RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based "social inspired marketing" agency that helps besieged CMOs cut through.

IBM Takes on Customer Centricity


This could be a meta-moment.  I’m sitting in the front row at IBM Amplify, listening to Deepak Advani talk about the power of customer centricity while trying to write an introduction to this blog post about IBM’s efforts to help their customers focus more on their customers.  If you’re lost, no worries.  IBM is definitely upping their game on multiple levels when it comes to helping companies analyze their current customer experience, creating products and services that could indeed transform these experiences. In the middle of this initiative sits Kevin Bishop, VP IBM Experience One. Kevin’s team, according to, does this:

IBM ExperienceOne brings together leading capabilities from across IBM Enterprise Marketing Management, WebSphere Commerce and IBM Customer Experience portfolios to make it easier to create and refine a system of customer engagement based on these practices to accelerate the growth of relationships and revenue.

Got it?  If not, the interview below should help.  Kevin and I cover the broken marketing model and how IBM is helping to fix it, one customer engagement at a time.

Kevin BishopDrew: When we talked earlier, you mentioned that marketers “are still doing things the way they were in 1898.” So, what does this mean exactly?
We are challenge people’s mental models about how they think about marketing. The AIDA model (Awareness Interest Desire Action) is a reaction model, first discussed in academic literature in 1898.

It talked about a progression that consumers go through during the discovery and purchase process. But, of course, most people didn’t have mobile phones in 1898, or the internet or a thousand of their closest friends telling them which hotel they like, which goods they like, what services were the best for them. Today, people do, so that’s a significant change.

So, we need to think about marketing increasingly from the customer’s perspective, especially in a world with lots of goods and services. Tremendous competition is great. But in order to differentiate our brands, increasingly we need to think about the customer not just the product or service.

Drew: Lots of folks like Forrester have been talking about the need for extreme customer-centricity. What does this mean to you?
Let’s flip that around and start with me, as a customer. It’s not about me as segment – a middle-aged white guy, or Brits living in America. It’s about me as an individual, with a particular sense of style and things that make me distinctive. Today, a good marketer knows me.

We can have great experiences when companies (brands) like Netflix feed us movies that we didn’t even know we liked–because they can see patterns of behavior and things I like that I may not even be conscious of, yet they know me and they introduce me to new things that are perfect for me. I love that. Why can’t that happen with almost anything else that I do in life? Why do other companies not know me?

Drew: So what are you trying to do with this at IBM?
We’re working to help our customers to know each person as an individual, and increasingly, in the context of what they’re doing. So, not just knowing that I need a mortgage but that I need a mortgage because I’m downsizing now that my kids have gone to the university. Not just I need a mortgage because I’m downsizing, but I’m actually doing all of these whilst on a business trip so my only access is through a small mobile device.

Drew: So, now, if we’re focusing on the customer and their experience, are we changing the metrics of compensation?
We are changing the metrics, to help customers on the journey they want to go through. It’s no longer simply about how many leads should go in your pipeline, and if they have been qualified and validated, progressed through whatever is your company’s version of a funnel. It’s much more about how are we helping people discover our products and services? Are there people discovering us? How are we helping consumers draw comparisons? How are we helping them choose us?

Putting customers at the center shifts the orientation to the question of brands adding value.

Drew: You know, you’re preaching the choir here. Unless you change the compensation system, how does something like this line up in an organization?
This is one of the things that we find leading chief marketing officers are doing really well today. They’re collaborating with their peers in the C-suite to ensure that there is alignment around the customer. One example that is widely cited is the people in Apples stores that are helping you with their products. They’re there to help you become a brand advocate for Apple. They’re not there to make sure that you walk out with that iPhone or iPad the way most sales associates are at most electronic stores. In Apple stores, they’re to delight the client.

