An Insider’s Look at Driving Change via Marketing

Last Friday, I was in one of my “oh we’ve nailed it” gleeful moods as we contemplated a new business plan to focus on “agents of change.”  Our logic was airtight, or so we thought.  If we could just figure out how to isolate change agents as a personality type via a line of questioning, then we could narrow both the target and our communications approach.  To see if we were on the right track, I called my oldest brother Rick who has studied Myers-Briggs personality types for years as a hobby, with the hope that he could help us with the identification process.

Doh! That’s when I was reminded yet again how wrong I can be. Of course, intuitive inventor-types like me gravitate towards new ideas BUT that doesn’t mean we’re the only ones who can drive change in an organization.  In fact, traditionalists, may not want or seek out change but if shown factual reasons why change is required, they can be especially effective at making change happen in regulated industries like banks or insurance companies.

Which brings me to my interview with Melinda Welsh, CMO of Chase Auto Finance. Although I can’t categorize Melinda into a particular Myers-Briggs quadrant, I can tell you she is very much an agent of change, an approach that garnered her much success at Chase transforming marketing into a profit center and along with that, The CMO Club‘s President’s Circle Award. Read on for details on Melinda’s efforts and stay tuned in the event my brother passes along more humbling insights with his soon to be earned Myers-Briggs certification!


Drew: Tell me about Chase Auto Finance.

Melinda: Sure. A lot of people don’t connect a bank with a car; we certainly do and think that consumers should be thinking about their auto purchase a little differently than they are today – just to make sure they’re getting the best rate and the best kind of loans for their personal situation. It’s really important for us. Today, most auto purchases and financing are happening in the dealer. And we have a huge dealership network; it’s part of what we do. We support a lot of our sales staff in our B2B space;. That’s a really huge, important part of our business. We also recognize that when a consumer sits down in a dealership, they may not be fully aware of what their finance options are and they’re thinking just about their payment. But do they really know what their rate is and are they really educated before they walk in the door?

Drew: But that’s not always the case, right?

Melinda: Exactly, which is why they need talk to their financial institution about it and do their research. We’ve just launched our new end-to-end car buying and financing site, Chase Auto Direct.It helps our customers with finding the car, purchasing, and completing the financing before getting to the dealer. This end-to-end digital car buying experience is pretty progressive – it’s not for everyone, but we believe we should be giving our customers options, particularly those who are comfortable with all-digital experiences.

Drew: How is it going so far?

Melinda: We’re learning a lot, and it’s been really a fascinating ride in terms of marketing. It’s been primarily picked up as a fintech story, which we weren’t expecting. So we are switching gears a bit and thinking about a fintech marketing approach.

Drew: Is there another side of your auto business?

Melinda: Yes. We work with manufacturers including Mazda, Subaru, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Maserati as their private label financing partners. From a marketing perspective, we work really closely with all these manufacturers on co-marketing that helps their brands, which is good for our business as well. So that’s been a really interesting combination of B2B and B2C marketing.

Drew: The role of CMO seems to vary greatly depending on the company and the individual. Some control the customer experience and marketing, others new product development. How much does your role encompass?

Melinda: It’s an interesting discussion around here about if any one department owns the end-to-end customer experience and the answer is no. Today, it’s not as cohesive as it should be and it’s something that we are really working on. We’re developing our roadmap for next year and offering a more consistent end-to-end experience is definitely an opportunity. I see more and more of that coming into marketing, and a more holistic ownership of that customer experience and customer lifecycle.

Drew: What about product development?

Melinda: At Chase product development typically sits in lines of business, which are all my internal clients. Marketing always has a seat at the table for how we would talk to a customer about this new product. This is so important because it really helps, inform what the product ended up being. So I don’t see that moving into marketing, but we’re definitely a critical piece of it.

Drew: What would you consider your proudest accomplishment so far?

Melinda: When I got into this job I had a fantastic CEO who really wanted transformative marketing. She said , “I want you to come here to change things.” When I arrived it was an old-fashioned cost center marketing group, Our shared vision was to change marketing into a profit center, to move it from B2B sales support to B2C, and to be a really big important part of what the Auto executive team is interested in.

Drew: That must have been a big challenge, right?

Melinda: Yes. We had to figure out the types of functions we needed and build a group out. We needed to assess how we’re going to invest in digital and how we’re going to transform things like events, which are still important to our business. And figure out how we’re going to use CRM and connect with our customers. We really took everything to the next level in a relatively short period of time, which is what I was brought into do. I feel like there’s still a lot more to do, but that’s what I’m proud of in this role.

Drew: That’s great. So you came in as a change agent and you succeeded at changing things. What part of this was measurable?

