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 J. Crew with CMO Award Winner Shannon Smith


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smartphone Killed the DSLR (But don’t tell that to Matt Sweetwood)


When thinking about the fate of the camera business to frame my conversation with Matt Sweetwood, President of Unique Photo, my mind jumped to the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” thinking it should be rewritten to say “Smartphone Killed The DSLR.” This led to a YouTube search which landed me on the very cool video below.

What I like about the video is that it takes a classic yet passé song and turns it into something fresh yet familiar.  In many ways, this is exactly what Matt has done to help Unique Photo not just survive an industry apocalypse (what else do you call annual declines of 40%?) but actually thrive. The familiar part here is the emphasis Unique Photo puts on customers service and customer education.  The fresh part is how Matt has become a major presence on social media and built a peer network that helps support and amplify his efforts.  The combination of these efforts means Unique Photo is standing tall despite the category head winds and Matt earned a President’s Circle Award from The CMO Club.

Drew: How did you decide to create Unique Photo’s in-store education program, Unique University, and how has it helped the brand achieve its marketing goals?
The camera store business was facing the most challenging period in its history. By 2007, approximately 80% of them had gone out of business as a result of the Internet and the movement away from the film-based model (buy film, return for processing, return to pick up prints, repeat). As the last camera stores in NJ went under and the business moved online, to big box or NYC, I started to look at the business model carefully. It came to me that building an experience based marketing concept in a store could work. It was a natural thought process from there that lead me to build an education program. Digital cameras were computers and more complicated than mechanical film cameras, more people were buying them and education would establish us as an authority and provide a repeatable “experience” for our customers.

Drew: You have been working at Unique Photo since college. How has your progressive movement within the company shaped your marketing outlook?
I was born to be a marketer. Despite my education as a theoretical mathematician I have always been naturally good at and drawn to marketing. When we opened our business to consumers by opening our store in 2008 (previously we were 90% B to B), I was able to employ some “pent-up” ideas and techniques that were not possible in a more simple distribution-type business. As a tech-head, I have been able to use those skills combined with natural progression one goes through in promoting a retail store and as a result my roll has transformed from being the COO of my company to becoming the CMO. Operations are more fundamental to the success of a B-to-B business where marketing is the lifeblood of a technological retail business.

Matt Sweetwood_Unique Photo

Drew: How are you staying on top of all the new digital marketing techniques and opportunities?
Practice what you preach. I network frequently, I am very open to being solicited from digital marketing vendors (you learn when they present even if you don’t buy), I belong to The CMO Club and I have paralleled the company brand with my personal brand as I engage in digital techniques to build my own brand (which I consider somewhat successful). Basically I am always out there looking and learning.  To stay on top you have to view knowledge like food. You need at least 3 servings everyday.

Drew: What tool has been the single greatest improvement to digital marketing for your brand over the last year? 
For my personal brand, it has been Facebook. I know that is not such a desirable answer but I have leveraged my Facebook page to establish me as the most recognized figure in the photography business. That brings enormous benefits to me from vendors, consultants, customers and media who regularly follow me.

For Unique Photo, the most significant tool we use is our email contact manager and it’s integration with our legacy systems. We have built a significant amount of our business and maintain customer contact through a consistent and highly effective local and national email campaign. We use iContact, Movable Inc., and several of our own systems to manage this.

Drew: What role does social media play in your marketing efforts?
It is a fundamental component of my personal and company brand. For 2014 Unique Photo has reduced traditional advertising by 75% and increased our social media spend by three times. That trend will continue in 2015.

Drew: What changes have you and your company made over the last year in order to improve your customers’ experience? 
At Unique Photo I manage customer service in the role of CMO and President. One of the success stories of our company has been our photo industry best customer service. I believe that how you treat and view customers starts from the top. I personally answer customers who contact us on social media and monitor our customer service queues frequently. It sets the standard for your staff when they see the person at the top of the marketing department interact with customers. In marketing you need to know what the customers are thinking and saying. In the past year we have added live online chat and dedicated personnel to monitor social media for customer interaction. We also engage in dedicated marketing campaigns on social media to engage the customer. Not only can this drive brand awareness and sales but many times is fosters customer interaction in a way they feel comfortable telling you what’s on their mind.  When you are close to your customers they give you great marketing ideas.

