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

CMO Benjamin Karsch on Revlon’s Lovely “Love is On” Campaign


Benjamin KarschAdmittedly, I’m a biased blogger.  I love big ideas.  And I am more than happy to celebrate big ideas even if my agency had no hand in creating them. Think of it as a form of largesse.  Or jealousy.  Either way, Revlon’s “Love is On” campaign meets all of my criteria for a big idea:

      1) It’s emotional.  What’s more emotional than love?

2) It’s relevant.  One can certainly find an inherent connection between being attractive and the pursuit of love.

3) It works on multiple channels. This is perhaps the strongest argument for the beauty of this campaign. Lots of campaign ideas work well in advertising. But few translate equally well into social media. (If you run into me at a cocktail party, be sure to ask me about two national ad campaigns that were disasters on social media!) And fewer still can naturally integrate a charitable component.

So, yes, I love the “Love is On” campaign and it was my great pleasure to catch up with Benjamin Karsch as a result of his winning the Content Marketing Award from The CMO Club and find out the lovely story behind the campaign.

Drew: I’m a big fan of your “Love is On” campaign.  Can you talk about the overall strategic thinking behind this initiative?

Revlon’s CEO Lorenzo Delpani believes that we must have an emotional connection with our consumers and that truly is the DNA of LOVE IS ON:  it grows right out of the name Revlon.

Literally, L-O-V-E – those letters can be found at the heart of the word REVLON.  And O-N, those letters are at the end of the word REVLON.  LOVE IS ON is a mission of inspiring LOVE, the most powerful, positive human emotion and most powerful motivator. From the moment she puts on her makeup, we want our customer to enter the world of LOVE, where emotion, positivity and affection fill her heart.

Drew note: Another admission. I made a music video in the 80’s (very under the radar with friends as actors) to Robert Palmer’s song Addicted to Love which required me to listen to the song over 100 times. The result is Pavlovian now –whenever I hear the song, even if performed by another signer, I remember one of the most fun, truly lovely summers of my life that included meeting my future wife. 

Drew: The “Love is On” microsite is filled with lots of “lovely” content.  Can you talk about some of the elements (horoscopes, dating advice, video series, sweepstakes) and how these are working for the brand?

We have a number of unique and innovative initiatives supporting LOVE IS ON, speaking to women no matter at what stage of love they are – looking for love, falling in love or staying in love. We partnered with Refinery 29 to create Love Horoscopes, leveraging the insight that this type of content is some of the most engaging on their site.   And to speak to women who are looking for love, we created a digital series in partnership with Cosmopolitan and Kristin Cavallari , where dating and beauty advice were provided and engaging stories were shared.   We also created a “Dream Wedding” with Brides magazine, asking consumers to help us plan a special wedding for a very deserving couple.  Most recently, we launched the viral video “Love Test,” which empowers women to leverage a simple daily beauty ritual to choose love and improve their love lives.

Drew: “Love is On” also includes a charitable component the Million Dollar Challenge.  Can you talk about the thinking behind having a charitable component and how that is working thus far?

We were looking for a different, more innovative and modern way of fundraising and felt the new philanthropic platform of an online fundraising challenge to be attractive for two reasons: it allows us to give more directly to charities, and thereby contributing more funds, and it also allows us to expand our charitable reach beyond people located in just NY or LA.  And we did just that: charities from all over the country got involved—in a major way—and it was really exciting watching them embrace the spirit of competition, right down to the last few minutes!  The women’s health charities raised $2.75 million, with Revlon donating an additional $1.425 million over the course of the challenge for a total distribution of $4.18 million.

Drew: And of course, “Love is On” has a social component featuring Instagram pictures of lovers. Can you talk about the role social media plays in your overall strategy and how it is working so far?  Any surprises?

Social media – across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – has played an integral role in engaging our consumers with the LOVE IS ON messaging. We asked consumers to “Show us how you love #loveison” and the surprise has been the overwhelming response. Consumers have engaged with us in droves – we have received over 5MM submissions using the hashtag from consumers around the world. We have been able to push that content back out on our social platforms, as well as onto our billboard in Times Square.

