are still a pretty conservative organization, so that upside risk must be balanced by the potential downside consequences, which for a not-for-profit entity, whose primary asset is its brand/IP can be significant.

Drew: The Grammys is such a unique brand. What do you think is the biggest thing other marketers can learn from the on-going success of The Grammys?

While we are certainly a big brand, we aren’t really that different from other brands in that ultimately it comes down to trust. Authenticity is the cornerstone of trust, so you must respect your audience, and be as authentic as possible in everything you do.

Drew: What did you do in 2014 that you are particular proud of from a marketing perspective?

I don’t think it was any one thing. When you look at the ultimate result of our year-round efforts, which is our metrics around the GRAMMY telecast, we over-delivered on every possible measurement – ratings (2nd highest in 20+ years), social engagement (34MM+ comments on GRAMMY Sunday), sentiment (99% positive), revenue (consistently up year-over-year), it is our overall success that comes from carefully planned strategic efforts that I am most proud of.

Drew: Looking ahead, what do you hope will work better in 2015?

Better, more engaging content, better use of analytics.

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

Reading everything I can, and constantly auditing the market. I’m always trying to learn from others’ successes…and failures…

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

I don’t think there is any one tool. I think our strategy has gotten smarter…and we are finding better, more effective ways to use data than before. I believe the ultimate winners and losers will be determined by who is best able to identify, understand and harness the data available to us as marketers.

Drew: Do you have a content marketing strategy?  

This is an important area for us, and we are in the process of reviewing our entire content strategy, and revising it in a pretty significant way. I will have more to share on this in the coming months as our new strategic focus comes into play.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story?

The best, most immediate example I can point to is our yearly telecast marketing campaign. We have endeavored, rather than simply placing a bunch of music artists on a spread or in a tv spot, with the message to ‘Watch the GRAMMYs,’ to weave a compelling narrative that connects with the music fan in an emotional, visceral way. I’m very proud of the work we have done with our agency, Chiat Day to more deeply weave our GRAMMY brand into the fabric of popular culture. We will launch this year’s effort in early December, and we will again approach it from a dynamic storytelling standpoint that will set our communication apart from anyone else in our category.

Drew: As social media matures, what adjustments are you making to your approach to social in 2015?

We’ve been trying to take a more holistic view of our social activities, meaning that we want to be smarter about the conversation we are having with our social ecosystem on a daily basis. We want to provide more value to the conversation, and become more of a trusted resource, and this requires a longer-term view of the relationship we have with our friends, fans and followers. It is not as much about short-term gratification. Rather, it is modifying tone, vibe and spirit of our dialogue to have a more consistent, engaged dialogue.

Q+A on Creativity w Audi’s CMO Loren Angelo

01/12/15

Loren Angelo_AudiDoes form follow function in the digital world? Many brands are starting to say “yes,” as they turn increasingly often to emerging media to not only deliver their story, but also to enhance it. For luxury car brand Audi, this meant using emerging platforms to tell a story in a way that’s culturally relevant to their audience and on a platform where they’re encouraged to participate.

Loren Angelo, EVP and CMO of Audi of America, has been spearheading these digital efforts, and in our interview, we break down how to manage the inherent risk of these ideas for such a major brand. By the way, with Audi posting 45 consecutive monthly sales records, and Loren winning a Creativity Award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards, it turns out you really can be highly creative and highly successful at the same time. 

Drew: Creativity can emerge in a lot different ways, from how you approach problems to creative marketing campaigns.  How are you being “creative” in your current role and how has that helped you? 
Creativity is driven by staying authentic to your brand and your mission.  I’m inspired by ideas where I can connect my brand with cultural moments that engage a conversation.

Drew: Some agency sages believe “it isn’t creative unless it sells.”  Do you share that belief and if so, is there still a role for branding building activities in your marketing mix that may not have an immediate or directly measurable impact on sales?  
Building the Audi brand in America has been crucial to our current success of 45 consecutive monthly sales records.  Elevating Brand Opinion and Consideration by over 30% since 2006 has come from an investment in repositioning Audi as the modern, progressive, luxury choice.  When we bring smart, entertaining creative to market, demand rises and that drives sales.