Drew: Loyalty programs can be tough to get off the ground.  If you have one in place, can you describe the program and talking about the costs/benefits of the program?
I opened our store in 2008. It was on the to-do list from day one. Customers were asking about it and in fact we had so many “loyal” customers we knew we had to do it. The competition beat us to it and that of course accelerated our development. We actually modified our gift card system to speed up the process.  Customers earn points on purchases and after a certain time period those points convert to money on their loyalty/gift cards. Phase one was store only and shortly thereafter we implemented online too. In store shoppers get a physical card and online customers automatically get into our loyalty program by simply clicking a box on account setup. We can combine online to a physical store card if they come in the store.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to your ability to do your job well? (explain benefits)
I enjoy this question very much. I use the ultimate peer network, The CMO Club, as an example. There has been numerous times when someone has simply said something at a CMO Club meeting that has spurred a new program or idea. As a business owner it is so very easy to “stay at home” and not get to see what others are doing or thinking.

For me personally, as the only marketer in my business, having a strong peer network reminds me there are others out there who think like me and that gives me the extra confidence to implement new ideas. When you are not around marketing peers your confidence tends to drop, as others seem clueless and negative about the new ideas you have.

Drew:  What’s on your marketing wish list for 2015?
A better way to deliver, measure and improve the effectiveness of our emails. Continued and rapid growths of our social media reach. A continued decrease in my spend on traditional advertising combined with an increased effectiveness of our social media leading to more sales. Most importantly, more peace, love and money; not necessarily in that order.

Q+A on Innovation with Mayur Gupta of Kimberly-Clark


Mayur Gupta_Kimberly ClarkThe job of the detective is to not simply to take the facts as they appear but instead to dig for hidden clues and ultimately reassemble these into a cohesive fact-based narrative of what actually happened.  With this in mind, I would propose that Mayur Gupta, the Global Head of Marketing Technology and Innovation at consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark, is the Sherlock Holmes of digital marketing.  Though our one conversation transcribed below hardly qualifies me for the role of Watson, I will say that if you read our Q+A, you too may finally have a clue what programmatic marketing is all about.

You will also come to understand what big data can actually do for big brands, especially if (and this is a big IF) you can shift the internal conversation from channel-centricity to customer-centricity.  As Mayur sees it, opportunities abound for the marketers who “break the channel silos and drive seamless or so called “omni channel” consumer experiences.”  Read on.  It won’t take any detective work on your part to see why he received the Programmatic Marketing award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards.

Drew: This is a great quote from you: “We don’t believe in digital marketing; we believe in marketing in a digital world.” Can you explain what you mean and how it impacts your planning process?

Actually, that was me quoting our CMO, Clive Sirkin, who has gone on record to say “we don’t believe in digital marketing but brand building or marketing in a digital world.” As an organization we have adopted that mantra as a founding principle behind all our marketing strategies. It’s quite simple if you think about it – we are engaging a consumer who is living in a massively digital world, she is dependent on digital technology, which is now part of her daily life. She no longer differentiates between the analog and the digital world in her expectations from brands and how they engage, she expects the same value and experience seamlessly across the board. However, on the flip side, brands continue to consider digital as a “thing” or a “silo” which breaks and fragments that experience. We at Kimberly Clark believe in breaking these silos by driving convergence that eventually builds legendary brands in this digital world. It’s a shift from being multi-channel (channel focused) to truly becoming “omni-channel” (consumer focused).

