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."

Q+A on Content, Campaigns and CX with Cigna’s Lisa Bacus


Lisa Bacus_Cigna

Given that Lisa Bacus, EVP of Global Marketing at Cigna is a recent winner of The CMO Award for Content Marketing, one might assume that our conversation would stop there especially given my somewhat obsessive interest in the topic.  But fortunately for you, that is not the case as Lisa also provided insights into Cigna’s recent agency change, global campaign launch and the importance of addressing the entire customer experience (CX).  In fact, my favorite quote in this interview is “I believe that CX is everyone’s responsibility,” as she describes CIGNA’s approach to dealing with this thorny challenge–one that is all too often left off a CMO’s responsibility list.  But enough of the preamble, here’s Lisa.

Drew: Can you describe your primary content marketing initiatives this year and how they benefited your company?
Most of our content marketing has been through web/social/mobile platforms, and through co-branded partnerships. We are also fortunate to have authored several white papers on emerging trends, that we have turned into helpful content – videos, on-site advising, infographics, live chats — plus a host of personalized content delivered through our customer web portal.

Drew: Do you think you are doing a better job than your competition with content?  If so, how so and what does take to get to this level?
I can only speak for Cigna, and while I don’t believe anyone has mastered content marketing in our industry, we are very happy with the level of customer and consumer engagement we have had to date.

Drew: A lot of companies are just getting started with content programs.  What advice would you give them overall?
I’d start by looking within. There are probably a lot of great things that the organization is currently doing — you just need to harness it, synthesize it, and create it in a way that is compelling and consumers can easily digest it. And with good analytics/insight, you can deliver it in a way they want to receive it.

Drew: How are you as CMO staying on top of all the new digital marketing techniques and opportunities?
There is a lot to stay on top of! Personally, I do a lot of reading to understand emerging trends and technologies in order to identify those that may be able to deliver on the things we are exploring. We test a lot of new ideas and new technologies. Some that are working well, and others, though they didn’t meet our needs, provided good learning.

Drew: The trade press reported that CIGNA went through an agency review earlier this year–how did that process work for you and what lessons would you give to other marketers who are considering changing agencies?
In an industry that has been going through quite a bit disruption, we had the opportunity to strengthen our branding efforts and really leverage our global brand. Until recently, our branding was managed locally, through multiple agencies operating independently. By uniting our marketing efforts across markets and across the globe, and with the support of a global agency, we were able to gain scale, consistency and greater effectiveness in our branding efforts. We were fortunate in that we had great business partners to work with, and had a strong roster of global agencies. We started the process with the end in mind, and defined the process upfront, which served us well. Also, in the second round, we presented a challenge to the finalists, to see not only the strength of their capabilities, but how they interacted with the team in the process. It was a collaborative effort all the way around and we are very happy with the results.

Drew: Your new campaign tagline “Together, all the way,” seems to represent a major shift from CIGNA’s previous “GoYou” campaign.  Can you talk a little about the thinking behind the new campaign and how you rolled it out?
The spirit of GoYou lives on, as we believe in inspiring and championing the individual. At the same time, our research told us that we needed to tell more of our story. Those who were familiar with the brand were 19 times more likely to choose us. Among our most passionate advocates, were those who talked about Cigna helping them either get well or stay well. They talked about partnership over the long haul and Cigna having their back. We knew we had an opportunity to demonstrate to others, through many proof points, how we do this, and convey that we know how hard it is to stay well on your own. This is why we’re in it with them — together all the way.

Drew: Was there an internal component?
Absolutely. What makes this easy is that our 35,000+ colleagues live the brand every day. In fact, we feature our own employees in our ads, talking about how they have our customers’ backs. Additionally, from a series of brand rallies, to personal commitments to the brand promise from every employee scrolling on our intranet, to a crowd-sourced contest where employees could share how they partner with charities in their community to win micro-grants for the charities — the level of engagement has been terrific.

Drew: Customer experience (CX) does not always come under the control of the CMO yet can have a dramatic impact on the brand and ultimately the believability of your marketing initiatives.  How have you been able to impact the customer experience in your current role?
I believe that CX is everyone’s responsibility, though it is in my accountabilities. We have a team that is dedicated to CX to ensure that we understand what the most critical levers are that we can pull to have the greatest impact on the customer experience. We measure NPS across all of our businesses and all of our markets, and it makes the short list of most critical KPIs at the enterprise level. By identifying the top 3 parts of the customer journey that are creating the least amount of joy for our customers, we can be focused, and somewhat surgical, in our approach to improve key processes and customer impacts. The other interesting thing we do is match these up against our employee engagement survey results, to see where we have common areas of opportunity and can reshape key processes that directly impact customer and employee satisfaction.

Drew: What were a few of the major lessons you learned related to launching new campaigns that you might share with fellow marketers?
The basics — know thy brand, know thy customer, know thy market. If you do the work to understand the current state, and what your current/prospective customers need, you can build upon your assets to ensure the brand is relevant and desirable, to drive greater consideration.

Drew: In your experience, how do you know when it’s time to make changes to an organization or department?
When a team is no longer delivering optimal value for the customer or the company, it’s time to take a look at what you are doing and how you are doing it. I believe that most people come to work wanting to be great, so when the marketplace changes, or the business needs change, they are often quick to know it’s time to take action and change/improve the current approach.