Melinda: The new digital portal is easier to measure than some of our other programs. We can measure that because we are doing a lot of direct marketing tactics to drive people there, and we track what happens. We know for every dollar spent what is needed to get a return, It’s actually quite measurable in that way.

Drew: There must be some other metrics that are tougher to gauge given longer purchase cycles?

Melinda: I think there are especially since we work a lot of the luxury automobile segments. People don’t buy those every day, and they might think about it for a long time before they buy it. So we measure engagement, exposure, and leads in those cases.

Drew: I would imagine that measuring sales and profit would be really important in your role?

Melinda: Of course! We’re a bank and we’re dollars and cents oriented. So that’s the most important way we measure things, honestly. But there is another internal measure that I use which has to do with my colleagues who run businesses. Do they trust marketing? Do they want to invest more funds and in more marketers because they see the value that marketing is adding? If the answer is yes, and they see it as a critical piece of growing their business, then I feel like we’re really succeeding as a marketing organization.

Drew: The overall Chase brand must also be a big help.

Melinda: I think that the strength of the overall Chase brand helps us a lot. One reason I’m extremely lucky to be here is that we don’t have to encourage people to come to our Chase assets. Millions of people come into our branches and visit our website every day. It’s where they do all of their financial activities. So if we put our messages on or in the branch, people read them. And, when they get to our website, they expect something really high quality. So we’re careful about what we put out across all of our businesses. We hope that what they find is something that’s very, very valuable because it has that Chase brand behind it,.

Drew: Do you have any recommendations for your fellow CMO’s to consider trying in 2017?

Melinda: Make sure that you’re still looking at non-digital marketing channels. I know it’s starting to become a buzzword again, but experiential marketing is well worth revisiting. And while some people are doing it well, a lot of people aren’t or they are not sure what to do to scale experiences. People really want something tangible and marketing can provide that. .

Drew: Love that. Renegade’s experiential program for HSBC (the BankCab) ran for 13 years and was actually cost effective. What else would you recommend?

Melinda: I think there’s something really interesting happening with video content within a platform like Facebook. I think advertisers haven’t really caught on to yet to the idea of creating “snackable” content. And it’s not about placing ads, it’s about really delivering content that people are going to be interested in a much different way than what we’ve been talking about for the past couple years.

Drew: Any other recommendations?

Melinda: I would say don’t just fall back on what’s worked before and really think about the next generation. My kids aren’t millennials but take my 11-year old daughter as an example, she does not watch TV! But she’s absolutely glued to video content on her phone, and what she finds interesting and relevant is very, very different than what we’re used to. So don’t ignore the signals and rely on what you’ve done before because there’s a whole new world of marketing and advertising that’s waiting to be tapped that we haven’t figured out quite yet.


How Brands Do Good in School

Both of my older brothers learned to diagram sentences from Mrs. Armitage, an unforgettable 7th grade English teacher at Heinz Kaiser junior high in Costa Mesa, California.  Not I. By the time my turn came around, this diminutive Southern-born chain-smoking firecracker with the gravelly voice that turned a-r-m into “airem,” was already suffering from lung cancer which meant we had a substitute teacher most of that year.  I don’t recall that women’s name but I can point to that class as the time I shoulda coulda woulda learned grammar. Instead, I went through 5 more years of being corrected by my mother, learning what sounded good but never quite nailing the rules of basic sentence structure.  To this day, I still finding myself pondering the use of “me” and “I” or “good” and “well” only to find resolution by speaking them out loud and then imagining my mother’s response!

So you would be totally justified to ask if my headline, “How brands do good in school” is grammatically correct? My mother would have made me change “good” to “well” which is all well and good BUT the “good” here, of course, speaks punnily to all the good things brands are doing in partnership with Discovery Education.  And that my friends is the good story we should be focused on, all dangling prepositions aside.  To do that, let me introduce you to my new good friend Lori McFarling, CMO of Discovery Eduction.  I got to know Lori through her inspiring presentation at the Incite Corporate Marketing Summit and I’m delighted to share part of our preparatory conversation here and now!

Drew: Can you give me a little background on Discovery Education?

Lori: Discovery Education is the leader in digital content for Kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms, serving 4.5 million educators and over 50 million students, and is transforming teaching and learning worldwide with immersive digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional development, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. The educators we partner with integrate our services into teaching and learning in ways that create modern digital learning environments that support the success of all learners. A part of the global media company Discovery Communications, we believe in the power of media to enlighten and educate.

Drew: How does translate into your work with brands?