Drew: Looking at the question above slightly differently, is there a case to be made for a brand like Audi that the medium can be the message? For example, does doing cutting edge marketing on say a mobile platform also say that Audi is a cutting edge brand that “gets it?”  
Absolutely. Creativity comes in the message as well as the medium in which it’s delivered.  Building the brand with time-starved, affluent Americas requires us to bring unique ideas to a variety of channels.  In addition to our unique 30-second TV communications that tell culturally relevant stories versus using traditional automotive speak, Audi has been leading in digital connections as well.  For example, this year Audi introduced several new entry-level luxury products to first time luxury buyers of which a third were young Millennials.   We used platforms such as Waze and Trip Advisor to link our Audi Q3 “Stray the Course” strategy to consumer behaviors on those channels and for the launch of the A3, we introduced a completely new voice and visual execution on Snap Chat for Audi in the Super Bowl which we carried through the entire Season of Pretty Little Liars that drew 125,000 new followers in just nine months on that channel.

Drew: Does risk taking factor into developing truly creative campaigns?  If so, how do you mitigate that risk internally and or externally?
A challenger spirit is crucial in everything we do at Audi.  Therefore, pushing our communication to be anything but traditional drives us internally and is why we seek out clever culturally-relevant storytelling.

Drew: Can you talk a little about if/how you try to engage the entire Audi company in brand activation?
Audi has become the modern, progressive, luxury choice in America and that philosophy is core to everything we do in our organization.  Whether in partnership experiences such as that of the US Ski Team, in cultural connections such as the Iron Man franchise or in every customer interaction at our state-of-the-art showroom environments, every engagement conveys our unique brand characteristics of technology, performance and design.  Every employee has a clear understanding of our brand position and our focus on bringing customer excitement both internally and externally.

Drew: How are you balancing digital initiatives with more traditional TV and outdoor? Do you ascribe different roles to different media and/or is it possible for a brand like yours to have an “omni-channel” strategy?
At Audi, we believe that keeping focus on a single message and finding the most effective way to deliver it within the channel proves most effective.  Identifying strategies that connect our message with consumer stories might take a storytelling path in TV, a more eccentric approach in social media or might be encapsulated in a single statement on an outdoor board.  Staying true to the strategic idea is what drives a successful campaign that is reinforced when consumers interact at various channels.

Drew: What role does social media play in your marketing efforts? Are there any platforms that are working better for your brand than others?
We identified an opportunity to engage a conversation with America through social media several years ago.  It was the ideal platform to reinforce our provocative messages while establishing a clear voice for the brand.  While our fan base has grown organically from our engaging content, we’ve established Audi in over 10 social media channels.  Each has its own engaging characteristics for that community, but we’ve found Instagram to be an increasingly enthusiastic and responsive channel that has grown exponentially because of the personalized, visual nature of the content.

Drew: Have you leveraged any new technologies or platforms in the last 12 months and if so what were the results relative to your expectations? 
Staying true to our brand focus technological innovations, in 2014 we leveraged a completely new social media voice in SnapChat and brought a new digital experience to our consumers in the purchase process.  As mentioned, SnapChat has been very successful for connecting our brand to a new, burgeoning community in just the last nine months.  At retail, we have introduced a new digital, Progressive Retail Experience in our showrooms to assist our dealer partners and consumers in the greatest customer need – saving time.  Using tablet devices, our dealer partners now have a sales assist solution that can demonstrate vehicle features, show dealer inventory and assist in vehicle configurations through a few simple hand gestures.  In addition, we have brought this digitized experience to the consumer delivery process and the service experience for a more streamlined experience that works on the customer’s schedule.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story?  
This is crucial to bringing a brand into the conversation with today’s consumer.  When we introduced TDI clean diesel in several of our new vehicles last year, we recognized that many of the misperceptions of diesel still existed including that it was an old technology that was for slow, smoky, dirty old cars.  Instead of just announcing that Audi had an all new line up of fuel efficient and environmentally friendly new TDI clean diesel solutions, we approached it with a story that exaggerated one of the misperceptions that high performance luxury sedans don’t use diesel.  In this communication, an Audi A8 pulls into a fueling station where the driver begins to use the clean diesel pump when in slow motion the many bystanders attempt to stop her thinking she’d made a mistake.  Towards the end, she simply responds “I know” illustrating she clearly knows what she is doing while signaling to another Audi A6 TDI clean diesel driver that gives her a confirming nod.  It was a clever way of telling the story that Audi has many TDI clean diesel models and those in the know realize it’s the smart solution for the future.  The full campaign reinforced the range capabilities, environmental benefits and dispelled many of the myths that brought the story to life in all consumer touch points.

How GE’s Beth Comstock Puts Innovation to Work – Part 1

01/2/15
Jim Stengel + Beth Comstock

Beth Comstock with Jim Stengel at CMO Awards Ceremony.

What does it take to get inducted into the CMO Hall of Fame? Infinite curiosity and, apparently, some ecological know-how. Beth Comstock of GE is a rarity in the clan of CMO’s, an innovator who doesn’t try to come up with the ideas herself, a leader who seeks insights from startups and a explorer who thinks “the journey is never done.” Oh and did I mention she works for a company that sells massively complex machines yet as Beth says, “We’re on a real mission to humanize technology.”