Drew: So how is IBM part of all this?
A few years ago, we created digital experience labs to create great marketing programs for IBM. After about six or seven months, we realized it wasn’t about digital. It was about the experience. So, here we are, four years later, and now these former labs are the IBM Design Studios and we use them in our business own business for marketing and for client led software development – and we have this great partnership with Apple around making business software easier and more intuitive – more like consumer software. And now we have formalized this approach for our clients too with the IBM Interactive Experience team and a network of 14 design studios around the world that are part of our consulting business.

Drew: So you will go to a client and say your experience is broken. And do you prototype it in your lab? How does this solution set work that you provide?
We have evolved the design methodology that came out of Stanford into what we call IBM Design Thinking. We’ve formalized the methodology that involves agile practices and bringing teams together. We’ll co-locate our teams with our client’s team into one of these design studios. We’ll bring some of their clients or their consumer into the experience. And in each one of those, you’re testing with the end consumer or customer what it is they’re experiencing, then going away and doing some work for a week or two. We create a better experience and get the customer back again to learn whether we have really succeeded. We now have over a thousand designers in IBM.

Drew: Well, I mean IBM is so vast and had so many things. How are your customers or prospects finding out about this service?
Well, often through the word of mouth. So it is through clients who have great engagements then talk to other clients about the good experience that they have.

Drew: So, wait a second because I want to make sure I understand this. You created a really great experience for your customers. They become customers. They share that information with their friends and then they become customers?
Absolutely. Driving advocacy is one of the fundamentals.

Drew: All right. So driving advocacy is one of those things that we’ve been talking about for a while in the marketing world. If a CMO wanted to embark on this thing with IBM what would he or she tell their CEO to expect?
As you know, we do these studies. We interview some 2000 CMOs every two years to understand what’s keeping them up at night and where they think they’re strong. We’ve embedded the learning from that research into a self-assessment tool that basically probes three categories of engagement, to explore where you are today and where you would like to be.

You get a planogram with a gap analysis the way you are. And then if you’re wondering if your colleagues feel the same way, you might get half a dozen of your peers to do it. And then you might do it with hundreds of your team and really get some statistical understanding of the gap between where you are today and where you’d like to be.

Drew: And the goal here is to assess your company’s degree of custom centricity?
Yes. The three categories give you a broad sense of where you are today with your customers. But typically clients need help diving deeper. How well have you built a system of engagement either within the marketing department or across other departments that touched the customer? So how well have you actually built a system of engagement and service of that customer? And how well do you engage your employees or your partners or your suppliers? Ideally, you understand the maturity of your operation across every point of engagement. It’s all about the customer.

Drew: Harvey McKay writes about a form that he completed for every customer that had 100 key facts and this was in the pre-internet era. One of the most important was a person’s birthday because that was a great day to call them to make an emotional connection. It sounds like you all are trying to blend the need for rational and emotional connections.
I think that’s important. We are human beings, however rational we like to think we are, we know that we are driven by emotional connection. And therefore, if you’re going to do effective marketing, and if you’re going to do effective customer service and have people delight in the way they use your products and services, then you’ve got to appeal to the emotional side as well as through the rational side. And you’re going to know people on both of those levels.

Why CMOs Should Blog (and why more don’t)


In my informal poll of CMOs, the top three reasons given for not blogging include:

  1. Don’t have time
  2. Not a good writer
  3. Uncertain of the value

roberto medranoRoberto Medrano, CMO of Akana (formerly SOA Software), started blogging three years ago as a way to start and lead the dialogue on critical issues in his industry.  Like most CMOs, Roberto had no shortage of things to do, including repositioning the company from legacy software applications to what Akana calls “powering the API economy.”  But he made the time to blog. As for his writing skills, Roberto does not profess to be a writer even after crafting 30 or more highly engaging blog posts.  Oh and did I mention the fact that his native language his Spanish? Roberto found a way to get his point-of-view across while seeking the help of colleagues to edit and proof his posts.