Lori: We collaborate with Fortune 500 companies, foundations, associations and other organizations to create meaningful standards-based educational content that supports historically underfunded disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), health and wellness, and others. In this way, we are powering our partners to positively impact education on both a national and local scale. It’s really exciting to see these folks coming into the education sector with a genuine desire to serve their communities and to leverage their expertise to support teaching and learning. Improving student outcomes is becoming a meaningful part of many organizations’ brand profile, and we are pleased to help them accomplish their goals in a meaningful way.

Drew: Really interesting. Let’s get a bit more specific.

Lori: Working with our partners, we’ve built innovative programs that help drive authentic engagement, optimizing the school-to-home connection. It’s very grassroots and unique, especially for our brand partners who’ve seen real value by associating their brand to an issue that everybody in the country cares about: education. There are many needs in education today and it’s gratifying to see the private sector step up to support young people with mentorship, project-based learning opportunities and resources in areas that are traditionally underfunded.

Drew: I suspect sports brands would want to partner, right?

Lori: We work with a number of sports brands such as EA Sports, the NFL, the US Tennis Association, the Tiger Woods Foundation and others. For example, with EA Sports/Madden, we created a unique program that leverages the thrill of football to help young people understand core math concepts, revealing the math and science behind the game to engage kids in key concepts that they need to know. In this case, the magic of sports really helped open their minds to math and science.

Drew: Also, I’d imagine a number of brands would want to be involved in the sciences.

Lori: We have great fun collaborating with innovative organizations like 3M, Siemens, Lockheed Martin, Alcoa and others who are passionate about building the next generation of STEM leaders. Those organizations are authentically connecting their brands to efforts to support student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math, and are connecting their efforts to their pipeline & workforce development strategies. By way of example, we have a deep partnership with 3M centered on inspiring young people to use science to solve everyday problems. Through a nationwide middle school competition, the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, we just crowned Maanasa Mendu, America’s Top Young Scientist. She is a 13-year-old who invented a way to use solar and wind energy to create power. How cool is that?

Drew: Let’s dive into the 3M case.

Lori: Sure. 3M’s brand positioning is “Science. Applied to life” and their core focus is the application of science to improve the lives of people around the world. They also look simultaneously at how to build their pipeline of future employees, and are committed to highlighting the importance of innovation and science, and inspiring those traits and interests amongst America’s students. Discovery Education has partnered with them to create the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which is the premier middle school science competition in the country. In this challenge, students compete to win $25,000, but most importantly, they are paired with real-life mentors at 3M over the summer to work on their innovations that, literally, can change the world. We’ve had winners of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge named by Fortune Magazine as Top 30 under 30 for their inventions. Students have been featured on the Ellen Show, Fox & Friends, and ABC Nightly News; they have met the President, as well as presented to members of Congress and more. This kind of earned media supports 3M’s overall brand profile as an organization committed to the use of science to change the world.

Drew: I love this program. What else can you tell me about it?

Lori: 3M has been smart about their consistent investment in education. And it’s paying off not only with the impact they are making in the classroom, but also with those that they’d like to entice as future employees. For the first time, 3M topped the charts as the #1 place millennials consider to be the cool, dream place they’d like to work, according to the 2016 Millennial Career Survey from the National Society of High School Scholars. The marketers at 3M engage millennials and their families in initiatives that they care about.

Drew: What are some of the keys to success when working in your space?

Lori: Bottomline, from a brand perspective, you need to engage with educators authentically, and need to do so in a manner that supports young people everywhere, not just in certain zip codes. Discovery Education provides educators in schools across the country with core curriculum and content that relates to the real-world with tools, resources, and professional learning opportunities that respect their expertise, helps them meet the challenges of their jobs, and celebrates the potential of every child, everywhere. I feel that our intimate knowledge of the education space, and our deep connection to educators, really has driven our success.

Drew: I’d imagine teachers, in particular, are tough gatekeepers.  

Lori: At the end of the day, the measure of our success is based on the success of teachers and students. If they win, we all win. We are excited to see the number of companies that are reaching out to us to have meaningful dialogue about how they can best leverage their organization’s expertise to help support education. We all know that regardless of where you live, providing support, tools and opportunities to our young people is one of the most important things we can do. To that end, yes, educators should have very high expectations for the kind of support that best sets their kids on the path to success. We rely a great deal on our teacher community, which is the largest of its kind. They work day in and day out with our nation’s kids and are very vocal about how corporate America can best partner with them on their important work.

Drew: I’m curious how you designed programs that get actually home to the parents.

Lori: All of the programs that we build with corporate partners are available to students, teachers, families and communities at no cost. They support real needs in the classroom and are implemented and activated through educators. We know that learning continues after the bell rings and that parents and caregivers play a critical role in the learning process, so for the majority of our programs, we create parent and family extensions that are also free of charge. To complete the circle, we utilize a variety of engagement platforms, whether it’s TV, online, social or other, to help build awareness and encourage parents to check out these initiatives.