Drew: Also, the same article mentioned you had eight principles for innovation in the corporate ecosystem—can you talk about the top 3 principles your fellow marketer’s should concentrate on first and why?
Sure, will share 3 of them, not necessarily the “top” 3 but I think these are most fundamental in context to driving innovation:

*   #BeConsumerObsessed — For the most part, marketers and, in fact, the entire industry is “channel obsessed”, from strategies to operations we think about channels and touch points first and consumer second. The way plans are laid out, technology landscapes are orchestrated – it’s all channel driven. For marketing and innovation to be successful, it needs to be consumer driven and consumer obsessed, solving consumer needs and desires and when you do that, you organically break the channel silos and drive seamless or so called “omni channel” consumer experiences. Technology and innovation can very easily overshadow this simple fact.

*   #DontKillTheButterfly — I don’t think any explanation can do more justice than this video itself:

Innovation is about letting the ideas fly which can be challenging in a corporate world that is increasingly driven by ROI from day one

*   #ConnectTheDots — Finally and most importantly, I strongly believe that creativity and innovation is all about connecting the dots. Most times, it’s all out there; all it needs is wiring.

Drew: What innovations are you proudest of leading in 2014?
We are still in early stages of driving disruptive innovation in a digital world – we introduced our Digital Innovation Lab (D’LAB) at CES in Vegas in 2014. We have a number of pilots that are currently in flight, some of them are in market right now and some ready to launch in early 2015. But personally I am most proud of innovating how we drive and orchestrate the complex data and technology ecosystem across marketing. We have established a global marketing technology organization within marketing reporting into our CMO while working very closely with our CIO and her organization. We have innovated our organizational model that has allowed us to drive innovation across the board with data and technology, launching capabilities like programmatic, data management platforms and other content and eCommerce capabilities with speed, agility and nimbleness across the globe.

Drew: Can you talk to one area of innovation you’d really like to crack in 2015?
Don’t know if I can share the actual ideas on this forum but a big area of focus for us in 2015 is driving data convergence, an ability to stitch the fragmented data ecosystem across 1st party, 2nd party and 3rd party data. In order for us to drive relevant, personalized and frictionless consumer experiences across channels and touch points, we need this universal data set just in time and the ability to make decisions and predictions relevant to our consumer as she hops from one touch point to the other. This is more critical for us than “big data”, in fact we put big test and big learning far ahead of big data which for us is a good “buzzword”.

Drew: How has programmatic marketing helped you reach your overall marketing objectives?
It has helped us become smarter as well as more relevant and personalized from a media buying and consumer engagement standpoint across paid channels. Having utilized and scaled the obvious benefits of programmatic, we are now in the next horizon where we are starting to leverage the impact of programmatic across rest of the ecosystem including our owned and earned channels as well as weight our retailer partnerships. The early horizons of programmatic have helped us optimize our media buying efforts and maximized the ROI but the subsequent horizons will include leveraging consumer data and insights in driving stronger consumer engagement and inspiring behavior across the board which arguably is the most under utilized and ignored benefit of programmatic buying.

Drew: What were some of the challenges of adopting programmatic and what advice would you give to another marketer who is just getting started?
Programmatic has been at Kimberly Clark for a few years now even before I had joined, so the credit goes to our media leadership and Clive Sirkin, our CMO. We were clearly one of the early adopters and pioneers in the space. The challenge for us now is to go beyond the obvious and scale the capability globally. We have already seen tremendous success with our current trading desk and programmatic buying capability, we are now challenging ourself to take it to another level and impact the broader marketing ecosystem, smartly leveraging consumer data and insights that will drive seamless experiences and inspire consumer behavior across paid, owned and earned.

Drew: Have you leveraged any new technologies or platforms in the last 12 months and if so what were the results relative to your expectations?
We have spent the last 12-18 months to establish a marketing technology ecosystem at Kimberly Clark that includes technologies in three broad buckets – 1. enterprise capabilities that need to be globally scaled, 2. tactical and localized capabilities that need agility and speed and pertain to local market and consumer needs, 3. lastly technologies and start ups that we need to partner with to drive innovation. Underneath these buckets, there have been a number of new capabilities that have successfully been launched this year but more importantly we have focused on wiring these technologies, ensuring it’s a connected ecosystem and not isolated technologies.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story?
Sure it is and don’t we love these buzzwords, I think storytelling is the “big data” of 2014. On a serious note though, we believe in the power of having a brand story but not necessarily in “storytelling” because that still represents the old mindset that lacks participation and engagement. We believe in “story building” where as brands we share stories that are connected to our brand promise; these stories inspire consumer behavior and participation where eventually our consumers end up creating their own stories on a canvas and foundation that we provide. That is the ultimate state for us that we call “story building.”

