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."

Social Media Innovation + GRAMMYs CMO, Evan Greene


evan greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q + A w CMO Award winner Michael Lacorazza of Wells Fargo



Before taking the job as SVP, Head of Integrated Marketing at Wells Fargo, Michael Lacorazza was cautioned that it might take a while to get things done at this huge bank.  Much to his delight, he was able to push through a number of new initiatives in his first year that had a profound impact on the business.  Though he credits his strong team for making it all happen, The CMO Club acknowledged his accomplishments in the area of digital marketing with their Programmatic Marketing Award last fall.  Here is my interview with Michael including some timeless insights on the power of customer-centricity:

Drew: Wells Fargo is considered an integrated marketing leader in the banking industry. What is your approach to seamlessly promoting the Wells Fargo brand across multiple channels?
We start with the customer—identifying the needs and insights to define the customer journey.  The customer journey determines the channel strategy, so that we integrate in the right places.  To bring the work to life, our large-scale campaigns are headed by a marketing integration lead, who assembles the physical and virtual teams (both Wells Fargo team members and outside resources) needed to develop and launch the assignments – and is ultimately accountable for the project.

Drew: With the purchase of Wachovia in 2008, Wells Fargo became a nationwide presence. How do you stay close to your customers when you operate in so many markets and have so many different types of customers?  
While we are a coast-to-coast company now, our focus is on serving our customers and our communities at the local level. We have a strong culture of putting the customer first and strive to live it every day. And, that customer-centric culture is guided by our company’s vision to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.

Drew: You operate in a relationship-based business. How do you improve loyalty among your customers?
It’s about living our vision and values and doing what’s right for the customer.  It’s about building lifelong relationships one customer at a time. Our team members are the competitive advantage that enables us to achieve greater loyalty through that relationship building.

Drew: Innovation is a sexy word but not as sexy to a CEO as ROI.  Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
Measuring the impact of the marketing investment is critical in a data-driven company like Wells Fargo.  We create scorecards with KPIs for all of our large initiatives and leverage tools like media mix modeling to help us quantify the economic value of our investment and make optimization decisions.  Further, we share the results transparently with business lines and senior management.

Drew: A lot of financial services firms have tiptoed into social.  Do you see social as viable channel for your business and if so, in what capacity?  
Absolutely.  Our customers live digital, mobile and social lives.  We are continuously investing in social infrastructure to enable us to serve our customers and connect with them where they are.

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last couple of years?
My first priority has been to enable Wells Fargo to design and execute fully integrated marketing campaigns that engage the customer and drive measurable business success outcomes.  We’re very proud of that work. We have made a lot of progress and have more opportunities going forward.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
I joined Wells Fargo just over a year ago.  While preparing for the assignment, I received a lot of guidance to expect both change and projects to take a long time to matriculate in a matrixed, regulated company.  The magnitude, quality and impact of the work that the team has produced during my rookie season have been very impressive and much faster than anticipated.

Drew: Content marketing is hot topic at the moment.  What’s your perspective on content in terms of its effectiveness?  Are you increasing your investment in this area?
We view all of our communications as content – even our paid advertising.  And, more than ever, there needs to be a value exchange with the customer.   Marketers can no longer “message” at the customer at scaled weight levels.  The customer expects much more and look to us to deliver relevant content on their terms.

Drew: Big data as a big part of the CMO conversation these days.  How are you tackling big data?
It’s top secret, so I could tell you, but…all kidding aside.  What’s fundamentally important for us is to protect our customer’s data and operate in a spirit of transparency.  And we need do this in a tightly regulated industry with substantial uncertainty on where the privacy dialog will lead us. At the end of the day, we want to use data to improve our customer experience and deliver more relevance—that’s our focus.

Drew: Do you agree with that notion that “marketing is everything and everything is marketing” and if so how have you extended the boundaries of your job beyond the normal purview of the CMO?   
Yes, the key marketing leaders in the organization are deeply involved in helping to shape our future customer experience initiatives.  Because we are often so close to the customer and have unique insights to share, marketers can add a lot of value.  In my opinion, it’s not the sole domain of lines of business or product teams.

Q + A w CMO Award Winner Chris Brull of Kawasaki


brullEvery once in a while I meet someone whose job sounds like a lot more fun than mine.  After interviewing Chris Brull, Head of Marketing at Kawasaki Motors, I definitely had pangs of jealously.  I mean who wouldn’t want to ride bikes, ATVs and Jet Skis all in the name of customer and product research?  And then there’s the fact that his marketing mission is to reinforce the “wild, unrestrained, amazing fun” that his customers have using Kawasaki products.  Sounds like a winning formula to me and as it turns out, it also resonated with the folks at The CMO Club, who recognized Chris with their Rising Star Award late last year.

