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

How SAP Ariba’s CMO Made Procurement Awesome

07/19/16

alicia_tillmanWhen SAP acquired Ariba a few years back, newly appointed CMO Alicia Tillman was faced with the challenge of rebranding the company to include the qualities of both SAP and Ariba. Next, she had to consider how to best communicate SAP Ariba’s new brand identity to customers. It’s no surprise that social media, one of today’s most effective tools of communication, was instrumental in the rebranding initiative. Alicia and her team applied creativity and simplicity to their social content to better inform customers of the intersection between SAP and Ariba. I had the pleasure of speaking with Alicia and hearing more about how her marketing team used social to build brand image, and whether or not she considered SAP Ariba a social enterprise.

Drew: Tell me a bit about your job at SAP Ariba.

Alicia: I’m the chief marketing officer for SAP Ariba, which is the largest B2B network in the world, and part of the Business Networks and Applications group within SAP. Think of us as the Facebook or eBay for business. Essentially, what we’ve created is a dynamic, digital marketplace where buyers and suppliers can find each other, making it easy to buy and sell business goods and services within companies of all sizes. I oversee all of marketing for the business, which includes brand awareness, pipeline generation and acceleration, events, digital and social strategies and field marketing.

Drew: I know Ariba has undergone some major changes in the last few years. One of those being your introduction to the company as CMO. Can you speak to those changes?

Alicia: Ariba was founded in 1996 and was really the first B2B marketplace. Initially, the company focused on automating the procurement function through online catalogs and auctions. Today, it is the largest, most global business network and touches every aspect of commerce. About four years ago, the company was acquired by SAP. That is, as you point out, a lot of change. But the company’s brand really hadn’t evolved to reflect it and it was one of the first things I focused on when I joined the company. My first priority was to assemble a ‘brand voice’ team that represented each functional area of the business so I could hear about the key aspects of our brand that made us great and brought differentiated value to our customers.

Drew: How has your team used social media to facilitate the rebranding of Ariba?

Alicia: With the rebranding of SAP Ariba I sought to make things easily understood – our look and feel, our messaging, our brand promise and the way in which we interact with customers. Social is an ideal way to facilitate this because it forces you to be simple, but it also allows you to be highly creative and to engage with your customers on totally new levels.

Let me give you an example. Earlier this year, our CEO met with one of our customers who had just launched an SAP Ariba project inside her company. She was wearing a shirt that said “Procurement is awesome,” and our CEO loved this slogan. We launched a social campaign around it – #MakeProcurementAwesome – because procurement is digital. SAP Ariba is fueling this and it’s a powerful and witty way to draw attention to our new brand identity without being forceful. It has served as a rally cry for our employees and our customers who are ultimately striving to achieve the same goals.

Drew: Have you been able to extend this idea?

Alicia: It has spread quickly because it is simple and speaks to the heart of so many of our customers. We launched it during our marquee buyer event this year and the response was so overwhelming, we actually had t-shirts printed that we could give away on the last day. And many of our customers immediately put them on and posted pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s a clear example of community and the power of social. When you use it the right way, a way that really appeals to people’s emotions, you can change perceptions and drive a brand story.

Drew: How do you judge success on a program like this?

Alicia: Simply put, by the dialogue it creates. We have seen so many customers run off with it on their own and create conversations in various forums. Customers are using the hashtag to shift the perception of procurement from a back office task to a strategic initiative. It has created excitement among our customers about our solutions and what we can do for them.

Drew: Your challenge was not only to innovate, but also apply this innovation to thinking about procurement. From a social standpoint, is it on your agenda to be a social business? Does Ariba use social as an enterprise and are you focusing heavily on social listening?

Alicia: Absolutely. We live in a world where there are officially more connected devices than people. so every enterprise has to be social. There are various listening posts in the social environment that we use to stay on top of what our customers are saying. But beyond this, we’ve built social technology into our solutions and business network that allows our customers to immediately share feedback with us. We’ve created a community called Ariba Exchange, for instance. Thousands of customers use it to share information and best practices that help them drive adoption of our solutions, and do their jobs better.

Drew: Can you provide an example of how you were able to use your closed customer network to make product changes or enhancements?

Alicia: Ideas can come from anywhere. And many of the best ideas come from the powerful community that we have built in the Ariba Network, in which over two million companies are part of. We recently launched Ariba Community Voting, a program that allows our customers to tell us what features they value most. Voting is done right from the solutions they use every day by clicking a “like” button. We compile this information and use it to prioritize our investments and drive future enhancements.

