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

Is Mark Hanna the Tom Brady of CSR?



Mark Hanna, CMO at Richline Group, is a diehard New England Patriots fan and like all of his brethren is in a good mood as the Pats rack up more post season victories. I try not to hold this kind of fanaticism or misplaced loyalty against Mark — I mean you can’t really blame a guy for where they were born, right?  And in a genuine display of largesse given that my football loyalties lay elsewhere, I even went so far as to feature his thoughts on “Retooling” in my recent released book!

Mark’s passion for the Pats is almost matched by his passion for Corporate Social Responsibility, a subject about which we have no disagreement. As you will see in our conversation below, Mark has quarterbacked a number of “winning” initiatives for Richline, which if you don’t know is one of the largest makers of jewelry in the world and a highly successful Berkshire Hathaway-owned company. Does this make him the Tom Brady of CSR?  Well The CMO Club thought so at their annual awards last year.  Read on and you can decide for yourself.

Drew: How do you define Corporate Social Responsibility?

In summary, it is a socially responsible company’s efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection and based on the conscious contribution to promote positive social and environmental change. The standard answer of leaving a better world than we have now works perfectly for me.

Drew: Can you provide a short recap of your CSR initiatives in 2015?

Our efforts are diverse and each a journey toward improvement but a few highlights are:

  1. The installation (started 2013) of over 180,000 square feet of solar panels which fully power our major Albuquerque facility and supply a surplus for the State of New Mexico. This equates to a four acre roof treated with energy conserving coating that reflects 80% of heat and UV rays.
  2. Additional energy saving initiatives through utilization, in our facilities here and abroad, of efficient lighting and generators plus measured traffic management.
  3. Numerous initiatives for the elimination of conflict region gold while funding and assisting artisanal mining through legal supply chains of custody and the elimination of hazardous mercury in the process.
  4. Board membership and directional influence on the industry’s largest proponent of responsible supply chains, the Responsible Jewelry Council.
  5. Lead company in the industry in the conservation efforts for Wildlife and Biodiversity through the elimination in all jewelry plus industry and consumer education.
  6. Various philanthropic support starting with Chair of Jewelers for Children.

Drew: How do measure the success of these programs? (Please provide specific results if you can.)

We truly believe in Return on Responsibility…so much so that we influenced the Berkshire Hathaway Sustainability Summit to adopt this as the 2015 meeting theme. It is important that we act as leaders because it’s incredibly meaningful to our industry position and reputation value. The “return on responsibility” from such involvement exceeds that of pretty much anything else we could promote for our Brand…. It’s that significant. We chose to pursue a “Return on Responsibility” model that both holds our firm to a clear “glass house” discipline and communicates our trustworthy journey to true corporate responsibility.

Drew: Building a business case for CSR initiatives can be tricky. What were the keys to gaining management support?

I believe sustainability initiatives have to be driven from the top and integrated into the culture….they must become a way of doing business, require the participation of all company resources and are not just one-off operations’ projects. As keepers of the firm’s reputation and in a world demanding trust and authenticity, it is a necessary strategic goal. We should be committed to showing that an investment in sustainability is an investment in our Brand. Employee advocacy will follow and add to the value..

Drew: There are an unlimited number of options when it comes to CSR. How did you narrow the list down?  

We set strategic goals for our Sustainability/CSR initiatives:

  • Insuring our ability to meet current and future environmental requirements
  • Reduction of energy use (also an economic win)
  • Responsible supply chain management to strengthen our B2B partner and supplier relationships
  • Cradle to cradle processes including advanced recycling capabilities
  • Community support and satisfaction to enhance local and national government relations
  • Enactment and dissemination to all associates and stakeholders of a “best practices” Code of Conduct
  • Employee attraction, motivation, innovation, retention and productivity

Drew: When it comes to sharing your company’s CSR initiatives is there a fine line between letting the world know about it and overplaying the contribution?  Where do you sit on this spectrum from letting the good action speak for itself and broadcasting it from the treetops? 

We are very conservative here. Our strategy has been to celebrate our Richline Responsible program leadership and accomplishments only to the trade and B2B…no consumer programs or promotion at this point.

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

Sticking with the Responsibility theme, I believe in the future of transparency as a requirement by the upcoming generations of consumers. Therefore, in 2016 my challenge is to expand our true chain of custody supply documentation to a significant mass for the creation of a brand based on such transparency.

