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Q+A on The Magic of Marketing w/ Macy’s Martine Reardon

12/18/14

Martine Reardon_MacysWant to truly understand the complexity of being a modern CMO then skip my introduction to Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon and dive into her thoughts on everything from leadership to brand building, mix modeling to customer experience, mobile payments to Snapchat, charitable activities to testing a new social shopping platform called Wanelo.  The range of marketing activity alone is staggering yet thanks to a few overarching principles it’s fairly easy to see how Martine and her sizable team pull it all together and bring “The Magic of Macy’s” to life.

Drew: Congratulations on winning the The CMO Club‘s Leadership award. What are some of the lessons (about leading) you can share with aspiring leaders especially of the marketing variety? 

I think good leadership is a fine balance of setting a strategic vision and then creating an environment for innovation and collaboration to ensure you get the best thinking and execution from your team. We move very fast in retail, and the level and volume of work can be intense. It’s very easy to get caught in the day-to-day management, but we work hard to stay ahead and to also be flexible enough to be present and reactive in the moment. We can easily be working on 4 seasons at one time, so I have definitely learned to build consensus and alignment around the core strategies and initiatives, and then I trust our incredibly talented team to bring the Magic of Macy’s to life for our customers across America.

We also embrace a saying from Macy’s very own Margaret Getchell (the first woman executive in retail), who said “Be everywhere, do everything, and never forget to astonish the customer.” It’s a motto we live by here, and I think having a legacy of such pioneering executives is an inspiration to all of us. It has fostered an ambition and entrepreneurialism that is a part of our culture.

Drew: Macy’s owns some really big event properties including July 4th fireworks and your Thanksgiving Day parade that you have been doing for a long, long time. Can you speak to how these programs have evolved from a marketing perspective and what kinds of things you’ve done to keep them fresh?

The great thing about our events is that they reflect the very best of American popular culture. This allows us to keep evolving with audiences over time. Whether it’s a favorite celebrity from Tony Bennett to Usher or a beloved childhood character such as Snoopy or SpongeBob SquarePants, being attuned to the changing entertainment landscape allows our events to stay fresh and relevant. Additionally, as innovations in technology or other cultural shifts occur, we look to incorporate those into our events. For example, this year’s Macy’s Fireworks featured the incorporation of never-before-seen effects along the entire span of the Brooklyn Bridge, over the last decade we’ve introduced a Macy’s Parade mobile app, we’ve participated in a live rick-roll at the Parade, and we’ve added a new layer of art to the sky with the introduction of our artists balloons which have featured works by Jeff Koons, Tim Burton and Takashi Murakami, among others. Given the wide ranging audience of our events from toddlers to great grandparents, the shifts don’t have to be major, in order to entertain the entire spectrum of our audiences.

Drew: These kinds of big events ensure that Macy’s has high top-of-mind awareness and favorable brand associations but must be tough to translate into store traffic and sales. (If I’m wrong about this, please correct me.)  If I’m right, how do you evaluate the success of these programs—do you track brand health metrics (like awareness, favorability, etc)?   

Our iconic events are part of the DNA of the Macy’s brand. We are not only a retailer that offers customers incredible fashion and value, we are also an entertainment brand that creates magical experiences. For generations, Macy’s has been at the center of the traditions of millions of families across the nation and the world. This clear and visceral connection our brand enjoys with the general public is unmeasurable. We take great pride in producing world-famous events that are so widely beloved. It’s a truly unique place to hold in the lives of our customers, that through the lenses of our events, we have become a part of their family.

Drew: When many people think of Macy’s, they think tradition, but how important do you feel it is to take advantage of new trends and be among the earliest adopters of new technologies such as Apple Pay and Shopkick? Why? 

Our top priority at Macy’s is to serve the customer. With the customer at the center of every decision we make, it’s essential for us to quickly and effectively address their needs. This is why you’ve seen Macy’s at the forefront of testing new technologies and in some cases being early adopters of innovations that enhance our customer’s shopping experiences. Whether it’s more relevant, targeted marketing that cuts through the clutter and speaks to the needs and wants of that customer or a technology that speeds up the check-out process, we will look to test and adopt strategies and innovations that provide customer value and support.