As you will see, Brull brings tremendous passion to his job at Kawasaki and is not afraid to take risks.  This sense of adventure made Brull an early proponent of digital, social and mobile, all of which helped build enduring connections with its fan base and drive new fans to Kawasaki dealers.  Read on to learn what Brull means when he refers to marketing Kawasaki not as a brand, but as a “lifestyle.”

Drew: Kawasaki Motors has a famously fanatical customer following. What are the things you are doing to maintain and improve loyalty among your customers?
I think you hit it straight on in terms of the fanatical following. We’re one brand (Kawasaki) and we have 14 different sub-brands, and 84 different models. You have to speak to these targets extremely authentically because these enthusiasts can spot a fake. To connect with them, we really have to know what we’re talking about. There can be no one-size fits all campaigns. You have to be very, very targeted and direct. Not every industry is as hyper connected with their customers as you have to be in power sports. You have to understand how people act, react, and think. We’re becoming real and authentic to the point where we’re almost a family member.

Drew: You said yourself that you have 14 different sub-brands and 84 different models. How do you stay close to your customers when you have so many different segments and so many hyper-focused initiatives?
Our company name is Kawasaki Heavy Industries. We’ve been around since 1870. We build products that are all about bettering people’s lives. Our company actually builds the Shinkansen bullet train. We build the fuselage of the Dreamliner. We build the factories where our products are made. It’s a crazy experience.

This is idea of Kawasaki Strong – the company that builds all of these things is actually the same company that builds these power sport products. If you look at Harley, they just build cruisers. Our engineering comes from something bigger and it’s very compelling for the customer. There’s a new campaign kicking off that will celebrate this engineering prowess.

Drew: Would you call this new campaign a re-launch?
It’s not a re-launch, it’s just re-telling the corporate story. We’re formalizing what the dealers have been doing for the past 15-20 years. There is a lot of story to tell, a lot of sex appeal that separates us from the competition. We call our appeal “intelligent rebel”. We’re not for everyone nor do we want to be. We’re about going further, faster. We’ve always been known for wild high-end performance. No one builds engines like Kawasaki. It’s just this rider feeling that we have created. Almost like you’re one with the product.  This is wild, unrestrained, amazing fun.

Drew: In terms of marketing, have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s really worked well?
We started testing our tools on customers via trial and error. Much of this stuff started to work. We were hooking these guys online long before the online bandwith was widely available. But it worked! We were giving fanatic customers their Kawasaki fix. They wanted to see the next big thing in Kawasaki and we were giving it to them. Our idea was to just give them a little bit. We were taking our content down to bite-sized pieces and giving our customers reasons to buy Kawasaki. The videos were shot in an elegant way that engaged, educated, and excited our customers. Our content strategy was ahead of the curve at that time. And there were skeptics within the company at the time but we were ultimately prophets and the strategy proved itself to be wildly successful.

Drew: As everyone moved online, experiential marketing was somewhat lost. Would you consider going back to experiential to be an innovation?
Personal interaction (especially in our industry) is still so critical. We might have a customer sitting on the website at 2am getting hooked. But at the end of the day, you can’t buy our product online. You still need to get the person to the dealership.

Demo rides are not often offered at dealerships because the dealerships have liability. That’s a strike against us. So, we create opportunities where we can show people the inside of our bikes and compare it to our competitor’s bikes. Tell the customer the Kawasaki story. People are hungry for knowledge. We get them fired up to ride. Now that I’ve told you what features we have inside of the bike, once I’ve showed them to you, then we go ride. I talk through what you’re feeling once we’re riding. It’s very experiential. Then you’re hooked. That’s the Kawasaki experience. We go to where our customers live and create our own experiential events.

Drew: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing?   
The sale of units is our top goal. But we’re not necessarily holding marketing solely accountable to the sale of the unit. Local sales guys are tasked with the selling. Flat out awareness of the brand is one goal for my team. We are also looking at engagement levels in the digital space and floor traffic into the local dealerships. We also evaluate marks such as the strength of the brand, likelihood to recommend, and likelihood of missing the brand if it were gone. This is all very top line.

