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

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


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


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

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


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.

Q+A on Chico’s Marketing with CMO Miki Racine Berardelli


© Noa Griffel 2011Four brands, united in a global mission to bring fashion to those in need. It’s no superhero tale, it’s just another day in the life for Miki Racine Berardelli, CMO of clothing company Chico’s. Miki isn’t the kind to shy away from a challenge; in fact, she picked this job so she could juggle all the different responsibilities of a global multi-brand organization. If that doesn’t sound like someone who deserves a Rising Star award from The CMO Awards and The CMO Club, I don’t know who does.

As we spoke, I found out that this drive to balance different roles goes way beyond a little brand dancing. Miki is not just interested in enhancing the customer experience on her existing channels, but she also gives critical advice for aggressively expanding your social media and developing mobile sites and applications. Supervillains beware.

Drew: Chico’s recently teamed up with Borderfree in an effort to expand its ecommerce globally. What are the goals of the partnership, and what advice would you give to other CMOs looking to expand their ecommerce into new, international markets?

We are excited to tap Borderfree as a strategic partner to help Chico’s FAS serve international shoppers with ease and consistency. From logistics to fraud management to market insights, we look forward to leveraging the Borderfree platform to the fullest extent to grow our international presence while maintaining the core values of our brand.

Thinking globally requires a different mindset than being purely domestic. It’s important to support international efforts with the right amount of marketing support, whether it’s SEM or otherwise, to acquire customers from other countries who may or may not know your brand and product offering.

Drew: What have been the biggest challenges you have faced since taking your current position as CMO of Chico’s? How did your experience as CMO of Tory Burch prepare you to take on these challenges? 

I have only been on the job for a couple of months so I haven’t necessarily faced any challenges, but this role requires Digital Commerce and Marketing oversight of four very distinct brands across multiple channels, product categories, touch-points and countries. Our brands include Chico’s, White House Black Market, Soma Intimates and Boston Proper. The experience of working in a multi-brand organization will challenge me, one of the main reasons I decided to join Chico’s FAS.

I will be forever grateful for the rewarding experience I had at Tory Burch during a chapter of such exciting growth in the brand and change across the landscape. Everything I learned there prepared me for my new role.

Drew: A lot of marketers are talking about employee advocacy – is this a priority for you and if so how are you going about it?  If not, perhaps you could talk about how you as a marketer have had an impact on the whole customer experience

Whether employee advocacy makes sense for a brand or business really depends on the company and culture within. While we don’t currently have a formal program in place, Chico’s FAS is comprised of four strong brands on an amazing campus with inspired and dedicated employees. I believe we have opportunity for our employees to share that, digitally and traditionally.

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

I have always been a strong believer in social media. We have a strong portfolio with presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram and Youtube. We also have strong blogger relationships that are important to the mix. We use each platform differently and are exploring new ones as well as new ways to create and share content to tell our stories.

Drew: How are you being “creative” in your current role and how has that helped you?

I have always tried to balance the “art” with the “science.” I believe brands are most successful when they strike right down the middle. I’m excited about the creative opportunities here, creating a seamless experience for our customer, and continually enhancing our digital presence and marketing touch-points.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2015, what’s on your priority list? 

Learning! If I had to state the top three areas of focus based on my “fresh eyes,” the would be: customer experience across all channels, mobile sites and applications, and helping to set us up for the future while we continue to build four successful global brands.

Q+A on J. Crew with CMO Award Winner Shannon Smith


No one said being a CMO is easy.  In Jeff Goodby’s recent post on he encourages CMOs to be bold and move fast given a likely tenure of 45 months describing their position as follows:

  • You’ve got some big fish to fry. The CMO’s job responsibilities have expanded like a dumped-out bowl of TUMS. You are now responsible not just for advertising and research but also for all internal and external corporate communications, all social media, all PR, the company’s Internet presence, countering snipey comments about the company’s Internet presence, any and all stupid photos that go public, leaked documents and ill-advised blog posts by employees. You are doing more than anyone in the company, actually.

It is with all these responsibilities in mind that I reached out to Shannon Smith, former SVP and Global CMO at JCrew, and as you will see, we covered a lot of ground from repositioning to customer experience, email systems to customer loyalty programs. Shannon’s hand in the success of JCrew’s repositioning probably would have been enough for her to win a Rising Star award at this year’s CMO Awards but it’s only the tip of the iceberg as you will see soon enough.