Drew: What new things (if any) did you try in 2014 and how did it work out?

I’m very proud to say that Macy’s is excellent at newness! We think of each month, each season, each year as a brand new opportunity to re-inspire our customer. We see ourselves as an entertainment brand, and we know that today’s “experience economy” expects more from us than just great fashion and product. We’ve tried many new things this year – starting with a new spring campaign we called “Secret Garden” that took a floral fashion trend to new heights with store events, digital activations and a cause program to aid local parks and gardens. We also launched a new effort with Clinton Kelly in support of our bridal and registry customer; we hosted a very fun LipDub competition for schools during back-to-school season; and we partnered with Fashion Rocks for the return of the famous fashion and music event hosted in NYC and broadcast live on CBS.

Of course, we’re always testing newness in our omnichannel strategy and with technology – including our recent launch with ApplePay, rolling out shopkick nationally, launching Macy’s Wallet, enhancing our shopping apps, offering Macy’s Image Search, expanding buy online pickup in store, and testing same-day delivery.

Drew:  In what ways do you believe Macy’s admirable commitment to charitable causes, such as increasing research, awareness and education for diseases such as breast cancer and heart disease, has benefited the Macy’s brand?

Our My Macy’s approach to being a part of the communities where we live and work, and our passion for supporting causes that are important to our customers, have been cornerstones of our brand for more than 150 years. We believe deeply in our responsibility to make a difference, and we work with incredible non-profit partners like the American Heart Association, March of Dimes, Make-A-Wish, Reading Is Fundamental, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Got Your 6, Futures Without Violence, United Way, and many others. Last year, through our contributions and the generous support of our associates and customers, Macy’s gave more than $70 million to charitable organizations.

Our cause marketing programs are some of our customers most beloved events. They come out to shop and to support a great cause, and they tell us over and over again that they want and appreciate these opportunities to give in a way that is both meaningful for the charity and fun for them. It’s a simple principle, but the impact of what we can do together is so much greater. I believe that Macy’s was really a pioneer in this area – and we continue to trail-blaze fresh, new ways to engage and give back with our customers.

Drew: What have your experiences been with mobile marketing been to date? What’s working for you? What’s not?

We’ve made sure that our mobile media strategy is grounded in a deep understanding of how our customers are engaging with their smartphone and tablet devices. Our customers at Macy’s tend to be quite mobile-centric. To that end, we’ve invested in tactics such as mobile and tablet digital display, SMS, and mobile paid search. We’ve also evaluated mobile usage penetration in cross-device channels like digital audio and social media, and use those insights to drive a mobile-first approach to those channels. In addition, we’ve recently relaunched our Macy’s mobile app with significant improvements to the user experience and have launched a brand-new Macy’s Image Search app that leverages visual recognition technology to populate search results. We’re also continuing to explore the in-store beacons space.  Looking ahead, we see a lot of white space in mobile analytics and attribution, and look forward to developments that will help us better understand the impact of mobile media investment to total omnichannel sales.

We also run mobile and tablet-based digital retargeting campaigns and are testing into cross-screen retargeting in Spring 2015. This is a powerful tactic that capitalizes on connecting with customers who’ve expressed intent to purchase with us. As well, we’re launching a social shopping test in Q4 with Instagram, which will really help us better understand how to unlock the opportunity to drive sales through social media and potentially drive higher conversion directly on a mobile device.

Drew: What’s working for you these days in social media? Feel free to define what success looks like for Macy’s in SM.  Did you try anything new this year that you can share?   

We focus on a balanced approach between great publishing, meaningful engagement, and effective paid media. What’s important is clearly defining what success metrics to apply, based on the social media tactic being evaluated. Targeted direct response campaigns serve quite a different purpose than top-funnel branded publishing, but when planned and executed holistically, provide real value for our brand. We’re always testing, learning, and iterating in the social media space. We’re intrigued by the explosive growth of video on Facebook since the rollout of auto-play, and have run some campaigns over the last year using Facebook’s video ad product. We continue to explore how best to leverage Twitter’s natural affinity with TV, as a second-screen companion to broadcast and branded integrations. We’re working hard to grow our footprint on YouTube through targeted pre-roll, original content, and content collaborations with creators. We recently ran a very fun UGC- based campaign on YouTube as part of our Back To School efforts.

