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

Giving Social a Healthy Pass

06/7/15

Koleszar

This is the last but not least of my interviews in preparation for our panel called Why CMOs Won’t Invest More in Social Media at The Social Media Shake-up.  This time, Bill Koleszar, CMO at American Family Care, gives me the prescription for overcoming his primary marketing challenges which currently exclude social media.  That’s not to say Bill doesn’t see social playing a more prominent role down the road, just give him a bit more time to settle in!

Drew: I know you just arrived at American Family Care — can you talk a little bit about your business and your role?

Sure, AFC is actually a pretty remarkable story. Our founder, Dr. Bruce Irwin, was born the son of a cobbler in rural Alabama. Nevertheless, his curious mind and a tireless work ethic landed him in medical school. After a stint as an ER physician, he opened his first urgent care clinic in 1982. Thirty-three years later, with more than 140 clinics and 500 in-network physicians caring for more than 2 million patients a year, American Family Care is the nation’s leading provider of urgent care and family care. My role in this effort is simply to tell our story – and help us become one of the most widely known and admired brands in healthcare.

Drew:  What are your top priorities as the CMO? (You talked about building and flying the brand at the same time!)

We have 3 broad marketing priorities. Drive patient volume to new and underperforming clinics. Invest in creating a national brand. And, lastly, solidify our Marketing infrastructure, primarily through implementing better processes and applying more marketing science to what we already do.

Drew:  You mentioned reputation management as a top priority.  Can talk about this a bit?  

Our company is totally dedicated to providing quality healthcare. It’s in our corporate DNA and it comes right from the top. Our goal is 100% patient satisfaction. As a result, our patient complaint rate is just 0.35 instances per 1,000 patients – amazing low for any business, but especially healthcare. Some of those complaints end up online or in other venues, which actually helps us by making us aware of dissatisfaction, but doesn’t tell the whole story of who we are and what we do. We simply need to do a better job of highlighting the stories of those we’ve helped – and in some cases lives we’ve literally saved.

Drew: What role then does social play for your business right now?

We certainly monitor it, but we have not taken full advantage of it.

Drew:  For organic social to become a top 3 marketing priority for you, what would need to change? For example, if social media could suddenly become a measurable source of clinic traffic, would that move it up the list?  

Social would need to become measurable, scalable, and cost-effective above and beyond other areas we invest human and financial capital. Having just 2 of those three would fall short relative to our goal of driving clinic traffic.

Drew: You mentioned wanting to have American Family Care on the list of most admired brands.  What role if any could social play to help you achieve this goal?  Can it help you engage with Millennials? 

Our goal is to land on Fortune’s list of most admired companies by 2023, and I am sure that social media will play a significant role in achieving that vision. However, the most important thing we can do is to simply focus on our mission – provide the best healthcare possible. If we continue to deliver quality, compassionate healthcare when we have 500 medical centers and are seeing 10 million patients a year – many of which will be millennials – I am confident that our efforts we will be recognized across social media channels.

Drew: Is there a social channel (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that works better than others for your brand.  If so, which one and why do you think that’s the case?

Facebook is clearly the channel that patients use most. I think the reason is that many people look to their Facebook friends for advice, even for their health-related issues. Of course, it’s also a venue for sharing positive and negative experiences across a broad spectrum. We certainly update our own presence regularly, but I also know we can do better – and we will.

Social Media Still Works Wonders for Media Brands

06/6/15

Scot Safon EVP, CNN-GM, HLNTalking to Scot Safon, the former CMO of The Weather Channel, about social media is like revisiting a day at Disneyworld with a nine-year-old. Bursting with enthusiasm, they can’t possibly tell you fast enough all of the things they enjoyed, rarely recollecting the negatives while maintaining an unabated commitment to revisit the newest attractions as soon as possible.  That said, Safon’s enthusiasm for social is anything but immature.  A veteran of the media world including long runs as marketing chief at CNN, Headline News and most recently The Weather Channel, Scot saw first hand the powerful role social media played in terms of driving site traffic and generating conversation about their programming.