Drew: What kind of goals would you set for your organization in terms of social and becoming a social enterprise?

Alicia: Social has become the leading manner in which we market today. If I think back to a little less than 10 years ago, social was becoming something that was actively debated within companies. Now, the question is how do you now evolve your marketing budget to effectively have a presence and utilize it in the manner that is beneficial to your business. With the demographic changes of the incoming workforce, social is increasingly becoming the best method of communication – to influence and support buying decisions. We use our platforms to transact, to buy, and to gain influence.

Drew: For marketers, what do you think will be the biggest challenges in this move to social?

Alicia: I think the biggest challenge for marketers today is really about how you best define a digital strategy by measuring what it has the ability to influence. There has to be an understanding that digital is a business driver, it sets the experience a user has with your organization from the moment they begin their search to find a partner who can meet their needs. Think about everything from the experience of your website, to how you use social platforms to extend your story to how that translates into marketing collateral and events. PR, advertising and sponsorships all need to connect to form this experience – digital and traditional are no longer two different strategies – they are both interconnected and there needs to be a single strategy for your business that connects them.

Q+A w Stephanie Anderson, CMO, Time Warner Cable Business Class

07/4/16

Stephanie-Anderson_TWC-Official-150x150As you all know, I never pass up an opportunity to sit down with a marketer and hear which practices worked and which didn’t work for their company. I mean, what better way to learn more about this ever-changing industry than to listen to leaders in the field share their insight, the lessons they’ve learned, and the strategies they stand by. Through these conversations, I’m able to add value to my company and our clients.

On the blog today is former CMO of Time Warner Cable Business Class Stephanie Anderson, a friend of mine, president of The CMO Club New York chapter and a veteran of TheDrewBlog. I spoke to Stephanie in 2012 when she first joined TWCBC, and although much has changed since then, her stance that “knowing your customers and prospects will never go out of style,” still holds true. I’m sure Stephanie would agree that this way of thinking is largely responsible for the success of her team at TWCBC. It was interesting to talk to Stephanie as she wrapped up her time at Time Warner Cable, and to partake in a much different conversation than the one we had in four year ago. Now, we’re talking customer communities, loyalty programs, content marketing,  and the way television has strengthened digital.

Drew: You’ve been in the job about 4 years now. Can you provide an overview of your overall approach to marketing at Time Warner Cable Business Class?

Stephanie: When I arrived at Time Warner Cable, we were many businesses and we were marketing at a very local level- which I believe in- but we were missing an overarching message and communications methodology.. The goal of my team was to find the place where localism mattered, and then compliment that with a consistent campaign across the country. We had to find the best breed of each of those local areas and then pull it up to one common message.

Drew:  How did you decide that the consistent campaign was going to focus on your customers and get to a point where you thought that would be effective?

Stephanie: It started with a focus on what we called an “outside-in approach.”  This meant we could never lose sight of our customers and our competitors. If we weren’t doing that, then we’d be missing the boat.  By always thinking about our clients we knew we had a chance of developing programs the competition would fear.  From there it was an easy step to testimonials, telling customer stories online and on television , which ended up being great for all parties.

Drew:  How did you find the customers to feature?

Stephanie: We initially identified a few companies largely because they were loyal customers of ours. They also had interesting stories to tell and were hugely popular in social media, which demonstrated a lot of energy and engagement.  So we focused on finding those kinds of customers, and then telling their stories on television, print, and digital.

Drew: Did this have an impact on their business?

Stephanie: One of the companies we actually became quite close with is Beekman 1802. They have an online service that they we’re really trying to grow with a very unique product base. Once we put them on TV, their popularity grew significantly. We even did a follow up story with them, which was thrilling for both parties.

Drew: Did your approach to finding customers for the campaign evolve?

Stephanie: Yes.  We’ve been using an online resource we created for customers called PerkZone to help us find more great stories, and then turn those into testimonials.  In this case, the customers nominate themselves by submitting their stories.  The response has been amazing and these small business success stories are truly inspiring.  When we do our long form testimonials, the story “inside the story” is always amazing.

Drew: What’s the story behind PerkZone?