Positive Leadership, Elisabeth Charles, CMO of Athleta



As this is my first blog post of the year, I’d like to focus your attention on the power of positivity.  Don’t gag! Seriously, the first step to getting something big (or little) accomplished is believing that you can.  Conversely, if you harbor negative thoughts about a particular challenge chances are you will outright fail and then fall back on the easy out, “I knew that wasn’t going to work.”  So, let’s be positive people.  Positive about setting a few really big goals and positively committed to achieving them.

Which is a perfect segue into my conversation with Elisabeth Charles, the CMO of Athleta.  I’ve known Elisabeth for at least 4 years having met her at a CMO Club Summit. At that time, she was CMO at Petco and part of cabal of indomitable San Diego-based women CMOs that rivaled any group in the country for smarts and talent but were distinguished more by their gregarious positivity.  Amazingly, within a few months of each other, each of these ladies found themselves looking for their next opportunity, not with a “woe is me, how could this happen?” attitude but instead excited about facing new challenges and stretching their wings.

Since then, all have gotten one step closer to their dream jobs, especially Elisabeth. As CMO of Athleta, which is based in Northern California, Elisabeth can rarely be seen not wearing her new brand.  This is not an affectation.  Elisabeth has always been athletic and committed.  Wearing Athleta serves multiple purposes. It shows she’s proud of her employer.  It helps her experience the brand and be better prepared to talk with the designers especially since she gets a lot of feedback from other women about her attire.  And perhaps most importantly it sets an example for her team–don’t just market the brand, be the brand.  That’s the kind of positive message that made Elisabeth an easy choice for the CMO Club‘s Leadership Award.  (And of course, I’m quite positive you’ll enjoy our interview below.)

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

I am a leader who supports and drives change. It’s important to not be afraid to ask tough questions and be willing to challenge the status quo in order to move companies forward.  In order to do this, I try to be extremely diplomatic, collaborative and respectful of the past as I look towards the future.  I have very high standards and am extremely results driven, but also seen as compassionate and fair.

Drew: Do you have any role models that you’ve admired over the years and if so, what did you pick up from him/her?  
I admire visionaries who are purpose driven and able to build a vibrant business with strong company culture, while also doing good in the world.  Some of my role models in this regard are Howard Schultz, John Mackey, Kip Tindell and most recently Jessica Alba.

Drew: Can you talk about some of the actions you took as a leader in the last couple of years that were particularly challenging?  
Leading change at brands is always challenging.  You are asking employees to take a hard look at their business and acknowledge that they have to change what they’ve been doing to redefine where they are going.  It’s especially hard to do this with successful companies who may not fully accept the need to change.  But as they say, “change or die.”

Drew: How important is your peer to peer network to your on-going success?  What are the biggest benefits of having a peer network?
My peer to peer network is invaluable to my on-going success.  I rely on my peers, especially at The CMO Club, to help share best practices as well as challenges they are facing and how they are addressing them.  It’s great to tap into approaches that you would not have thought of on your own, as well as gain confidence that you can solve difficult issues with peer advice.

Drew: What’s the best advice you’ve been given to guide personal / career success?
Do what you love and work where you are rewarded for your natural strengths. Many of us chase the ultimate job or that next promotion or higher salary without really exploring how strong a fit the company’s culture is with our own values.  Don’t stay in a role where you are undervalued or unhappy – life is too short!

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you¹d like to overcome?
The biggest challenge I’d like to overcome is driving greater brand differentiation for Athleta in a very crowded and competitive atleisure space.  But I love challenges, so I am looking forward to an exciting year of change and taking some risks.

How 100-Year Old Brands Stay Relevant


share a pairLast Saturday I had the pleasure of witnessing Duke’s first bowl victory in 54 years.  By all measures it was a momentous occasion as two basketball powerhouses battled it out on a gridiron carved out of the baseball diamond that is Yankee Stadium!  Indiana University, whose founding dates back to 1820, has a long track record of success both on and off the field and its fans, turned out in red & white droves to cheer on their Hoosiers. Duke University, which traces its roots back to 1838 though it didn’t actually get its current brand name until 1924, also attracted several thousand delirious Blue Devils who were thrilled to learn about an obscure rule in college football — field goal attempts that rise above the goal posts can’t be reviewed after being called fair or foul.  It was upon this rule that Duke’s victory was sealed and history rewritten.