Drew: “Love is On” is also the name of new fragrance. Was that always the plan to have a fragrance with the same name as your marketing campaign?Also I understand that you are targeting travel retail with this product — did that necessitate a new approach to either your marketing or your content?

Yes, naming our first fragrance in over 10 years after our brand mission, LOVE IS ON, was always the plan. You see, LOVE IS ON is not just a marketing campaign – it’s a mission, a movement and it’s in everything we do.  Therefore, it only made sense for us the name to continue the message in our latest fragrance.  Formulated to inspire love and intimacy, LOVE IS ON is the fragrance that is loved by women, and irresistible to men.  And we are excited to offer LOVE IS ON eau de toilette in not only travel retail but across all of our usual channels.

St. Louis Cardinals SVP Dan Farrell on Customer Experience

Photo by Sarah Conrad

Photo by Sarah Conrad

Marketing a sports team is a rather tricky affair.  Any given day the on-field performance can vary wildly.  This is especially true in baseball.  Even the best of the best win 60% of their games which in the course of 162 game season means 60 or so losses, 30 of which happened with home field advantage.  A favorite player can have a bad night which is often the case for hitters in a sport where going 1 for 3 all season is considered greatness! Compare this to the consistent experience consumers have with a typical packaged goods product and you’ll begin to have some sympathy for the sports marketer.

All that said, you won’t hear Dan Farrell, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the St. Louis Cardinals complaining.  First, he knows he’s riding, as they say, a great horse.  The Cardinals are arguably the winningest team in baseball this century with 11 playoff appearances, 4 National League pennants and 2 World Series rings. And second, he’s built his marketing around the entire customer experience at Busch Stadium rather than just the players on the field. In doing so, Dan has helped the Cardinals become the 2nd most attended home team in baseball in the last three years (behind the LA Dodgers) attracting over 3.5 millions fans the last two seasons. For these efforts, Dan also won the Customer Experience Award from The CMO Club and a chance to be interviewed by yours truly! Batter up…

Drew: Congrats on winning the Customer Experience Award.  Can you share the kinds of things you did to impact the overall customer experience in 2015?  

The Cardinals operate Busch Stadium based on the premise that attending a baseball game in our ballpark ranks as one of the premier attractions and serves as a genuine destination for millions of fans throughout the Midwest.  Our franchise draws from a very broad region, and while we recognize the value and importance of our local fans who average somewhere in the range of attending 8-10 games per year, we also draw nearly 1 million fans from outside the St Louis metro area.  Accordingly, we approach each game with the understanding that we will have fans who will be attending their first game at Busch Stadium, so we strive to consistently provide the highest quality guest experience possible.

The basics in our guest experience model are probably no different than most other entertainment venues: cleanliness, food and beverage quality and service, safe and secure atmosphere, helpful and out-going usher staff, entertaining scoreboard and fan engagement initiatives for pre-game and between innings, efficient ease of access, etc.  If we have a specialty, I believe it comes from a dedicated and very tenured staff that strive for superior customer service with a keen attention to detail.

Drew: How do you measure your customer experience?  How do you know if Cardinal fans are having a great experience? 

We conduct regular in-park surveys seeking fan feedback on a variety of topics, including guest satisfaction and ranking of our various service sectors. We monitor and track the data on a year to year basis to check for consistency. We also hold regular pre-game forums with our season ticket holders and our group leaders and we invite feedback and share information with these core groups of fans who are very important stakeholders of our product.

Drew:  A lot of studies suggest that only 1 in 10 unhappy customers will share their complaints with a brand. How do you process customer complaints and make sure that a systemic issue is not overlooked?  

We have a very active guest services department who monitor online complaints and also we encourage our game day usher and support staff to submit complaints or offer suggestions for service improvements.

Drew: Obviously on-field performance of the team has a big impact on customer satisfaction and you’ve been blessed with a great team for several years now. What have been your top marketing priorities in the last few years and how have they evolved?  