Drew: How do you encourage your partners to measure the effectiveness of these programs?

Lori: As I said earlier, our first and most important metric is the value that teachers and students place on the program’s impact on youth achievement. Second, each partner has their own unique goals and metrics that are important to them as an organization. We work closely with our partners to crystalize what measurements matter, and then build our initiatives with those in mind. We don’t have a cookie-cutter approach to measurement. Everybody has different KPIs that they look at. The one metric they all share, however, is the desire to connect their brand to meaningfully impacting today’s youth while supporting the success of all learners…and isn’t that the most important measurement of all?

Helping Your Customers is Always a Good Strategy

Waiting in the lounge area for my flight back to New York City on American last week, I overheard a fellow passenger grumble that “I have a zillion upgrade credits but can never use them.”  Having not been upgraded either despite my lifetime Platinum status and early check-in, I thought for a moment about my loyalty to American — why did I keep choosing them? The answer, it turns out, is a melange of actions both on the product and marketing sides:

  • New planes: on its transcontinental flights, AA flies new planes with power at every seat so I can work the whole way if I want;
  • Online booking: speedy process and my Platinum status insures that I get preferential seats without paying extra;
  • App: makes it really easy to check-in and get my electronic boarding pass;
  • Upgrades: every once in a while it really does happen!

None of this had to do with their marketing messages although I will say that @AmericanAir is always responsive to my tweets.  My point here is simple — brands are built on genuine actions (not vacuous promises) that are of meaningful benefit to existing customers.  A prime example of this comes from Suzanne Copeland, CMO of Sterling National Bank, who shares her insights in our interview below (by the way this is just part 1 of our conversation!).  And assuming you enjoy what you read below, feel free to join us at the Incite Group Marketing Summit (October 27-28) where both of us will be speaking.

Drew: Can you provide a quick recap of your career path?

Suzanne: It’s interesting. I didn’t necessarily set out to be in banking per se. Some people start out their careers in financial services and I really didn’t. It’s just a place that I ended up. I actually started my career on the advertising agency side. I got out of college and I was an art director. And I think that’s a good background to have, but it definitely was not my strongest skill set. And so, I moved quickly to the dark side! Later I had an opportunity, my first sort of bigger corporate leadership job, at a medical device manufacturer. Then a bank opportunity in my home town of Memphis opened up and that’s really where I got into banking. I spent quite a bit of time there. And then I was really ready for some new challenges and this opportunity presented itself to come to Sterling in suburban New York and build the marketing discipline.

Drew: Very interesting. I’m curious how being an art director and having worked on the agency side informed your approach to dealing with agency partners.

Suzanne: So this is what they tell me, and I think they are telling me the truth, that actually I’m easier to work with. I may be more demanding, but I also understand how things work on that side of the fence. And so when I give feedback, I understand what it is they need from me to move forward. I’m not the person that says, yeah yeah, what else do you have? I am very demanding, but I think the respect is there simply because I also know where they’re coming from and I help them get there.

Drew: Do you think about your personal brand at all and if so, how would you describe your brand?

Suzanne: I do think having a personal brand is really important. I think that it’s like anything else. You’re interacting with people and how you’re coming across and what you’re like, it definitely influences the outcome of that relationship. So, I do think about that. I’d like to think that my brand is smart, creative and fun. I’d like to think that people think I know what I’m doing, that I have unique perspectives and have unique problem-solving skills, but then I’m still fun to be around!

Drew: I can see that. I’ll credit that to your agency training! Speaking of creativity, you’re now in an industry that isn’t exactly famous for innovative marketing. Do you see banking as a unique marketing challenge?

Suzanne: It does come with some unique challenges. I think it also has some great opportunities associated with it as well. Way back, banks were some of the first companies that actually had in their possession that big data that everyone talks about; it was necessary to do the job, to do the business of banking. And they were among the first to leverage that information for marketing, particularly direct channels. So I’ve had a lot of great direct marketing experience by working for a bank.

Drew: Interesting. So what are some of the other challenges?

Suzanne: I think the biggest challenges are that it is very much a commodity marketplace and it is difficult to differentiate your brand. I think it’s hard to say you’re really doing something that different. I mean being an intermediary for funds, well, there are plenty of companies that do that. Everybody tells you that their customer relationship is better. It’s kind of hard to really tease that out to some specifics that explain exactly how you’re better. And then I think the competitive marketplace is also extremely strong in banking. There are lot of non-bank competitors and they’re making great strides with regard to innovation, which is something that the clients are looking for. So, that’s a challenge too.