Q+A on Repositioning with Jennifer Warren of RadioShack


Jennifer Warren

Creativity has always been tough to define, and even tougher to measure. But when it comes to marketing especially for a brand like Radio Shack, creativity can be the difference between another year of retrenchment and a major turnaround. So, how do you know which creative idea is the one you need? And once you have it, how do you execute?

Searching for answers, I caught up with Jennifer Warren, VP of Worldwide Marketing at RadioShack and recent winner of The CMO Award for Creativity. Our conversation ranged on a variety of topics, but her main takeaway is something that sounds a lot easier to talk about than actually get right: make sure you have a creative idea that resonates with your audience, and tell them your story in a way that inspires sharing.

Drew: Creativity can emerge in a lot different ways from how you approach problems to creative marketing campaigns.  How are you being “creative” in your current role and how has that helped you?
As a retailer in the middle of a turn-around, creativity comes into play a lot especially when it comes to day-to-day problem-solving and making the marketing budget work harder. There is always a solution for a problem, you just have to keep pushing to find the answer. And when it comes to advertising, we are majorly outspent by our competitors so one of the filters we put the advertising through, is whether it is creative enough to get people talking about it and making it easy to share.  

Drew: Some agency sages believe “it isn’t creative unless it sells.”  Do you share that belief and if so, is there still a role for branding building activities in your marketing mix that may not have an immediate or directly measurable impact on sales?
Without building your brand and standing for something beyond just price, it’s impossible to compete with some of the online only retailers. I do agree that a marketers’ job is to drive sales, but the way in which you do it is different depending on the challenge at hand and meeting both short and long-term goals.  For example, our biggest marketing challenge is that our brand has struggled in the past therefore we were not making it onto customers consideration set.  We do our share of product/price promotional activity, to drive immediate sales, but we’ve also done things (i.e, the Superbowl campaign) to try to dramatically change the way people think about our brand and get back on their consideration set.

Drew: Radio Shack has faced some strong headwinds in the last couple of years, with changes in how people buy consumer products (a lot of it has shifted online) and changing demographics. What role has marketing played in helping the brand to overcome some of these challenges?
First, you have to understand your current customers and what they need from you in order to keep them. In our case, we have a customer base that still values face-to-face interaction and someone to talk to about technology and bounce ideas off of before they buy it.  To compete, we need to dial up our strength and marketplace advantage— our in-store expertise and store experience.  At the same time, you can’t be a relevant consumer electronics retailer today without a strong online presence, because even those that want to buy in-store turn online to do research before making a decision.  With this in mind, we recently launched a new dynamic (mobile friendly) website that balances promotional selling with solution-driven and idea centric content. It’s a much better experience than before, and we see it as a foundation to continue to build our online presence.

Drew: From an overall marketing perspective, what recent program or initiative are you particularly proud of?
The development, re-platform, and launch of our new web experience- which launched on Wednesday, was a major initiative that was accomplished with a cross-functional team and in 8 months time.

Drew: What challenges have you faced in your efforts to get the entire company engaged with the brand and how have you overcome them?
I joined RadioShack because re-positioning the brand was one of the key pillars that our CEO identified within the turn-around strategy, and our entire management team believes in the importance in achieving that goal.  Nobody views it as a “marketing thing”, but rather something that we all own together and are responsible for bringing to life within our individual areas.