In our discussion, what struck me the most is that for media companies, social networks are essentially broadcast channels that extend the reach of the mother ship.  Since they are already in the content creation business, developing “click bait” whether it be in the form of images or video or headlines is just not that challenging and perhaps more importantly, a negligible incremental cost. So yes as “talkers” media companies have a huge edge.  But what about the listening part of social? Are these brands really being social with a capital S? For that answer, you’ll have to read on…

Drew: You were at CNN in the pre-social media days and have watched social’s role evolve through your stints at CNN, HLN and The Weather Channel.  How has the role of social media evolved for TV networks? 

The “early days” of social were largely about Twitter and Facebook, and the objective was pretty much to just get mentioned and quoted. It was almost entirely organic (paid wasn’t really happening yet), and it was unpredictable and erratic.  It was still a new idea and it was concentrated among a few audience segments. Today, the “social landscape” includes Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Meerkat, Instagram, Pinterest, YikYak and hundreds of other platforms and destinations where people are generating the content and responding to it.  Every single one of these platforms has potential to generate interest in television content– and some of it has been particularly good for building excitement for live televised events. Sports, breaking news, award shows, competition shows have all benefited from the social media buzz that breaks out on some of these platforms while the shows are on.  And the overlay of paid social has allowed marketers to target audience segments with very specialized, very relevant social “firestarters”.

Drew: Can you talk about the role of social in the marketing mix at the Weather Channel? What were your primary objectives?

Social was always an important part of the mix when I was at The Weather Channel, especially since weather has always remained such a popular topic on social platforms. People love to share weather pictures and video, and much of that video is critical to weather news coverage, where The Weather Channel excels on every platform. In terms of audience driving, though, it seemed to help us drive people to severe storm coverage, long-form editorial content and storytelling. Local forecasts, which are a huge part of the company’s business, were– then, at least– less driven by social.

Drew: A lot of what TV networks do on social is sharing content (i.e. talking). What role if any did social listening play? 

Social “listening” is critical, but you have to listen carefully…and guardedly. If something generates only a few comments or shares or citations, it likely didn’t inspire any meaningful feedback and you shouldn’t probably look at specific comments too closely. If something generates numerous comments, that indicates you might have touched a nerve.  But it’s important not to weigh the most extreme comments too much– I’ve seen executives at many networks get very, very concerned about one or two very negative comments…or get too enthusiastic about a few very positive comments. It’s like when you attend focus groups– you can’t weigh the outliers too heavily or you’ll start making some bad decisions.  But there are many forms of “social listening”, and sometimes it’s good to listen in to get some early warnings that sentiment might be shifting, new relevant topics are emerging, and things you’ve overlooked might actually be important.

Drew: What were some of the more effective social campaigns you developed at CNN?  

The first time I saw social really emerge as a critical force in media was during Hurricane Katrina coverage in 2005, which many would describe as “pre-social”.  But we still saw people trying really hard to use any digital platform imaginable to try to connect with other people, and many were using CNN as the ‘connector’. We tried very hard to respond to that need for information, connection and help by creating all sorts of micro-sites, aggregators, and user-generated content gathering points. CNN iReport emerged from that. During the 2008 Election campaign social media started coming into its own, and we embraced it very enthusiastically, even bringing in YouTube as a Debate presenter and Facebook as our partner in presenting the live streaming of the Inauguration (at that point it was the largest live streaming event in history).     

Drew: Since they’re already in the content business (with writers, editors, etc) don’t media channels have a real leg up on social content development versus other types of companies? 

I think that media companies are probably more comfortable and more nimble with developing social media content– mainly because they are prepared to make quick adjustments and tweaks to whatever they put out there. These companies already have producers, writers, editors, graphics folks working on content and promotions all the time, so A/B testing two content approaches is not daunting….and revising something that isn’t working is also fairly simple.  If you are having to reach back out to an agency to get that done it’s sometimes cumbersome and sometimes expensive. But agencies and clients are getting increasingly tight with each other on these efforts, and more agencies are acting as virtual in-house departments. And there is more in-house staffing going on, too.

Drew: Social media has been great for other TV networks like ABC’s Thursday line up.  Why is that?  

ABC– and the brilliant Shonda Rhimes– have done an incredible job creating must-see-live-tv  shows like SCANDAL and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.   They constructed the shows so that their core audience can have fun on social media throughout the show, and they’ve created a situation where half the fun is watching Twitter throughout ABC primetime.  The comments are funny and intriguing…and they drive you right back to the show. I know a lot of people time shift those shows, but lots are watching and loving them live.  And Fox is doing the same with EMPIRE.