We’ve also recently begun publishing on Wanelo, with the objective of connecting with their fast-growing and incredibly valuable audience base: older millennials who are looking to convert on new product based on aspirational imagery. And we continue to focus on our Pinterest publishing and paid media strategy. We think there is enormous runway for us to utilize Pinterest not only as a means of showcasing great social publishing, but also as a visual search engine that allows us to facilitate product discovery and drive traffic to our ecommerce site. Pinterest is also a key means of connecting us with one of our most important customer groups: brides. We are among the top registry destinations in the country, so it’s critical that we maintain and grow our relevancy as a destination for millennial brides who are planning their big day.

Also as part of our millennial strategy, we recently launched our brand’s Snapchat account, Macyssnaps, and will keep a close eye on that platform as it rolls out its paid advertising suite.

Q+A on Storytelling 101 w/ Belkin’s Kieran Hannon

12/16/14

Kieran Hannon_BelkinI didn’t think anyone could get me excited about a story featuring the “Linksys WRT1900AC” until I met Belkin‘s CMO, Kieran Hannon. But it’s true: even for some of the most tech-heavy companies out there, storytelling has become the de facto way to engage audiences and ultimately enhance the customer experience.

In the interview below, we weave a tale of our own about rewarding customers for engaging with Belkin, tips for whipping up a delicious dinner, and, like all good stories, a genie shows up at the end. Oh, and before I forget, congratulations to Kiernan for his recent Customer Experience Award win at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards.

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?

Using a 360 degree customer view and incorporating that into the company planning process, the voice of the customer is always front and center spanning marketing, product, sales and customer care.  Not only do we have our own focus group facility onsite for in-depth customer engagement, we spend a lot of time actively listening to customers across social media and through our customer advocacy (care) teams.  We also have communities providing ongoing feedback while highlighting new product features/needs.   This is all part of our comprehensive planning process for product development.  Recent impacts of this approach include the highly regarded and reviewed Linksys WRT1900AC router supporting the Performance Perfected brand positioning; the Belkin QODE keyboards and the WeMo Maker launch.

Drew: What advice do you have for other senior marketers who want to impact the customer experience but aren’t necessarily responsible for it from end to end?

You must have total empathy for your customers, understand their needs and wants and how your brand(s) fit into their worlds.  More importantly, engage with them in multiple ways for a better rounded experience.  Whether in-store, online or via other research methods, keeping constant tabs on the sentiment is a must.  I personally enjoy engaging with customers on Twitter.  I encourage all to be very active on one of the social media channels.

Drew: Home automation appears to be hot new category. With so much competition, how do envision WeMo setting itself apart and holding its own in the market?

WEMO is setting itself apart by again, understanding how the brand benefits people lives today and in the future.  Technology has disconnected people but in our case we use it to allow people to “be in the moment, enjoy what they’re doing”.  Let serendipity come back into their lives.  Why should you be worrying about dinner when still at lunch with your friends?  Well, WEMO has taken care of that with the Crockpot.  Dinner – WEMO That!

Drew: You were recently named one of the most influential CMOs on Twitter by Forbes. What are your motivations for being on social media, and how large a role does social media play in Belkin’s marketing efforts

Social media lets you be front and center – with customers, partners and other industry peers.  I love it.  For instance Hudson News is a big partner and we have done some interesting promotions together amplified via social media.  But all of their team, from the CEO across the board, are completely engaged.  It’s allows for that real time feedback loop.  I get such a kick out of it.  Can’t believe more CMOs aren’t on Twitter.

Drew: Marketing budgets are getting increasingly complex as new options and tools become available.  How as CMO are you staying on top of budget allocation and optimization?

It’s a constant, something we pay attention to all the time.  We use various tools to optimize such allocations and exploring some recent new products in this area to fully realize the power of data and insights for such allocations.

Drew: Have you tested any new technologies or platforms in the last 12 months and if so what were the results relative to your expectations? 