Drew: What are a couple things that you’re most proud of as the head of marketing at Kawasaki?
The first thing that comes to mind is our online integration into social and mobile because we were the first to do it in the industry. Another thing that I’m very proud of is the global launch of our products. One of the sexier ones we did was a Times Square launch for Ninja. We had a live broadcast globally and had 1.5 million people show up to the event. No one else in our space had done something on that scale. It was a big risk with a big reward.

One of my biggest accomplishments was actually internal at the company. When I started, trust needed to be built between the factory team and the U.S.-based marketing team. I was able to build an internal coalition within Kawasaki that proved that the U.S. marketing team was able to work with and add value to the home office in Japan. The Times Square experiential launch was the turning point for us. It was the first time that the Kawasaki message was the same globally and the content was the same globally for a product launch. To be able to pull that off and get people to work together and trust each other as part of a global coalition – that was an accomplishment. Now I get to be a team leader of that global coalition.

Drew: Have you been able to use the voice of the customer to affect not just marketing but product development?  
When I started at Kawasaki, marketing didn’t find out about a product until 6 months before launch. There was an inherent distrust. Now through the trust that we’ve built, our company has realized that it’s critical to listen to the voice of our customers. We also realized that product marketing was critical to separate ourselves in the market. We needed to understand the real reasons why certain products weren’t selling. One of the things we realized was that certain products sell better in certain places. For instance, 4 wheel products sell great in the US and not in Japan. How could a customer tell you about advancement? They can’t. But they’re giving clues all the time as long as you’re listening.

Drew: It would be remiss of me not to ask about social media. You have 800,000 fans on Facebook, a fair amount of activity on Twitter. Let’s talk about it from a customer service standpoint. Are you set up to deal with customer issues on social?
We were the first in our industry to have a social presence. So that’s something to be proud of. For me, it wasn’t enough to post a bunch of cool shots of cool bikes. It was really about the voice of our customers. We have our social team set up to respond almost 24/7. It’s critically important that we are sensitive to what’s going on with our customers. These hyper enthusiasts are our “friends”. They expect that Kawasaki the brand respond in real time. Our communities will often police itself and many times they take care of their own before we have to. We’re looking at it as social business more than social media. It’s almost a lead tool. The conversations actually go pretty deep. We’re sharing riding tips, riding locations, history of the brand, dealership locations. Another nice thing is that we’ve never bought a single fan on social. Our 800,000 fans are hard earned.

Drew: You talked about the interest in all of this related content. How far have you gone with product related content to keep customers interested and engaged?
We think that content related to “how the product works” is critical to our audience. Then there’s the “what it is” content. This is the physical product, how it’s supposed to performs, etc. Then you get to the most important piece: why. Why do you ride? Is it the wind in the face? Is it the escape? Leaving friends and family behind? Or is it riding with a big pack? It’s the inspirational part of riding. It’s a very mature market and being able to tap into that with our 26 different targets. When you get into our content, we’re hitting the why, the how, and the what, when we’re trying to excite these people. We tap into the lifestyle. We show people what goes on at Daytona Bike Week. Let me show you what’s going on with our Ninja ZX14 when they’re actually drag racing it. Let me show you what happens in Europe at the Isle of Mann TT. People are hanging on every morsel that comes out of the Kawasaki Corporation. They want to connect. They want to belong. So the product itself is almost a ticket to the Kawasaki party. The all-access content is a hook. This type of marketing is hard to pull off. The deeper we go, the more rewarded we are. After all, I’m selling a lifestyle.

Q + A w John DeVincent, Award-Winning CMO of eMoney Advisors


John DeVincentFaced with big-budget competitors boasting award winning advertising, John DeVincent, CMO of eMoney Advisors, needed to find a fresh way to stand out. For DeVincent, this meant focusing his attention on eMoney Advisors’ rare, personal approach in a business that is increasingly self-served. DeVincent’s marketing tactics revolve around excellent customer service and include openness to changes in marketing trends. At the end of the day, his efforts make eMoney more visible in the financial services industry, introducing trusted advisors to a solution that helps them build and strengthen client relationships.

Note: DeVincent won the CMO Club President’s Circle Award late last year.  According to The CMO Club founder Pete Krainik, this award is based on “a marketing executive’s demonstrated delivery in supporting the DNA of The CMO Club for building relationships with peers in the club, sharing and helping others, and referring other CMOs to join the world’s best CMO conversations.”  

