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 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 the 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 recipient 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 CSR w CMO Award Winner Alison Lewis of J&J


Alison Lewis_J&JAdmittedly, I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  I really truly want to believe that companies that are driven by a purpose that includes the betterment of the world will outperform those that simply want to make a profit.  As the theory goes, a clear mission translates to a more aligned and motivated workforce, a superior product/service offering that delivers against the “triple bottom line.”  

This is not just wishful thinking on my part. Robert Safian, Editor of FastCompany tackled this subject in his fascinating look at some mission driven companies that are indeed doing well by doing good.  So it was with great interest that I interviewed Alison Lewis SVP and CMO of Johnson & Johnson on the subject of CSR.  J&J has had its ups and downs in the last few years so I was quite curious to get an insider’s view on how a huge business can approach CSR without coming across as self-serving or insincere.  Read on and it will be clear why Lewis is a Social Responsibility award winner at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards.

Drew: “Doing well by doing good” sounds like a great idea but it is much harder to put into practice given the complexity of running a public company with quarterly earnings reports and ever-hungry competitors. How have you approached Corporate Social Responsibility? Do you have a distinct set of metrics for CSR (vs. product sales) that help rationalize these investments?

As a healthcare company, caring for the health of the planet and the communities in which we operate are natural extensions of who we are. Therefore, Johnson & Johnson has been setting goals to improve the sustainability of our business for decades. Currently, our Healthy Future 2015 goals are our broadest set of goals yet. They include goals related, but not limited, to:

  • Safeguarding our planet by reducing waste disposal, water consumption, and reduced fleet and facility carbon emissions
  • Commitments to responsibly source ingredients throughout our consumer supply chain
  • Including product sustainability information on all our beauty and baby care brand websites
  • Educating the public on recycling bathroom products
  • Engaging all employees throughout the company on how to live more health-conscious lives

We measure these goals in our annual progress report that is available at:

Drew: CSR activities are often handled outside of the marketing team’s purview yet the hope is that these activities will provide a positive halo for a company’s brands.  What is your role related to CSR and are there some initiatives that you think have been particularly effective?
Sustainability is an end-to-end value chain effort. When we make progress, our brand marketing teams can help translate that progress in a meaningful way to our consumers. Marketing can play a key role to engage consumers and help brands make a difference – Our NEUTROGENA® Naturals brand is an example of how a brand can build progress on sustainability into its consumer communications.

For the third year in a row, NEUTROGENA® Naturals launched its Every Drop Counts campaign, where the brand educates consumers on the importance of water conservation. This year, throughout the month of October, NEUTROGENA® Naturals will contribute 10% of the purchase price of the NEUTROGENA® Naturals Purifying Cream Cleanser to the Nature Conservatory to support its water conservation efforts*. In 2013 the NEUTROGENA® Naturals brand exceeded their goal of saving one million gallons of water by more than 300%, over 4.2 million gallons of water were saved based on consumer pledges – - that’s the equivalent of a swimming pool the size of nearly four football fields!
*up to $50,0000

Drew: J&J received more than its fair share of negative publicity before your arrival.  How did you make sure that your CSR initiatives came across as a sincere versus self-promotional? What advice would you give to fellow CMO’s who are just getting started on CSR programs?
The key is consistency. Regardless of the business climate, our values and commitment to social responsibility have remained steadfast. One of Johnson & Johnson’s early leaders, General Robert Wood Johnson, spoke about social and environmental responsibility long before the term “corporate social responsibility” or “sustainability” became well-known in corporate circles. My advice to other CMOs is to embed your CSR commitments into your core values (what you care about) and your business strategy (how you focus) and your brands will have a strong foundation to make a meaningful difference.

Drew: Handling organizational change can be tricky particularly if it involves reorganizing / replacing long-time staffers.  What advice do you have for fellow CMOs when it comes to handling reorgs?
Just as marketing must continue to evolve to keep pace with our consumers’ needs and expectations, so must marketing organizations. When it comes to change, the important thing is to always put the consumer at the center. At Johnson & Johnson, we have a long history of being guided by Our Credo values, the first tenant of which is our responsibility to the people we serve – everyone who uses our products. Change for the sake of change doesn’t work but changing to meet consumer needs is always right!

Drew: How have you used social media to advance your brand’s overall marketing efforts? Are there any social media channels that are working better for your brand than others? If so, please elaborate.
Social media is about connecting with your target audience, therefore, every Consumer brand at Johnson & Johnson has a different “formula” for how to successfully engage and connect on social channels.

One example of how a Johnson & Johnson brand has utilized social to evolve our marketing efforts is on our teen focused CLEAN & CLEAR® Brand – - here, we recognized that social media channels at the core of a teens world. Knowing this, CLEAN & CLEAR® was an ideal brand to build the interconnected ecosystem of owned, earned, shared and paid content that would enable the CLEAN & CLEAR® See The Real Me™ campaign. By launching and activating several social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), we are able to listen to what teens want, engage in direct conversations with them and entertain, educate and inspire them with authentic content.  By engaging with teens in the social space the brand is able to forge an emotional connection and become part of their everyday lives. We have coffee with them in the morning, provide advice to them on the go, and help them relax before bed while celebrating the confidence that they portray on a daily basis by just being themselves.

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 for one of your brands?
JOHNSON’S® is one recent example of how we’ve enhanced the story of one of our most beloved brands. Increasingly, we heard from our consumers that they had concerns about certain ingredients in our baby products. All the ingredients used in our baby care products have always been safe, and meet or exceed government standards for safety. But trust is at the heart of our baby equity, and we wanted to communicate to our consumers that we listened to their concerns and we know their trust is something that we must continue to earn. We knew that our actions would speak louder than our words, and we made the decision to reformulate our baby products for trust. As our reformulated products hit shelves, we launched a new campaign, “Your Promise is Our Promise” to illustrate our heartfelt commitment to the moms, dads and families that use our products.

To tell the story behind our promise, we launched our biggest social media campaign with more than 40 informative and entertaining videos that speak to our JOHNSON’S® brand promises, baby care education and the parenting journey. We’ve seen millions of consumers interact with our video content, comment on our social channels and learn more about what our brand stands for due to our ability to connect through storytelling.

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


Lisa Bacus_Cigna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why CMOs Should FLAIC Out on Their Personal Brands


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media Innovation + GRAMMYs CMO, Evan Greene


evan greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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