We have, particularly in the social media and customer care areas. Our CIO Deanna Johnston is a brilliant partner here.  For instance we have a very large Salesforce implementation with communities integrated. That is a big asset. For WeMo people are submitting products ideas and making suggestions for other community members.

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?

Finally, storytelling is back.  Hallelujah! That is the power of a brand – how it’s story resonates and shared amongst it’s customers. We are telling stories with WeMo in how people can use the products in ways they never even thought possible.  There’s such a joy in illuminating how technology can help make people’s lives better and more engaging.

Drew: Look ahead, what marketing “nut” would you like to crack in 2015?

Ah, if I had the genie it would have to be around data. There’s so much but what is meaningful.  Many people use different methodologies so what are the best practices and what is real/works. I think that’s going to be the nut in 2015!

America’s Most Courageous CMO Nominee — Ani Matson

12/10/14

Ani Matson_NEA Member Benefits

“Our time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

That quote pretty much sums up Ani Matson, who until recently was the CMO at NEA Member Benefits. Ani had the courage to rethink marketing in the context of the entire customer experience versus short term expedience. And I’m not being melodramatic.  Consider for a moment that prior to taking the reigns, NEA Member Benefits sent new customers over 50 separate pieces of communications, offering a wide range of products and services. While this approach allowed the company to achieve it’s marketing goals it ultimately had a deleterious impact on perceptions of the brand and response rates.  After considerable study and consensus building, Ani and her team reduced the number of new member communications to six touches.  The results were staggering–a 20% increase in participation and significantly improved customer satisfaction ratings.  Less turned out to be more. And while The CMO Club recognized Ani with its Officer’s Award, I think next year they need a new category, Most Courageous and here’s the first nominee!

Drew: Could you explain a little bit about the business model on NEA Member Benefits and its relationship to NEA?

NEA Member Benefits is a for-profit entity owned by the NEA, the National Education Association, which represents public school teachers and other staff who work in public schools. We research insurance and retirement plans and get benefit deals for teachers. We talk to top players, we rank them, then we offer the benefits and members enroll into these benefit programs.

Drew: NEA Member Benefits markets to three million members plus their families. Its certainly a very well defined target. What does marketing look like given that?

You still need an intentional strategy. In fact you have to be very precise because you are marketing to people who you want to have a relationship with for the length of their career and after they retire. It’s not just about finding an audience for your product, it is about serving a defined group with the best portfolio of products, in the most relevant way. The stakes are high, and if you become noise by acting like any other marketer out there, you’ll get turned off and you would have missed out on building a relationship that would last a lifetime.

You can contact members via direct mail, which is the way we used to market for many years, but you can’t just offer the same thing to three million people. So instead, as people go through their life stages, we try to give them relevant offers at specific times in their lives. We’re just trying to build offers and communications around member journeys.

Right now the secret is to get the attention because now almost everybody is doing customer-centric marketing. So now it’s about multi-channel marketing and building experiences versus just sending the information and waiting for the results. That’s the key.

Drew: What is a journey now?

Everything is set up and automated and triggered so that members can receive the appropriate information at the appropriate time based on their behavior, what they do, and what they tell us.

We’ve scored the whole membership file, and based on those scores, we decide which offers are most appropriate to market to whom. You have to watch members and understand them deeply and understand their behavior, understand their needs, understand their attributes to able to offer them the right thing. It’s beautifully analytical. They have children, they get married, they buy a car, and as they go through those stages we have different offers for them.

Drew: Lets talk about a win that youve had where suddenly you were able to get the right product in front of the right person at the right time with the right message.

The one that I’m most proud of the team for doing is the reimagining of the content strategy and the way we deliver the content to the members. What we are trying to do is optimize the content at the right gaps of a member’s journey. We have came up with a huge roadmap for delivering the right information to the right members.

The best results so far have been from the new member experience that we built last year. New members were cordoned off from receiving everything that other members would receive. Instead, we designed a different experience for them, basically welcoming them to the organization, showing them what’s available to them, giving some freebies to them and just inviting them to come and explore.

By not pushing, we were able to get better results than the way we had done it in the past. We touched them only six times last year and increased participation by 20%. In the past, we had touched their comparable cohort 50 times.