Drew: You remain bullish on social media.  For marketers that are responsible for product sales and any dollar invested in social / content comes out of their working media budget, what advice would you give them? How do they get more out of their social programs?  Should they consider shifting dollars away from paid media?  

I am a huge believer in the power of all paid media– on television, on radio, in print, outdoor and online.  I think you need to use all of it.  But social media can be part of all of it, and it lets you target people precisely, and lets you get very relevant at the same time.  You get to speak in a new vernacular and lets you really let the content be the star.  When I started in advertising in the 1980s–before digital or social– the most cherished form of advertising was the one you just couldn’t buy: word of mouth. Well, social media IS word of mouth…emphasis on the words. It’s persuasive and emotional and funny and ingenious and urgent and very, very personal….all the stuff you want great advertising and promotion to be.

Cause Funding + Prepaid (+ Social?) = WeCareCard

06/4/15

Next week at the Social Media Shake-Up, I have the privilege of moderating a panel called Why CMOs Won’t Invest More in Social Media. Based on our pre-panel discussions, it should be a lively conversation featuring three terrific CMOs: Katharine Mobley of WeCareCard,  Scot Safon formerly of The Weather Channel and Bill Koleszar of American Family Care.

Why this panel?  From my conversations with various CMOs this year, it is clear to me that the bloom is off the social rose, at least when it comes to organic social.  The notion that a tiny investment in conversation-generating content will deliver consistently disproportionate results is no longer a predominant belief although all would be delighted if that happened. Instead, marketers have accepted organic social as a must have component of the mix, but for many brands it is not the channel they can rely on all by itself to drive leads and sales.  To dig into this a little deeper, I interviewed each of the panelists separately.

katharine mobley headshotFirst up is Katharine Mobley of WeCareCard.  In our conversation, you’ll get to know her top priorities, where social fits in and what would need to happen for her to radically increase spending on organic social. What’s particularly interesting here is the role social plays for the individuals seeking support for their WeCare campaigns. In this situation, person-to-person versus brand-to-person social communications are essential to success.  Which if you think about it is probably why the bloom fell off the social rose in the first place — brands keep forgetting to act socially (like humans) on their social channels!

Drew: First, can you talk a little bit about the WeCareCard?

Absolutely! WeCareCard is a modular B2B SaaS based portal enabling multiple people to donate to a single recipient via a prepaid Debit MasterCard®. In laymen’s terms think Cause Funding + Prepaid = WeCareCard (WCC) – basically GoFundMe meets MasterCard – really cool patent-pending technology!

Our platform can be co-branded or white labeled depending on the need of our clients, or it can be an extension of a retailer’s existing gift card or e-gift program.

The card product was launched live in November ’14 at @Money20/20 and were recognized by the industry as a payments innovator by winning Prepaid with a Heart by Paybefore Magazine in Jan ’15 – not bad for a #startup.

Drew: And what is your role as CMO? 

As CMO, it is my responsibly to make sure that any and all components of our marketing strategy and tactics are inline with our core values and brand ideals. All while maintaining a return on investment on marketing dollars, being held to accountable for our P&L & revenue goals, as well as keeping a high level of customer satisfaction. I wear many hats, some say personalities depending on the day!

As for myself, I am an innovator at heart and always had a thirst for learning new things. As a child I was always inquisitive so I asked A LOT of questions – Why? What? Where? When? How? You can also say I was born an old soul and many think I should have been an attorney (all those questions). When you think of it the role of the CMO is no different then that of an inquisitive child. You must challenge the board, be the voice of the customer/vendor and NEVER be happy or settle for less than you expect. And always be innovating – 24/7 I don’t sleep – my Misfit proves just how little sleep I get these days.

And in totally transparency, I reinvent myself on a regular basis – about every 7 years – I guess it is that 7-year itch that gets me, just ask my friends they will tell you – here she goes again!

Drew:  What are your top priorities right now as CMO?