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last couple of years?
My focus has been around product innovation – the messaging and positioning of new products. eMoney Advisor operates within the B2B space and our focus has been on presenting software products to financial advisors who are looking for innovative and all-encompassing wealth planning solutions for their clients. Ultimately we’re looking to position ourselves as advocates for financial advisors in the marketplace.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
There haven’t been any huge surprises. We’ve been working on new 90-second video elements that have shown success so far. Online advertising doesn’t work quite as well (though we don’t focus as much of our efforts here). Additionally, we’re beginning to expand our digital presence to offer constant flow of timely and relevant content to our audience. This industry experiences frequent market changes, which calls for us to shift our priorities. Regardless of this unpredictability, we do a fantastic job of creating content to accommodate these changes.

Drew:  You have some noisy competitors like eTrade and Fidelity.  How have you been able to get your message across without being drowned out by talking babies and endless green lines?
eMoney is a smaller firm. We can’t compete with the advertising budgets of our big competitors like eTrade and Fidelity. Instead, we created a campaign to position our user-base as “trusted advisors” and encourage them to leverage our product as a tool to further strengthen the advisor-client relationship. It can be challenging because of eTrade and Fidelity’s award-winning advertising, but when clients need comprehensive financial advice, they look for a trusted advisor, not an automated system. We advocate for the human advisors – the ones who provide a personal touch.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
As marketers, we wear several hats.  At eMoney, we manage a blog, create video vignettes, maintain a social media presence and employ traditional advertising. Again, how you shift that focus is dictated by the market itself. With that in mind, it is extremely important for us to work collaboratively to align the 12-15 tasks assigned at any given time.  We make sure we communicate among ourselves to develop our campaigns that reach all channels based on what’s currently relevant in the industry.

Drew: Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
We have a number of analytics coming back from these 12-15 projects on any given day. What we do is take the key metrics from each campaign initiative and tie it to an ROI for our CEO. Edmond has come to rely on these metrics as a starting point to strategize for future initiatives.

Drew: How do you stay close to your customers when the relationship is primarily online?  
We’ve realigned ourselves to become a regional company. Our sales team attempts to get as many face-to-face meetings with prospective clients as possible. We also have an advisory board that we meet with twice a year. Our retention team monitors whether or not our clients (advisors and their staff) are actually logging in and using the software. If we find out that they are not, we reach out and offer educational resources, software training, etc. Additionally, we provide classroom training sessions. We are really focused on this because, to us, getting in front of customers to facilitate the natural interactions that we have as human beings is imperative to a lasting advisor/client relationship.

Drew: A lot of financial services firms have tip-toed into social.  Do you see social as viable channel for your business and if so, in what capacity?  
The financial services industry has been very slow to adopt social because of the regulation and compliance gray areas associated with it. FINRA has been very slow in defining how social media initiatives should be handled in our industry. There is a fine line between what is considered advice and what isn’t. Recently, we’ve seen more advisors embracing the tool as an arena to show thought leadership, reach existing clients and find prospects.  However, LinkedIn is currently our biggest social platform. We are using it heavily as a recruiting platform. Highly educated, high-income prospective clients are on LinkedIn and that’s who we see our advisors going after.  However, we’ve recently ramped up our efforts around Twitter and Facebook.  By leveraging these channels, we can participate in current industry conversations, connect with thought leaders and show the depth of our own knowledge.

Drew: What are you doing in the content marketing area?
We have a corporate blog and a user-focused knowledge community blog called Ask eMoney. On this blog, we’ve included eMoney-focused content, as well as general industry best practices. The content is incredibly rich to the point that I’ve hired people whose sole responsibility is managing the blog. We’re also increasing efforts to identify people who are knowledgeable in the industry as content contributors. We’ve found that good content is incredibly sticky – people become more interested in your site and, therefore, your product.

Drew: Do you agree with the notion that “marketing is everything and everything is marketing” and if so how have you extended the boundaries of your job beyond the normal purview of the CMO?   
I do agree with the notion that the CMO’s job extends to supporting the entire customer experience. In my mind, during every customer interaction, you either win or lose share. It’s either positive or negative. That includes everything from a phone call and training, to customer support and interacting with sales people; you want to make the process easy for your customers. You want to be the company that people want to do business with. It’s important to stay relevant and stir emotion. Make people feel good. If you face obstacles, you must make sure you overcome them with style and go above and beyond to problem-solve. Being a small company, this has been a relatively easy philosophy to adopt. The customer experience is a big priority for our CEO. We focus heavily on best practices and proper training for our team — embracing that philosophy as a company. You have to consistently go above and beyond to create an excellent customer experience.