Drew: Mobile seems like an ideal opportunity for local engagement – what kinds of things have you tried on mobile and what if any has been working for you?
We use promotional tactics, such as Retail Me Not, to geo-target customers on their mobile devices which have worked well for us. We were also one of the only retailers to immediately begin accepting Apple Pay, and we hope to get learnings and use them to our advantage once more capabilities roll out. We’ve only scratched the surface in our mobile opportunity.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story?
Our brand promise “Anything is possible, when we do it together” is a great platform for storytelling.  We generate a lot of content that show how customers can use technology to solve problems or bring ideas to life (turn lights on and off with their cell phone and a wemo switch) or bring ideas to life (3d Print your latest prototype, and put it through our product incubator process to bring it to market). We want to partner and build a truly collaborate relationship with our customers.  Our goal is to help them realize their goals, help answer their questions and solve their problems.

Q+A on Keeping an Eye on the Pie w/ Papa John’s Bob Kraut


Bob Kraut_Papa JohnsA conversation with Bob Kraut, CMO of Papa John’s, is a wonderful reminder that despite all the new communication channels and the potentially transformative power of big data, successful marketing can still be boiled down to a few simple truths: product quality matters, customer satisfaction is bellwether metric, employees are a critical part of the brand experience, get your message right and then, perhaps hardest of all, stick with it.

In our interview below, Bob expounds on all of these points in a way that is refreshingly matter of fact, sharing his insights while making them seem common sensical.  Of course, to borrow upon the wit and wisdom of Harry Truman, “If common sense were so common, more [marketers] would have it.”  The truth is that talking about these things is relatively easy, the hard part is implementing them and on that front, Papa John’s certainly has its “eye on the pie,” so its little wonder that Bob is a recent  of  The CMO Club‘s CMO Award for Customer Experience.

Drew: Customer experience 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?

For us, the consumer is at the center of all we do. We always “keep our eye on the pie”, so that the ultimate customer experience is bringing people together to eat great pizza at a great price with an exceptional ordering and service experience. As for marketing’s role in the customer experience, we do the heaving lifting in creating emotional connections with our customers in our branding, online experience and social media and engagement. The pizza business is dominated by heavy price promotion which I don’t think contributes to a sustainable customer proposition. At Papa John’s, we have incredibly loyal customers and they love the brand experience– the American Customer Satisfaction Index has ranked us the #1 pizza brand in satisfaction 13 of the past 15 years.

Drew: A lot of marketers are talking about employee advocacy – is this a priority for you and if so how are you going about it? If not, perhaps you could talk about how you as a marketer have had an impact on the whole customer experience.
When I came to Papa John’s a little over a year ago, my biggest surprise was how happy the people are and how aligned people are against our vision and positioning. Simply put, when you are in the service and delivery business, “happy employees equal happy customers”. So I think we count all of them to be great customer ambassadors. One of the ways that our employees feel like an owner of the business, is through our “open innovation” culture. We solicit and source product ideas and ways to make things better for our customers and I think it shows up in customer ratings and in our business results.

Drew: “Better ingredients. Better pizza.” has been your tagline for a while now. A lot of marketers of change campaigns too quickly in my humble opinion. What has allowed you to stick with this one for so long and what would inspire you to move away from it?
Papa John’s has done what is equivalent to the textbook case on how to build a brand based on quality and consistency. Quality is the core value of the company–I think its in our DNA and has given the company the strength to resist changes over the ups and downs of the business cycle.  And I think its a testament to the leadership of our Founder, John Schnatter–great leaders have discipline. “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza” continues to work well for us–I am type of leader that doesn’t try to fix things that aren’t broken–but I think we are making progress in enriching our brand promise and injecting a more contemporary currency to the brand.

Drew: How have you used social media to advance your brand’s overall marketing efforts? Are there any networks/platforms that are working better for your brand than others?
We use social media to talk to our brand believers and to reach broader audiences in ways that are authentic, real-time and meaningful to them. Pizza is the perfect platform for social media–at its core, pizza bring people together  as social platforms virtually. In 2014, we greatly expanded our social reach beyond Facebook and Twitter–we are now active on Instagram, Google Plus, Vine, the publisher platforms etc–and we have taken our highly visible NFL sponsorship into social media, especially on local level–where we sponsor 21 NFL teams.