Why “Culture Eats Strategy” with Phil Granof, CMO of Black Duck Software


Phil Granof_Black DuckA marketing strategy is only as successful as the company behind it. From the product to the placement to the people, every part of your company has to back up your marketing claims or its all just a house of cards. For Phil Granof, CMO of Black Duck Software, this meant creating a new company culture before launching any new campaigns. As he put it, “culture eats strategy.”

As a result, when Black Duck Software released its new campaign there were already brand evangelists eager to spread the word. This kind of big picture thinking is part of the reason why Phil was awarded a Leadership Award via this year’s CMO Awards, presented by The CMO Club. In the interview below, Phil’s covers how to build that internal culture while providing an overview of Black Duck’s 2014 marketing initiatives.

Drew: Congratulations on winning the Leadership award.  Some people are dubbed “born leaders” while the rest of us have to learn these skills.  What are some of the lessons (about leading) you can share with aspiring leaders especially of the marketing variety?
I’m not sure anyone is actually a born leader. I think there are those that are born thinking they can or should lead, but that only gives them one advantage, which is the confidence to seek a leadership position, and it most certainly does not guarantee success. What it does guarantee is continuous demand for books that contain the “secrets” to leadership. I’ve read many of them, to be honest, but boiling it down, I think successful leadership requires a simple and easily overlooked aspect: quality people must want to work for you. Talent is free to move where it will, and technology fuels this mobility. So as a leader, my goal has always been to win the hearts and minds of the most talented team I could find. That means trading value for value. Leaders must provide as much value back to their people as they provide the organization, or the best talent will sense an imbalance and move on. The value equation for everyone can be quite different, but it tends to fall across three dimensions: intrinsic return, extrinsic return, and collective return.

Intrinsic return is the value a person receives cognitively and emotionally. Are they growing as a person? Are they feeling a sense of accomplishment? Are they developing and learning? If the position you create for an employee lacks this return for effort, you can say goodbye to holding on to good people. The remaining will be grumpy, disenfranchised, and resentful toward even the idea of hard work.

Extrinsic return is the value a person receives materially, and so is the most important and least important of the three dimensions; however, it is more than whether they are compensated fairly for their effort. It also means they are given the tools they need to succeed in their job, and the cost and complexity of these tools tends to rise with a person’s talent. Have you ever seen someone begging for a better computer? The best people know exactly what they need to do their job. Get it to them, if you value them.

Collective return is achieved when a person sees its organization providing value to the people around them. These can be co-workers, family, colleagues, customers, or community. This is the most undervalued dimension by leaders, and separates not only great leaders from average leaders, but great companies from average companies. When a person “believes” in a company, I surmise it really is an assessment of whether or not she observes a benefit to her social ecosystem.

Drew: One oft-stated trick of being a good leader is just hiring great people and then getting out of their way. As a CMO, however, you often have to lead (or at least influence) other parts of the organization for which you don’t have hiring / firing responsibility.  What are some of the techniques you’ve used to lead beyond your direct reports?
My approach to successfully influencing people across divisions is to learn where to begin my conversation. I divide companies into two types with respect to Marketing: those in which conversations about marketing begin with “Why is marketing important?” and those more enlightened companies that ask, “What is the best marketing approach?” This split is true of departments, their leaders, and their teams. You are never going to be effective convincing someone of the right marketing approach if his or her going-in premise is that marketing is worthless. Similarly, don’t waste your time justifying marketing to those that already get it. They’ll think you don’t. Underlying this approach rests a belief that effective lateral influence requires education.

Framing the task of leading beyond your direct reports as educational is really instructive. Think back to your own education. You’ll undoubtedly remember teachers that made you proficient in a subject, and those that inspired you to change your life with a passion for their topic. Be the latter. Marketing needs to inspire in order to change behavior.

Drew: As CMO, what have been your two biggest challenges and how have you addressed these?
My two biggest challenges were both cultural. The reason I joined Black Duck Software was that I saw huge potential for the brand. To elevate the meaning of Black Duck, I had to begin internally. Culture eats strategy, and as with many successful software companies, Black Duck has a thriving engineering-driven culture. The challenge was to inject a new perspective into that paradigm rather than overturn it. My message was simple: products, patents, and people come and go, but the brand can outlast them all. My evangelism, however, didn’t begin in engineering. It began in HR. I worked closely with the VP of HR to underscore the connection between corporate values and brand. My second beachhead was product management and engineering, where I aimed to help them understand how future value could be created within engineering through a shared vision of the company. I slowly introduced the word “brand” as the idea took root that we needed a shared heuristic for product development. Brand became that basis for judgment. Finally, I ended every single presentation with the same three slides: The first was a slide that read “Think Like Apple.” The second read: “Act Like Disney.” The final slide was a mantra: “Make Everything the Customer Touches a Reason to Love Black Duck.”

The second challenge surfaced unexpectedly with a CEO change five months into my tenure. We had just begun to rally around a new big idea created by marketing, and were days away from launch. More than anything, the brand embodies a CEO’s vision for what he believes is the future of the organization. A new CEO either takes the mantle as steward of a strong brand, or sees an opportunity to take it in a new direction. The new CEO, Lou Shipley, quickly evaluated the previous CEO’s vision, which had more to do with the social aspects of coding with open source software (OSS), and saw a different future. Lou’s vision was to see Black Duck as an integral part of how every modern enterprise develops software. Marketing not only had to start over from scratch, but also there was the not-so-surprising senior management turnover that often comes with the arrival of new leadership. My only advantage was that the organization had already taken the first steps toward integrating a brand-driven mindset, and so we were much further along culturally than when I first arrived.