As for the value of blogging, Roberto frames them in our discussion below.  First, these posts helped demonstrate that Akana is a true thought leader, raising issues and opportunities long before their competitors.  Second, it helps coalesce internal points-of-view on where their industry (and company) is headed. Third, once he showed the value of blogging, other members of the executive team started to write as well, furthering the reach & conversation.  Fourth, the press began to seek out Akana’s posts as a source of content for their own stories.  Finally, and the one Roberto downplays given his already establish reputation in the industry, is how it raised his personal profile, culminating in his ranking as the 12th most influential CMO in the US.

I would add one other personal benefit to blogging–writing leads to understanding. So if you’re still insufficiently motivated to start blogging, read on.  I found Roberto’s personal journey quite enlightening.

Drew: How long have you been blogging and what motivated you to get started?
I started blogging about three years ago. I felt the need to communicate Akana’s point of view as an industry thought leader besides just sending press releases or asking the press to take a point of view. And there are less press reporters now. That motivated us to say, “How do we do that?” And we also saw that other companies were using blogs effectively. So then, we said, “Okay. We got to do our own” and I was the guy who started writing them.

Drew: Who was your target?
Our initial target was enterprise architects who are thinking about doing mobile applications, people that are doing cloud applications and people leading digital transformation to their internal applications.

Drew: How did you decide what to write about?
Whatever we thought would be relevant to our target. We wanted to provide insights about security, mobile, cloud, application lifecycle development and some related business, with the use of APIs. Now in the digital world everything is connected thru APIs. We covered the technical aspects of building APIs and building applications. Or for companies looking to use the cloud, we covered what applications have to have to be able to be cloud ready. We just wanted to make easy for our customers and prospects to find relevant content, whether it was high level or more detailed technology use.

Drew: Did you court controversy?
Of course, some of the topics were and continue to be controversial. With the controversial ones, we usually take a position especially if it was a topic lots of people were debating. People appreciate that. For some, our point-of-view would really resonate. And even the folks that disagreed might still refer to the blog post, send it around, comment and do all those things that happen with blogs.

Drew: A lot of senior marketers tell me they don’t have time to write or don’t like doing it and these are folks for whom English is a first language. Was it particularly hard for you to get started given that Spanish is your native tongue?
I never really believed that I was a writer but I do have some ideas to communicate to people. So, I started thinking of to how communicate those to a broader audience in a written fashion. At first, I felt very uncomfortable because I don’t consider myself a reporter that publishes writings, and now a blogs are publications. I felt quite responsible and not very comfortable. I had to get some initial help from people that were actual writers and proofreaders to review some of the write-ups before they we’re actually published.

Drew: Did it get easier?
I have become more comfortable over the last three years as more and more posts got published. I do a lot more of the editing myself, but still pass the posts by others for comments or edits. The editing has been less and less in terms of style and more about the details of the points that need to be communicated.

Drew: Do you get a fair amount of feedback from your readers?
I get a lot of feedback from the people that read it on our corporate blog and when I repost it on LinkedIn and other publications. What’s amazing is that I’ll get comments on posts that were published six months ago. Blogs can be read for a long time and still be current.

Drew: Have there been some results that surprised you?
Well, I didn’t expect that some press would read my posts and refer them in their articles. That was not in my radar. I see more and more reporters referring to my posts, which is kind of interesting especially since we have never promoted the blog to press. Recently, a reporter asked “Do you have a blog?” and told me they would wait for my post on a particular topic and then quoted from it a day later. That’s definitely a new thing for me and its reassuring since it means the press believes there’s something of value in these posts!

Drew: Any other results that surprised you?
The other aspect that’s happened to me is that I get recognized at conferences! I’ll be walking around and then some people just come up to me to talk about something that I published. I don’t know these people, or they just see my picture and they recognize me. They want to talk to me about the blogs. I’ve never gotten anything really negative in person where somebody will come and argue with me which is a relief!

Drew: Do you always have internal agreement before you issue a point-of-view?
Not always. We do a lot of research with our customers and sometimes the results are controversial internally and some people don’t agree. When a clear and potentially new point of view emerges, it is important to get it out there in the marketplace ahead of the competition. And sometimes is just takes other people longer to get on board but they generally do come around especially when they see a competitor pretty much copying our stuff!