  1. Channels – What channels do our customers (B2B and D2C) use to communicate stories? Being a cause funding organization this is very important, as we need to know what channels work best to communicate these stories for our consumers and B2B customers.
  2. Engagement – How do we make sure consumers and customers are engaged with our mission, goals, stories and value proposition? This is WAY more than do they follow us, RT, etc. it is more about how do they engage with their own audience and peers. Is it video, pictures, stories and what makes them engage with each other and WHY?
  3. Measurement – How do we measure engagement by each channel? Remember all those questions I asked as a child, well as you would expect I am a closet data geek and admitted social media addict! I LOVE to know how we are interacting with customers, what they are saying about us, what the industry thinks and I download about every new tool out there to make sure we are achieving the proper measurements. For a CMO – I like playing in the ‘weeds’ with data and measurement.
  4. ROI – Just like all businesses it comes down to the bottom line. What is our ROI with each channel and interaction? Let’s be honest, this isn’t like launching a company in 1999 during the last bubble, we didn’t even know how to measure anything other than national, regional, or local broadcast spend in those days. This is about every channel, every $ spent and how to maximize each interaction.

Drew: So, where does organic social media fit into this mix? What role(s) does social play?

Social plays an enormous role in our company; it is the very being of web based cause funding. In order to raise $$$ on the web you have to not only tell a story but you have to have an audience to tell it to and social media provides that platform.

Organic reach is decreasing rapidly and consumers, clients and customers see videos go viral and think they can achieve the same goals but it doesn’t happen without A LOT of leg work and a good network you can openly communicate your story to and one that is willing to not only SHARE it, but donate to it! This is the key that most consumers and companies forget – a share doesn’t = $ people must be compelled enough about your mission that there is a clear call to action to donate money to it.

Drew: I imagine there are some downsides in social, perhaps through social blackmail like when an unhappy customer threatens to complain on his/her social channels.  How do you all deal with these situations? 

Oh no, they don’t threaten in our industry they just do it, but we are lucky as our fraud protection helps ensure that campaigns are legitimate and there is a relationship between the recipient and the donor. Additionally, we have Care Coaches that help manage any social media that is negative. Our customer service platform is integrated into our social media channels so that we know customer sentiment and any issue can be escalated to the proper team member to address quickly. Due to the fact that we are a transaction mechanism we tend to put out fires as quickly as possible and to date have been able to resolve any issues and move forward in a positive manner.

Drew: On one hand you’re in the highly regulated financial services industry.  On the other, your product supports social causes, which are famed for enjoyed viral success (Ice Bucket challenge anyone?) on social channels.  Should social be able to play more profound role in your business and if so, what’s holding you back?  

You are correct, on one hand (prepaid) we are in a highly regulated industry on the other (cause funding) we are in an early stage high growth industry that hasn’t been clearly defined and it requires education as to how it works, it takes a village at this point. But like I stated earlier, everyone thinks they tell their story, share it and it will go viral and they will raise 100K. It doesn’t happen! We help provide a clear understanding of the role each person’s network plays in making sure a campaign is successful. And provide direction as to how they can make their campaign more impactful via our Sponsorship Toolkit and other resources.

Drew:  A few years back my agency worked on Magic by Magic Johnson, a prepaid card.  We enjoyed success on social channels by giving cardholders what they wanted — a chance to win money to put on their cards.  Have you considered any kind of social promotions like this and if so, how did they perform? 

We have run a few similar promotions and they have been successful, such as share a way to ‘give back’ and then giving away preloaded cards, etc. Currently, we have a few things in the works with our partners that in incent newly engaged couples to replace their ‘traditional’ registry with our reloadable prepaid card, which anyone from their wedding list can donate directly through IF they have a WeCareCard! So for this let’s just say #staytuned!

Drew:  For organic social to become a top 3 marketing priority for you, what would need to change? For example, if social media could suddenly become a measurable source of site traffic, would that move it up the list?  

Yes! I watch Google Analytics, all our social traffic etc. and the biggest gap we have is conversion and organic reach – but who doesn’t! I think we (marketers) as an industry are in a state of total flux and transition as we shift from our normal metrics of measurement/engagement and conversion and evolve with the ever-changing media ecosystem. And let’s be honest – organic reach is reducing daily and the world is becoming a ‘pay to play’ but we already know this and are looking at ways to work around it and make sure we stay relevant without breaking the bank. I think the greatest thing about the social media revolution is that it is making us be smarter marketers, stretch our dollars, prove our ROI and most importantly – Get to know our customers better! That is what we have needed to do for a LONG time – look at how much Market Research has grown in 20 years, when I graduated from UGA – that was where the ‘geeks’ ended up and now I am one of those geeks and love it! That shift is making us better marketers in the long run, what could prove better than that?