Drew: What have your experiences been with mobile marketing been to date? 
We run an e-commerce with nearly 50% of sales coming from online–so we have a greater share of customers accessing our brand online than any other pizza brand-that kind of us makes the #1 digital brand.  An increasing share of our sales is coming from mobile so we have increased our investment in all-things mobile –advertising, apps, alternative payment and localization. And we are seeing all these initiatives work well for Papa John’s.

Drew: Loyalty programs can be tough to get off the ground. Can you talk a bit about Papa Rewards and how it is working for you? What advice would you give to a fellow marketer if they were contemplating a loyalty program?
We introduced our Papa Rewards Loyalty Program in 2010. The pizza market is so price sensitive and this creates a relationship and another point of connectivity to our most loyal consumers and gives us opportunities for segmentation and more precise marketing. Our customers love the program–Papa Rewards was recently named as the #1 loyalty in the restaurant category by Bond Loyalty. With that said, loyalty programs alone won’t work if the pizza isn’t good. We know our customers come back for our better ingredients and attention to quality – and it is important to us to reward them for their loyalty.

Drew: Finally and perhaps a bit early, what’s on top of your 2015 marketing resolutions list?
That’s easy– “eat more pizza!”  But seriously…  we love to top our best.  We’re committed to continuing our commitment to have better ingredient on our pizzas, leadership in online sales and deepening relationships with our customers, partners and employees.


Q+A on Content Marketing w Colin Hall, CMO of Allen Edmonds


Colin Hall_Allen EdmondsCreating relevant content has quickly become one of the most effective ways to engage with an audience. But that’s just part of the story since content marketing in isolation rarely moves the needle.  Today’s CMO needs to being able to understand how to pull all of the available marketing levers working to get the mix just right for his/her brand.  Based on my conversation with Colin Hall, VP of Marketing at Allen Edmonds, few understand this better as he capitalizes on both the latest digital techniques and old school product catalogs to achieve double-digit sales growth.

In the interview below, Colin provides specific examples of how content is an integral part of Allen Edmonds’ overall go to market strategy, starting with the need for a campaign idea, valuing quality over quantity and extending exposure via PR, social media and paid digital advertising. It’s no wonder that Allen was rewarded with The CMO Club‘s Content Engagement award.

Drew: Can you describe your primary content marketing initiatives this year and how they benefited your company? 
Our goal is to create relevant content to consumers through mediums they most often view.  We start with marketing themes and then build integrated content to the channel.  For example, a Rediscover America Sale around Columbus Day helps position our company’s differentiated brand pillar of Made in America.  We develop direct to consumer catalogs featuring made in American product and heritage stories of the company.  We leverage social channels to feature our Wisconsin craftspeople to help prove we’re an American manufacturer.  DSP and dynamic retargeting banner ads are used for those who are most likely to purchase.  Finally we develop films to show our Wisconsin area.  Add some great PR and Blogger reviews, and all of these elements work together to drive awareness and sales. This year, our RDA sale was up over 20% vs the previous year and represents our biggest selling period for the year.

One of our new content initiatives was to develop a partnership with America’s top design school Parsons School of Design in New York City.  This student design competition supported our made in America positioning and told the story of shoe making.  The competition is fun for the students with a lot of social and PR following.  It helps us reach young people and our craftspeople love to work with students.  The winner receives scholarship aid from Allen Edmonds and the winning shoe was featured in our Rediscover America Sale.

Drew: Do you have any lessons learned on content marketing issues like quantity vs. quality, nurturing vs. lead acquisition, self-created vs. curated?
It all starts with great looking product and great photography.  As a domestic manufacturer, our advantage is that we can continually tweak products until we’re sure they’re ready for the market.  In other words, we’re not beholden to foreign manufacturing schedules, international shipment timing and products arriving that are not to our quality standards.

We partner with three different photographers, each specializing in specific environments to ensure our products always look great.  We create almost all of our content in-house which gives us strong control of our brand messaging. Then we measure everything so we can optimize content over time for continual improvement. About the only thing we don’t fully control is PR by fashion editors and bloggers.  But, we supply their closets with our seasonal best products and give them access to our photos and line sheets to help ensure their communication efforts are correct.