Drew: Are there other benefits of having a disciplined regular blogging program?
Yes, because people subscribe to the blog and read it regularly, they have a more interesting connection with us. And they want to connect to see what we’re thinking about. In many cases, they go back — even when there doing evaluation for a product, they go back in the blog and try to see what posts are related to what they’re thinking about doing.

Drew: Was it hard to get other execs to write?
If you look at the first couple of years, I was the only guy blogging even though I would send emails to the company and say, “write something that could be interesting” nobody was doing it. Slowly, others started writing too. But if look at the blog today, you’ll see I’m one of many that posts blogs every month.

Drew: What are CMOs missing when say they’re just too busy to blog?
So, you’re missing out on an opportunity to communicate with an audience that wants to hear something from you. You’re missing a chance to be part of the conversation that simply can’t happen with ads and press releases. You’re missing the chance to help your company be perceived as industry thought leaders.

Drew: You were ranked 12th (of 250) of the most influential CMOs in the marketplace. Does this recognition in your mind help Akana?
Well, in my mind, it does, because we are recognized as part Akana the company. The recognition is for creating a perception about the company and you are compared with many other great companies with all the marketing activities you manage and the results you produce. In terms of blogs, It’s not my private blog. So, the fact that the blogs are quoted on some publications that gives another dimension to whatever the writing is from that press and the value for the company and for the CMO.

Drew: Last question, what would you say are the top benefits of consistent blogging?
The more content you recreate, the more ideas you have in the marketplace, the more there is for people to find and look at. The organic search benefits are huge. If people are looking for certain topics like APIs, SOA and “enterprise service bus” which we are against, our blog comes up at the top. And if the content is good enough, people will subscribe and continue to share your content, your point-of-voice that will establish you and your company as legitimate thought leaders.

If It’s Hinting Season, I Want an Apple Watch


shortyAt tonight’s Shorty Awards, a number of brands and their agencies (including Renegade!) will be recognized for their effective use of social media.  Among the winners is one of my favorites, a campaign called #HintingSeason that was created by CP+B for BestBuy and won Best in Retail and Ecommerce.  I call this particular campaign to your attention because it exemplifies all of things I believe social campaigns can and should do:


  • Build off of a social truth (people would love to have permission to drop hints about what they want for the holidays)
  • Help solve a particular business challenge (getting people to talk about gifting long before the holiday season)
  • Features a really fun, clever and wonderfully simple idea (a two word hashtag #HintingSeason)
  • Is inherently social but doesn’t rely solely on organic posts to get the conversation going among a broad target (paid media including bloggers & influencers helped spread the word)

To take a behind the scenes look at this campaign, I caught up CP+B’s Peter Knierim, VP/Creative Director and Britten Wolf, Social Supervisor.  Both offer some critical insights into the success of this campaign that are well worth perusing.  And since Peter notes that “It’s never too early to start hinting for what you want this holiday,” I just wanted to add that an Apple Watch would be lovely, thank you.

Drew: Hinting is certainly an age-old offline behavior — did you all notice that hinting was already being done on social channels for other things? If so, how did this influence your approach to #HintingSeason? If not, what gave you confidence that people would actually use the hashtag?

Peter Knierim: Research showed us that consumers who shop in October are likely to shop again during the holiday season. So, we first looked to solve the problem of talking to consumers about holiday shopping when they were buying their Halloween costumes. Hinting Season solved this by giving people permission to talk about what they wanted without rolling out the Santas and snowglobes that come with the holidays.

Britten Wolf: We used social listening to analyze how people were already hinting for what they wanted and found only a moderate amount of conversation. Considering the idea tapped into a truth we all do in real life, we knew that we could own the conversation come the holiday shopping season.

Drew: I’m guessing your campaign hashtag was not being used prior to launch. How did you build awareness of #HintingSeason? How much of a role did paid social media play in helping you to build this awareness? 

