Marketing Clean Water, A Career Journey

My son asked me the other day, “Which superpower would you prefer Dad, teleporting or flying?”  I knew my answer right away but I was surprised when he told me most of his friends choose the other option.  As it turns out, these folks just want to get to where they want to go which makes the idea of teleporting extremely appealing. But for me, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey and I can think of nothing cooler than the ability to fly (without a plane) a la Superman. It’s no wonder that I risk life and limb daily riding a Citibike all over Manhattan rather than taking the seemingly safer and slower subway.

Today you, my loyal readers, have just such a choice. You can spend a little time meeting Snehal Desai and getting to know his career path from college to becoming the Global Business Director for Dow Water and Process Solutions.  Or you can teleport directly to Part 2 of this interview in which we cover how Dow Water approaches consultative selling, stays relevant with an ever growing user base and is working to help solve water issues around the globe. As the old knight suggests, “choose wisely.”


Drew: Can you tell me about your career at Dow and how you got to where you are today?

Snehal: I work for Dow Water & Process Solutions, a division of Dow Chemical. I’m currently the Global Business Director. My background has always been sales and marketing, although I’m trained as a chemical engineer and chemist.

Drew: I imagine the combination of a chemical background and a degree in business was very appealing to Dow. Are there other members of the Dow team with similar backgrounds?

Snehal: Increasingly. When I joined the company, I was an engineer, and then I went straight into selling. It wasn’t until a few years later that I actually went back and got my MBA at Northwestern. It was a bit of a reinvestment in myself, after I realized that I was going to stay on the business side. Today, more than ever, there is a convergence of business and technology so having an MBA ends up being pretty important. We hire a lot of people on the selling and marketing side who are either business or technical-minded; in some cases, they have both.

Drew: How was it working towards your MBA while working full-time at Dow?

Snehal: While I was selling, I was living in Chicago and that gave me an opportunity to attend Northwestern. I then moved from a selling role into a marketing role right after I graduated. I spent about 16 years in Dow between selling, marketing, new business development, and working with a host of other science and technology platforms. I should also note that Dow gets into almost every industry. We support packaging, agriculture, and cosmetics. There are a lot of things that our technologies fall into, but my background has primarily been in the water space.

Drew: And you have been with Dow Water ever since?

Snehal: No. Right around my 16th year, I decided to try something different so I left Dow and went to work in two start-up technology companies. After seven years, I realized you need a lot of money and patience if you want to get involved in clean tech and sustainability. After coming to that realization, I actually returned to Dow as the Marketing Director for the water business, which is where I first started in the company back in 1987. I took on the general manager/business director role for Dow Water Process Solutions.

Drew: What does being Global Business Director for Dow Water and Process Solutions entail?

Snehal: I have the P&L responsibility for our global business. We are very focused on advanced separation and purification technologies that are utilized to clean water, and a host of other process streams. We have a global operation, roughly a billion dollars in revenue, 1,700 employees, 10 manufacturing sites, and several research centers. With all of that you have to operate profitably, reinvesting in people and in resources.


Drew: Can you talk a little bit about what consultative selling means?

Snehal: In consultative selling, you’re focused on customer problems and how you might be able to help them find solutions. In the water industry, it’s around having reliable operations. If you’re a water chemist, a power plant or microchip plant manager, and you’re putting out the next iPhone, the last thing you can afford is having your water system go down while you’re in the middle of production. What that really comes down to is being able to help that operator make his system the most reliable.

Drew: So the customer is the focus here. How do you develop a relationship with the Dow customer?

Snehal: For instance, when you have a conversation with a customer, you might catch them in year 1 of their product’s 7-year life, or you might catch them earlier. The bottom line is that you want to keep a relationship with them over the lifetime of that product so that they can get optimal use out of the technology.

Drew: Can consumers expect a call towards the end of the product lifespan?

Snehal: You just touched on one of our main business issues right now. In the early days, we could call many of our customers, and have a very intimate conversation about when it is time for them to change their products. However, we’ve gone from hundreds of customers to tens of thousands of installations. Now, we’re talking about how to integrate digital in a way that allows us to maintain some of that intimacy.

Drew: I’m sure that Dow being a global company makes the challenge even harder.

Snehal: Definitely. The business challenge right now is scaling this intimate consultative model in a manner that allows us to get not only to the thousands of installations. It’s also dealing with the brand becoming more global today than it was 20 years ago. I used to be able to do all my business in English, but now I can’t. Can I do all my business in my time zone? No. Oftentimes, what we’re finding is that many of our clients are doing what all of us do, which is going to the web first.

Drew: How are you dealing with this move to digital? Do you have customer service team active online?

Snehal: Our customers really try to help themselves before they really want to talk to anybody. So now, we have to make those tools and some of that decision-making information available to them online. Additionally, we have very smart people contact them and walk them through their issue.

Drew: How do you make sure that when you are consulting that you are acting as a truth broker and not solely promoting your brand?