Drew: Let’s talk about Sterling and how you have differentiated the bank. 

Suzanne: Well, our business model is probably the stronger driver of what the differentiation is. We’re set up with dedicated commercial teams. Our key target is the commercial middle market client. This is a business that’s pretty big, that’s established, but they’re not large global corporations. Having that one stop shopping, dedicated person that you can go to work with on your finances is important. You have to have a big enough organization that can meet your credit needs that has a sophistication on the deposit side and cash management, but at the same time, you don’t want to be at a huge organization that you’re going to have to find those services on your own throughout their different silos.

Drew: Got it. So how do you communicate that?

Suzanne: One of the things that we did early on is to initiate a content marketing strategy and I think that is a really effective way to engage with this audience. We have been publishing Connect Magazine for over seven years now, and a key feature is that we do client profiles. We have a cover story with a client talking about their business. So, it’s a great value to them. And with that, they do sprinkle in where Sterling has helped them with their business, where we have helped them establish the credit necessary to move into new markets or expand their manufacturing or just manage their cash flows better so they’re more profitable.

Drew: To me, that’s a renegade move. You’re “zigging” to print when everyone else is “zagging” to digital particularly in content marketing.

Suzanne: Well, I think digital is certainly a piece of it and we are taking all the content from the publication and putting it on our new website and making it searchable. This means we have a huge database of information for businesses on how to run their business better. So, we definitely haven’t forgotten about digital, but I still think because everyone else is so focused on it, I think the “zigging” instead of “zagging” is to your benefit to help you stand out. I still get feedback that now what people get in their mail, instead of being overwhelmed and throwing it away, that it’s sort of a novelty especially if it is a quality piece. “Connect” is a beautifully produced magazine. This is a small magazine, but it’s something that you would stop and take a few minutes to look at.

Drew: I bet your customers love seeing their stories in print as opposed to on digital and being able to leave it on the desk and — the waiting desk when people come to see them, look this makes them more impressive and more prestigious.

Suzanne: That’s absolutely correct plus we go the extra mile and we provide a framed article for those clients and they display those in their main conference rooms. Those are not hidden away in the copier room.

Drew: It is interesting to me that so much of the marketing world focuses on straight acquisition — this seems more of an acquisition through retention approach. “Connect” seems very much about making your customers look good, focusing on them with the hope that maybe some new customers will come along–is that a fair characterization of your approach?

Suzanne: I think it is fair, although I would say that the commercial middle market target, like a lot of the B2B type targets, have a longer sales cycle. You’re not just going to send out a piece of mail no matter what it is and then they instantly choose a new bank. There is some relationship building with regard to the prospects and quite frankly most of “Connect” is mailed to prospects and that helps build our brand. But at the same time, it is going to our clients and you’re absolutely right, it is also creating brand ambassadors that will praise our services. So, I think that it works on all those points.

Drew: Are there any brands out there in your category or beyond your category that you admire?

Suzanne: Well, it’s interesting. One of the things is just a personal passion of mine, and in more recent times, is about women in the workforce and really helping to bring women up in their level of position within organizations. I feel that I’ve been fortunate and I’ve taken some steps to give back. I launched the women’s initiative here at Sterling. It’s been a great program, very rewarding. This has caused me to go out and look at activity out in the marketplace and one of the organizations that bubbled up with regard to being a good brand was Catalyst. They’re pretty targeted to working with organizations to help improve their inclusion strategies with regard to females. I’ve been impressed with the communication programs they do, the kind of the content that they’re driving. I found it’s very much in alignment with their message and their mission. And I think they’re doing a good job with it.

Drew: Interesting. Tell me a little bit more about the women’s initiative that you’ve done at the bank.

Suzanne: This is personal passion of mine. I brought this whole concept to the organization and they basically let me run with it. There are a number of ways that you can improve the workplace for women, but I focus on personal and professional development. The program includes networking and topics that help women be stronger within the organization. Each quarter, there’s a different topic. I launch the topic with an overview the first month. The next month, I’ll do a panel discussion with senior women on the topic. And then the third month, I have an in-person mini-conference. It’s two hours long. We have an outside speaker and then do small group workshops.

Drew: Amazing. What topics do you cover?

Suzanne: Back in the first quarter we did executive presence including personal branding. We offer very specific tips, things to do in meetings, things to do when you’re presenting, things that you need to improve your skills in. The second quarter we did moving your career up to the next level. What kinds of things do you have to do to move up? What steps can you take? And then the one we just finished was leadership lessons from extreme environments. This was leadership lessons that come out of climbing Mount Everest and crossing the North and South Poles. Interesting, the analogies there between what it takes to do that and the leadership skills that you need in an organization. So, it’s been fun.