CMO Award Winner Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO, Mary Kay Inc.



A few months back, Mary Kay’s CMO Sheryl Adkins-Green won The 2013 CMO Award for Officers given by The CMO Club.  This award, according to Pete Krainik, founder of The CMO Club,”was based on a marketing executive’s demonstrated leadership in leading the brand beyond the marketing department and leading the growth agenda for the company.”  When you read the interview below I think you will understand not only why Sheryl won this award but also why Mary Kay represents such a distinctive marketing challenge.

Founded just over 50 years ago, Mary Kay depends on independent army of beauty consultants that is now 3 million strong.  For Sheryl, marketing is less about driving demand from end users and more about motivating their consultants to champion Mary Kay products all over the world. Doing this requires genuine insights into the dreams and aspirations of these women who have the potential to transform their own lives AND to make a huge difference in the lives of others.  Connecting with their beauty consultants on a highly emotional and personal level has created a culture that’s become the lifeblood of the company. Read on as Adkins-Green highlights Mary Kay’s unique marketing strategy and her most successful campaigns:

Drew: A challenge that a lot of CMOs face is: where do you spend your time? How do you know where to spend it, and has that changed at all over the last couple years?
I find that my time is best spent with our customers and my team. Ideas and the success of their implementation come from that time spent. I don’t feel like that has changed substantially. I’m also spending more time exploring all the new developments that are expanding digital marketing options – and the trends regarding how consumers are using social media channels and mobile apps. These are areas where, out of necessity, I have been investing more time.

Drew: Let’s break down the time that you spend with customers. Your first round of customers, we could say, are the folks that your 3 million Independent Beauty Consultants. The Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants really define the brand for many customers. Do you spend time with both them and the end user?
Actually, the Mary Kay Independent Sales Force is our only customer, and to your point, they in turn have a customer base. I connect with the independent sales force in larger forums such as our annual Leadership and Seminar events. When I travel to international markets, I also attend sales events and solicit suggestions from the Independent Sales Force. We also include the Independent Sales Force in any research that we’re doing on major new products and new promotion concepts. I’m also “listening” to the independent sales force via our social media channels. In addition, we have an intranet where we’re receiving input from the independent sales force. Certainly, on the public social channels such as Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, we’re in touch with what they’re interested in, what they are talking about, etc.

Drew: You brought up social media; in one case on your Facebook page, there were more shares than likes, which is very unusual for a particular post. Would you say that a large percentage of those fans are your consultants?
Certainly a large percentage are Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants, but the total metrics and the types of engagement indicate that it is a combination of both Independent Beauty Consultants AND their customers who love the products. Our fan base is made up of women who love Mary Kay products, what the company is doing in the community, and also women love their Mary Kay beauty consultants! It’s definitely a combination.

Drew: For other brands, the concept of employees-as-brand-ambassadors has been very difficult to manage. At Mary Kay, the Independent Sales Force are the brand ambassadors. The role that social media plays for them is somewhat different; it’s an educational channel as well as a marketing channel for them, because they can share your content with their friends who presumably are also their customers. How do you manage that?
That is exactly our goal: to make it easy for them to access and share relevant brand content that supports the success of their business. We definitely provide a best practices example and make sure that the content we provide is timely to new product launches—we incorporate what’s trending in the beauty world, whether it’s the holiday season, the Oscars, how-to tips, etc.—and then we make it very easy for them to share. We have what we internally refer to as a “digital zone,” where we aggregate the digital content so that it’s easy to access and share.

Drew: One of the issues other companies have is compliance. In this case, it’s getting the Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants to actually use this intranet, so you end up having to market the marketing. How do you make sure that your consultants spend a little time on marketing versus spending all their time in the field?
We work to make sure the content is easily accessible. The goal is not to encourage them to spend a lot of time at their desk, but to have it available, as they need it, when they need it.

Drew: How do you manage your overall marketing, recognizing that success and failure are almost always determined by that Independent Beauty Consultant?
It really ties back to the strong values that Mary Kay Ash herself built into the company and into the culture. It’s something that’s literally been embraced by the Independent Beauty Consultants who’ve decided to start a Mary Kay business. Those values are around the Golden Rule, and treating people the way you want to be treated. It’s what we call “Golden Rule Service,” providing the kind of service that we would want for ourselves. When you ask how we manage the customer experience that individuals might have, I really credit the value system and the Independent Beauty Consultants’ commitment to those values. It’s something that’s shared and reinforced in how the company interacts with the Independent Sales Force, and then reflected in how they interact with their customer base.