So why perchance am I sharing this scintillating bit of trivia in what is perhaps my last blog post of the year? Of course, there’s the reveling part but fortunately for you there’s more to it than that. As I mentioned both of these institutions are household names, have weathered the test of time and occasionally risen to the top of their competitive set–JUST LIKE KEDS. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming!)  Turning 100 in 2016, Keds is indeed a well-known brand that has played the fashion game effectively, getting hot at times without the usual melting away.  No doubt many have contributed to this success over the years, yet like new players on a college team, big gains often come with the new arrivals, a pattern I expect to see repeated with the arrival of Emily Culp, who was kind enough to spend time with me just before receiving The CMO Club’s Rising Star award.  This is part two of our winning interview (read part 1 here).  In it we cover the gamut from social listening to emerging channels like Snapchat, a marketer’s need for passion and the challenges of global initiatives.  I certainly got a big kick out of talking to Emily and I’m sure you will too.

Drew: I was at a customer service conference recently and one of the things that really struck me was how social listening and social customer service has advanced in the last couple of years to the point that not only are these people listening, obviously for the product issues but they’re also preemptively recommending changes to products based on things they hear. In some cases they even have a seat at the table for new product development because they’re so close to the customer. I’m just curious if social listening has played a part at all in your program or what role it does play?

It absolutely does. We listen to our consumers, engage them & make real-time changes to programs and products. We strongly believe our customers have the most important insights, hence we invite them to participate in Beta releases of new services and seed products early on to get feedback.

Because we have these amazing customers who love us and who are vocal when things go well and equally vocal when they don’t go well it is important to provide them with the level of engagement they desire with our brand. So this could take the form of providing feedback on advertising, testing to price elasticity, to literally just saying, “we’re between these two product names, which one do you like more?” And that way you create a loyalty, a genuine loyalty because you invite your customers into the process and you’re listening to them and asked upon their feedback.

Drew: It sounds like that could also be beginning of an influence service/advocacy program was well?

Yes, you’re right, there is nothing in exchange for it. Meaning, it’s just genuine love. I do this myself for three or four other brands that I’m ridiculously passionate about. I want to give feedback because I love to create products that I need or that would be slightly modified to my taste. In turn, if a company listens or engages me, then I will be a vocal advocate for them forever. I have told one story about Patagonia (100s of times) and their customer service simply because I love the brand and how they treated me.

Drew: You mentioned Snapchat. Every brand wants to figure out how to use it, but a lot have struggled. What’s working for you?

I fundamentally believe in Snapchat. So when I joined within the first 30 days, we officially launched our presence on the platform. For us right now, we are in the test and learn phase. Hence, I don’t think there is any secret sauce to share unfortunately, but we will learn quickly because it is where most of our 18 or 28-year-old woman are spending their time. Snapchat has became her favored platform along with Instagram and she has left Facebook for other uses, so that’s why it’s really, really important to me that we fully embrace this and drive forward with it but we’re still learning.

Drew: When you talked about your passion for other brands and how you get actively involved, how much does that impact how you attack your marketing and your approach to marketing at Keds?

I have loved Keds for decades. So when the opportunity arose to join the team it combined all the key elements that are important to me: a brand with rich heritage, a brand I personally love to wear, a brand that stands for female empowerment & a brand with an amazing senior leadership team. So a large aspect of my job is to tap into other people who feel that way about our brand and how do I give them a megaphone or at least an opportunity to share their feedback with us. Because somebody who’s worn Keds, even if they just switched from another product to ours or just rediscovered them, I love to hear from them. And my job as a marketer is to make sure that I do hear from them and I provide them platforms to share with us whether it’s on social, it’s in e-mail, you know, comment cards in store.

Drew: Lets talk about the challenge of global branding — the desire to be consistent on a global level yet still somehow localize as necessary has to be difficult.