Britten Wolf: Best Buy was not using #HintingSeason prior to the campaign’s launch. We had to build its awareness and correlation with Best Buy from scratch, which is an increasingly difficult task in today’s social media landscape.

We worked closely with Starcom to create an omni-channel media approach to build campaign awareness. From a social perspective, our teams and our influencer partners created really entertaining and engaging content. Paid social was pivotal in amplifying its reach and exposing the campaign to new audiences.

Drew: So once the idea was seeded via paid & Vine influencers (who were also paid right?), how long did it take for regular people to start using the hashtag? Was it a slow build or more like a big bang? Ultimately, do you have a sense for how many times #HintingSeason was actually used by “organically” by regular people?

Britten Wolf: Instantly. People already know how to hint. Best Buy just made it even more acceptable to do so before the holidays started. Conversations started on the first day of the campaign and sustained throughout the holiday season. #HintingSeason was used organically almost 50,000 times between October and December.

Drew: Looking back on this highly successful campaign, were there any “organic” surprises? What are some of your favorite hints? 

Peter Knierim: A big part of the influencer component of the campaign was showing people how to hint in entertaining ways. We were surprised at some of the creative and funny ways people hinted at what they wanted.

Some of our favorite hints came toward the end of the campaign, when people started posting photos of them getting what they had hinted during Hinting Season.

Drew: Organic social media is often extremely difficult to link back to business performance. Were there any effort to differentiate results by paid versus organic social? Is that a fool’s errand? 

Britten Wolf: Data drives everything we do in social. From content strategy to message effectiveness, we’re constantly testing and analyzing both paid and organic social’s performance to measure its effectiveness and show ROI.

Drew: Are there some things that you would do differently if you were to start again? Any lessons learned for marketers looking to achieve similar success? Is it time to start hinting to Best Buy to bring the campaign back for a 2nd round?

Peter Knierim: Now that the campaign is over, it’s easy to look back and see areas of improvement for future campaigns. One of the benefits of social, as a medium, is the ability to optimize in real time. From messaging to targeting to timing, we constantly strived to publish the most engaging and best performing content we could create.

Our advice for marketers looking to achieve similar success is to start by tackling a list of challenges, create a simple campaign rooted in human truth, and get more people what they want for Christmas.

It’s never too early to start hinting for what you want this holiday.

Drew: From the agency’s perspective, what did Best Buy do right to help you execute what was both a highly creative and ultimately effective campaign?

Peter Knierim: From the start, Best Buy knew there was potential in the Hinting Season idea. They showed the bravery a client needs to have to drive an idea that we all knew could be hugely successful or fail miserably. They challenged us to focus on it and create a compelling way of owning it. That confidence and challenge helped push our ideas and execution.

Going Long with a Shorty Winner: TD Bank


shorty tdIn the five years since I first wrote about The Shorty Awards, social media has evolved from a quirky playground for the adventurous to a disciplined practice for any serious marketer.  This change is evident both in terms of the size of the brands competing for the awards as well as the quality of the applications.  The case in point for this post is TD Bank’s #ThankYou campaign which won Best Financial Services campaign. While I encourage students of social media to read this case and the others in their entirety, here’s a quick overview of the campaign:

  • In order to thank its customers, TD Bank turned 4 ATMs into Automated Thank you Machines and used a hidden camera to capture the surprising interactions. TD Bank took it one step further by actually delivering various Thank You’s like sending a family to Disneyland or reuniting a mother and her daughter. These engagements were turned into a 4-minute video that ultimately garnered over 32 million views and hundreds of thousands of shares across various social channels.  According to their Shorty application, “Analysis of all comments related to the campaign indicates that we also achieved our qualitative objective of improving perceptions of TD as the most customer-centric bank. In fact, an independent Google study yields estimates that 3.6 million Canadians or approximately 10% of the Country’s population claimed the video positively changed their brand impression while an additional 1.4 million Canadians said watching the video already reinforced their positive image of TD.”