Stephanie: One of our partner agencies is Renegade and they helped us create this retention strategy and loyalty program for small businesses called PerkZone. Accessed through our “MyAccount” portal, which customers use to pay their bills and manage their account, PerkZone has two areas, “Deals and Discounts” and “Ideas and Community.”  In the first area, small business can find discounts from national brands as well as post deals for their local customers.  It is in the other area that we were able to source hundreds of stories, a few of which were featured in our TV campaign.

Drew: Wow, so you could go from the online portal to become a star on TV?

Stephanie:  Yes, like the Voice or something; it still happens. The best talent sometimes comes right to you.

Drew: Has Perk Zone had a material measurable impact on loyalty as far as you can tell?

Stephanie: Absolutely. Like many companies, we’re very focused on Net Promoter Score (NPS) and we’ve seen a really strong correlation between any digital engagement and customer satisfaction.  Customers who use our MyAccount portal are significantly more likely to recommend us than those that don’t.  The numbers get even better with PerkZone users.  My gut told me that this was the right thing to do, and it was nice to see that the data proved me right.  We’re continually trying to think of ways to engage with the customer, and we know we need to continue to invest in these areas.

Drew:  Let’s zoom back to the big picture.  How has all of this customer-centric marketing paid off?

Stephanie: TWCBC been very successful from a B2B standpoint having had 18 quarters of consecutive quarter-to-quarter growth!  That’s remarkable considering TWCBC not a small business–it has over $3 billion in revenue and it gets harder to grow when you’re big. The company is not only acquiring customers, it’s also keeping customers, and some of these tactics that TWCBC has been talking about like establishing this community and getting to know its businesses better has actually helped our results considerably.

Drew: Pundits have been saying, “TV is dead” for years yet here we are in mid-2016 talking about how well TV has worked for your B2B brand?

Stephanie: First, we’re TV people and TV is still very much part of our culture. But more importantly, TV does really work.  It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It guides the inquiring person to your website, or wherever you want and helps get them engaged in the process. That is what it’s meant to do, just like a print ad or something else. Some of these traditional tactics get people motivated to go see more or engage with you, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Drew:  So TV gets the conversation started and then they go online. How are you making the two work together?

Stephanie: We have a great vendor partner that we use in the digital space that can make real time adjustments based on how much traffic TV is driving online. It’s amazingly sophisticated.  Making sure that our offline and online tactics are coordinated has really profited us.  It’s one thing to be coordinated with campaigns; it’s another thing to be coordinated on the delivery side, making sure that people are going where you want them to go. It saves both parties time.

Drew: I’ve heard you talk about a fifth P beyond Product, Price, Promotion and Place. Can you elaborate on it?

Stephanie: Everyone knows about the 4 Ps, and they are very important in marketing, and I think they fulfill most of everything that’s going on out there. I contend that there is this 5th P that is Proof. This probably comes from my long history of being in sales at different levels in technology. Notoriously, there was always this moment in the demonstration when the tables turned and the customer says, “okay I get it,” or “okay I’ll take it.”  That was the moment we provided the Proof, when we helped people really see how others were using the technology.

Drew: Let’s shift gears here.  TV and digital were not your only tactics.  You also got into content marketing, right?

Stephanie:  Absolutely.  Working with our partner RSL Media, we actually created a publication called Solve that goes to our 160,000 customers and prospects in the mid-market space.  It’s both a 24-page printed magazine and an e-zine, with content that’s relevant to that mid-market space. With highly topical and informative stories, we’re able to keep the conversation going by delivering really useful information that just happens to from Time Warner Cable Business Services. The response has been great – we’ve had customers actually call us to make sure they’re subscribers and to get other employees on the list.

Drew: Why not just create a digital version of Solve? Why go to the expense of printing it?

Stephanie:  Some of it stems from years back when I needed to accumulate a book of testimonials for our sales force and also links back to my early point about Proof.  Sales people need to be able to demonstrate proof of what you’ve done for other companies.  Solve is great for that since many of the stories feature customers.  It gives the sales person something physical that can help start a conversation.  It’s really hard to do that with a digital-only version.  Also, our customers felt more important being featured in a well-produced magazine.  It was prestigious enough that customers started asking how they could be featured!  In this case, the medium was also the message.

Drew: What would you say was the biggest lesson you have learned that you would pass along to future marketers in your industry, or any industry?