Behind the Scenes with Hamilton & BNY Mellon

As a marketer, it’s not often that you meet upon perfectly aligned opportunities. The ones in which you can directly connect your brand story to something that is trending in the world, something that is relevant and of interest to your audience. The first step is identifying this moment; the second, and trickier of the two, is knowing how to use this to propel your brand. Only the most skilled of marketers are able to accomplish this feat, and one such person is Aniko Delaney, Global Head of Corporate Marketing at BNY Mellon. I spoke with Aniko to hear how she and her team successfully jumped on the opportunity of a lifetime when the bank’s founder, Alexander Hamilton, was thrust back into the limelight with the release of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical.  I also learned how Aniko and the BNY Mellon marketing team use new technology, social media, and their agency partner to keep their 232-year-old company current. (By the way, if you’d like to hear Aniko cover this program in more detail, join us at the Incite Group Marketing Summit October 27-28 at the Brooklyn Marriott.)

Drew: When did you become the Head of Corporate Marketing?

Aniko: Two years ago. It was a wonderful opportunity because I have a broad view of BNY Mellon, having been the head of marketing for six of our different businesses. It really gave me the chance to dig deeper into the businesses and get to know our clients and target markets. And again, now in this corporate role, it affords me a very unique perspective. So it’s been fun to have that.

Drew: Tell me about the campaign that has been nicknamed the “Hamilton” campaign.

Aniko: We affectionately call it the Hamilton campaign, but we officially call it our ‘Invested In Our Legacy’ campaign. As long as I’ve been at the company, we’ve always celebrated our founder Alexander Hamilton and his pioneering and innovative spirit. What’s been amazing is to see how Ron Chernow’s impressive book, Hamilton, inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal Broadway show that has now led to a celebration of one of the lesser known founding fathers of our nation and the founder of The Bank of New York. 

Drew: From a strategy standpoint, was it opportunistic that this show came along? Were you able to hop on this crescendo of interest or were there other aspects that helped to expand the perceptions of the bank?

Aniko: We continue to build upon our strong brand, as a respected and trusted organization. But what we’ve been trying to do over the past several years is modernize our brandaSo it’s been a great chance to leverage the Hamilton phenomenon and evolve our message in a much more relatable way that is also digital and social media friendly. It has been this amazing opportunity to really use fun creative, create ‘snackable’ content and develop a multimedia campaign. 

Drew: How do you make something that is old – 232 years old – fresh and current?

Aniko: We have had some great times working with our wonderfully creative agencies to really bring our story to life. What we’ve done is celebrate our 232 years of innovative and pioneering spirit with a multimedia campaign.. So for instance, in our archives we have beautiful handwritten ledgers with client names in it like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Some of the client’s names are memorialised on street signs across Manhattan. However, today, the discussion that we have in some of our innovation centers is around Blockchain, which is a distributed ledger. It’s all about the new technology and exploring its potential for our industry.

Drew: How did you use digital and social to be more engaging and fun, which is very unusual for a bank?

Aniko: In imagining what our social campaign could be, we’re trying to have a lot of great educational content and activate it in creative ways. For example, in 1789, we were the first to make a loan to the U.S. government. Today, we service and offer investment management capabilities to 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. We can take these short messages and package them for use in the social media arena. We kicked off our campaign back on June 9th when we celebrated our 232nd anniversary with unique LinkedIn and Facebook posts We rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and tweeted the video and shared that we were the first stock to be traded on the exchange.That was followed just a week later with animated gifs during the Tony Awards, then more on Father’s Day to celebrate our founding father. We were able to enter conversations that we normally wouldn’t have before

Drew: How exciting was it when Hamilton practically swept the Tony’s? That must have been a wonderful moment.

Aniko: Our whole team has been just amazed with this great opportunity to celebrate Hamilton – the man, the book, the show. We had a lot of fun working with our agencies to come up with some very creative social media content. My favorite was: “Lin-Manuel gets a Tony for Best Book! Much-deserved, tho at a mere 20,000 words, I call it a pamphlet. A.Hamilton” Hamilton was such a prolific writer, so can you imagine him trying to tweet?

Drew: Your CEO might look at Twitter and say, “My Fortune 1000 customers are not exactly looking at our Twitter stream. Why is it important as 232-year-old bank for you to be on these social channels?”

Aniko: I think social media is incredibly important for raising our brand visibility in the digital arena. Gerald Hassell, our chairman and CEO, is an Influencer on LinkedIn, so he really has set the bar very high for our company. It’s very important to reach out to our diverse constituents in channels that they use.