Drew: Your brand in heavily dependent on the retailers that sell your product. How does this impact your marketing priorities?  Do you focus on sell-in or sell-through?
We focus on both but place more emphasis on sell-through.  Sell through means our wholesale customers are succeeding and our product is turning.  Sell through success leads to more confidence in our brand and ultimately stronger sell-in.  We support our wholesale accounts with various co-op materials including digital photos, in-store signage, catalogs, videos, in-store appearances by reps, trunk shows and Recrafting services just to name a few.

Drew: What marketing initiatives worked for you in 2014?  Did you try anything new?
We initiated two new marketing efforts; an old school approach using big data and a new school approach.

  • Our old school approach was to ramp up our paper catalogs leveraging co-operative big data for prospecting.  We match back to our database and these efforts are driving sales of existing customers and new customer acquisition.
  • Our new school efforts include Display Network advertising targeting new customers.  We have enjoyed huge increases in sales through digital media including retargeting, affiliate, email and other channels but DSP allows us to serve ads to those who look like our primary customers but have never been to our site.  We’re seeing a $5 revenue return for every $1 we spend on DSP customer acquisition. 

Drew: What’s on your radar to try in 2015?  
From a media standpoint, we’re working on stronger segmentation of our customers which will lead to more strategic contact plans.  It sounds basic but with all the various ways to reach customers it can be quite daunting.  As the CMO, I straddle the desires of my retail and Ecommerce teams to reach customers more frequently versus the brand’s needs of maintaining a premium image.  Hitting customers over the head with more messages in more channels is a very slippery slope towards brand annoyance.

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?
This is one of the biggest questions year in and year out.  Our approach is to build on what is proven, optimize what we know should work and always test new efforts in small ways.  If I had to put an allocation on it, I would say we allocate 70% on proven media, 20% on optimizing and 10% on testing new ideas.  As a private equity owned company driving by EBITDA, we never bet the farm on anything unproven.  We stair step our way through testing, optimizing and then investing in media.

Drew: Have you made in major changes to your budget allocation in the last year and if so, can you share what lead to those changes and how these changes have impacted results?
We’re shifting more traditional media dollars to cataloging.  We can measure the ROI of our catalog efforts with margin contribution per customer being the KPI.

Drew: What specific measures have you taken in the past year to build credibility with your CEO and board?
We have new owners and a new board as of last Thanksgiving when the company transitioned from one PE firm to another.  Like any new owner, they have a lot of questions and their own ideas.  Rather than bog down a board meeting with very detailed marketing questions, I began “Marketing Milestone” meetings separate of the board meetings.  These are generally scheduled every other month and tied to our database refresh calendar.  Board members are invited to attend (which they all do) along with internal leadership and younger PE employees who gain great business insight and experience from the meetings.  We spend about 2 ½ hours going into details of learning from prior efforts, optimizing near term efforts and planning ahead.  These meetings allow the board and others to ask a lot of questions, get a great understanding of what we’re doing and why, and allows them to be involved.  When we get to the board meetings we spend very little time on marketing as they’re up to speed and feel the marketing team is on top of things.  This allows the board to focus on other agenda items.

Drew: What advice would you give to fellow CMOs when it comes to building credibility with your CEO? Are there some things to be avoided?
I am lucky to have a great CEO.  We have worked together for 6 years and completely trust each other.  I over communicate with him to ensure he knows what’s going on. Over time I have developed a great sense as to what he needs to know and when.  I always prep him for any appearances and my communication style is fairly to the point.  This means he doesn’t have to search for answers… they are provided in a manner that’s easy for him to digest.

Other than this award, I never seek the spot light. My CEO is the voice of the brand to our customers and I support him in front our leadership team and behind the scenes. While this approach may not garner me headlines in any marketing magazines or get noticed by executive recruiters, it really helps build trust.  At the end of the day, we both do what’s right for the brand.

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