Drew: Thats an incredible story. Do you have brand health metrics tracking so you know how people perceive you?

We do. We were initially thinking of using Net Promoter Score, but then we came up with what we call a “brand index”. It is similar to the Net Promotor Score but it takes into consideration other factors we thought were important for our brand. We have a relationship with Harte Hanks, and they run a longitudinal study and the “brand index” for us once a year. So we take the pulse on perceptions of the membership once a year. We’ve been tracking member perceptions for the past, I think, seven years and seeing how their opinions about the organization have changed. That is amazingly positive for us.

Drew: So, if you were to sit down with a fellow CMO, what sort of advice would you give them in order to get started?

Get rid of funnels and think past the buying. If you don’t have a good experience after you buy, you’re not coming back for more.

Look at the stages of the experience, the journey that any human being would go through when they have a need and then as they look to fulfill their need. I would ask the question why, what do they use it for? Where do they use it? And then I would start to build the experience around that.

Q+A on Leadership with AMD’s Colette LaForce

12/8/14

Colette LaForce_AMD

When I was growing up, a surprising number of our local professionals had names that doubled as appropriate descriptors.  Dr. Gum was an oral surgeon, Dr. Smiley a delightful plastic surgeon. There were many others. Only Dr. Bonebreak messed things up as he was not an orthopedist but instead a rather feared pediatric dentist!  So when I hear a name like LaForce, I can’t help but wonder if the namesake is a force to reckoned with.  Read my interview below and you will know with certainty that Colette LaForce is indeed just that.

As CMO of AMD, the microprocessor company that is the David to Intel’s Goliath, LaForce quickly established a Marketing Operations to quantify activities, dealt with a major corporate restructuring and then relaunched AMD on a global basis.  Oh and did I mention she’s piloting an innovative marketing effort exclusively for the Chinese?  It’s never a dull moment when you’re working for a challenger brand and Colette seems to thrive under these circumstances so it’s little wonder she is also a recent recipient of The CMO Club‘s award for Leadership.

Drew: Congratulations on winning the Leadership award.  What are some of the lessons you can share with aspiring leaders especially of the marketing variety?

One critical trait I see in great leaders is an ability to simplify goals and objectives.  People can’t remember ten goals, or even five.  Great leaders, like great sports coaches, prioritize just one or two compelling goals for the team to commit to and focus on.

Drew: I love the fact that you have “transformative CMO” in your LinkedIn bio.  Can you talk a little about how you are being transformative in your current role?  

For me, the word ‘transformative’ represents a desire to be a steward of change.  Stewardship is really all about making lasting contributions that leave your environment in better shape than it was the day before.  Couple that with a leadership approach that encourages meaningful change and an outstanding team that can drive execution and consistency, and you get true transformation.

Drew: What advice do you have for your fellow marketers if they too wanted to transform their organizations, one way or another?  

To drive transformation, a team must to be aligned on the organization’s purpose, goals and values. Why do you do what you do?  What are you trying to do?  And how will you do it?  Once you get clarity on those points, true transformation can begin.

Drew:  AMD by definition is a challenger brand given Intel’s category dominance.  How has this shaped your overall approach to marketing?  Do you feel the need to be more innovative than you were at Dell or Rackable Systems?  

Innovation and creativity should always play a role in what we as marketers do, whether you work for an existing market leader or an emerging player.  Many of us are drawn to challenger brands because of the ‘underdog’ phenomenon.  Being the underdog can be a great motivational tool that builds character, forces innovation, fosters creativity and can be very rewarding.

Drew: AMD is considered an “ingredient” brand, but you have said that the customers’ relationship with your product is typically much more emotional than with other such “ingredients.” How did you come to that conclusion, and how has that realization aided your efforts to spark consumers’ passions for AMD?

We consider AMD beyond just ‘ingredient’ and more of an ‘enabler’ brand.  Semiconductor technology powers the devices we use every day, giving people very personal, rich computational and graphical experiences that literally enable us to change the world.  Our research with thousands of users echoed this sentiment, and we are actively building a more emotional connection with buyers.