The Cardinals have made significant changes to our promotion programs over the past few seasons.  We have increased the number of in-park promotional dates, increased the amount of money we invest in the promotional giveaway items, increased the quantity and quality of items we give away, and focused our advertising to highlight the promotions, more of a “retail” strategy vs a brand-oriented campaign.

Drew: What other company do you think is doing an amazing job with CX and why?  

Kindle by Amazon; AT&T U-verse (surprising but I am impressed how they can trouble shoot a technical  issue in your system from a remote customer service location), Bank of America.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?  

Continue to learn how to monetize the digital and social media content that is so significant for a professional sports franchise.

CMO Lisa Woodard on the Benefits of Networking


0636895There’s a reason that I devoted two chapters to networking and placed them in the elemental category “Inert Fundamentals” in my recently released book [which, hint hint, is being heralded as the perfect stocking stuffer for aspiring marketeers!]  The reason — networking is fundamental to the success of many marketers in leadership positions. Networking is not just a source of future jobs (a good enough reason on its own) but it is also a source of gratification for the special CMOs that enjoy giving their time and energy to others.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Read my interview with Lisa Woodard, the CMO at Transamerica Brokerage. Lisa, as you will soon find out, is a giver, sharing her time with fellow CMOs and aspiring entrepreneurs in prison.  It is little wonder why Lisa was a recent recipient of the President’s Circle Award from The CMO Club.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to doing your job well?  Can you provide a specific example of some action you took as a result of your network?

On a scale  of 1-10, I would say a strong peer network is at least a 9.  With frequent transitions from company to company and vertical to vertical as the norm for most CMOs, just having experienced mentors to call is extremely valuable.  Where I have learned the most is perhaps by hearing what others have tried that did not work – allowing me  to avoid pitfalls early in my tenure with a given role.  Specifically, I have been able to identify strong vendor relationships because of references given by my network that have provided value.

Drew: Have there been any unexpected benefits to your networking efforts? 

The sharing of wisdom on “non-marketing” topics.  Being a part of discussions both on the digital roundtable and at The CMO Club Summit on the topic of Work-Life Balance has been nurturing, affirming and also provided me with very practical tools to make sense of the almost constant craziness

Drew: Making time for networking is always a challenge.  How much time do you invest in peer to peer exchanges and how do you rationalize this investment?  

Probably 10% – and I have to be very adamant / defensive in carving out the time – there is always something that can come up back at the office.  But I find the ROI to be quite high.  My boss always asks, “ Was it worthy of your time?”  the Answer with CMO club and networking is always a yes, as long as I set the boundaries.  The no vendor selling aspect is truly helpful in that I am not spending the time wondering what the other person’s motives are.  Lastly, once you rise to our level- keeping marketing skills fresh requires external  input, it’s not solely being learned within the company.  Networking gives me a chance to work on my business, not just in my business.

Drew: Effective networks are ones in which there is a lot of give and take and some would say, start with giving and the taking will follow.  What’s your approach?  How do you handle the takers?

My satisfaction comes even more from the giving than the taking.  I just have to believe in the long term, those good reciprocal relationships will add value. That is why I work with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.  I get so much more than I give by sharing my experience and knowledge.

I have a great experience to share on this one:  I interviewed a candidate for a marketing role that wasn’t quite a fit for the job, but I liked him and maintained contact with him.  He had been a product marketing manager for a long time and had been laid off.  With pre-digital skills , he actively transformed himself to learn all he could about social.  He applied his social media knowledge and spoke at various groups of folks in transition, helping them optimize their Linked In profiles.  In fact, he helped me fix mine when I was in transition.  He was able to parlay that giving to others into paid consultancy and his own marketing business.  I have even hired him and my clients love him.  It was all about reinvention and paying it forward.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 

Our industry is in great need of re-invention in order to meet the needs of the consumer.  I am excited to be part of significant industry change.

How Neiman Marcus Burnishes its Reputation



Even if you don’t shop at Neiman Marcus, chances are you know them by reputation.  They are just one of those unique brands that manage to stay top of mind, remaining known for outstanding service and outlandish inventory.  Talking with their CMO of six years, Wanda Gierhart, it is clear that this reputation is neither an accident nor a presumption–it is something that must be continually earned and reinforced with new actions on multiple fronts.