In this first part of our interview, we talk about how to leverage trends and the kind of dedication needed to produce big ideas — and big results!

Drew: How important is it to be a leader who comes up with an idea versus having the ability to build out an idea from your team and build a culture where the ideas are sort of percolating and coming up to you?

I think early on in my career I expected that as a leader, a manager of a team, that I was supposed to come up with the ideas, that’s what you did as the team leader. I started realizing that it put a lot of pressure on me. I also started to realize that the ideas actually weren’t that good. I think there is a kind of a humble recognition you get when you are an innovation junkie like me but also just as a leader, that ideating is better when it’s a team sport. I have learned that there are times when you have to go on your own to think through a problem and then there are times when you need other people to react, make it better.

I think my process is that I like to act like a sponge. I think part of my job and just who I am is to immerse myself externally outside of GE for ideas and look for themes and trends. If I see something interesting twice I ask, ‘Is that a coincidence?’ If I see it three times I go, ‘Ah, this is a trend’ and try to draw those lines. I think it’s my job to do that and then bring it back into the organization and say, here’s a thought starter. How can we innovate, ideate around that? So that’s sort of very loosely my process.

Drew: What are some of the hardest sales you’ve had to make or times where you had to be persistent and not take no as an answer?

When I was at NBC, I was trying to pitch what is now the NBC Experience Store. It’s been around for 16 years now and I worked really hard on that one. Bob Wright turned me down many times for a couple reasons. One, the idea just wasn’t ready and he was sending me away to make it better, but also, he was testing my commitment to it. Was I really going to back this idea? So that was a very formative experience for me.

Since starting at GE, I’ve had this passion for digital health and what I think it could mean to GE. Up until recently, I had a hard time articulating it. The space hasn’t taken off, and it’s only really been this year that we’ve been able to bring the right forces together as a great team and venture into it. So that’s probably my biggest, longest running example of something that I felt like I was pushing for six years and it’s just now broken through.

Drew: Can you talk about the strategy behind “The Boy Who Beeps” Ad and what message you wanted to send? And in general, do you continue to see television playing an important role in the GE story?

David Lubars who is the creative director of BBDO just had a lot of passion for that ad. I think it means a lot when you’re partnered to real passion and he was very passionate about this for good reason. BBDO has been our agency for 90 years. They just know us so well. In some ways they know us better than we know ourselves, which is why we keep hanging around together.

The Industrial Internet is a very big company strategy and priority. Big data is still confusing, it’s kind of scary and people are not entirely sure what it means when machines talk to other machines. We were trying to send the message that technology is headed toward a good purpose. It’s about the humanity of technology, rather than just getting excited about technology for technology’s stake. We’re on a real mission to humanize technology. Most people can’t see the technology we make, so we have to use a lot of metaphors.

As for the role TV plays in telling GE’s story, I think it depends on the objectives and the business mission for any given campaign or effort. For most of us, I think TV does have a role. With examples like “Boy Who Beeps” or one we did with the Olympics earlier this year, “My Mom Works at GE”, you need the space. TV provides a storytelling grandness with some of these big signature events. We do a lot around these kind of signature efforts and there is room for big storytelling to be done well.

A rule I have observed just in working within the digital space is that the size of these markets gets bigger and slices gets smaller. So TV won’t have the big slice of the audience that it once had, but it doesn’t mean it’s not still important.

Drew: In regards to some of the ideas or innovations that you have been able to bring to bear in the organization, have any of those had an advantage in the sense that the marketing opportunities are baked into the idea?

Yes. I think one of my earliest examples of this and one that I still think stands the test of time was the development of ecomagination. It’s a cute name, but it wasn’t just a cute little effort. It was a very serious intention to align our technology to where the market was going. Our customers wanted more energy efficient technology. We saw that in every industry and in every segment where we do business. So that was a clear opportunity to invest in a certain technology tethered to where the market was going: renewable, clean energy and efficiency. We recognized the need for partnerships that supported that mission, and then to hold ourselves accountable.

To date, we’re tracking about $180 billion of eco-generated sales, billions of dollars of investments in new eco-friendly spaces and a host of partnerships that have made us faster and better. To me, that’s market-based innovation. It’s kind of a glue.

That’s just one of our successful processes. There have been many, many times where that hasn’t worked so well. I’ve given you one example of success but I don’t want to make you think we were nirvana here, because we’re not.

