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

Is Mark Hanna the Tom Brady of CSR?



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

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

Drew: How do you define Corporate Social Responsibility?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We set strategic goals for our Sustainability/CSR initiatives:

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

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

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

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

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

Wake Up and Smell Your Network


Emmanuel LarocheAs it happens, today I had the pleasure of catching up with 15 people I worked with during the 1980’s at JWT.  A couple of the folks there I hadn’t seen in three decades though it didn’t take much time to close the gap.  As a whole, this was not a shy bunch — Thompson (as we called it back then) didn’t really attract many wallflowers.  And though several had found new careers outside of marketing, nearly half of us are still fighting the good fight either at agencies or on the client side.

Having covered our families and current events, discussion turned to the challenges of being a modern marketer.  At that moment, I thought about the collective wisdom, the incredible talent and associated power of this little network. No doubt this was a special group and several us vowed to get back in touch right after the holidays.  Would we help each other personally or professionally if we could?  No doubt.  Would we make the time to keep the lines of communication fresh in 2016?  Aye, there’s the rub.  It takes a genuine commitment to maintain a network.

And now that you know how I spent my lunch hour, I want to introduce you to Emmanuel Laroche, CMO at Symrise, “globally recognized as a leading provider of fragrances, flavors, active ingredients and aroma chemicals.” Emmanuel and I met about five years ago through The CMO Club and I got to know him better when I wrote about his online community for  Since then I have seen him at several events and wasn’t at all surprise when he won The CMO President’s Circle Award which “recognizes a marketing executive’s demonstrated dedication to the mission of the CMO Club by building relationships with peer members, collaborating and sharing with members and helping new CMOs to benefit from the peer-based community conversations.”  Emmanuel is definitely a guy who can teach you a thing or two about the “give to get” nature of networking.

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

I believe this is one critical aspect in business and in life in general which is often overlooked especially in the early stages of most carrier. I remember focusing on my education background and developing a rich professional experience were my main priorities. Now I spend time with my team members, with the new graduates interns and even with my children to encourage them to network early on.  Funny enough I offer regularly the “Little Black Book of Connection” to every millennial I meet in business to emphasize the importance of building your network early on.

In 2015 I have reached out several times to my connections within THE CMO Club to extend my network to new members, to “use” them as soundboard in projects, for new hire or best practices especially as it relates to relationships with the members of the C-suite.

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

I created real friendships throughout the years from business networking.

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

I am trying as much as I can to reach out to five different people in my network every 3 weeks.

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

True networking is about “give” and “take”. You need to give first if you want to receive. Correct?  It is fun and it feels nice to give. I do not keep mental scorecard at all.

Drew: As you look back on your career, what was the biggest risk you took that worked and what emboldened you to take that risk?  

Probably in 2001 when I played the American Lottery to get my visa without having any job opportunity. I was one of the lucky one as my name was selected and I had then a six months window to enter the country.  Symrise understood my Life project and supported me in my business move to come from France to the US. It was a risk but I took the right decision 13 years ago!

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

To slow down time and to be able to meet new inspiring people and to discover places I haven’t been to. As travel is the only thing you buy that make you richer. Once a year go somewhere you never been before!

Forget Mentors, Get Sponsors says CMO Sydney Seiger



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CMO Benjamin Karsch on Revlon’s Lovely “Love is On” Campaign


Benjamin KarschAdmittedly, I’m a biased blogger.  I love big ideas.  And I am more than happy to celebrate big ideas even if my agency had no hand in creating them. Think of it as a form of largesse.  Or jealousy.  Either way, Revlon’s “Love is On” campaign meets all of my criteria for a big idea:

      1) It’s emotional.  What’s more emotional than love?

2) It’s relevant.  One can certainly find an inherent connection between being attractive and the pursuit of love.