Stephanie: I think going back to the customer or competitor focus, and keeping your eyes set on the external. Whether that be your competitors, or your brand or your prospects that are so important. It’s so easy in marketing to get distracted by the stuff or the creative, or the results. Sometimes you need to step back and think wait a minute, who am I trying to talk to? And if I were them, would I listen, or if I were the competition, would I be afraid of what they’re saying?  Those are the things that we are committed to because they work. If you keep that forefront on your mind, you will be successful.

Q&A with Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy

06/26/16

Evan Greene_Recording Academy

The Grammys have brought us some of the best moments in television, and the most spectacular performances in music. From Michael Jackson’s moonwalk across the stage in ’88 to the Elton John and Eminem duet in ’01, and most recently Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie, the Grammys have been the place for historical moments in music. And if you’re like me, you brim with excitement before the show, and are unable to stop rehashing the night’s best moments for days after. One night a year, the telecast captivates people around the world and easily dominates the conversation on social. However, is the show on your mind for other 364 days? Well, I spoke with Evan Greene, a friend of mine and CMO of the Recording Academy, to hear how his team approaches the challenge of marketing a show that airs one night per year. Key words here: social, social, and more social.

Drew: What does your marketing purview include?

Evan: I can tell you that anything that touches the Grammy brand ultimately runs through the marketing area, whether it’s marketing and brand strategy, PR, social media, digital content and yes, partner strategy. We represent the biggest brand in music, and for other brands, there is value in aligning with us. We partnered with other brands to utilize the impact and the marketing reach of brands that are complementary to our own. Also, we are a 501(C) 6, a not-for-profit trade organization, and this affects our marketing strategy.

Drew: How does it affect your marketing partnerships, specifically?

Evan: We put together marketing partnerships so that we can leverage the impact of the Grammys, which is unparalleled in terms of credibility and prestige. On the flipside, the value that partners bring to the table opens up other marketing channels. Now, because of the prestige of our brand, there is a value associated which means there still needs to be an economic model in place.

Drew: Was there partner integration for Lady Gaga’s performance? Did Intel do the projection?

Evan: Yes. This was the first time when we partnered with a company to actually help us enhance the performance. If you notice, there was no Intel visibility or attribution on the telecast because we wanted it to be subtle. We focused on making the performance memorable, something that people would be talking about for a long time. At the end of the day, Intel received a tremendous amount of credit and earned media.

Drew: And with that comes months of hard work and constant communication between Intel and the Grammys.

Evan: Yes, there was a lot of heavy lifting and coordination. We put something together that had never been done before. There were things that happened on the Grammy stage from a technology standpoint that have never been put on television. It really was the next generation of Grammy moments, right before our eyes.

Drew: Every year, you challenge your agency to do some new things. Let’s talk about the new things that you did this year in terms of marketing and social.

Evan: This year we started thinking about the inspirational power of music and the intersection between music and sports. Sports came in because it was SuperBowl 50 and it ran on CBS, eight days prior to the Grammy Awards, which created an extraordinary opportunity to bring the two together. We engaged our agency of record, Chiat/Day, which in my opinion is one of the best shops on the planet.

Drew: How was the concept further developed?

Evan: We started from the standpoint of how do we celebrate sports and music. How do we align the best in music with the best in sports, globally? What came out of that was a powerful tagline, called “Witness Greatness.” We looked at the music that inspires the athletes who in turn inspire the world. “Witness Greatness” really is about the inspirational power of music, and we could apply that in a number of ways.

Drew: So you were able to move beyond just the “Witness Greatness” tagline?

Evan: Yes, it was not only the theme and tagline, but also the visual representation and how we applied it. We then applied the theme to social and made sure that any visual we associated with represented greatness. We made sure to elevate that conversation whenever and wherever possible.

Drew: How did your team focus on the witness portion of “Witness Greatness”?

Evan: We have a companion stream, sort of a shoulder programming experience called “Grammy Live.” It shows different angles and elements, not necessarily the telecast itself, but it shows backstage etc. This year, we inserted a camera inside the base of the Grammy statute so that we could actually witness greatness in a different way-from the position in the POV of the statue itself. We got some great footage and content that had never been captured before. 

Drew: After the Grammy team fully adopts the theme, I’m guessing the next step is for the media to pick it up?

Evan: Yes, and was amazing when the media starts quoting our taglines, and when other members of our social ecosystem started organically using the “Witness Greatness” hashtag. When I think about all the touch points, from those doing social to the persons pitching media stories, to our marketing partners, there is a consistent look and feel across the board.