For example, Neiman installed Memory Mirrors in dressing rooms to transform the shopping experience, making it more fun and more social. Neiman was also quick to embrace e-commerce, an area other brick & mortar retailers ignored early on. Remarkably, e-commerce now accounts for over 1/4 of Neiman’s sales.  Not surprisingly, Neiman also has a robust content marketing program including a blog, lots of social sharing (#NMMakeSomeNoise) and its legendary catalogs, a program that garnered the Content Engagement Award from The CMO Club.

In our interview below, you’ll notice a profound focus on the customer and the experience they have with Neiman whether in-store, on a desktop or on a mobile device.  Neiman customers would have it no other way.  Would yours?

Drew: I have read that Neiman Marcus is using personalized marketing to drive sales, with mobile being a large part of this effort. How successful have your efforts been to date in this area? 
Some of our largest successes have been in personalizing product recommendations, personalized search, and email personalization.  While we continue to experiment across all platforms and numerous personalization techniques, in general what has worked best in personalization for desktop, is also working the best in mobile after customizing the experience to the needs of the smaller screen.

Drew: Can you talk about the Memory Mirror and how that is having an impact on not just the shopping experience but also social sharing?
Superior customer service starts with a great overall experience. The Memory Mirror allows our customers to capture a variety of still and video images that can be shared with friends and allow the customer to see how an outfit looks front and back and while moving.  The initial reaction has been very positive and we are currently rolling out to additional stores.  We have had so much demand for the mirror that we added it as a fantasy gift this year.

Drew: I read on Forbes that e-commerce now accounts for 26% of revenue.  For a historically brick and mortar chain, that’s really amazing.  To what do you attribute this success and how is that effecting your overall marketing approach?
Early on we recognized the importance of e-commerce and invested heavily there.  We continue to focus on e-commerce/mobile as an area of strategic investment. Our primary objective remains delivering the best shopping experience for our customer regardless of the platform.  We mean to make the experience as seamless as possible for the Neiman Marcus shopper whether it is in store, online or on a mobile device.

Drew: Is there any division between your content marketing strategy and your merchandising strategy? By that I mean, unlike in other categories, your products could be considered your content and your customers might browse your catalogs recreationally the way I might look at a travel magazine.  
We’ve always felt that content was important, we invest significant time in telling the story of our products and the trends we see in the marketplace to our customers through our magazine – the Book, our emails and our blog. We continually look for additional ways to tell this story and see more opportunity in the digital space to extend through our social channels and a larger content hub. We know our customers celebrate their achievements in life with luxury purchase milestones; so continuing to educate customers on our amazing brands and their products is essential.

Drew: So many brands have started cranking out content. How do you make sure your content really stands out from the pack?  Is there such a thing as too much content?
There has to be a balance. Our customers are busy and we need to make sure our content is sharply edited and always inspires and provides a value. We use our unique access to designers to provide a view inside fashion that few get to see. Additionally, with our Make Some Noise platform we are focusing content on bold women with bold voices – finding new ways to inspire our customers through these women’s contributions…

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 
Would love to unlock the mobile experience for our customer and drive higher conversion.

Drilling into Content Marketing with Hu-Friedy CMO Patrick Bernardi


PBHeadShot (1)Hu-Friedy is a mouthful of a brand name which may or may not have been on the mind of Hugo Friedman when he founded his dental instrument company back in 1908. More than a century later, Hu-Friedy is a global leader in its category and yet, quite remarkably still completes 80% of the manufacturing process by hand.  According to their website, “they meticulously mold, treat, and sharpen instruments to perfection, which is why we call them artisans.”  And while their dedication to craftsmanship may be old school, their marketing is anything but.

Led by CMO Patrick Bernardi, Hu-Friedy has been on the cutting edge for some time now especially in the area of content marketing.  That’s why I was so pleased Patrick could join one of my panels at Incite’s Content Marketing Summit AND that The CMO Club recognized him with their Content Engagement Award.  Our interview below is definitely something you can sink your teeth into, helping to flesh out these bite-sized nuggets of content marketing wisdom:

  • Take a campaign approach;
  • Empathize with your target;
  • Measure more than leads & sales generated;
  • Get your employees involved;
  • Keep it simple, smiley!