3) It works on multiple channels. This is perhaps the strongest argument for the beauty of this campaign. Lots of campaign ideas work well in advertising. But few translate equally well into social media. (If you run into me at a cocktail party, be sure to ask me about two national ad campaigns that were disasters on social media!) And fewer still can naturally integrate a charitable component.

So, yes, I love the “Love is On” campaign and it was my great pleasure to catch up with Benjamin Karsch as a result of his winning the Content Marketing Award from The CMO Club and find out the lovely story behind the campaign.

Drew: I’m a big fan of your “Love is On” campaign.  Can you talk about the overall strategic thinking behind this initiative?

Revlon’s CEO Lorenzo Delpani believes that we must have an emotional connection with our consumers and that truly is the DNA of LOVE IS ON:  it grows right out of the name Revlon.

Literally, L-O-V-E – those letters can be found at the heart of the word REVLON.  And O-N, those letters are at the end of the word REVLON.  LOVE IS ON is a mission of inspiring LOVE, the most powerful, positive human emotion and most powerful motivator. From the moment she puts on her makeup, we want our customer to enter the world of LOVE, where emotion, positivity and affection fill her heart.

Drew note: Another admission. I made a music video in the 80’s (very under the radar with friends as actors) to Robert Palmer’s song Addicted to Love which required me to listen to the song over 100 times. The result is Pavlovian now –whenever I hear the song, even if performed by another signer, I remember one of the most fun, truly lovely summers of my life that included meeting my future wife. 

Drew: The “Love is On” microsite is filled with lots of “lovely” content.  Can you talk about some of the elements (horoscopes, dating advice, video series, sweepstakes) and how these are working for the brand?

We have a number of unique and innovative initiatives supporting LOVE IS ON, speaking to women no matter at what stage of love they are – looking for love, falling in love or staying in love. We partnered with Refinery 29 to create Love Horoscopes, leveraging the insight that this type of content is some of the most engaging on their site.   And to speak to women who are looking for love, we created a digital series in partnership with Cosmopolitan and Kristin Cavallari , where dating and beauty advice were provided and engaging stories were shared.   We also created a “Dream Wedding” with Brides magazine, asking consumers to help us plan a special wedding for a very deserving couple.  Most recently, we launched the viral video “Love Test,” which empowers women to leverage a simple daily beauty ritual to choose love and improve their love lives.

Drew: “Love is On” also includes a charitable component the Million Dollar Challenge.  Can you talk about the thinking behind having a charitable component and how that is working thus far?

We were looking for a different, more innovative and modern way of fundraising and felt the new philanthropic platform of an online fundraising challenge to be attractive for two reasons: it allows us to give more directly to charities, and thereby contributing more funds, and it also allows us to expand our charitable reach beyond people located in just NY or LA.  And we did just that: charities from all over the country got involved—in a major way—and it was really exciting watching them embrace the spirit of competition, right down to the last few minutes!  The women’s health charities raised $2.75 million, with Revlon donating an additional $1.425 million over the course of the challenge for a total distribution of $4.18 million.

Drew: And of course, “Love is On” has a social component featuring Instagram pictures of lovers. Can you talk about the role social media plays in your overall strategy and how it is working so far?  Any surprises?

Social media – across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – has played an integral role in engaging our consumers with the LOVE IS ON messaging. We asked consumers to “Show us how you love #loveison” and the surprise has been the overwhelming response. Consumers have engaged with us in droves – we have received over 5MM submissions using the hashtag from consumers around the world. We have been able to push that content back out on our social platforms, as well as onto our billboard in Times Square.

Drew: “Love is On” is also the name of new fragrance. Was that always the plan to have a fragrance with the same name as your marketing campaign?Also I understand that you are targeting travel retail with this product — did that necessitate a new approach to either your marketing or your content?