Drew: Did you launch any new programs in 2014 that you are particularly proud of? If so, please provide a brief overview including goals, tactics & results.
The arrival of Lou Shipley as CEO was a turning point. He asked me to think differently about how to approach the market, more in alignment with his view that Black Duck should be as integral as SAP, Salesforce, or Oracle. While he shared my intention of elevating the brand, he was seeking a way to make Black Duck a necessity, not a choice.

The first step was where I had begun all assignments in my past life as a brand consultant. (All CMOs need to be their own brand consultants, at some level. If you totally outsource this, it is hard to embody a brand vision.) I took a deeper look at the language we were using that was successful in driving subscription revenue. Having some background in the science of metaphor analysis, I uncovered a surprising aspect to the Black Duck brand. If one stripped away the Black Duck name from all of our spoken and written communications, what remained was a company story that sounded more like UPS and Amazon than HP and IBM. We were using the language of logistics: selection, scanning, approving, cataloging, automating, securing, and delivering. We even produce a Bill of Materials. It seemed there might be an entirely new way to reposition not just Black Duck, but also the whole industry. As trial balloon for the concept, I wrote an article that appeared in Wired called: “Think Like Linux, Act Like UPS, and Smile Like Amazon.” In the article, I offered up a concept, for companies to successfully incorporate open source software (OSS) into their applications, what they really needed was an OSS Logistics solution, and not another application development solution. With this novel combination of recognizable terms, we instantly elevated ourselves from a mere software scanning solution to a business process solution that allows companies to build software faster, better, and cheaper. To borrow the UPS slogan, “We love logistics, too.”

Once the article drew positive attention, we tested the OSS Logistics concept among analysts, customers, employees, supply chain experts, and even Jim Zemlin, who runs the Linux Foundation. He saw OSS Logistics as a way to manage a company’s “external R&D,” a concept he has been promoting for a while now.

With validation under our belt, internally and externally, the marketing team developed programs around launching OSS Logistics, from an easy to comprehend video that we integrated into our nurturing campaigns to a sweep of every word of content from the past three years. Finally, we undertook training with sales and channel partners, and surprisingly the universal reaction was “Yes! Finally, we’ve captured what Black Duck does!”

Since the launch of OSS Logistics in the beginning of this year, marketing has produced a 30 percent increase in qualified leads over 2013, a 44 percent increase in unique web visitors, an across-the-board increase in social media stats, and more importantly, it has completely changed the internal discussion around product improvement and new product development.

One interesting note: We decided explicitly not to trademark the term OSS Logistics. As the market leader, we have the greatest interest in seeing broad comprehension of the value our industry produces. We would like everyone to use it, from analysts to competitors. A longstanding frustration with past leaders at Black Duck has been poor market comprehension of exactly what is meant by open source governance, compliance, and risk mitigation. “OSS Logistics” has swept that away.

Drew: What tool, product, or service (if any) has provided the greatest improvement to your digital marketing efforts over the last year? Please explain a bit about why you chose it and how it has worked out.
One great improvement we’ve seen has been a result of a tool called Demandbase. Demandbase is a real-time targeting and personalization platform offering marketers company-targeted display advertising, website engagement, and conversion modules for a consistent view of accounts from spend to revenue. We not only have a view into exactly who visits our website, a huge source of leads, but we have been able to reduce our form fields by nearly 50 percent and still collect all the data we need for targeting. Also, we send beautifully clean data into Salesforce, which our sales team appreciates. Our next step is to tailor the web experience based on a prospect’s company and role. Demandbase will allow us to do this.

Drew: Handling organizational change can be tricky particularly if it involves reorganizing / replacing long-time staffers.  What advice do you have for fellow CMOs when it comes to handling reorgs?
I believe it is critical to understand if the long-time staffer is a “tipping point” in the organization, or simply an overlooked issue. If they are a tipping point, and have a great deal of influence on the culture, then you have to be extremely careful – assuming you want that element of the culture to remain. My other advice would be to view a re-org as a treasure hunt. I personally found three hidden gems in the organization that had been overshadowed and overlooked for various reasons, and now they are thriving. Had we blindly seen quiet people as underperforming, it would have been a big loss. Outside of the business world, my favorite example is Big Papi on the Red Sox. On the Twins, Ortiz battled inconsistency in field and at the plate. However, in a new context with the Red Sox? Well…the rest is baseball history.


Q+A on Storytelling w CMO Award Winner Sanjay Gupta of Allstate


Gupta, SanjayIn this age of the constant brand refresh, companies like Allstate are becoming increasingly rare. Allstate’s two main campaigns, both playing off of the motto “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate,” have been around for an eternity by advertising industry standards, and yet in many ways, they’re fresher than ever. So how does Allstate manage to find new angles when other brands constantly pivot their messaging?

To get these answers, I reached out to Sanjay Gupta, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Innovation and Corporate Relations at Allstate Insurance Company. Sanjay knows a thing or two about reaching out to people, and his penchant for teamwork netted him an Officers Award at the CMO Awards, presented by The CMO Club. His advice for strong marketing is an old adage we hear often, but rarely see in action, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Drew: Insurance companies are among the biggest spenders in general and on TV specifically.  Collectively you can’t all be wrong so TV must still be working for brands like Allstate.  What role does TV play in your marketing mix and do you see that changing in the near term?
It allows us to tell our brand story.  For example, last year we debuted a powerful brand ad titled, “We Still Climb,” that helped us launch our new brand idea that Allstate doesn’t just protect people when something goes wrong, but also helps them to live a good life every day.  As part of that effort, we’re leveraging our TV advertising to highlight Allstate’s innovative products and features – including proven ones like our Safe Driving bonus checks, as well as new ones such as our QuickFoto Claim and Drivewise smart phone apps.