Drew: Any favorite projects from the “Witness Greatness” theme?

Evan: There were a couple of components that I found particularly exciting. If you go on our YouTube page, youtube.com/thegrammys, there is a video that we did with Kendrick Lamar in his hometown of Compton. We went on the street, and asked people to sing a couple of lines from his song Alright, which has become sort of an anthem over the past year. We created a video of all of these individuals singing particular lines of the song, and at the end, it culminated with an impromptu performance and the tagline was “Greatness Comes From Everywhere.” This served as a drive to the Grammys. 

Drew: I know the Grammys has worked with user-generated content in the past. Can you give an example of how you used UGC in past seasons?

Evan: Several years ago, we had a campaign called “We’re All Fans,” and it underscored the idea that what makes an artist great are the fans. With that in mind, we invited fans to upload videos of themselves and become part of the campaign. That was probably the most organic example that we had. People actually got to see themselves as part of the national Grammy campaigns, creating mosaics of Lady Gaga and other global superstar artists.

Drew: How was UGC executed for this Grammy season?

Evan: The idea really drives the execution. This year, our campaign was about creating the conversation, engaging with fans and having them share what about their favorite artists represents ‘Greatness.’ So in terms of UGC, we didn’t invite video submissions this time around, but we focused on having respectful dialog with our fans and followers about inspiration and greatness.

Drew: The reviews have been very successful on social. Obviously, you’re at the center of the social media conversation during the show, but you’re still very present months after it aired. How is that even possible?

Evan: I think we’ve been very successful and I am happy with the work of our social team and everybody involved in that effort. I think we can get better, I really do. The core reason for this year-round success is respecting fans and speaking with trust and authenticity.

Drew: What are some of the mistakes you are seeing other organizations make with their social media?

Evan: When communication seems gratuitous, and it is focused purely on making a sale or driving behavior, consumers see right through that. We simply want to be a credible part of the music conversation. When you look at the brands that resonate and break through, it’s the ones that earn your trust. If you speak with authenticity, and you respect your audience, then that becomes the cornerstone of trust. Trust is how you build a long-term relationship.

Drew: Being a nonprofit, how do you allocate the money brought in from the Grammys?

Evan: The money that we make doesn’t go to pay dividends, meet a quota or achieve net profit goals. It’s filtered right back into the music industry so we can create more in-school music programs and empower the next generation of music makers. We give back in a variety of different ways to enhance and srengthen the industry platform that the Recording Academy sits on.

Drew: One of the other things that you’ve done over the years is expand the Grammys from Grammy night to Grammy week. I feel like this was Grammy month. Where are you right now in terms of the scale of the Grammys?

Evan: I think we’ve made a considerable amount of progress over the years, but we still have a ways to go. What has struck me is that we’ve built this massive brand with a tremendous amount of impact by virtue of a single television event held for three-and-a-half hours, one night per year. The marketing opportunity that creates is enormous. If we take a proactive brand management approach, how impactful and powerful a brand could we be if we continue to extend throughout the year?

Drew: What a challenge! How do you rate progress? 

Evan: I think we have expanded the impact of the Grammy as a brand, beyond simply one night per year. I do not believe that we are anywhere close to being there yet where people started thinking about the Grammys as a relevant brand they need to interact with in June, July, and August. But like I said, we’re making progress and there are a number of exciting things on the horizon.

Element 65: The Undeniably Power of PR

06/13/16

An apology is in order. Probably not the only one that you’ll see from me on this blog but certainly one that is a long overdue.  This one goes out to the thousands of public relations professionals, particularly the ones who almost always find a way to plant the seed that becomes a story, who uncover the news when others just see a plain old brief, who instinctually know a potential buzz machine from the proverbial blind alley.  To these fine folk who helped drive the success of many of Renegade’s classic guerrilla marketing successes (BankCab anyone?), I officially apologize for omitting Public Relations as an Element in my book, The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing.

Please note that this was not a conscious omission but rather a statistical anomaly.  In retrospect, it seems impossible that PR wouldn’t become front and center in one of the over 150 interviews with senior marketers I conducted prior to finishing the book.  To make amends, not that any of you are all that upset or not used to receding from the marketing spotlight, I am thrilled to present part 1 of my interview with Caralene Robinson, CMO at Vh1. A recipient of last year’s CMO Award for Creativity, Caralene was kind enough to share her thoughts on the importance of PR and how that aspect of marketing is so critical to the success of VH1 programming.