It’s one of the most intriguing Rubik’s cubes you can work on. There is no question about it. As a marketer I think it’s very humbling and important to understand, you can have the perfect strategy, the perfect brand campaign, the perfect messaging and then you need to enter what I affectionately call the double helix matrix which is the global domain. And what I mean by that is all of these things that you’ve been very methodical and strategic about sometimes go out the window because I was not born and raised in X country and I didn’t understand the cultural nuance of a color, symbol or styling choice. So what may resonate visually or from a techy perspective in one market isn’t going to work than another but what’s amazing about this is your global partners who are in different regions teach you about what these things mean and help you think about the brand in a different way and help you think about how do you adapt to their market to have the same kind of same DNA and messaging but in a way that’s culturally relevant to them. So I actually really love it. For me a big reason is I am extremely curious, so global brands and messaging has always kept me on my toes.

Forget Mentors, Get Sponsors says CMO Sydney Seiger



Admittedly, I’m a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions and an even bigger fan of following through on them.  Writing a book had been on my list for several years and finally, 2015 was the year I checked that one off.  Yeah for me!  As for you, especially those of you who are not at the latter stages of your careers, here’s a big item to add to your 2016 list and perhaps one to scratch off it — win over a sponsor and forget about finding a mentor.

What? Forget about finding a mentor?  You thought mentors were the ticket to success, right?  Well, I have news for you or more accurately put, Sydney Seiger, the CMO of TXU Energy, has a big idea for you — get a sponsor at your current job who can and will support your career development.  As Seiger notes in our interview below, “Sponsors are advocates and the relationship feels like more of a two-way street.”  And just in case it isn’t obvious, sponsors are earned not wished for.  Sponsors are generally the result of working for an incredibly demanding boss, seeking criticism, responding to it and then exceeding his or her expectations.

For more startling insights from the winner of Rising Star Award by The CMO Club read on:

Drew: Can you talk about one of your marketing initiatives in 2015 that you are proudest of?  

I’m most proud of the new perspective I’ve brought to my new role and to the entire TXU Energy enterprise – not just the marketing department.  Specifically, this year, I’ve championed the importance of the customer experience in everything we do – from the way we create products and offers, to the way we communicate with and service our customers and prospects.  By creating and introducing ‘The X Factor’  to the organization, I’ve repositioned the X in our brand name (quite literally the center of our brand) to represent the customer eXperience that everyone – from the front office to the back office  – plays a critical role in shaping.  By organizing our efforts and communications around persona segments, implementing shared customer-based outcome metrics with our internal and agency partners, and starting and ending with the customer experience, we have fundamentally changed the way we approach our business and our customers and our prospects.  The results?  We are having a record breaking year – the strongest company and marketing performance in nearly a decade.

Drew: You’ve achieved quite a bit in a short period of time.  To what do you attribute your success thus far?

Hard work, a background in advanced analytics, an inquisitive approach, an ability to find actionable insights in data, and building a strong network of internal and professional relationships.

Drew: If you were addressing a bevy of marketers at the beginning of their careers, what advice would you give them to help them reach the CMO position? 

Be positive – and active – about learning, growth, and change.  Read more.  Ask for complex job assignments.  Go beyond your original area of expertise.  Understand business drivers and implications.  Look outside of your industry for ideas and inspiration.

Drew: Do you have a mentor or is there a person in your career that has been particularly helpful? How important is having a mentor?  

I have had several ‘informal’ mentors – several that didn’t realize they were at the time!  I’ve also been fortunate to have had sponsors in my career; I’ve found that sponsors are more impactful than mentors. Formal ‘mentors’ feel a little forced and one-sided to me. Sponsors are advocates and the relationship feels like more of a two-way street. A former boss and (now retired) CMO, Dan Valentine, comes to mind as a sponsor.  Dan was almost impossible to please, offered me stretch assignments that took me out of my comfort zone, and provided me with his broad perspective and critical feedback.  I worked my hardest to make him look good, and in turn, he championed my career.  Julie Cary, another former boss and CMO at La Quinta, is another sponsor that comes to mind.  She is whip smart, articulate, insightful, full of energy, and most importantly, she always made me feel that she cared about me personally and professionally.  While I worked for her only a short time, I frequently find myself asking: “What would Julie do?” I strive to make my team feel the way she made me feel whenever I had an interaction with her.

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

Continuing to stay ahead of the competition and relevant to the customer in a category that is incredibly competitive (60+ active competitors with over 300 offers in the market at any given time).


St. Louis Cardinals SVP Dan Farrell on Customer Experience

Photo by Sarah Conrad

Photo by Sarah Conrad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CMO Lisa Woodard on the Benefits of Networking


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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