Drew: Can you tell me a bit about some of the other campaign components?

Aniko: One of the things we’re really excited about is our sponsorship of PBS/WNET’s documentary – ‘Hamilton’s America.’ It explores the making of the Broadway show and includes footage of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show, as well as a variety of interviews. It really brings to life not only the story of the show, but also the story of Alexander Hamilton.. We have two TV spots that bookend the documentary and use fantastic creative to tell our story in just 15 seconds each, as well as a series of videos for our website and social media channels.

Drew: How do you measure the impact of an integrated campaign such as this one?

Aniko: We have our standard KPIs, and are zoning in on the analytics and really use the insights to adjust the campaign after seeing what content is resonating. And we’ve seen double and triple digit increases in engagement and awareness on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook!.

Drew: Can you give us a preview of the kinds of things we might expect to see in 2017?

Aniko: The marketing teams have really rallied behind this concept. What we’re trying to do is think of new ways to activate it in the digital arena. We’re even exploring augmented reality. We set the year-long campaign so that we have a really good yardstick to measure against. But again, this is a theme we’ve been using as long as I’ve been with the company. Now, we’re just able to tell the story in a much more engaging way.

Drew: If you were speaking to CMOs or aspiring CMOs, what would you say were some of the key lessons learned in terms of managing a campaign like this?

Aniko: I think it’s important to have a unique and authentic story that represents your brand. More and more, especially with social media channels, we have to be really careful to make sure the content is educational and meaningful, but then have some fun with the creative. The other thing is to think outside the box, think about unexpected conversations to join and make your brand relevant in unexpected and delightful ways.

Drew: We do a lot of content marketing programs here at Renegade and our emphasis is always on quality versus quantity because there is so much content out there. Certainly, Hamilton created a unique opportunity for you, but I applaud you for taking it a few steps further with help from TBWA Chiat/Day. 

Aniko: I have to give credit to our agencies. We gave them creative license by saying, “Look, we have this great opportunity, let’s share our brand in unique and special ways.” It’s been just an incredible chance to make a difference for the brand and really bring it to life in ways that we would not have only acouple of years ago.

Drew: What was the biggest surprise you encountered in carrying out this campaign?

Aniko: I have to say the biggest surprises were the engagement rates, both internally and externally. The content resonated and I think it’s more than just how cool Hamilton has become, but it’s the person he was. He was truly insightful and innovative, but he also got things done. He was an implementer. I think he’s been so inspiring to many and having that special connection has inspired our employees, clients, and other constituents to be really proud of the company that Hamilton founded

Drew: Oftentimes marketing is just thought of as an external activity, but it does really need to permeate the organization. How do you make sure your marketing is external as well as internal?

Aniko: We work with our internal communications team, and we’re able to really bring the story to life internally. The key goal is to inspire pride among our 50,000 employees. Each one of us should be an avid brand ambassador and share how we are continuing to drive the pioneering spirit of our founder, Alexander Hamilton.

Keeping the Customer Front and Center

water skiing crash bigGripping tightly to the lifeless plastic handle I could only muster a fainthearted “hit it” to the speedboat skipper 50 feet away. This was to be my third and final attempt to rise above my skis and frankly I was already drained and shivering. The first effort had ended in a face plant with skis scattered across the surface like an old-fashioned yard sale. The second was only slightly less ugly. My already formulated excuse was going to be that the boat was too weighed down with passengers to yank my sad ass above the surface. Fortunately, the third time was the charm as I kept my weight back as instructed and let the skis do their magic. Once elevated, I hurled myself out of the wake regaining some semblance of the athletic confidence I usually take for granted and romped around the lake like a champ.

Had you not seen my false starts or heard any of the coaching I received before liftoff, you might have thought it was just another effortless and solitary accomplishment by an experienced (read middle aged) jock.  [Stay with me now as I deftly transition to the real story here!] This is not unlike the experience most of us have when seeing a finished product or a successful marketing campaign. Typically, we don’t bother to ask about the team behind the product or about any of the missteps along the way. As consumers, we take all that for granted as we should. But as marketers, we can’t afford such incuriousness. We have to go deeper. We must look under the surface. We must understand the process behind the success.
And yes, that’s exactly what I did during a recent conversation with Kieran Hannon, the CMO of Belkin, the makers of Belkin, Linksys and Wemo products. Kieran, as you may remember is featured in my book, The CMO’s Periodic Table under the element “Storytelling.”  This time we went even deeper, covering his impressive three-year plan, Belkin’s inclusive product development process, influencer marketing and more. While Kieran appears not to have had too many wipeouts along the way, what you will discover is a marketer whose seemingly effortless glide is wholly the result of determination, collaboration and well earned experience.