Caralene robinsonDrew: Last year you won The CMO Club’s creativity award. Can you talk about a program you’ve done at VH1 that you’re particularly proud of?

The sheer volume of projects times rate of change demands constant innovation. So there are many programs I quite proud of. For example, the launch of our original scripted movie, Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story. TLC was cultural phenomenon that came to life in the most authentic way. It was an incredible multifaceted campaign. The film and the campaign were used as momentum to launch a new TLC album. Epic Records saw the opportunity, decided to release an album simultaneously, and this collaboration amplified the impact. In general marketing has changed so much. When I first started, there was no such thing as social media and print was the big thing. The dynamics of the marketing mix have completely changed. I am particularly proud of campaigns where we effectively partner with Press, which I see as a critical part of the marketing mix. I have a great consumer marketing team that constantly looks for activations designed to get people talking in a very unbiased way.

Drew: Is there another example you’d like to share?

Dating Naked is a great example. For Season 1, we released a viral video that generated more than 2 million views. What we spent on that is nominal compared to the views. So creating adjacent content that captures the pop culture zeitgeist and gets people talking is huge. For Season 2, we created an outdoor board in Hollywood that was essentially peel-off stickers. Consumers could walk up and peel for prizes, eventually revealing the two nude leads of the show. I like the stuff that gets people talking.

Drew: My book The CMO’s Periodic Table covers 64 elements of marketing but there is one element that I know I haven’t really covered very well, and that’s PR. Could you talk a little bit more about the role that PR plays in your business, and how you make sure that your marketing is buzz-worthy and press-worthy?

Since the beginning of my career I’ve always considered Press part of the marketing mix. We can’t survive without our amazing Press team, which reports directly to our President, Chris McCarthy. Press is equally as important as paid media, social and on-air. So there is never an instance where we’re not walking hands-in-hand with the press team, regardless of where it lives in the organization. Extending the overall strategy via press not only on the consumer side, but also the trade side as well is crucial.

When you’re evaluating a potential marketing campaign, do you compare them based on how much press one might get over the other?

Well, I think we all do that. We look at a number of factors and prioritize launches. In terms of press, some shows are stickier than others. But that’s why our press team is really good at what they do. They figure out the starting point and ask the right questions – what do I have to work with? They look at everything–the actual concept of the show, the talent, our marketing plans, etc. Then they figure out how to create excitement.

Drew: It’s got to be easier to get press for VH1 than it would be for Coke. Are there some lessons that you think that someone outside the entertainment space could draw from your experience at the VH1 in terms of getting press coverage?

I’ve had projects where it’s easy to get press, and I’ve had projects where it’s difficult to get press. It really depends. I’ve marketed carbonated beverages, dish liquid, and cell phones. I’ve gone from selling tangible products to intangible content. It varies on a project-by-project basis. In terms of press as a crucial part of the overall marketing mix, I think it’s important to customize pitches to verticals. Our VH1 press team is extremely good at this. What you pitch to a Fast Company is different than what you might pitch to Billboard, and different than what you might pitch to The Wendy Williams Show. And I don’t always feel like the brand needs to lead the story. It could be a pitch to the New York Times about adult millennials, for example. And if we’re just referenced in the article, that works for me too. Because that means we’re perceived as being culturally connected or culturally cognizant.

Storytelling is Not a Walk in the Park

05/9/16

You could say that the three of us were walking to the park, but in truth Pinky was merely along for the ride. Sitting tall in his new chariot, our Frenchie sniffed in the sights as if his ‘hood had been transformed. Hands, those most desired instruments of affection, were suddenly at cheek level, drawn in by his come hither gaze. Few were immune to his entreaties especially his fellow geriatrics who enjoyed comparing heart meds though one contrarian vigorously recommended homeopathic hawthorne with a touch of cayenne. Inured to all but attention, King Pinky was bemused. Thus began our new normal.

I offer this window into our Sunday sojourn as a reminder that a change in perspective, even one forced upon you, can open your eyes to new opportunities. Storytelling, as explained by Douwe Bergsma, Georgia Pacific’s CMO, is indeed a different way of looking at marketing communications, one that requires new processes, metrics and staff. In this last part of our interview you will find some of the fascinating details that often separate a good story from a great one concluding with three secrets to success should you want to embark on a storytelling adventure of your own.