Drew: What was your overall content strategy in 2015? What role does it play in your marketing mix?  

Hu-Friedy casts a wide net in terms of the functional areas of dentistry we play in, so to support our broad portfolio, we have instituted a content calendar format that we like to call the “Thud Factor.” Our approach here is that during each quarter we focus on a specific area of our business, anchor it with a significant piece of content and execute a series of integrated campaign elements to drive maximum impact.

Hu-Friedy is a world leader in dental products and instrument manufacturing, and while our brand has a tremendous amount of affinity, the fact that we sell through distribution presents certain challenges in terms of developing direct relationships with our customers. We have fantastic distribution partners, and they support us extremely well, but it really is our job to drive demand for our products. So, we have been working on getting closer to our customers over the last few years by improving our web site experience, our social media platforms, and this year we really focused on delivering utility by creating and distributing value-add content. And in terms of the marketing mix, content plays a vital role, as it is a critical part of our overall inbound marketing strategy.

Drew: What motivated you to launch the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign? Has it been successful?

Hu-Friedy has many different product lines and customer segments, but a group that has always been near and dear to our hearts are Dental Hygienists. Think about the experience you have with your own dental hygienist when you go to the dentist. Can you describe that person’s personality? What is so interesting is that these folks are all kind of described the same way. Friendly, gentle, smart, caring, fun, passionate…the list goes on. At Hu-Friedy we feel that the Dental Hygienist is really the heart of the dental practice and should be celebrated for all they do. So, that is why we created the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign – to express our gratitude and to deliver a rallying cry for this special group to celebrate one another. And it has been very successful, as we’ve had more social sharing and engagement tied back to this campaign than anything else we have done this year.

Drew: How do you measure the success of your content efforts? 

We measure success in a number of ways. First, as we are trying develop stronger and more direct relationships with our customers, data collection is very important. It has been gratifying to see how many new emails we have been able to collect this year based on engagement actions like ebook digital asset downloads and email newsletter registrations. The other success metric we look at is new members added to our online dental hygiene community, Friends of Hu-Friedy –

We have over 40,000 dental hygienists as members and our content marketing efforts are designed to deliver information to this group so that they can perform at their best clinically, in addition to how they can take care of their overall health to ensure career longevity.

Drew: So many brands have started cranking out content. How do you make sure your content really stands out from the pack? Is there such a thing as too much content?

Not sure if there is such a thing as too much content, but for sure there is such a thing as poor content. Any maybe that is really the issue, because I am a firm believer in quality over quantity as it relates to content. I say that because I know from personal experience that the second a brand “jumps the shark” by delivering content that is not relevant or valuable, then I will be more judicious in my engagement going forward. There is nothing worse than being hooked by a subject line like “the top ten things a marketer should never do,” and the come to realize the content is of limited value. So, at Hu-Friedy we ask a lot of questions to customers which informs our content creation. We also do our homework on industry trends. For example, general practice dentists are doing more and more specialty procedures themselves instead of referring those cases out. To address that trend, we developed an eBook designed specifically to deliver education on this topic.

Drew: On the topic of championing your employees, let’s talk about your Apprenticeship Program – Hu-Friedy University. This idea of taking training back to a fundamental level and creating ‘apprentices’ out of your best employees is a huge internal investment on the part of the company. What have been some of the outcomes of this project so far? With such a long-sided vision of success, how do you project that this will prepare your newest team members for future challenges?

One thing that maybe we should have realized, but didn’t, is the amount of pride this program generated internally – especially when the story got picked-up the Wall Street Journal and leading dental publications. Externally, it has played an important role in our employee recruitment efforts. But more than anything, it is an example of a brand really walking-the-walk to ensure that its’s value proposition continues well into the future. Long term, the art of instrument making is being passed to the next generation, who will then ensure that the craftsmanship of our instruments, and the high-quality reputation that our artisans have made legendary, will continue on for years to come.