To gain a greater understanding of how this campaign came into being and why it was so effective, I interviewed Chris Stamper, Senior Vice President, Corporate Marketing, TD Canada Trust. I have no doubt that you’ll find her comments instructive particularly in the advantages of customer centricity, an area that never seems to fail marketers.  As Arnott puts it, “The real ROI was finding a unique, authentic way to thank our customers.”

Drew: Where did the insight for this campaign come from?  

It’s as simple as wanting to say thank you. We say thank you to our customers every day, and we’ll say thank you tomorrow and the next day, but this was a coordinated effort to shout it from the rooftops. And, it was more than just thank you, it was thanks for your business, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for you. That’s what we were trying to get across to our customers in a personalized and heartfelt way.

Drew: What gave you confidence that this approach would actually work?

We hoped it was going to be successful but we really didn’t know – and it was beyond even our highest expectations. If at the end of the day we took 100 customers and gave them an experience of their lives that would have been enough for us. And regardless of what happened afterwards, we knew we were going to deliver that. We’re a brand that really connects with our customers — they are at the center of everything we do. We don’t believe that any bank or brand could have created this. We know our customers really well – it’s our local branch staff and the relationships they have with our customers that gave us the insights to these incredible stories.  

Drew: Your Shorty application credits employee amplification as an important catalyst.  Can you describe how the program was introduced to employees and if you worked with tool like Dynamic Signal to help manage and track the program?

Every year tens of thousands of our employees participate in customer appreciation day.  As part of our thank you in 2014, we simultaneously surprised customers who were standing in our over 1100 branches across Canada with a #TDThanksYou envelope containing a small cash gift, as a gesture of our appreciation. Customers who were on the phone with us and banking with us online at this time, also received this special surprise with a direct deposit in their account. Another thing to keep in mind is that we found the customers featured in the videos through our local branch employees who know their customers really well and often have close relationships with them. Think of Mike in Pickering who got to meet his baseball idol and throw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. Employees were genuinely proud of the video and keen to share it online.

Drew: Your Shorty application offers many measurable outcomes.  Which are you the proudest of and why?

The views are great but what it really comes down to is making an authentic connection with your customers – we’re so glad we could do that. Dorothy seeing her daughter in Trinidad, Christine taking her family to Disney Land and Mike throwing out the first pitch – that’s what we’re proudest of.

Drew: Working with real consumers is tricky since you never know what will happen.  Were there any surprises, good or bad, and how did that impact the program?

It’s true that you never know what kind of reaction you’ll get – especially when you’re going for an authentic reaction. Thank you means a lot of different things to different people, but I think we can all agree that it feels good to be appreciated, and that’s what this campaign was all about. At the end of the day people saw that these were genuine reactions. 

Drew:  This program had such a great impact in a short period of time — has it been extended or is there talk of a round two?  

We’re thrilled with the response – views continue to grow past 20MM – thanking our customers is something we will continue to do and that means finding ways to surprise and wow our customers. 

Drew: In your Shorty application, you talk about suspending typical ROI metrics.  How important was this to getting the idea approved and as you look at the results, can you make a compelling case that the program did have a material impact on customer loyalty?

The real ROI was finding a unique, authentic way to thank our customers. We’ve built our reputation on legendary customer service so this initiative was about more than marketing. It was about creating an experience and expressing to our customers how grateful we are that they continue to bank with us. When you put it this way, it’s less about the dollars and more about the experience of saying thank you in a big way.

Drew: If another brand were to attempt a program that involved “random acts of kindness,” what would you advice would you give them? (This question was answered by David Diamond of Diamond Marketing, the agency that created this campaign for TD Bank.)

David Diamond: The most important thing to remember when doing real world activation is that you are working with real people. There are no actors, no scripting, and no re-do’s. People are pretty astute and know when something is up. The second they think the situation around them isn’t right or they don’t feel comfortable you won’t get the reactions you’re looking for – and that will come through in the final product. Unlike commercials you need to let the situation unfold as organically as possible – there is no waiting for a magic hour, no perfect lighting, no perfect sound. You just got to keep the camera’s rolling and trust the process!