Drew: What have been the biggest challenges you have had to overcome during AMD’s rebranding campaign, and how were you able to use the rebranding efforts to lead the brand back to profitability and align with the business goals?

We recognized that our multi-year business transformation needed to start with a global brand transformation. Evolving a brand while simultaneously cutting costs, completing a corporate restructuring and pushing into new markets with new competitors is quite challenging and might seem even counter-intuitive to some.  But without a baseline for purpose, values and mission and an outstanding team to execute, we could not have effectively united 10,000 employees and millions of fans worldwide.

Drew:  Marketing budgets are getting increasingly complex as new options and tools become available.  How as CMO are you staying on top of budget allocation and optimization?

One of the first things I did when I came to AMD was create a Marketing Operations team.  We now have centralized visibility to spending, metrics and ROI.  We have a great team that may not always have the fanciest new tools to govern with, but we are steadfast about how we measure and optimize marketing performance.

Drew: Have you made major changes to your budget allocation in the last year and if so, can you share what lead to those changes and how these changes have impacted results?

Like many marketing organizations, while our overall marketing budgets continue to shrink, we’ve protected funds for earned and owned media. We’re also setting aside funds for what I like to call ‘innovation marketing.’ For example, we will soon kick off a unique program in China, designed exclusively to engage with our Chinese fans. Too often, US-based corporations pilot programs in North America and then try to localize further. We’re starting in China and then will see where it goes!

Q+A on Marketing with Pentair’s Lisa Armstrong

12/3/14

Fort BelknapHow do you market products around a basic human need like water? For Lisa Armstrong, recent winner of a Rising Star award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards, this is only one challenge on a long list of marketing initiatives. As the VP for Marketing and Branding at Pentair, Lisa is in charge of educating consumers about water conservation, while simultaneously helping to create solutions for communities without access to clean, safe water.

In the interview below, we talk about how she’s learned to tackle key initiatives like this, how to manage priorities in a changing organization, what the future of marketing looks like at Pentair, and how she tackles a topic that keeps many CMOs up at night: building credibility with your CEO.

Drew: What’s been your biggest challenge as a marketer at Pentair and how have you tackled it?

One of the biggest challenges I have is getting everything done on our bold list of initiatives. I recognized that dedicating time and attention to building processes, sharing knowledge and developing capability will help sustain all of our new initiatives.

Drew: Is there one marketing initiative in the last year or two that you are particularly proud of and if so, can you please talk a bit about it?

I’m proud of the work our team did to launch our new external website. There were a lot of new paradigms and new thinking that went into the design and development of the site. We mapped out a cross-business view of our solutions from the customer point of view instead of from an inside-out perspective. We also evolved our case studies to be impact stories that focus on the effect our solutions have on our customer, our customer’s customers and the environment.

Drew: What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career, and how has it helped you get where you are today?

I’ve learned that adaptability is a critical skill of being a leader. I keep myself open to new ideas, continuous learning and re-invention. I keep a pulse on the market, up-to-date on new trends and am continuously up-skilling to ensure that my skills and experience are relevant for today and rightfully positioned for the future.

Drew: Water is so fundamental to life that we often take it for granted, certainly here in the eastern part of the US. Does the role water play in our lives impact your marketing at all?

Absolutely. Even though most places in the U.S. have an abundance of water, at Pentair we do have marketing efforts aimed toward educating and promoting the need for conserving water and water re-use. In other areas of the world, however, access to safe clean water is still a struggle and becomes a human and women’s rights issue. In these markets we try to help build safe clean water solutions through our CSR efforts and community partners.

Drew: In your experience, how do you know when it’s time to make changes to an organization or department? 

You know the quote…”Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Anytime an organization or company goes through a fundamental change (growth, expansion, and/or maturity), you can’t apply the same organizational model. In my experience, I realize it’s time to make changes when I start seeing gaps in what needs to be done and the ability or capability to get it done.

Drew: What advice would you give to fellow CMOs when it comes to building credibility with your CEO? 

A CMO builds credibility by being connected to what the C-suite and board are facing each quarter and asking how marketing can help.  You can lose credibility by proposing initiatives at the wrong time. The challenge for marketers is that we often face the “what have you done for me lately” pressure so we have to be consistently maintaining our credibility.