Drew: Are your KPIs different than you would have had in a pre-storytelling era?

Douwe: On a high level, I don’t think so. We still look at brand awareness and key brand attributes and the impact it has on penetration, loyalty and ultimately our profit. We just noticed that the way we were approaching it, we were not optimally achieving our KPI. We still want to see how Brawny does with the idea of toughness and gentleness. We still want to know if our core consumers- our key target segments- still appreciate Brawny in a way that they are receiving the right value for their money, compared to their alternatives. At the highest level, it didn’t change. At the lower level, it did, because before we were single-mindedly measuring the impact of a 30-second ad on this metric. Now we look at the combined impact recognizing that at the end of the day, it’s still about driving conversion from intent to purchase.

Drew: Do marketers need to be more patient with storytelling?

Douwe: Good question, I haven’t thought about that. In the development, yes. It takes longer for a fully integrated story to develop because design plays a key role. One of the things we’ve learned is that a story needs to be holistic including the design of the brand packaging as well as the design of the products inside. One example of this is the way the Brawny giant comes to life on our packaging. And packaging, in our industry, has a longer lead-time. So in order to do it right and holistically, it takes longer to prepare and develop. In actuality, I don’t think the level of patience is different from what we used to do.

Drew: Let’s get specific. What’s your leading example of storytelling?

Douwe:  Brawny is the only brand where we have completely overhauled our packaging as well as our other touch points. We’ve developed our story frame work– the conflict is really between tough and gentle. And then the fundamental human truth is about protecting yourself and those you love.  This requires you to be understanding and open to what life throws at you, but also have the tenacity, toughness, and strength to tackle any challenge. We were inspired by a quote from Roosevelt: “speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far.” We translated that into a campaign, featuring the Brawny giant. How do you tackle and handle life’s challenges? By staying strong while continuing to be gentle as these challenges come at you. We showcase The Brawny® Man with the larger-than-life look he had in the 1970s — so there’s kind of a double meaning here  — in our campaign, which represents kind of a gentle giant, which is gentleness and strength in there.

Drew: Tell me more about your partnership with AOL.

Douwe: With AOL, we were able to develop and sponsor content that helped tell our various brand stories. For example, in Brawny®’s Everyday Giants series, we featured Khali Sweeney, who started the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit, which basically became an afterschool academic support program, where he gives kids free boxing lessons after they finished their homework. The program was for inner city kids in Detroit and every student who went through his program that’s been going on for several years now, there’s a 100 percent graduation rate and 80 percent went to college.

Drew: In a programmatic real-time world, how do you adjust to storytelling or does that play any kind of role in all of this?

Douwe: Programmatic is more into where and when and what frequency; it’s less about the content. And our storytelling predominantly focuses on the content of our communication, which closely relates to our media placement. So programmatic has not really impacted the story we’re telling, more when and where we telling it. And obviously, it allows us to find those people that are in our target audience. It allows us to find our specific audience better and faster than we normally do.

Drew: What are some of the pitfalls to be avoided?

Douwe: First and foremost, it’s very tempting to just focus on the storytelling. You first need to really focus on the story framework. Because our whole industry is so used to drafting a brief to develop an ad. Draft a brief; write a Tweet. But before you do the brief, you actually need to know your story’s framework. It’s like sending an improv artist on stage who doesn’t know what a story framework is.

Second, with storytelling there is not a single linear pass to it. You need to be very agile and experimental and embrace the mistakes and the failures you have along the way and have a very experimental mindset. You need to do a lot of trial and error and go down specific pathways to figure out what’s going to work for the brand or what doesn’t.

And last but not least, we’ve learned that you also need to make sure that you recruit and cherish the few storytellers in the building who have the passion and the talent to develop story frameworks. I discovered that there are quite a few people that have that innate balance at companies like Coca-Cola. In fact, Shari Neumann, who leads all our storytelling here at Georgia-Pacific is a former Coca-Cola person.

Storytelling: Chapter 2 with Douwe Bergsma

05/2/16

IMG_2774In truth, I tend to get obsessed with topics of interest.  Since my first conversation on storytelling a few weeks back with Douwe Bergsma, CMO of George Pacific, I have now read (via audio) two books, ordered three more and am in the middle of listening to a Great Course on the subject.