Q+A on The Magic of Marketing w/ Macy’s Martine Reardon

12/18/14

Martine Reardon_MacysWant to truly understand the complexity of being a modern CMO then skip my introduction to Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon and dive into her thoughts on everything from leadership to brand building, mix modeling to customer experience, mobile payments to Snapchat, charitable activities to testing a new social shopping platform called Wanelo.  The range of marketing activity alone is staggering yet thanks to a few overarching principles it’s fairly easy to see how Martine and her sizable team pull it all together and bring “The Magic of Macy’s” to life.

Drew: Congratulations on winning the The CMO Club‘s Leadership award. What are some of the lessons (about leading) you can share with aspiring leaders especially of the marketing variety? 

I think good leadership is a fine balance of setting a strategic vision and then creating an environment for innovation and collaboration to ensure you get the best thinking and execution from your team. We move very fast in retail, and the level and volume of work can be intense. It’s very easy to get caught in the day-to-day management, but we work hard to stay ahead and to also be flexible enough to be present and reactive in the moment. We can easily be working on 4 seasons at one time, so I have definitely learned to build consensus and alignment around the core strategies and initiatives, and then I trust our incredibly talented team to bring the Magic of Macy’s to life for our customers across America.

We also embrace a saying from Macy’s very own Margaret Getchell (the first woman executive in retail), who said “Be everywhere, do everything, and never forget to astonish the customer.” It’s a motto we live by here, and I think having a legacy of such pioneering executives is an inspiration to all of us. It has fostered an ambition and entrepreneurialism that is a part of our culture.

Drew: Macy’s owns some really big event properties including July 4th fireworks and your Thanksgiving Day parade that you have been doing for a long, long time. Can you speak to how these programs have evolved from a marketing perspective and what kinds of things you’ve done to keep them fresh?

The great thing about our events is that they reflect the very best of American popular culture. This allows us to keep evolving with audiences over time. Whether it’s a favorite celebrity from Tony Bennett to Usher or a beloved childhood character such as Snoopy or SpongeBob SquarePants, being attuned to the changing entertainment landscape allows our events to stay fresh and relevant. Additionally, as innovations in technology or other cultural shifts occur, we look to incorporate those into our events. For example, this year’s Macy’s Fireworks featured the incorporation of never-before-seen effects along the entire span of the Brooklyn Bridge, over the last decade we’ve introduced a Macy’s Parade mobile app, we’ve participated in a live rick-roll at the Parade, and we’ve added a new layer of art to the sky with the introduction of our artists balloons which have featured works by Jeff Koons, Tim Burton and Takashi Murakami, among others. Given the wide ranging audience of our events from toddlers to great grandparents, the shifts don’t have to be major, in order to entertain the entire spectrum of our audiences.

Drew: These kinds of big events ensure that Macy’s has high top-of-mind awareness and favorable brand associations but must be tough to translate into store traffic and sales. (If I’m wrong about this, please correct me.)  If I’m right, how do you evaluate the success of these programs—do you track brand health metrics (like awareness, favorability, etc)?   

Our iconic events are part of the DNA of the Macy’s brand. We are not only a retailer that offers customers incredible fashion and value, we are also an entertainment brand that creates magical experiences. For generations, Macy’s has been at the center of the traditions of millions of families across the nation and the world. This clear and visceral connection our brand enjoys with the general public is unmeasurable. We take great pride in producing world-famous events that are so widely beloved. It’s a truly unique place to hold in the lives of our customers, that through the lenses of our events, we have become a part of their family.

Drew: When many people think of Macy’s, they think tradition, but how important do you feel it is to take advantage of new trends and be among the earliest adopters of new technologies such as Apple Pay and Shopkick? Why? 

Our top priority at Macy’s is to serve the customer. With the customer at the center of every decision we make, it’s essential for us to quickly and effectively address their needs. This is why you’ve seen Macy’s at the forefront of testing new technologies and in some cases being early adopters of innovations that enhance our customer’s shopping experiences. Whether it’s more relevant, targeted marketing that cuts through the clutter and speaks to the needs and wants of that customer or a technology that speeds up the check-out process, we will look to test and adopt strategies and innovations that provide customer value and support.

Drew: What new things (if any) did you try in 2014 and how did it work out?

I’m very proud to say that Macy’s is excellent at newness! We think of each month, each season, each year as a brand new opportunity to re-inspire our customer. We see ourselves as an entertainment brand, and we know that today’s “experience economy” expects more from us than just great fashion and product. We’ve tried many new things this year – starting with a new spring campaign we called “Secret Garden” that took a floral fashion trend to new heights with store events, digital activations and a cause program to aid local parks and gardens. We also launched a new effort with Clinton Kelly in support of our bridal and registry customer; we hosted a very fun LipDub competition for schools during back-to-school season; and we partnered with Fashion Rocks for the return of the famous fashion and music event hosted in NYC and broadcast live on CBS.