As far as our marketing mix goes, people still watch TV – a lot of it.  Though we continue to increase the percentage of our digital media as consumer media consumption evolves, we’ve found that a combination of media types usually yields the best results.

Drew: You have two very different campaigns with Mayhem and Dennis Haysbert ads. What is the strategy behind these two initiatives and from a measurement standpoint, area you able to distinguish the results of them individually versus the collective impact they have on the brand?
The good news is they work very well together, each campaign complementing and working off one another.  Mayhem disrupts – reminding people that all insurance is not the same so people need to be careful in terms of who they choose for their protection needs, while Dennis reinforces why Allstate is the compelling choice to protect everything that’s important to you.  While we know that each campaign continues to work very well individually, collectively the effect is even greater.  And of course, both fall under Allstate’s overriding message “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate.”

Drew: A lot of marketers change campaigns every couple of years.  This doesn’t seem to be the case in the insurance category and certainly not with Allstate.  Why is that?  Are there specific signals you look for to determine if just an ad or an entire campaign has worn out its welcome?
If you have a campaign that continues to prove successful, and becomes even more successful with time, then changing for change sake is not what’s best for the brand and the business.  Of course we measure and constantly watch for wear out and diminishing effectiveness.  But part of the reason “You’re in Good Hands” has remained one of the most recognized taglines in America is because we haven’t changed it in 50 years.

Even though we’ve had some real duration with the look and feel and of our campaigns over the last several years, we are constantly introducing new features and different ways in which we tell our story about Allstate while also leveraging the equity that Dennis and Mayhem have built.  So we not only leverage Dennis and Mayhem, but for example last year we featured several well-known home experts/TV personalities in our ads who provided helpful maintenance and do-it-yourself tips.  We delivered the message that Allstate homeowners insurance offers more, and highlighted product features like claim-free rewards as well as helpful tools and perks at our Good Life Hub ( that allow customers to get more out of their insurance every day.

And this year we’re talking about Allstate “House and Home” coverage where we’re offering our Claim Rate Guard and Claim Free Rewards.  So we’re constantly talking about new and different things.  In fact we just launched a campaign aimed at New Households that highlights a lot of great new services and features from Allstate, but it still looks and feels familiar.  We’re still able to leverage the equity of Dennis’ voice in some cases, or of course use Dennis or Mayhem in pure form.  So we’re doing things new and different, but we have terrific equity in both of those assets and we’ll continue to maximize them in our current and upcoming campaigns.

Drew: What are you most proud of in terms of recent accomplishments, and what were the key steps you took to get there?
Our most recent accomplishment that I’m most proud of – and it’s actually still a work in progress – kicked off in September when we launched a breakthrough program and accompanying ad campaign to reach consumers and customers who represent what we’re calling “New Households.”  These are people who are contending with many life “firsts,” such a new car, house and/or a baby.  With these things come new uncertainties – car repairs, home maintenance, questions about financial security, etc. – that today’s young families are typically not prepared to address. These consumers typically turn to a trusted inner circle of friends and family for advice. Yet, faced with bigger dilemmas and decisions than ever before, they’re finding these “experts” sometimes lack the resources or skills to help solve them.

In our quest to be more than an insurance company and help people live a good life every day, Allstate is offering tangible solutions, expertise and savings to help New Households get things right the first time.  For example, to help them deal with their need to maintain their homes, we’re offering a free one-year membership to Angie’s List.  We’re also offering a customizable life insurance product that delivers personalized protection for changing family needs. And we’re offering new features like Allstate Car Buying Service (which helps people save an average of $3,000 or more off MSRP on new car), Allstate Realty Advantage (which helps customers find a reputable local real estate agent, plus they can get cash back of up to $3,000 when they buy or sell their home), and Car Seat Discounts from Safety 1st (which allows customers to save 20% or more on select car seat models). Through these offers from trusted brands, our agency owners are arming young families with information, service and tools they need to feel more in control.

We’re promoting this New Households program with a comprehensive advertising campaign that highlights how Allstate’s Good Hands are doing more than ever before.  The campaign includes a combination of national and local TV, radio, digital media, print, social media and PR. The ads are designed to bring Allstate’s customer value proposition to life for consumers, and position our local agency owners as key resources to help them address everyday challenges.  The campaign leads with real life, not insurance.  It depicts the reality of being a young family vs. the perception you may have had of how perfect life would be.  By taking a humorous approach, we show that Allstate agents can not only relate, but also help with surprising and unique solutions to young families’ everyday challenges.

Drew: What challenges have you faced in your efforts to get the entire company engaged with the brand?
Actually our brand is very well understood at Allstate both with our employees and our agency owners.  It’s a brand that our people speak to with great pride, and they live up to what our brand stands for day in and day out.  But we further reinforced the key tenets of what our brand stands for last year with the introduction of “Force for Good” – a simple but powerful guide for our employees and agency owners that reminds us to always be laser focused on delivering for our customers every day.  We do that by doing the right thing, putting people ahead of policies, and defying expectations by delivering what people would not expect from an insurance company.

Drew: What’s been your greatest success?
The best marketing story you can tell is when your customer experience, innovation and marketing – as well as your product features – are all working well together in a cohesive fashion.  I’ve been fortunate to do that time and time again in my career, but certainly we’re doing that now at Allstate with the compelling way we’re bringing all of these things together.  A good example is the work I just described for you with our New Households campaign.