Drew: Mary Kay as a company does not recruit or hire the Independent Beauty Consultants. Because the Mary Kay brand is in their hands, it is important that Independent Beauty Consultants share the company’s values. Is there a screening process that ensures a higher likelihood of signing an agreement with someone who has those shared values?
The culture is so strong, and this might be an oversimplification, but as it relates to the value system, like attracts like. In other words, the women who typically have interacted with an Independent Mary Kay Beauty Consultant have learned about more than the great products. They have learned about what the company is doing in the community. There are core values that resonate in regards to how the Mary Kay brand and opportunity are really about more than just cosmetics. It’s about empowering women, helping them discover their inner beauty, their confidence, their passion and their special gifts through the opportunity. There are typically meetings and discussions that the Independent Beauty Consultants and Directors would have with someone as they are considering this opportunity. It’s not a screening process per se, but there are conversations that help women understand the company’s culture and values as they are considering the Mary Kay opportunity.

Drew: Let’s get to specific marketing programs that you’ve done over the last three years where you were really proud of the results.
There have been a couple; the first took place in 2013. It was a campaign that was developed to commemorate our 50th anniversary, and our mantra for the anniversary year was “One Woman Can.” It not only paid homage to the accomplishments of Mary Kay Ash, but it also represented our empowerment message. One woman can do amazing things, and one woman can do anything that she sets her desires on. The marketing program, specifically, was centered on a global makeover contest. It kicked off on March 8th, which was International Women’s Day. Our goal was to complete the highest number of makeovers ever, and we did complete 44,000 makeovers within a 24-hour period. Earlier this month, Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants and their customers actually beat this record by completing 58,808 makeovers!

By engaging the Independent Sales Force all around the world, it kicked off a global contest where women not only participated in makeovers and agreed to have their picture posted in a gallery, but more importantly they had an opportunity to tell a story about a cause that they cared about. The winners of the contest also had an opportunity to win a grant for the charity or not-for-profit of their choice. The specifics varied a little bit, but in the United States, the company awarded 50 5,000 grants on behalf of the 50 women who received the most votes in the “One Woman Can” makeover contest. Mary Kay Ash started her company with her life’s savings of $5,000. This anniversary marketing initiative, therefore, celebrated what Mary Kay is about—inner beauty showing through as outer beauty. It was an opportunity to engage the Independent Sales Force not only with their current customers but also to connect with potential new customers. A lot of women shared that they typically wouldn’t be interested in a makeover, but because there was an opportunity to support a cause that they care about and possibly earn a grant, then they would be willing to lend their faces.

Drew: How did you promote this program?
We promoted it via social media. The Independent Sales Force outreach and PR coverage was a great way to tell the story to the media. We did get some great offline and online TV coverage that provided the opportunity to share our “One Woman Can” anniversary message and convey why we were celebrating with a makeover contest that was anchored by inner beauty.

Drew: Other than posts on Facebook and Twitter, could you enter via social channels?
Yes. The information on how to enter you could access through social channels, but you needed to enter through an Independent Beauty Consultant. If you didn’t have a consultant, we directed women to the consultant locator on—you could enter your zip code and find an Independent Beauty Consultant in your area. That’s the way new customers were able to connect to the sales force.

Drew: How do you evaluate the success of your marketing?
We used several metrics. As a leading indicator, we were able to track our sales to the Independent Sales Force; that’s just one element. We were also able to track our social media metrics. We also have annual surveys of the Independent Sales Force to understand not only this type of marketing program, but in general how well our initiatives are supporting their businesses, and if there are any gaps or opportunities, what those are so that we can address them.

Drew: When you sit down with your CEO, how do you frame the role of marketing?
I frame it in the context of supporting the success of the Independent Sales Force. For example, when I talk to the CEO about social media initiatives, I don’t talk in terms of likes or fans but in the context of how social media engagement is driving awareness, consideration and trial of brand, since these activities support the Independent Sales Force. Just as you noticed some of our engagement numbers—we look at how the social media programs drive traffic to the website, to shopping pages, and the consultant locator. Our most compelling metrics are the ones that tie to the success of the Independent Sales Force.

Drew: You mentioned you have a global audience and it’s growing. As a CMO, how do you get to know these international markets?
My team and I spend as much time as possible with our international markets through our organizational structure, working with regional- and country-level marketing teams. It starts with a clear and consistent strategy from which the different marketing teams are able to develop their plans. They start with corporate strategy and programs but have leeway to be locally relevant.