Of course, we’re always testing newness in our omnichannel strategy and with technology – including our recent launch with ApplePay, rolling out shopkick nationally, launching Macy’s Wallet, enhancing our shopping apps, offering Macy’s Image Search, expanding buy online pickup in store, and testing same-day delivery.

Drew:  In what ways do you believe Macy’s admirable commitment to charitable causes, such as increasing research, awareness and education for diseases such as breast cancer and heart disease, has benefited the Macy’s brand?

Our My Macy’s approach to being a part of the communities where we live and work, and our passion for supporting causes that are important to our customers, have been cornerstones of our brand for more than 150 years. We believe deeply in our responsibility to make a difference, and we work with incredible non-profit partners like the American Heart Association, March of Dimes, Make-A-Wish, Reading Is Fundamental, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Got Your 6, Futures Without Violence, United Way, and many others. Last year, through our contributions and the generous support of our associates and customers, Macy’s gave more than $70 million to charitable organizations.

Our cause marketing programs are some of our customers most beloved events. They come out to shop and to support a great cause, and they tell us over and over again that they want and appreciate these opportunities to give in a way that is both meaningful for the charity and fun for them. It’s a simple principle, but the impact of what we can do together is so much greater. I believe that Macy’s was really a pioneer in this area – and we continue to trail-blaze fresh, new ways to engage and give back with our customers.

Drew: What have your experiences been with mobile marketing been to date? What’s working for you? What’s not?

We’ve made sure that our mobile media strategy is grounded in a deep understanding of how our customers are engaging with their smartphone and tablet devices. Our customers at Macy’s tend to be quite mobile-centric. To that end, we’ve invested in tactics such as mobile and tablet digital display, SMS, and mobile paid search. We’ve also evaluated mobile usage penetration in cross-device channels like digital audio and social media, and use those insights to drive a mobile-first approach to those channels. In addition, we’ve recently relaunched our Macy’s mobile app with significant improvements to the user experience and have launched a brand-new Macy’s Image Search app that leverages visual recognition technology to populate search results. We’re also continuing to explore the in-store beacons space.  Looking ahead, we see a lot of white space in mobile analytics and attribution, and look forward to developments that will help us better understand the impact of mobile media investment to total omnichannel sales.

We also run mobile and tablet-based digital retargeting campaigns and are testing into cross-screen retargeting in Spring 2015. This is a powerful tactic that capitalizes on connecting with customers who’ve expressed intent to purchase with us. As well, we’re launching a social shopping test in Q4 with Instagram, which will really help us better understand how to unlock the opportunity to drive sales through social media and potentially drive higher conversion directly on a mobile device.

Drew: What’s working for you these days in social media? Feel free to define what success looks like for Macy’s in SM.  Did you try anything new this year that you can share?   

We focus on a balanced approach between great publishing, meaningful engagement, and effective paid media. What’s important is clearly defining what success metrics to apply, based on the social media tactic being evaluated. Targeted direct response campaigns serve quite a different purpose than top-funnel branded publishing, but when planned and executed holistically, provide real value for our brand. We’re always testing, learning, and iterating in the social media space. We’re intrigued by the explosive growth of video on Facebook since the rollout of auto-play, and have run some campaigns over the last year using Facebook’s video ad product. We continue to explore how best to leverage Twitter’s natural affinity with TV, as a second-screen companion to broadcast and branded integrations. We’re working hard to grow our footprint on YouTube through targeted pre-roll, original content, and content collaborations with creators. We recently ran a very fun UGC- based campaign on YouTube as part of our Back To School efforts.

We’ve also recently begun publishing on Wanelo, with the objective of connecting with their fast-growing and incredibly valuable audience base: older millennials who are looking to convert on new product based on aspirational imagery. And we continue to focus on our Pinterest publishing and paid media strategy. We think there is enormous runway for us to utilize Pinterest not only as a means of showcasing great social publishing, but also as a visual search engine that allows us to facilitate product discovery and drive traffic to our ecommerce site. Pinterest is also a key means of connecting us with one of our most important customer groups: brides. We are among the top registry destinations in the country, so it’s critical that we maintain and grow our relevancy as a destination for millennial brides who are planning their big day.

Also as part of our millennial strategy, we recently launched our brand’s Snapchat account, Macyssnaps, and will keep a close eye on that platform as it rolls out its paid advertising suite.

Older Posts »

Copyright © 2014 - Drew Neisser