Drew: How important is mobile marketing to your brand and what does it encompass?
More than 50% of people are now accessing the web through mobile phones, so clearly you can’t ignore mobile. We do extensive work not only in terms of mobile optimizing our web presence and our applications, but we also do quite a bit of marketing on mobile platforms.  And we also leverage mobile to create new product features such as our QuickFoto Claim app and our Digital Locker home inventory app.

Drew: What is your proudest accomplishment related to your company’s social responsibility efforts and how did you accomplish it?
While we do a lot of great things in terms of our extensive commitment to corporate responsibility, I’d have to say our Allstate Foundation Purple Purse program is the accomplishment I’m most proud of.  It stems from our Foundation’s broader signature program focused on providing domestic violence survivors with the financial skills and tools to break free and stay free from abuse. Purple Purse makes it fashionable to talk about domestic violence and the financial abuse that traps women in abusive relationships.

Our 2014 Purple Purse campaign wrapped up in early October and was incredibly successful. We harnessed the power of passion and social media to raise awareness and funds for domestic violence services – including the creation of our first-ever Purple Purse Challenge on Crowdrise, an online platform that uses crowdsourcing to help raise charitable donations.  Just as important, we helped 140 partner nonprofits learn how to fundraise using this technology.  All told, we raised nearly $2.5 million from a combination of consumer contributions and our Allstate Foundation challenge grants.

Popular and eloquent actress Kerry Washington joined us as our campaign ambassador.  We adopted a fashion theme as a key strategy to make it easier for the public to talk about this very dark issue that affects 1 in 4 women.  And Ms. Washington even designed a special purple purse to elevate awareness of the importance of financial empowerment as a means to help DV survivors become free of abuse.  A record number of employees, Allstate agency owners and personal financial representatives joined the Purple Purse movement, and the program generated unprecedented media interest and highly positive earned media impressions (716 million and counting) across a broad spectrum of national broadcast, print and online news outlets including “Good Morning America,” “Extra,” “Morning Joe,” Time, People and the Huffington Post.

I’m especially proud of the way our team leveraged so many key Allstate resources to increase our impact this year, including our media relations team, our marketing team, our flagship social networking partners and our local agencies.  It’s a powerful display of what’s possible when we combine our resources and knowledge to do good for society.

Drew: As a highly regulated industry, insurance has a lot of restrictions when it comes to social media.  As such, what role does social play for Allstate in your overall marketing plan and how do you see that evolving in 2015, if at all?
Marketers tell a story to the audience, and the good news with social media is that we can now make that a two-way conversation.  Fans help tell your story, and certainly if you get something wrong, you can learn and fix things quickly too.  So a good brand with a learning agenda is even a better brand.

Q+A on Brand Management w CMO Award Winner Dave Minifie of Centene


Dave Minifie_CenteneBuilding, coordinating and maintaining a single brand can seem like a never-ending challenge. Now imagine juggling over twenty brands in just as many states, each one having its own distinct personalities and idiosyncrasies.  For many, this might be daunting but Dave Minifie, CMO of Centene, a multiline care enterprise, it’s just another day in the office.

After over a decade of experience working at P&G, there are two things Dave isn’t worried about: learning the ins and outs of a new brand, and connecting with the people he meets along the way. Maybe that’s why Dave’s legendary people skills earned him a President’s Circle Award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards. In my interview with Dave we dissected not only how to make sure every brand he markets is furthering larger goals, but also how a strong peer network is critical to his success.

Drew: How did your nearly 13 years of experience in various roles at Procter & Gamble prepare you for the role of CMO at Centene? What are the biggest challenges you have overcome in your transition, and how did you overcome them?
P&G effectiveness at building marketers and business leaders remains grounded in its “brand building framework.” This model works in every category I’ve worked in – whether toilet paper, dog food, or health care – and the challenges I’ve experienced at each transition in my career have been overcome in the same way: learn the culture of the organization; assess the landscape of the category and your competition; understand, articulate, and drive your point of difference; and ensure your resolve to getting the basics done well, first, never wavers.

Drew:  When you take on a new senior marketer role, what are your top priorities? Do you have a first 100-day plan?
I strive to execute a 90-day plan as quickly as possible.  At Centene, I was able to start executing after about the first thirty days.  In fact, two and a half years later, we are still executing against that vision.  My top priorities are three-tiered.  First, I assess the landscape, both internally and externally.  What are the drivers of the business? What is our point of difference?  Does my organization have the right culture, capacity, and capability to accomplish everything that needs to be done?  Second, we strive to execute all the basics well.  Finally, we can work on accelerating the business.

Drew: Several of Centene’s subsidiaries, such as MHS Health Wisconsin and Sunshine Health, have undergone rebranding under your leadership. What are the most notable changes you’ve made, and how do you foresee these changes benefiting the subsidiaries, as well as the overall Centene brand?
I mentioned earlier how important it is to do the basics well.  When I arrived at Centene, each subsidiary had a different name, different mark, and different look and feel.  This was vital to Centene since we know all health care is local, and must be delivered locally.  In fact, this commitment to the local markets is one of three core brand pillars for company.  However, as we seek to drive scale efficiencies (we’ve gone from $5bn in revenue to $15bn in three years), it quickly becomes apparent that we could move to a common visual identity across the enterprise for each of our health plans.  That’s what we are doing now: updating look and feel, based on our company purpose, and incorporating consumer-driven insights into how connect with our members. We anticipate all eighteen health plan subsidiaries accomplishing their rebrand by the end of next year.