Drew: Have you had to make product adjustments for markets outside the U.S.?
Yes. First and foremost, any regulatory requirements are going to be factored in. For example, in the Asia Pacific market, the skincare category is larger for beauty brands, so we do offer more skincare regimens in this market than in other parts of the world. In Latin America, where fragrances are a very highly developed beauty category, we offer more fragrances that have been specifically developed to deliver against preferences in Mexico and Brazil.

Drew: I love the 50th anniversary story—is there another initiative you would like to call to my attention from your portfolio as a CMO?
Another initiative is our college campus tours, which is actually in its third year. We call it “Fall Into Beauty,” and it’s been in partnership with Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine. Importantly, beyond being an introductory beauty experience on college campuses, we have also partnered with a not-for-profit, Mary Kay has been the lead sponsor for their text support line. “Love is Respect” educates young women—more broadly, young adults—about healthy relationships. In a nutshell, the goal is to head off domestic violence before it begins. This organization targets younger women, and the text support line provides them with a confidential channel to ask questions either for themselves or on behalf of someone they care about and get advice on how to handle a situation, hopefully before it becomes abusive. They just need to text “loveis” to 77054. Our message on campus is about more than beauty—it’s about creating awareness about this service and about domestic violence in the hopes that young women who are away from home for the first time have the confidence to recognize and avoid unhealthy relationships, and help other young women do the same thing.

Drew: How do you evaluate the success of a program like that?
Specifically with “Love is Respect,” it is one of those things where, on the one hand, if you get a lot of comments and questions coming through that channel, you feel it’s good that those women had a place to go, but at the same time, part of you doesn’t want to see a high number because you feel like that might be indicative of a high number of women in a difficult situation. Our primary goal with “Love is Respect” is to create awareness and to disseminate that this help is available. The campus tour gave us an opportunity to get the word out about the text support line, leveraging the fact that college students are highly connected and can then pass that information on to those who would benefit from it.

Drew: I’ve read that interest in the Mary Kay opportunity is somewhat counter-cyclical—if the economy is bad, then more people are interested in running their own businesses. Does the cyclical nature of your business come into play as you think about your own marketing?
Yes, certainly. When economic times are challenging and when career opportunities are limited, we definitely see more people interested in the opportunity. Those who had a Mary Kay business part-time may decide to invest more time into it or even make it a full-time option. Having said that, the flip side is that when the economy is a little stronger and women are spending more money, it’s also good for the Independent Mary Kay sales force. When they are selling a great product and are part of a brand that’s doing great things in the community, that’s also appealing. From my vantage point, it’s always a good day to start a Mary Kay business. That’s how we approach the marketing. We always treat it as a new and exciting, rewarding opportunity.

Drew: Does content marketing play a role? Did you have any new initiatives in that area? Is that even relevant to your business?
On one level, I am more of an old-school marketer and I feel marketing has always been about the brand messages – not simply the advertising. Everything speaks –  I’ve always marketed with that in mind. But more importantly, brands should always be about discovery. Content marketing is about creating and keeping a fresh face on your brand – everyday! Content marketing is about all levels of the customer experience with your brand—all touch points, telling a relevant and consistent story. I’ve always tried to do that on any brand or portfolio I was responsible for.

Drew: As the CMO, have you been able to address the entire customer experience?
I’ve been able to influence and impact a number of dimensions, but it is shared with other team members in Mary Kay that have a more direct responsibility in terms of customer service and the Independent Sales Force. The ultimate influencer is the Independent Beauty Consultant herself, and this is consistent with how Mary Kay began this business. We use our company principles and education to make the brand experience as relevant and consistent as possible around the world. I believe my team and I have been successful in leading the evolution of the overall Mary Kay Brand experience, but I have to say it does take a village!

Q+A w Webster Lewin on Mobile Ads



webster headshot 2Many consumers see mobile advertising as nothing more than an annoyance – irritating interruptions that appear as they scroll through their Huffington Post app or disturb their game of Sudoku. Webster Lewin knows we can change that. As the former Director of Mobility at Starcom MediaVest Group, Lewin believes mobile ads are not only useful, but can and should become the primary focus in social marketing planning of the future.