Self-serving note: Renegade is looking forward to this year’s Shorty Awards as our work with Leo Burnett on behalf of the NCAA was recognized as best Twitter campaign.

Applying the Change Agenda at Mary Kay


mary-kay-executive-bios-Adkins-Green-SherylWell it’s not quite like being a repeat host of Saturday Night Live BUT I’m delighted to have Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO at Mary Kay back on TheDrewBlog. Our popular interview last year covered the gamut of Sheryl’s activities on behalf of Mary Kay including overall strategy, various campaigns and specific marketing tactics. This time Sheryl and I focused on “leading a culture of change” as it was also our topic for what turned out to be a vibrant panel at the recent CMO Club Summit in New York City.

As someone who has to marshal an independent army of 3.5 million beauty consultants around the world, Sheryl is well versed on the importance of a strong company culture noting “At Mary Kay, we like to say that culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”  Recognizing at the same time that change is also an imperative for just about any growth company, Sheryl advises an “evolutionary vs. revolutionary” approach while never losing sight of the need to satisfy your customers. In Sheryl’s case, that meant finding an aspect of the culture that could be built upon in a nuanced fashion, making it at once recognizable yet fresh. This deft approach to driving organizational change is harder than it sounds and well worth a closer look.

Drew: A classic example of a cultural impasse is when marketing proposes a new positioning (like solution-centric versus feature-centric) and the sales team resists.  As you’ve led an agenda that requires fresh thinking across the organization and maybe even fresh skill sets, how have you overcome the naysayers or those resistant to change? 

People often resist change because they are not confident that they will be successful doing things “differently”. I believe that  a successful change management strategy must provide the support and  the tools that teams needs to feel confident and capable taking on new challenges.

Drew: Assuming you’ve identified a change in culture to be necessary for you to achieve your overall objectives AND that you’ve embarked on an internal program to get there, is culture change something that is measurable and if so, what are the key metrics for you and your organization?

At Mary Kay, we monitor and measure the key aspects of our culture via an annual employee engagement survey. Key opportunities are then assigned to cross functional action teams. Our culture is reinforced by a comprehensive, 3 day, New Employee Orientation program, led by the Executive team, that EVERYONE must attend. We also have a Culture Committee that promotes and “protects” the Mary Kay culture.

Drew: One could argue that your brand is in the hands of your independent beauty consultants–does this have an impact on your approach to driving change?  

The Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants actually ARE the Mary Kay brand. So yes, the Mary Kay brand is most definitely in their hands! In regards to change, that means first, changes must be evolutionary vs. revolutionary. Secondly, there must be clear and compelling reasons for change. Finally, key elements of the Mary Kay culture and values cannot change – these are the elements are fundamental to the relationship between the Mary Kay company and the Independent Sales Force.

Drew: “Culture trump strategy” is said a lot in the marketing world but do you really believe this is the case? 

YES! At Mary Kay, we like to say that culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Culture connects employees to a company and its mission. This connection can make or break a strategic plan.

Drew: For CMOs new to their jobs, when should culture change become a priority?  Is this something to tackle in the first 100 days? 

The first 100 days in a new role should be devoted to understanding the current culture, the language of that culture, how things get done ( or not!) etc.  As Stephen Covey advices in  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”

Drew: Can you provide 3 key things  for CMOs to think about when approaching change, two that they must do and one that they should avoid? 

  • CMO’s need to keep the customer in the center of their agenda, not their career.
  • Develop alliances with one or two C-suite team members, and make sure that they understand and support the change agenda
  • Avoid pursuing any big initiative that does not clearly map back to the company’s stated priorities

Driving a Change Agenda at MasterCard


Elisa Romm

Today at The CMO Club Summit, I had the honor of moderating a panel called Leading a Culture of Change as Growth CMOs with an all star team of marketers including Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO, Mary Kay Cosmetics, John Costello, President, Global Marketing and Innovation, Dunkin’ Brands and Elisa Romm, EVP B2B Marketing, MasterCard.  Knowing that we’d only scratch the surface in the time allotted, this is the first of my interviews with the panelists.