Snehal: To be honest with you, sometimes I would prefer if our folks were the kind of people who understand how they could solve the whole problem without technologies. But oftentimes, we have people that are very close to the problem that they’re trying to solve. For instance, you could use ultrafiltration followed by reverse osmosis to purify unclean water. But the fact of the matter is that if the water isn’t that bad in the front end, you might not need ultrafiltration. In that case, we’re not going to recommend that process. Instead, we’re going to tell you, “Here is the trade off. Here is what you get if you did it but that’s going to cost you.” A lot of times there is no reason to advocate for anything other than one piece of the puzzle because it’s the only one that is needed.

Drew: What role does brand play in the selection of these replacements parts for Dow Water?

Snehal: It plays a big role because, as I said at the beginning, we pride ourselves on reliability and trust. I think that’s fundamentally what people in our business are seeking; they want to trust what they’re about to rely on to produce their water. We spend a lot of time showing how our products are working around the world. Doing this in our 35 years of business has resulted in a large amount of repeat buyers. The Dow brand isn’t necessarily just a product. It’s also the people, it’s the reliability, and it’s the warranty.

Drew: How do you battle staying both trusted and current?

Snehal: Over the years, we’ve done a nice job finding the early adopters that are willing to embrace a change in scheme, a new operating technology, or are willing to partner with us to deploy it. We really cultivate references all over the world and then push the technology. Competition in the marketplace also drives us to continue improving and innovating.

Drew: I know Dow is doing a working to help ease the water crisis in Southern California. What measures do you take to stay up to date on the issue?

Snehal: I’ve spent more time in the last year-and-a-half in conferences that you wouldn’t think that Dow would be a part of. It’s part of a conversation that says, “Here are all the things we can do. Here is what your role could be. Here is what Dow’s role is in helping us get to that outcome.” We’ve also joined a few advocacy groups like the Value of Water Coalition, which aims to answer a few questions: “What are we doing to invest in your water infrastructure? Do you know that we are severely underfunded? Do you know that before you put the road over the top of the water pipe, maybe you should fix the water pipe?”

Drew: How is Dow addressing the lack of water from a marketing standpoint?

Snehal: We’re really focused on this concept of courageous collaboration. That focus requires us to engage with a variety of stakeholders to get this topic on the table because it’s not a problem everywhere. In those places where it’s a burning question, we want to be a part of the conversation. Our technologies may or may not fit at that moment, but we’re at least informing the dialog.

Drew: Courageous collaboration is a very interesting term. What does the courage part of that phrase mean?

Snehal: We are challenged with engaging with people who may not always share the same point of view. But if you listen, you have a chance of finding out that you have a lot more in common than you thought. I think that the courageous part of it is being willing to engage with people that we wouldn’t traditionally think of as natural customers. It’s thinking about your ecosystem in a much broader way, and then acting as a speaker and a listener in that conversation.

Drew: How do you approach change?

Snehal: There was a period of time when to do something different would have been seen as very risky, “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?” But I find that even if there isn’t a better way to do something, there is always another way. It doesn’t have to be big bets, but the important questions are “What do you choose to experiment on? What do you choose to pilot?” I’ll tell you that over the last 18 months, I’ve spent more time in non-traditional venues which allowed me to see things that I might not have seen if I went to the usual places.

Drew: Can you tell me about the Water Academy series?

Snehal: It’s a resource for the new class of water engineers and water treatment professionals. We have traditionally built that content around the North America or the Western European market. Now, we have so many people from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America that are joining. We provide people with information on how to best pick and maintain systems, how to design, etc. We provide all this content through video, and we do Q&As through our LinkedIn community page.

Drew: Is all of the Water Academy content available via mobile?

Snehal: Absolutely, it’s important to think about making the content bite-sized, and highlighting the most important information. That’s very different than a two-hour seminar on everything you need to know.

Drew: On the homepage of your website, there is a search bar that says, “What can we help you find?” Is that a relatively new thing that you’ve added?

Snehal: People come to us for what they know they need, but there could be a lot of things we could do for them. If a person had a big question about something related to water, even though that may not be something that we do, we can direct them to a sister division, or a customer that does it.

Drew: Have you thought about adding a feature that can identify new customers?

Snehal: It’s definitely part of our thought process. We’re looking to use technology and interface with individuals on our team to personalize experiences and help people more easily find what they’re looking for.

Drew: Are you incorporating social listening into your research and if so how?

Snehal: We did two pilots in social listening, in which we focused on a topic in a region of the world to see what we would find. It was pretty fascinating because residential water treatments or point of use water treatment is a big trend in India. We ran an experiment with a provider to do social listening to see what people were talking about, particularly on the consumer side. We found that there was a lot of conversation going on around the topic of water and home water treatment.

Drew: How are you using social platforms for social listening?

Snehal: We’re looking more on LinkedIn and forums where people are asking each other questions. We’re experimenting where we can, and we find a lot of it is relevant to us so we’re just keeping our eyes open.