Drew: You mentioned wanting the WeCare Card to become a highly recognized and appreciated brand. What role if any could social play to help you achieve this goal?

WeCareCard is in growth mode, but I can assure you at it’s core is our founder, Jessica Weiss a nineteen year NICU nurse that saw first- hand the challenges and financial burden of medical bills, travel expenses and loss of income facing people during long hospital stays and surgeries with infants. Then, her own family was struck with a personal tragedy, and she found herself walking in the shoes of her patients – which is where, the idea of WeCareCard was born… a vehicle that meets the critical need of providing immediate financial assistance to people in distress.

Growing this company into a brand that not only can help those during a crisis (funerals, medical illness) but also a time of celebration (wedding, graduations, births) is why I am so passionate about making this company a well known, respected and ADMIRED brand. The best way for us to get to the most admired list isn’t by us telling you why we think we should be there but for those we have assisted telling you how we impacted them and sharing our impact by their stories in a social world. Take Haleigh Mann’s testimonial as an example, this is what our company is about at it’s core – helping others, “The sudden passing of my mother, left my sister and brother (ages 21 and 19) with no idea how to pay for her funeral expenses. She was young and we were unprepared, as she did not have life insurance or savings; imagine our shock when we were informed that we needed $2,000 before the funeral home would even pick up her body from the hospital. If it had not been for WeCareCard, I don’t know what we would have done. With their platform we were able to raise money within 72 hours and give my mother a proper funeral. In a world that is focused heavily on negative news – WeCareCard.com restored our faith that there are not only good people but great companies that can make a positive impact on others.’  (Tracy Driscoll’s funeral fund)

This story and countless others make the sleepless nights and long hours worth it in the end. Our goal is to have people connect, care and contribute to one another regardless of the situation.

Applying the Change Agenda at Mary Kay

03/29/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing Music’s Biggest Night w/ Evan Greene of The Grammys

02/7/15

Evan Greene_Recording AcademyIf you think the nominees for the GRAMMY awards are nervous, imagine for a moment you’re the CMO of what is officially known as The Recording Academy.  That man is Evan Greene and every year he is tasked with outdoing the previous year, a bar that keeps getting higher and higher.

In 2014 for example, TV ratings were the 2nd highest in 15 years, reaching over 28 million viewers who in turn generated roughly 15 million tweets and 13 million Facebook interactions. That’s a whole lot of buzz, buzz that is by no means accidental.  Evan and his team, supported by long-time agency Chiat/Day, continue to find innovative ways to engage, inspire and motivate an army of fans to not just watch but also share their experience.  This fan-centric approach requires management of thousands of little pieces, but Evan has done it in style, and it’s no surprise that he won a Marketing Innovation Award at this year’s CMO Awards, sponsored by The CMO Club.  Here’s our interview just in time for the show Sunday night and to send good karma out to Evan in LA.

Drew: One of the presumed reasons some CMOs don’t innovate is that there is more risk involved. Is there a tolerance for risk in your organization and/or do you have ways of mitigating the risks involved in bringing truly innovative programs to market?

There is tolerance to risk…to an extent. I have pretty broad latitude to implement forward-looking initiatives. However, we are still a pretty conservative organization, so that upside risk must be balanced by the potential downside consequences, which for a not-for-profit entity, whose primary asset is its brand/IP can be significant.

Drew: The Grammys is such a unique brand. What do you think is the biggest thing other marketers can learn from the on-going success of The Grammys?

While we are certainly a big brand, we aren’t really that different from other brands in that ultimately it comes down to trust. Authenticity is the cornerstone of trust, so you must respect your audience, and be as authentic as possible in everything you do.

Drew: What did you do in 2014 that you are particular proud of from a marketing perspective?

I don’t think it was any one thing. When you look at the ultimate result of our year-round efforts, which is our metrics around the GRAMMY telecast, we over-delivered on every possible measurement – ratings (2nd highest in 20+ years), social engagement (34MM+ comments on GRAMMY Sunday), sentiment (99% positive), revenue (consistently up year-over-year), it is our overall success that comes from carefully planned strategic efforts that I am most proud of.

Drew: Looking ahead, what do you hope will work better in 2015?

Better, more engaging content, better use of analytics.