Drew: One of the things that you mentioned to me was your three-year plan. Where are you on that plan, and how is it coming along?

Kieran: We’re now going into year four. Year 1 was focused on the organization itself. It was aimed at educating our marketing teams across the globe, helping them understand their roles, the needs in the markets, and the priorities of the company. Essentially, Year 1 was building a team that could deliver global marketing programs and lead that development. Year 2 was aimed at aligning the region and the corporate goals because we were decentralized at that point. In Year 2, the global marketing teams were supporting all three brands. Some of the team members were dedicated to a brand but in a lot of other respects, the teams worked across multiple brands. For instance, the CRM team has worked across all brands. Now, CRM is embedded into each brand, they are in control of their own destiny and their needs as a great example. Additionally, we had designers sitting in 11 different functional groups around the world. Now, all designers are in one group in each brand, so there is a single management structure for each brand. Those are just a few examples of streamlining, and bringing focus and prioritization around the world.

Drew: What was the result of this plan?

Kieran: As a premium brand, Belkin is doing very well in a somewhat commoditized market. Our focus on highly differentiated products and experiences is making a big difference. For example, when you travel you’ll see Belkin in all the Hudson News stores around the US and around the world. For Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Hudson came to us and asked if they could build a Belkin store because travelers find the brand so compelling.

At CES, one of our products, the Valet Charge Dock for the Apple watch and iPhone was voted Best in Show. That’s another example of the design innovation Belkin is reknowed for — and it’s been a tremendous success.

Drew: Let’s talk about product innovation and marketing and where product development sits relative to marketing. How do you ensure that there’s a marketing idea built into the product?

Kieran: Sure. Let me tell you about ScreenCare +, a new applicator system that we launched in all Apple stores. That is not just a product; it’s an experience. The product management team, the industrial design teams and the marketing teams worked very closely in the development of that program from embedded testing to the testing of different formats for training of store specialists. We have what’s called our “E2” planning processes with different gates and as a product goes from formation into development, marketing and other groups provide input and feedback. This insures alignment throughout our exciting and rewarding process.

Drew: It really is amazing how Wi-Fi is at the center of everything, the enabler of the Internet of Things.

Kieran: It’s such a key enabler. A lot of people have so many devices at home, they don’t realize they’re probably sitting there with a three or four-year-old Wi-Fi router and it’s wrecking the experience of these great devices that they bought. What’s worse than when you want to go online in the evening with your family to stream a movie, and all you see is buffering? A lot of the issues are because you have an old router and there are another ten devices connected to the Wi-Fi that are impeding the ability to deliver that signal. To help our customers have a better experience, you can now prioritize within the Linksys system your Netflix streaming device and de-prioritize other devices.

Drew: How are you incorporating influencer marketing into your overall strategy?

Kieran: We’ve done a number of influencer programs over the years and they’re very target based. We spend a lot of time ensuring that we get the right type of influencers that can really amplify our cause. Importantly, we let them drive the project. We just want our influencers to express their feelings about the brand, the products and the experience in a way that’s most meaningful to them. Full transparency is pretty critical and we’ve been very pleased with every influencer program we’ve done.

Drew: What are the pitfalls of influencer program?

Kieran: I think the fundamental pitfall is trivialization, either trivializing the audience or trivializing the role the product plays. It doesn’t mean that you heighten the role of the product in that experience but you don’t want to trivialize it either. So, I think it’s best to be authentic throughout the partnership.

Drew:  I think one of the challenges clients encounter is evaluating the success of influencer programs relative to other activities. How do you evaluate these programs?

Kieran: It’s the crossover between paid and earned media that’s really powerful and puts the icing on the cake. We have both consumers and retail partners as our audience, and how they talk about and relate to our brands is very important. We think about that as we build up these influencer programs.

Drew: As a company that introduces innovative products and services, how do you make sure your media and your marketing is innovative? Is the medium the message sometimes?

Kieran: Oh, absolutely. I’ll give you an example. A great program that we do with Hulu is at the point of buffering, we deliver a message to people that you don’t have to have that experience – you just need a more powerful router. So, the medium can absolutely be the message. On the Belkin side, we’ve done some great programs with other mobile platforms that really bring to life what you’re doing at that moment in time. So yes, the medium is equally important as the message in a lot of cases.

Drew: The geo-fencing program you did is particularly innovative. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Kieran: Yes, we are doing an interesting program with geo-fencing where we understand when the consumer is in the proximity of a retail partner and we can share with them the relevant personal message to that proximity.

Note: This is part 1 of my interview with Belkin’s Kieran Hannon, part 2 will appear on Social Media Explorer soon.