Drew: Where does content rank in your marketing priorities and why?

It ranks as a very top priority. The bottom line is this – relationships are the vehicle for brand advocacy and that vehicle requires fuel in the form of value-add content, loyalty experiences and simple ways to engage with our brand.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 

Simplifying customer experiences. I am inspired here by the point of view of Margaret Malloy, who is the Global CMO for Siegel+Gale. She has stated that winning brands consistently deliver clear, useful and beautiful experiences for their customers. At the heart of this lies the concept of simplicity. An ambitious goal for sure, but one that is no longer optional for brands who want great relationships with their customers.

Happy Employees = Happy Customers



Sometimes a single blog post can’t span the breadth of what I’ve learned from a particular CMO.  This is definitely the case with Steven Handmaker, CMO at Assurance, winner of The CMO Club Leadership Award who also joined me for the opening panel at Incite’s Content Marketing Summit.  While the interview below focuses on his approach to leadership, it doesn’t cover what I subsequently learned about his approach to content and the highly effective marketing campaign he helped initiate for Assurance.  So allow me to address that first.

Knowing how hard it is to differentiate insurance companies and the products they sell, Assurance decided to focus attention on its “quirky culture” thus putting employees front and center. With its campaign, “Happy Employees = Happy Customers,” Assurance not only found a source of highly distinctive content but also they tapped into a wellspring of goodwill both internally and externally.  Assurance does many professionally-focused things to engendered this goodwill (i.e. training seminars & a “university” ) along with many just plain fun things like an employee Olympics, a casino night and sending digital high fives to top performers. These activities have catapulted Assurance to be among the top 5 places to work in Chicago and just as importantly, helped Assurance outperform many of its rivals.  And frankly, that’s what I call leadership.

Drew: How would you describe / or how have others described your leadership style? 

In terms of leadership style, I’m always aiming for inspirational.  I work hard to have those I lead understand our ultimate vision and allow them the freedom and flexibility to use their talents to help us get there.  Beyond inspiration, I’m a big believer in consistently showing appreciation.

Drew: Do you have any role models that you’ve admired over the years and if so, what did you pick up from him/her?  

Personally, I worship at the altar of Bruce Springsteen. I mean, he is the ultimate Boss.I never miss a concert. Seen him in multiple cities, seen him in multiple continents — I am one of those. I could write a book (and may one day) on why he’s a great leadership role model for business. But for the purpose of this interview, let’s just say he’s a master storyteller, first and foremost, with legendary desire to connect with his audience.  Something to which all marketers should aspire.

Drew: Can you talk about some of the actions you took as a leader in the last couple of years that were particularly challenging?

I work for an insurance brokerage whose primary business is B2B.  When it comes to marketing technology, our industry is woefully behind the times.  I’ve installed a state-of-the-art Eloqua automation system and have established an engaged audience of prospects and clients, rich with data.  The challenging part is partnering with our sales people who are already tops in our industry, and convincing them to incorporate this new technology in to their process for even greater results.  I’d say this work in continually ongoing.

Drew: How important is your peer to peer network to your on-going success?  What are the biggest benefits of having a peer network?

Peer-to-peer for me has been invaluable.  I’ve learned (stolen) so much from marketing leaders, particularly in other industries, which I’ve been able to take back and apply in my own environment.  As I’ve said, nearly every industry is further along than insurance brokers – so it’s not too difficult to identify some amazing things we should have probably been doing 4 years ago.

Drew: What’s the best advice you’ve been given to guide personal / career success? 

Anybody can follow a job description, do exactly what is asked, and produce positive results.  If you really want to get noticed, if you really want to get ahead in your career, you need to ask yourself what else could you be doing that isn’t in your job description.  What else should you just do to help those around you and the company succeed.  Do that, and success will follow.  If you apply this ideology to your personal life as well, you can expect the same results.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?

My own marketing team is growing and I’ve got some amazing talent I’d love to spend more time working closely with and nurturing. However, time management is something that ebbs and flows for me.  Lately I’ve been ebbing and I’ve got to get my flow back!

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