Getting those flashy banners to attract rather than deter consumers will require smarter use of customer data. With more than 15 years in the business to back him up, Lewin can be confident in calling out creativity and relevancy as the two major keys for creating more successful mobile advertising campaigns. He let me in on some of his ideas for improving the way we approach mobile ads:

Drew:  You provided a couple of examples of “great mobile ads we haven’t seen.”  For the purposes of my blog, can you provide a mini-summary of one of the cases and share why you think it was so effective?

I am highlighting two mobile campaigns that I really liked for different reasons (and wish that I had done). The first is one currently running on the iAd network for GIECO called the Money Badger. To me it represents the height of production value of any mobile display unit I’ve seen to date. The team at CDG Interactive used stop motion photography to create something that’s on par with a TV spot.

The other campaign that I really liked appeared on and was for Motorola’s Moto X smartphone. The ad, like Mashable’s website, uses  responsive web design to provide a seamless and compelling experience across a range of devices via a single ad and a single ad tag.

Drew: When you mention mobile advertising to people outside of the industry (i.e. normal people!), they roll their eyes in annoyance.  How do marketers make sure that mobile ads aren’t simply another source of disruption we all try to ignore or avoid altogether?

I think the keys are creativity and relevancy. So, agencies, publishers and brands need to keep pushing for better experiences. Also, as an industry we need to discourage the increasing use of deceptive mobile ads that try to trick users into tapping on them. They only exist because people focus way too much on CTR, and they will poison the well for everyone else.

Drew: Asked differently, what are three key components of a great mobile ad campaign?

Flawless execution from start to finish, targeting the right consumer at the right time in the right way, and offering something of value.

Drew:  It’s been the year of mobile for the last 10 years yet mobile still feels like a bit of an after thought for many brands.  First, why is it so important that marketers put mobile at the center of their planning process today?

Mobile is where the eyeballs are moving to, desktop usage is declining. Consumers are using mobile while they are shopping and while they consume other media, so figuring out how to use mobility in media plans is essential.

Drew:  Mobile at its best seems to be integrated with data (social, local, CRM) which then allows for a very personalized mobile experience. Can you each give me another example of a brand that is doing this well and what it took to get them there?  

I think that Samsung and Walmart, and some of the large CPG brands are really starting to make smart decisions about how to use location and past purchase data in targeting. Retailers are focusing on location data, both real-time and historical, to better target customers and potential customers. I’ve seen that I personally have been targeted by Samsung base on my actual location, around the launch of their Galaxy Gear smartwatch, and I ended up heading over to Times Square that day to check it out. CPG brands are less better positioned to leverage location data as their product are sold in so many places, but they can target using purchase history via Catalina and other data.

Drew:  You provided examples of mobile experiences when a person was indeed using a mobile device on the go. Seems like this is one aspect of mobile. The other aspect of mobile device usage is when we are stationary in the office or at home using a 2nd and 3rd screen. Should marketers look at these situations distinctly and create campaigns specific to that usage scenario? 

A lot of brands are now using various methods to target consumers when they are actually at home, using wifi IP addresses. Also, prime time TV viewers are being actively targeted now on Twitter, and Facebook via sponsored posts. If you are on Twitter during any major TV event, you’re certain to see ads that drive to mobile friendly experiences.

Drew:  You used the expression, “if it doesn’t work on mobile, don’t do it!” yet this is far from the reality.  What are problems that happen when marketers tack on a mobile campaign versus building all programs around it?

When the experience from start to finish isn’t fully planned out and tested on mobile, things inevitably fall apart. I can’t even begin to tell you how many mobile campaigns I see that don’t work the way they should. It’ really unfortunate, because many clients don’t realize that they are just creating a very bad impression of their brand.

Drew:   It seems like we won’t be distinguishing between mobile and stationary media consumption in the near future.  Assuming you agree with that scenario, how will this effect media planning/buying?  Will mobile still be its own thing?

Even when audiences are bought across multiple devices, the experience the consumer has with each of their devices is quite unique. So, I think that responsive ad units are one of the ways that marketers can ensure that they are efficiently reaching everyone, yet still providing an experience that is tailored to each device. Also, when it comes to rich media, there are some things that you can do in mobile that you just can’t on other devices, click-to-call for example.

Drew:  How do you see mobile evolving in the next 2-3 years?  What are the most exciting new or emerging trends leading edge marketers should be experimenting with now or really soon? 

I think targeting data and especially targeting based on location data will be the biggest ways that mobile ads will become more relevant. Also, mobile creative is just now coming into its own. As more digital creatives see mobile as their primary focus, we’ll start to see more really amazing campaigns.



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