Just in case you want to dive in with me, here’s the list I’ve devoured thus far, all of which I can recommend to anyone in marketing:

  • “Story-Selling: How To Sell Without Selling” by Nick Nanton & JW Dicks
  • “All Marketers are Liars” by Seth Godin
  • “The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals” by Professor Hannah B. Harvey

What you won’t find in any of these resources, is how an emphasis on storytelling could impact client-agency relationships, hiring practices and advertising measurement.  For that, you’ll have to read part 2 of my delightfully informative interview with Douwe below.

Drew: Tell me a bit about how the agencies fit into this process.

Douwe: When we develop story frameworks, our design and advertising agencies are included, but not leading it. Our story framework experts at Character lead all the work at this phase. Then you brief your agencies on the story framework (the bottom of the iceberg) and ask them to come back with the tip – the storytelling — that everyone will see. They come back with the big idea and the campaign gets extended to all the marketing roles.

Drew: This sounds very different that most agency / client processes.

Douwe: Yes, it is different from what we used to do. We now have a major step between the our typical brand equity work and the design- and campaign development, which we call the story framework. And that leads to the stories you’ve recently seen. The conflicts on Angel Soft are pretty clear because it is our selling theme: “Be soft. Be Strong”. We are bringing it to life in terms of the struggles that parents have. In order to be a good parent, you have to be strong and yet you also have to be soft. We highlight that story through the most challenging parent relationships like a stepfather raising a stepdaughter. We take it to the extreme in terms of parenting challenges, and show how people have to be soft and strong in their context. This allows for a higher emotional connection than just promoting our toilet paper as being the right balance of softness and strength at a better value than the next best alternative.

Drew: How did this impact your agency relationships?

Douwe: We made the decision to expand our agency roster because some agencies are good at advertising, and some are good at storytelling. In our point of view, storytelling is a broader and a longer-term approach than advertising. Let me give you an example: If I give you five pages of a book and I say, hey, what do you think of it, you’d probably say, I don’t know, I read five pages. In traditional advertising, every page could feel like the same, with a benefit, a reason to believe and bringing some brand personality to life. With story telling you are expected to experience different chapters of the book to understand and appreciate the brand more and more over time, resulting in a stronger engagement and relationship.

Drew: Have you had to train your staff, your product managers or the people responsible for advertising development to think more about how to judge stories?

Douwe: Yes. There are multiple layers from an organizational growth perspective. But first and foremost, there was a challenge to convince people that this would be an improved alternative approach to communication. So that was one. The second was then when people were kind of like, “I am willing to give this a shot.” We basically took almost everybody in the organization through a three-day story immersion, called Character Camp, where they have former movie writers, TV writers, cartoon writers, improv artists, and standup comedians explain the power of story, how story writing and storytelling works, what the story framework is and then literally help us practice it. Then we have what we call a Brand Summit with all our brand builders, including agencies, and there was a whole training process to get there, and a hands-on coaching. On top of that, we assigned Shari Neumann to be in charge of all our content development. She’s not called our Chief Storytelling Officer, but that is basically her role.

Drew:   That’s interesting. So you have to tell the story one chapter at a time?

Douwe: If you believe in true storytelling, what you do on Google or Facebook and what you do on network TV help deliver ‘chapters’ of the story. For example, we initiated partnerships with AOL and Meredith that combined with the things we put on our product page on Amazon complimented each other to tell the whole story. It’s only when you’re exposed to multiple touch points that you start to understand the value and the deeper meaning of the story. While ideally each individual communication by itself might be effective, it not as effective as the whole thing would be.

Drew: This must be tricky to orchestrate. Do you still evaluate the performance of the individual ads via things like copy testing?  

Douwe: One of the key challenges we ran into is that we had to completely reconsider our qualification approach. Because we would qualify a 30-second ad in the past via testing and attribute some value to the ad. Today, however, you need to understand, for example, on-line search with Google, as well as the social media activities on Facebook, the partnership videos we developed with AOL and Amazon’s product pages. Then there’s eCommerce, the in-store experience and our package design. To fully appreciate the value of the brand and the meaning a brand could have in a consumer’s life, we have to consider all of these elements as part of the story. That was a big, big paradigm shift. Without this shift, we would not be able to turn storytelling into a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

 

Older Posts »

Copyright © 2016 - Drew Neisser