Drew: What marketing nut would you like to crack in 2015?  

Two major areas I’d like to tackle: #1 is Digital – Integrated Marketing. We need to build a robust roadmap with the emphasis on levering digital to drive growth. And #2, Marketing Excellence. I’d like to build a process and curriculum to help build a world-class marketing organization that delivers innovation, revenue and leadership talent for the entire organization. (OK… so this one may take longer than 2015).

Q+A on Digital Marketing with LL Bean CMO Steve Fuller

12/1/14

Steve Fuller_LLBeanL.L. Bean has been in the direct marketing game for over 100 years having issued its first mail order catalog way back in 1912.  Since then it has learned a thing or two about customer acquisition, building loyalty and marketing mix optimization.  In that context, it wasn’t too surprising that current L.L. Bean CMO Steve Fuller talked about getting the “basics right” while simultaneously capitalizing on the latest digital marketing techniques like programmatic.

In our conversation below, Steve is refreshingly honest, sharing accomplishments and missteps in an understated manner that seems entirely consistent with the L.L. Bean brand itself.  For example, though he was a recent winner of The CMO Club‘s award for Programmatic Marketing, he is also quick to point out his organization is still in the early stages of applying all of this technology to its fullest advantage.  This is not a case of a New Englander saying “you can’t get theya from heya” but simply a recognition that patience and in Dave’s words not “expecting too much too soon” from new tech platforms can be a virtue even in the fast paced world of digital marketing.

Drew: You have been at the forefront of ecommerce for a while.  What did you try in 2014 from a digital marketing standpoint that worked particularly well?

In our case, it was better execution of the “basics.”  Our search programs – paid, natural, etc. – have been lacking in recent years and we definitely got those programs back on track in 2014.  And after testing nearly every alternative available, it appears we might have finally beaten the in-house product recommendation engine that we built waaaay back in 2005.

Drew: Did you try some things that didn’t work as well as you hoped?

A few.  We have a fairly robust analytics cloud in development.  We like the overall direction of the project, but it’s progressing slower than we would have hoped.  L.L.Bean also moved to a new chat/social media tracking platform that has been a disappointment.

Drew: If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you’d like to see fixed about digital marketing and why?

I’m not sure the right word is “fixed,” but demand/investment attribution is still an undeveloped area.   There are a lot of people doing interesting things, but the methodologies – and results – vary wildly.  And while I understand the desire to protect proprietary research, the “black box” approach of many companies makes them a challenge to evaluate.

Drew: When bringing on new tech/platforms what are some of the pitfalls to be avoided?
Expecting too much too soon.  These are incredibly complex systems both from a production and analytics perspective.  Implementation “sequencing” is also something to watch.  Too many changes at once makes it almost impossible to isolate performance.

Drew: How has programmatic marketing helped you reach your overall marketing objectives?

I want to be the first to say that we’ve got a long way to go with programmatic.  We learn something each and every day.  But we’re especially pleased with its ability to help bring “scale” to those programs in an efficient way — both from a presentation and an analytics perspective.

Drew: What were some of the challenges of adopting programmatic and what advice would you give to another marketer who is just getting started?

The easiest thing to overlook is the amount of production work required to do it right.  Ads need to be created, they need to be trafficked, etc., etc.

The other advice is to find a good partner. We looked a number of possible providers and ended up with MediaMath. Not only did we like their technology platform, but they were invaluable in helping us making the operational transition. Again, you’ve got a tremendous amount of detail and process to get right in order to leverage these new tools – MediaMath helped make that happen.

Drew: Do you have a marketing dashboard?  What advice would you give to a CMO who was looking to develop a dashboard?

We have a series of metrics that that drive the organization.  My advice is easy — keep it connected to the customer and keep it simple.  The amount of data flowing through the typical marketing organization now can lead to overly complex measures.  You want to keep your organization focused on the activities that drive measures — not trying to interpret them.

Drew: How important is it to you and your company to have a strong Corporate Social Responsibility program?  

L.L.Bean has operated on the stakeholder concept for over 100 years.  It is embedded into our culture with responsibilities shared throughout our organization.

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