Drew:  How do you drive loyalty in your category?
At Centene, we focus less on brand loyalty or retention than we do on positive health outcomes.  To drive positive health outcomes, we educate our members on pro-active health management techniques, and conduct outreach to members who may need additional assistance.  This includes programs for expecting moms, as well as programs for members trying to quit smoking or dealing with other addictions.  We believe this approach not only improves outcomes, but also lowers our medical costs and increases member retention.

Drew: Marketing budgets are getting increasingly complex as new options and tools become available.  How as CMO are you staying on top of budget allocation and optimization?
Budgets are always tight and always getting squeezed.  We have proactively taken steps to better understand ROI on all aspects of our marketing mix, and where we can assess “real time” with some of our digital out-reach, we constantly test, learn, and reapply.

Drew: Do you think it is important to spend time on your personal brand and if so, how do you do this without being in conflict with your organizational goals?
Personal branding is not important to me.  I do focus, however, on self-awareness and business results.  I think too many marketers get caught up in their own “brand” without understanding their own motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.  Without having personal insight, how will you improve?  If you don’t improve yourself, how can you push your organization forward?  Also, if your business isn’t growing, isn’t taking share, then your “brand” gets tarnished anyway.  In other words, grow your business while improving yourself, and your reputation or brand equity will take care of itself.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to your ability to do your job well? (explain benefits)  Can you describe an instance in the past year when your peer network helped you?
Having a strong peer marketing network is critical to success.  At P&G, it was easy to talk marketing and grow personally, because everyone at P&G – even the R&D guys – understands brand building.  In a non-CPG industry, “getting fed” is more challenging.  I need an external marketing network to keep me on top of trends, to test my thinking, and to help me get better.  A recent example is a big idea we are toying with right now.  I’ve tested the idea with several of my close friends and trusted marketing advisors and identified both flaws and opportunities inherent in the execution phase, and we are retooling the idea to make it stronger.

Q+A on Programmatic with MediaMath’s Rachel Meranus



Embracing change has never been an issue for me.  Hopefully, other marketers feel the same  because marketing is about to change in a fundamental way.  The dream of putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time is about to be realized on a massive scale.  This is the 1:1 marketing idea that Don Peppers & Martha Rogers wrote about 18 years ago finally coming true.  Why am I so confident?

First, ”addressable TV” is right around the corner and this means our set-top boxes will no longer be dumb terminals. Instead these devices will be smart, feeding our preferences back to broadcasters who in turn will aggregate and sell our “eyeballs” to the highest and most relevant bidder.  This is not just good for marketers.  It will also be good for consumers in that we would no longer see irrelevant ads–for me, that means no more ads for feminine hygiene or baby products when an ad for a paddle tennis racquet or a new off-Broadway show would actually be relevant.

Second, outdoor is about to become smart as digital displays receive information about us (with our permission of course!) via bluetooth or Wifi and therefore can serve relevant messages in a flash.  Third, retailers use of beacons will enable our mobile devices to receive personalized messages again on a permission basis in real-time inside or outside of their stores.  And finally, the ultimate reason you can trust this prediction is that this sort of highly targeted real-time messaging is already happening online and on our mobile devices!

Ultimately, behind all of this wizardry will be a marketing operating system like the one developed a few years ago by MediaMath, a leader in what is currently called “programmatic” marketing.  These operating systems will enable marketers to tie just about every penny of their ad spending to measurable outcomes, the ultimate dream of our soon to be transformed industry. So it is in this lofty context that I encourage you to read my extensive interview with Rachel Meranus, SVP of Marketing for MediaMath.

Drew: Can you talk a little bit about MediaMath and your growth in the last few years?
We’ve come a long way since we made industry headlines when we introduced the first demand-side platform (DSP) in 2007.  Today, we’re one of the leading change agents in the advertising industry, helping the biggest brands and agencies evolve through programmatic buying and maximize their marketing performance and ROI.  We are on the path of making marketing a software function and continuing to innovate in the industry by adding capabilities to our TerminalOne Marketing Operating System.  For example, we recently introduced closed-loop attribution functionality, in which T1 ingests attribution data to optimize the bidding and decisioning, enabling advertisers to realize the full benefits of advanced attribution in an RTB environment, and automated guaranteed deals to facilitate automated media buys that are traditionally done directly with a publisher.  We are currently developing our propriety cookieless cross-device targeting and measurement solution, and continually enhancing our data management, creative optimization, and analytics offering.

In addition to growing the scope of our technology, we are experiencing incredible human capital growth – more than doubling our number of employees in the past year and on track to do the same this year.  In June, we raised more than $175 million in additional funding; funding that will support our rapid global growth. We have put experts on the ground around the world with our recent office openings in Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, and Singapore, and in 2015, MediaMath will relocate its New York City headquarters to more than 100,000 square feet spanning three floors of the new 4 World Trade Center.

Drew: Can you give an example of a client that is doing amazing things with programmatic? 
Many of our clients – both agencies and brands – are seeing success with programmatic tactics, leveraging geo-targeting, look-alike modeling, and even building proprietary models to identify new prospects through TerminalOne.  One example of a client that is accelerating their programmatic efforts is ShopStyle by PopSugar, the social shopping and fashion website.  They were looking to leverage programmatic media to create scalable return on ad spend, with a focus on campaigns in both the middle and lower funnels.  Using our TerminalOne Marketing Operating System and working with our OPEN partner AddThis, ShopStyle was able to create more robust and scalable profiles based on user data and implement more granular targeting around behavior and contextual variables.  Additionally, utilizing FBX, ShopStyle by PopSugar was also able to expand its retargeting pool and tactics beyond traditional display.