Drew: How are you as CMO staying on top of all the new digital marketing techniques and opportunities?

Reading everything I can, and constantly auditing the market. I’m always trying to learn from others’ successes…and failures…

Drew: What tool, product, or service has been the single greatest improvement to digital marketing for your brand over the last year?  

I don’t think there is any one tool. I think our strategy has gotten smarter…and we are finding better, more effective ways to use data than before. I believe the ultimate winners and losers will be determined by who is best able to identify, understand and harness the data available to us as marketers.

Drew: Do you have a content marketing strategy?  

This is an important area for us, and we are in the process of reviewing our entire content strategy, and revising it in a pretty significant way. I will have more to share on this in the coming months as our new strategic focus comes into play.

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?

The best, most immediate example I can point to is our yearly telecast marketing campaign. We have endeavored, rather than simply placing a bunch of music artists on a spread or in a tv spot, with the message to ‘Watch the GRAMMYs,’ to weave a compelling narrative that connects with the music fan in an emotional, visceral way. I’m very proud of the work we have done with our agency, Chiat Day to more deeply weave our GRAMMY brand into the fabric of popular culture. We will launch this year’s effort in early December, and we will again approach it from a dynamic storytelling standpoint that will set our communication apart from anyone else in our category.

Drew: As social media matures, what adjustments are you making to your approach to social in 2015?

We’ve been trying to take a more holistic view of our social activities, meaning that we want to be smarter about the conversation we are having with our social ecosystem on a daily basis. We want to provide more value to the conversation, and become more of a trusted resource, and this requires a longer-term view of the relationship we have with our friends, fans and followers. It is not as much about short-term gratification. Rather, it is modifying tone, vibe and spirit of our dialogue to have a more consistent, engaged dialogue.

Talk About Rising to a Challenge: Meet Kate Chinn

02/5/15

Kate ChinnIf you ever had any doubt about the expanding role of the CMO you need look no further than Kate Chinn.  As the head of marketing for Rockefeller Center and several other properties owned by international developer Tishman Speyer, Kate covers a lot of territory and based on the recent successful relaunch of the Rainbow Room, she does it all quite well.  This particular initiative required Kate and her team to get involved with naming, experience design, uniform selection, operations and and eventually even some advertising!  This was not a departmental “land grab” but rather her way of making sure that everything about these new properties including the Rainbow Room itself, a new bar called SixtyFive and a separate event space were fully differentiated and ultimately marketable. Having done all that and more, Kate was recognized by The CMO Club with a CMO Award and in the process, earned the “honor” of an interview with yours truly.  

Drew: Can you provide some background on your marketing objectives and so forth in terms of your responsibilities?

I oversee marketing for several businesses owned and operated by Tishman Speyer. Tishman Speyer is a real estate firm, but within their portfolio is a group of businesses that doesn’t necessarily fall under a typical real estate firm’s umbrella. Included in that category would be Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Rockefeller Center, Rainbow Room and the event venue 620 Loft & Garden, for instance.

Drew: I just saw that the recently re-launched Rainbow Room made a list of top new places to visit in the city. When you’re launching a new product, or re-launching an old product like The Rainbow Room, how do you approach the marketing?

Yes – we just opened the Rainbow Room in October of this year. With this re-launch in particular, there were very high expectations, especially since the Rainbow Room is such a famous, historic, and iconic venue. For the last 2 years, the marketing team has closely worked with the operations/management team to define the business goals, in order to correctly position each segment of the new Rainbow Room in the marketplace. You can’t effectively market something until you have a solid idea of what it is going to be, how you want it to be perceived, and what the business goals are.

What made this even more challenging was the fact that it wasn’t just the Rainbow Room, it was the Rainbow Room as an event venue, the Rainbow Room as a Sunday brunch location; and the Rainbow Room as a destination for Monday night dinner and entertainment. At the same time, we launched SixtyFive, the brand new bar and cocktail lounge, with its own identity and marketing needs. Finally, there will be an executive dining club that is by invitation only, which also required us to develop a look and feel, menu covers, invitations, etcetera. With new businesses, you find yourself doing anything and everything that needs to happen in order to get that business open, regardless of whether or not it is actually “marketing”. My team was involved in everything from logo design to uniform selection to actually naming the bar “SixtyFive Bar & Cocktail Lounge”.