Yes, naming our first fragrance in over 10 years after our brand mission, LOVE IS ON, was always the plan. You see, LOVE IS ON is not just a marketing campaign – it’s a mission, a movement and it’s in everything we do.  Therefore, it only made sense for us the name to continue the message in our latest fragrance.  Formulated to inspire love and intimacy, LOVE IS ON is the fragrance that is loved by women, and irresistible to men.  And we are excited to offer LOVE IS ON eau de toilette in not only travel retail but across all of our usual channels.

CMO Lisa Woodard on the Benefits of Networking


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Neiman Marcus Burnishes its Reputation



Even if you don’t shop at Neiman Marcus, chances are you know them by reputation.  They are just one of those unique brands that manage to stay top of mind, remaining known for outstanding service and outlandish inventory.  Talking with their CMO of six years, Wanda Gierhart, it is clear that this reputation is neither an accident nor a presumption–it is something that must be continually earned and reinforced with new actions on multiple fronts.

For example, Neiman installed Memory Mirrors in dressing rooms to transform the shopping experience, making it more fun and more social. Neiman was also quick to embrace e-commerce, an area other brick & mortar retailers ignored early on. Remarkably, e-commerce now accounts for over 1/4 of Neiman’s sales.  Not surprisingly, Neiman also has a robust content marketing program including a blog, lots of social sharing (#NMMakeSomeNoise) and its legendary catalogs, a program that garnered the Content Engagement Award from The CMO Club.

In our interview below, you’ll notice a profound focus on the customer and the experience they have with Neiman whether in-store, on a desktop or on a mobile device.  Neiman customers would have it no other way.  Would yours?

Drew: I have read that Neiman Marcus is using personalized marketing to drive sales, with mobile being a large part of this effort. How successful have your efforts been to date in this area? 
Some of our largest successes have been in personalizing product recommendations, personalized search, and email personalization.  While we continue to experiment across all platforms and numerous personalization techniques, in general what has worked best in personalization for desktop, is also working the best in mobile after customizing the experience to the needs of the smaller screen.

Drew: Can you talk about the Memory Mirror and how that is having an impact on not just the shopping experience but also social sharing?
Superior customer service starts with a great overall experience. The Memory Mirror allows our customers to capture a variety of still and video images that can be shared with friends and allow the customer to see how an outfit looks front and back and while moving.  The initial reaction has been very positive and we are currently rolling out to additional stores.  We have had so much demand for the mirror that we added it as a fantasy gift this year.

Drew: I read on Forbes that e-commerce now accounts for 26% of revenue.  For a historically brick and mortar chain, that’s really amazing.  To what do you attribute this success and how is that effecting your overall marketing approach?
Early on we recognized the importance of e-commerce and invested heavily there.  We continue to focus on e-commerce/mobile as an area of strategic investment. Our primary objective remains delivering the best shopping experience for our customer regardless of the platform.  We mean to make the experience as seamless as possible for the Neiman Marcus shopper whether it is in store, online or on a mobile device.

Drew: Is there any division between your content marketing strategy and your merchandising strategy? By that I mean, unlike in other categories, your products could be considered your content and your customers might browse your catalogs recreationally the way I might look at a travel magazine.  
We’ve always felt that content was important, we invest significant time in telling the story of our products and the trends we see in the marketplace to our customers through our magazine – the Book, our emails and our blog. We continually look for additional ways to tell this story and see more opportunity in the digital space to extend through our social channels and a larger content hub. We know our customers celebrate their achievements in life with luxury purchase milestones; so continuing to educate customers on our amazing brands and their products is essential.

Drew: So many brands have started cranking out content. How do you make sure your content really stands out from the pack?  Is there such a thing as too much content?
There has to be a balance. Our customers are busy and we need to make sure our content is sharply edited and always inspires and provides a value. We use our unique access to designers to provide a view inside fashion that few get to see. Additionally, with our Make Some Noise platform we are focusing content on bold women with bold voices – finding new ways to inspire our customers through these women’s contributions…

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 
Would love to unlock the mobile experience for our customer and drive higher conversion.

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