Drew: The big media buying agencies are all over programmatic and have been for a while now.  This doesn’t seem to be case with most brands and their CMOs. Why the understanding gap and why do you think it is so important that CMOs understand the power of programmatic?
We see quite a range when it comes to a CMO’s understanding and level of sophistication with the technology.  Some jump right in and get their hands dirty. Others are treading lightly on unfamiliar territory.

Traditionally, agencies had more exposure to the ins and outs of digital media buying, but for many brands and their CMOs, they haven’t had this much control over or transparency into their digital media buying.  There is still a lot of confusion about how the technology works, but it’s critical for CMOs to understand the power of programmatic, especially when more marketing dollars are shifting to digital.

With a central marketing operating system, CMOs gain the visibility into how their money is being spent, the impact of their media buying decisions, and the ability to identify real-time opportunities with their audiences.  Furthermore, the more CMOs embrace programmatic – within their own brands or together with their agency partner – the greater opportunity they will have deploying first-party data, integrating with internal systems, and normalizing marketing across disparate media types for greater performance.

Drew: MediaMath has made a concerted effort to engage CMOs through your partnership with The CMO Club. Can you talk about your approach to this partnership?
The value of our partnership with The CMO Club is two-fold.  Firstly, we are able to learn, first-hand, from CMOs across a variety of industry verticals what is keeping them up at night.  We are able to be on the pulse of the major challenges that CMOs face, what they view as the biggest opportunities, and how they’re building out their organizations to keep up with the evolution of digital.

Secondly, the CMO Club gives us tremendous exposure to an engaged, interested audience of CMOs, allowing us to educate and inform them on programmatic marketing, which is where our expertise lies.  We’re helping them to understand how our technology applies to their broader goals and addressing the challenges that they face on a daily basis.

Drew: What’s the hardest part of trying to engage CMOs and what kinds of things are you doing to cut through?
When it comes to engaging CMOs, we look to explain why programmatic should be the basis of any digital marketing strategy and have the lion’s share of digital budgets.  This requires us to explain how the technology fits into their stack, the new or different skillsets that are needed, and the ideal team structure that should be put in place to fully take advantage of a central operating system.

However, there are steps that we’re taking to help educate CMOs about the opportunities, what they can do to maximize the return on investment in the short term – from their current digital efforts, as well as what they can put in place for the longer term.  We’re educating them through tailored content, which varies depending on their level of experience with and understanding of programmatic, case studies, and interactive training sessions.

Another way that we’re doing that is by working with brands’ agency partners who bring trading best practices, cutting-edge tools, pooled media buying, and data co-ops into the relationship.  Programmatic technology creates new roles for agencies in which they are able to leverage proprietary modeling and optimization approaches and data-driven creative services, among others.  This benefits the client outcome and that’s what has led to more CMOs having a greater interest in and understanding of programmatic.

Drew: As a B2B brand, what role does social media play in your marketing mix? 
Social media is an important part of our marketing mix, which we use to raise brand awareness, identify influencers, and engage brand advocates in a competitive space.  As a B2B brand, LinkedIn is particularly beneficial to engage influencers, seed our messages in specialized groups, and participate in timely and topical conversations.  Furthermore, as social channels expand their programmatic capabilities, we are able to leverage our partnerships with them.  For example, we use TerminalOne’s decisioning engine and data sources to power campaigns on Facebook and engage target tailored audiences on Twitter.  For these channels, we regularly leverage our original content – blog posts and research – and news to spark conversations that can generate new leads.

Drew: MediaMath recently unveiled new positioning. Talk me through what led you to make this change and some of the challenges you faced along the way.
The industry has been moving at such a quick pace, with new players emerging seemingly every day.  The industry has reached a level of sophistication in their understanding of technology and is recognizing that a complex chart of logos to represent today’s online advertising ecosystem isn’t the answer to their need for scalable marketing.  Rather, they are realizing that it’s achievable through technological unification and a flexible, open platform. Our new brand message, ‘Performance Reimagined. Marketing Reengineered,’ epitomizes both our goal-based approach to drive transformative marketing results, as well as the technology platform that powers it.

Drew: What advice would you offer a fellow marketer who was about to consider a rebranding campaign?
Evolution is inevitable, especially in the fast-changing world of digital marketing.  Therefore, when it comes to a rebranding campaign, there are a few essential steps to consider before diving in, including the need to:

  • Gauge market readiness for change and have a clear understanding of how your brand is perceived in market.  This requires research and due diligence with a brand’s key stakeholders – current employees, clients, prospects, and industry influencers, as well as having a pulse on the competition.
  • Have a clear, concise mission statement to which everything you do as part of the rebranding maps.
  • Know how this change will impact your company and prepare communication plans – internal and external – that also include a roadmap for what will happen post launch.
  •  Manage expectations.  Shifting perceptions and seeding a market with a new message takes time.
  • Agree upon the metrics by which you evaluate success on an ongoing basis and establish a feedback loop to capture reactions to the effort, including the accuracy of your mission statement.