Drew: Can you talk specifically about your channel communication strategy and marketing mix?

It was a different strategy for each of the businesses. For the events business, we began advertising a year out because we know that many weddings book over a year in advance, and we wanted people to know that the Rainbow Room was coming back. Once we set that opening date of October 5th, we pulled the trigger on advertising in some of the larger and more upscale bridal publications in particular.

Our biggest challenge was that we had absolutely no photography assets. We created a beautiful brochure out of complete air. Our ads were very vague, but at least contained the Rainbow Room logo and we had to have something for the sales team, so it forced us to be very creative!

Sunday Brunch is a beautiful, elaborate set up with a round buffet table set up on the dance floor and every kind of food you can imagine from around the globe. It was so impressive, that we decided we really couldn’t pay to market that until we had a photo of the actual brunch. Monday night dinner and entertainment also came later and are still developing as we continue to evolve our entertainment strategy. The first performance we had was The Roots. We managed to flip a New York Times full page out right before opening that made a big splash.

Drew: How important is digital in the mix of the things that you’re doing for these various business segments?

We’ve spent the majority of digital resources up to this point developing the websites and OpenTable integration, and optimizing AdWords. Obviously search is big, so we’ve definitely put money toward that. We have a social media program in the works. We’re starting to do listings, but again, we’ve only just gotten image collateral and it’s limited.

We also have a PR group working with us specifically on F&B, and we’ve had a lot of positive press just since it opened. It’s starting to catch on by word of mouth.

Drew: Is that word of mouth a bankable, sustainable kind of thing or is it the kind of thing you get a lift from at the launch and then requires you to come up with creative ways to keep it going?

Speaking specifically to SixtyFive – the bar at the Rainbow Room… This has been my first time doing any sort of marketing surrounding a bar and we planned to do an initial push with PR. We have found that with Top of the Rock, word of mouth is so important, and keeps people coming back. In fact, according to some audience research we conducted, over 50% claim that “word of mouth” was their main reason for visiting. I have to believe the same thing would be true for a premier cocktail bar at Rockefeller Center. So I think it’s a continual effort – and really relies on a great guest experience much more so than anything paid.

Drew: What you’ve been able to do is what a lot of marketers dream of doing. In theory, you get to have an impact on a large part of the customer experience. Many times marketers are just handed the product, and handed the customer service, and handed the operations and told “go sell this”. If you picked one of these properties, what kinds of things did you have in mind as you were thinking through the customer experience?

With Rainbow Room, a lot of thought went into the logo, the design and the architecture with the goal being a fresh modern take on the classic Rainbow Room. We didn’t want to change the essence of the Rainbow Room everybody remembers. In fact, there are landmark elements that were refurbished but otherwise remain exactly the same, for instance the chandeliers, dome ceiling, revolving dance floor, brass railings, glass bollards. Generally speaking, it’s a classic, elegant experience, but it’s been refreshed so it feels fresh and modern.

Now the bar, SixtyFive, is completely new. The ceiling is dimensional with beautiful geometric patterns and finished in metallic leaf. So it has a kind of other-worldly feeling in there, it’s really cool. It also has a brand new outdoor terrace with seating and obviously, incredible views of the NYC skyline.

Drew: What steps do you have to take to build credibility with the board or the CEO in order to accomplish your marketing goals?

Because we work for a real estate company, we have to take the time to explain the necessity of marketing these non-core businesses. As long as we are very, very clear and confident on what we need and why, they tend to trust our marketing expertise, especially given the success of similar businesses such as Top of the Rock and the event venue 620 Loft & Garden.

Drew: What role of social play for one or all of these five parts of the new Rainbow Room?

Our hope is to have a social media team pushing out engaging content that will spur people to talk about it. We are trying to include our social media handles and hashtags on as many of our materials as possible so they will be known and used by our guests. We’re talking about putting them on the menus now to make sure that people have them top of mind when they’re at The Rainbow Room, because it’s a natural place for people to take photos. We’re really trying to build awareness. And by pushing out our own content, hopefully we can get conversations started and just remind people about it.

We also have a social media hub on our newly redesigned website rockefellercenter.com where we pull in and sort photos. We’ve got #rockeats, #rockshops, #rockcenter, etc. I can ultimately see Rainbow Room and SixtyFive being part of it as well.

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