Shannon Smith_JCrew Drew: The J. Crew brand seems to have evolved in last few years.  Can you talk about how this evolution?
J. Crew has evolved their brand position quite a bit over the past 5 or so years, from a more traditional, basics-driven retailer (think roll-neck sweaters, barn jackets, khakis and button-downs) to a much more fashion-forward brand with runway shows during NY Fashion Week.  This has largely been driven by the design and merchant teams, with the evolution of the merchandise itself, and supported by the creative positioning of the marketing, including the site, catalog and email.   It is not easy to change a brand’s position in the eyes of the consumer, but J. Crew is fortunate in that most customers love the new styles.  One thing that has been incredibly successful in shifting the brand’s image is creative collaborations with high-end designers, from Comme des Garcon to Alden Shoes.  The direct marketing team’s role is to get the most relevant product in front of the customer, and communicate that the brand offers tremendous product breadth with a wide range of styles and price points.

Drew: What changes has J. Crew made over the last year in order to improve the customer experience?   
J. Crew is constantly working to improve the customer experience, from the design and fit of the clothes to the services offered in stores to the website functionality.  My role in this endeavor was constantly striving to deliver more relevant, personalized marketing communications to our customers, providing them with information about the products that would be of interest to them, whether it was our women’s new arrivals, a new men’s suiting line with a different fit, or great children’s clothes.  I worked towards this in our email marketing program, our catalog versioning and our rewards program, the J. Crew credit card.

Drew: I saw this quote on AdExchanger: “J. Crew is incorporating email engagement behavior into segmentation and targeting. ‘We’re setting up a much more triggered and robust marketing platform,’ says Smith.” Can you talk about this new initiative?
In 2013, I led J. Crew through the transition onto the Responsys email platform (Responsys was subsequently acquired by Oracle and integrated into their Marketing Cloud).  They are a best-in-class service platform, enabling J. Crew with a much more robust set of capabilities around customer segmentation and targeted marketing campaigns.  Our email segmentation strategy is now capturing not only customer purchase history, but also website browse and email engagement behavior (opens, clicks, etc.).  In addition, we have launched a series of email triggers, including Abandoned Cart and “Category Browse” campaigns, that are driving millions of incremental dollars in email revenue.

DrewSo would you describe this as your single most important new digital tool?
For my world, it was absolutely our transition to the Responsys email marketing platform.  The capabilities they provide in bringing vast amounts of customer online behavior into our segmentation has allowed us to significantly improve the productivity of our email campaigns through better segmentation of our customer base.  We are able to incorporate products customers are interested in – indicated by browsing and email engagement – in addition to past purchases, which is incredibly powerful.

Drew: Can you talk a bit about your experience with loyalty programs and what it takes to get them off the ground?
J. Crew doesn’t have a loyalty program (our J. Crew credit card is our rewards program) but at Sephora I managed the Beauty Insider program for 4 years, growing it from launch to an active customer base of over 10 million members.  In terms of getting it “off the ground”, it was an enormous company initiative involving everyone in the marketing, operations, store and technical organizations.  It had a tremendously successful launch and grew quickly, but loyalty programs require significant effort and funding to keep them fresh, top-of-mind, engaging and meaningful.  At Sephora, I led the launch of the VIP premium tier and new types of program benefits, including new point-level rewards.  The Beauty Insider program has been invaluable in that it enabled the company to build a customer database and personalize marketing communications to their enormous base of retail customers.  However, I was constantly working with our analytics team to measure the ROI of the program holistically.  It’s not an easy thing to do.  I believe loyalty programs can have real value for companies, particularly when many retailers selling are the same products and competing for customers, like department stores.  That said, I always caution a company considering a loyalty program to be very thoughtful and clear on the strategy for their program, how it aligns with their brand and how they will drive value from it, because it’s going to be a big investment.

Drew: What advice would you give to fellow marketers when it comes to building credibility with your CEO? Are there some things to be avoided?
You need to know what’s important to the CEO, and to present marketing results and accomplishments in a way that will resonate with his/her values.  If the CEO is an analytical, metrics-driven leader, the marketer would be best-served providing a numbers-driven communication about metrics and performance.  If the CEO is more creative and emotional, the marketing leader should speak to results in terms of positive impact on the customer, building connection to the brand, etc., and how this supports the company’s growth.  What I’d say is to be avoided is trying to communicate things in a way that is important to the marketing leader – but isn’t important to the CEO.

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