Drew: Given that MediaMath operates in a relatively new field, do you think bringing greater awareness to the field itself is just as important as marketing MediaMath?
We do and it’s the reason why we are so bullish on our educational initiatives.  We introduced our educational arm, the New Marketing Institute (NMI), in 2012.  It’s an extension of our mission to educate, empower, and engage a new generation of digital marketing professionals, providing an educational platform and different levels of certification.  NMI’s team meets with these professionals where they are and brings our best-in-class onboarding process to them – best practices, access to a central repository of knowledge, and an understanding of the digital marketing technology in which their employers have invested.

We also recommend marketers visit our OPEN portal, which includes a Partner Marketplace, enabling them to gain clarity around the vast number of data, media and technology providers that comprise the ecosystem.  By understanding the value proposition and differentiators among partners, they are armed with the information and tools to make more informed buying decisions.

Drew: Your product is really good at helping brands track performance of their marketing dollars. How do you measure your own marketing success?
We measure our marketing success based on a number of factors, including leads generated, opportunities that can be mapped back to specific efforts, engagement with our original content (blog posts and research), how our messages resonate across social channels, and, of course, revenue.

Disclosure: I’m proud to note that Renegade created the “Train Your Brain” CMO engagement program for MediaMath. 

Why CMOs Should FLAIC Out on Their Personal Brands


personal_branding-1Whether you call it Cobbler’s Children Syndrome or just basic neglect, talk to a cross-section of CMOs and you’ll discover a startling anomaly—though they dedicate their careers to building brands, very few have made time to take care of their own personal brands. This oversight leaves many a senior executive poorly positioned – especially when they become suddenly unemployed around fifty years of age, two fearsome and often concurrent inevitabilities. (If this article looks familiar, then you read it first on

The good news is that many current heads of marketing are awakening to this issue.  At The CMO Club’s recent summit in Los Angeles, nearly half of the 150+ attendees joined a workshop on personal branding.  An informal survey of those folks revealed the degree of neglect—less than 20% rated their personal brand at 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 and over 60% rated themselves below a 5!  This was not a case of modesty (remember we’re talking about CMOs here!) but more like deer transfixed by headlights, they want to move on but somehow they can’t.

When confronting this group with the obvious need for developing personal brands, there was little dispute.  In fact, 98% acknowledged having Googled themselves, fully recognizing that if they didn’t take care of their own reputation, Google would do it for them.  At the same time, these marketing leaders felt there were some pretty significant barriers to overcome and ranked them as follows:

  1. Insufficient time—they were simply too busy doing other aspects of their job;
  2. Conflict of interest—many felt time invested building their own brand might be interpreted as self-promotional rather than as a good for their companies;
  3. Building CEO’s brand instead—many felt obligated to focus on increasing the profile of their CEO while sublimating their own;
  4. Not sure how—in light of the above issues, many felt overwhelmed at the prospect of building their own brands and just weren’t sure where to start.

To encourage these CMOs to stop flaking out on their personal brands, I offered up a tongue-in-cheek acronym, FLAIC, which they both appreciated and responded to with a request for greater detail.  And at the risk of oversimplifying what is a career-long exercise, here is FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate) spelled out, a 5-step process for marketers to build their personal brands:

FOCUS:  Though an obvious foundational component to any marketing campaign, many CMOs have not thought about the need for a strategy statement, a document that helps bring focus to one’s personal branding efforts. These statements help senior marketers define what makes them compelling or unique, an exercise that requires at least an ounce of ambition and a cup of introspection.  Since just about everyone’s career is a work in progress, these statements encourage the writer to challenge and stretch his or her sense of self.

LEAD:  With a personal brand statement in hand, senior marketers can then turn their attention to providing thought leadership around their area(s) of expertise.  This thought leadership can be shared in writing (articles, blogs, comments), videos and of course speaking engagements.  The key here is that the content is well crafted and reflects positively on the both the individual and the company for whom he/she works.  (Note—part of leading means making sure your company sees the value of having thought leaders and savvy CMOs secure this understanding prior to taking a job.)

ADAPT: Like corporate brands, it is easy for marketing individuals to get pigeon holed as experts in only one area (i.e. “he’s a car guy” or “she’s a traditional media pro”) which can become career limiting.  While still being focused on your overall brand strategy (i.e. innovator, metrics-oriented, team builder, etc.), you can use your content to demonstrate your breadth of expertise (e.g. “What Pharma can learn from car marketers” or “What TV can learn from digital”).  Note—for many CMOs adapting also means learning new skills via rigorous course-work.

INVEST: Building a personal brand can’t be done without investing time, money or both.  Roberto Medrano, CMO of SOA, started writing and blogging regularly 5 years ago, a commitment of time made more challenging by the fact that English is not his first language.  This investment, which included finding native editors, paid off for Medrano as he was recently ranked 12th among 250 top CMOs, a fact his company celebrated in this release.  For CMOs who don’t like to write, paying ghostwriters or creating video tutorials are equally viable options.

CULTIVATE:  Initially, I had this as C for Connect, given the critical nature that a network plays in building personal brands. But after Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy, shared the story of how old connections often come out of the woodwork during Grammy season; I suspect Cultivate is more instructive.  The idea here is that building a personal brand also includes cultivating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.  Support your fellow marketers, even if it’s just the occasional retweet or a pithy comment on an article, and watch the good karma boomerang.

Final note: Though personal branding is hardly a new idea (Tom Peters wrote about The Brand Called You back in 1997,) it does seem to be getting fresh attention from senior marketers as evidence by interest in this basic strategy worksheet.  Now what remains to be seen is whether or not this next generation of marketing leaders will step up to FLAIC or merely flake out.

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