Here Elisa Romm shares the fundamental culture transformation required when MasterCard went public in 2006, the challenges of a ‘change agenda’ and how such initiatives can and should be measured. For me, the “Priceless” moment of this interview comes near the end when Elisa espouses “show don’t tell” as a means of driving change. By way of example, Elisa noted that some members of the MasterCard sales force didn’t fully appreciate the power of the “Priceless Surprises” campaign until they themselves were beneficiaries.  Yet another great reminder of the value of “drinking your own champagne.”

Drew: Can you talk about the realities of leading a “culture of change” and more specifically, can you share a recent challenge that your organization faced and how you went about tackling this challenge.

When MasterCard (MC) went public we shifted from banks as owners to banks as customers. MC needed to sell where we didn’t sell before, we were solely relationship managers. I speak about the broader business, not just marketing, because Marketing must be part of  leading the change. Marketing had to help the rest of the company define product and service differentiation to customers and to consumers. I helped drive this change agenda byworking with our sales teams for our largest customers to drive differentiated communications and then the sales team endorsed the approach, because the metrics proved it worked. From that point, the company bought the approach.

Drew: How have you overcome the naysayers or those resistant to change?

When I first took a role of running the marketing division within MC for our advisory services, I had one of my peers, a non-marketing person, teach me the 4 Ps of Marketing. Three years later, this “peer”  is a general manager for some of our international markets and I run B2B and we have the tightest alignment and relationship to the point that we are together demonstrating my new agenda.  The idea is to find those who are your toughest critic and turn them into advocates. They will then sell your platforms to their peer group. Having my new projects are filtered through this “peer” gives me a gateway to the international markets. Of course the proof is in the results. There must be metrics for success to show that your strategy was correct.

Drew: Is culture change something that is measurable and if so, what are the key metrics for you and your organization?

At MC we measure culture change internally and externally. Internally we run an employee engagement survey every year, with action plans designed to address the culture shift we want. For example, owning decision-making at middle management. We want everyone to feel empowered so we measure how middle managers perceive their ability to make decisions, and then we measure their managers via 360 surveys on how they demonstrate empowering their teams. For external demonstration of change we run customer satisfaction surveys to determine if we’ve progressed on things such as “easier to do business with.” Everyone at the company owns these ratings.

Drew: Given that the MasterCard brand in many ways is in the hands of others, does this have an impact on your approach to driving change?   

Yes, your path to market is through others, who have sometimes similar goals, other times competing goals. It is a balancing act, because you have to influence your distribution network, which we do through our insights, expertise and superior knowledge of the future trends, and you have to have a sound strategy that differentiates you from your competition, otherwise your distribution partners will level the playing field. Priceless is our differentiator, as is our knowledge and innovation.

Drew: For CMOs new to their jobs, when should culture change become a priority?  Is this something to tackle in the first 100 days? 

Culture change is necessary to achieve your marketing goals but absent firing everyone and starting over, there always must be a culture shift, but 100 days is not long enough for the journey. You can identify the changes that need to take place, find folks within that represent the new way of thinking, but moving too fast, you risk leaving too many behind and not having a team to back you up. That said, your leaders/direct reports better be aligned with your vision and sign up to make the culture shift happen.

Drew:  On Tuesday, we’ll have a bunch of ambitious CMOs in the room, please give them 3 key things to think about when approaching change, two that they must do and one that they should avoid if they can.

The Do – Lead by example – the culture change must permeate beyond marketing to the company, but Marketing must demonstrate it first.

The Do – Show Don’t tell – treating the sales team like consumers let them experience priceless surprises and they became advocates instantly. No powerpoint presentation or video could’ve produced that effect.

The Don’t – create a siloed culture for marketing. Marketing must be seen as integral to driving business results and culture clashes are often a reason that marketing isn’t internally perceived as a business driver.

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