How BBVA Compass Banks on Purpose Branding

When you think of banks, or any financial institution for that matter, I doubt you are overcome with heartwarming images of improved welfare and social care.  Unless you’re among the few that have had a warm and fuzzy experience, most likely your relationship with your bank is mainly transactional — a deposit made here or statement issued there.  Interestingly, there is at least one bank out there that would like you to like them less for their transactional prowess and more for their commitment to “bringing the age of opportunity to everyone.”  

That bank is BBVA Compass and the campaign that got my attention is called “Banking on a Brighter Future,” a purpose-driven program introduced
by their Chief Marketing and Digital Sales Officer Jennifer Dominiquini.  I’ve known Jennifer through The CMO Club for several years and was delighted when we finally had a chance to talk about purpose-branding and the organizational commitment required to make it real.  Jennifer, as you will soon see, is not one to just talk the talk.  She also walks the walk or more precisely rides the ride, having just completed a 500-mile bike trip for a charity that was also a BBVA customer.  So yes, her commitment to living bright and giving a chance for others to do the same is something you can bank on!

Note: this is a lengthy interview but I decided not to break it up into 2 posts because frankly if you are interested in how to activate effectively against your brand purpose, you’ll want to read every last word.  

Drew: Can you take me back to when you became a purpose-driven organization and the process that you went through to determine your purpose?

Jennifer: Since its founding in 1857, this company has believed its corporate purpose should be about creating a better future for people. Recently, our Chairman and our CEO realized that we needed to make it more explicit that we are a purpose-driven organization, and so last year we set out to do just that by specifically stating that our purpose is to bring the age of opportunity to everyone.

The company overall is very inclusive, and that has led us to facilitate opportunity for everyone, whether an individual, a family, a company, or a community. Said another way, we believe everyone deserves a bright future and the chance to thrive in the age of opportunity. Our goal as an organization is to help our clients stay in control of their financial journeys, and it is our responsibility to help them get to that bright future.

Drew: Was the idea of “Banking on a Brighter Future” developed in-house or did you work with an agency partner?

Jennifer: It was actually developed in-house with the support of agency partners. One of the key inspirations was our global purpose statement, which aligned perfectly with the traditional brand research we had. We were really passionate about this, so we put it into practice first by rolling it out internally and then started to incorporate it in our external messaging as well.

Drew: How did you communicate the idea of “Banking on a Brighter Future?”

Jennifer: We tried to infuse as much “bright” vocabulary into the work we were already doing internally. We also ensured that every element of our end-to-end client experience was bright. We highlighted bright moments of associates out in the field who went the extra mile to help a client. At our employee launch, our CEO and key leaders hosted a fireside chat-style forum to share the brand strategy and communicate the message hat every associate has the responsibility to bring the brand to life. We wanted all employees to understand that this was not just a new tagline but rather a way of doing business, a way of living and breathing the brand.

Drew: How did you equip employees with the resources needed to promote the brand externally?

Jennifer: First, we incorporated the word “bright” into our different methods of communication as often as we could. We also created an employee brand portal with videos and other media, showing how our executives were embracing the brand and also branding themselves. We distributed bright blue boxes containing stickers and other brand paraphernalia to each department so employees could display and promote the brand.

In order for the brand launch to be successful, it had to be something our associates believed enough they would be willing to go out and share it. So, a few months later after our internal launch, we celebrated our first annual Bank It Forward Day, a chance for our associates to bring the brand to life in the community through random acts of kindness.

Drew: Can you provide an example of how employees went out into the community, promoting Bank It Forward Day?

Jennifer: We equipped everybody with the opportunity to volunteer and do random acts of brightness in the community. Essentially, employees formed groups of 5 to 10 people, then went out and did acts of kindness in the community using their $25 gift cards provided by BBVA Compass. That was the first real opportunity for our employees to realize that when you live bright, you can actually have fun while helping out others in the community. Some of the stories were just phenomenally engaging, and we generated social media buzz and plenty of employee engagement as a result.

Drew: Can you give a few examples of some of these “acts of brightness?”

Jennifer: We saw one person pay off a debt for a family whose son was in the hospital. We also met a woman who had a couple of flat tires on her car but had to leave it to feed her baby at home. When she came back, she saw the note on the car that said, “It’s BBVA Compass. Come on over, we’d love to help and we have a surprise for you.” A few associates combined their gift cards to buy the woman four new tires for her car.

I personally had the honor of surprising a shopper in a grocery store who was about to spend her last $20 of the week. I think the tipping point in the brand roll out was when employees started to have fun. They realized this is not just a marketing strategy exercise, this is a way of living.

Drew: Do you have a sense of what percentage of employees participated? Did you have a goal?

Jennifer: This was one of our most successful volunteer outreaches ever. We started at 12% the first time, and now we’re up to 30%. This time, the updated program – now called 100 Days of Brightness – extends beyond a single day to give employees the flexibility to choose any day over the course of 100 days.We were really impressed the first time because we really didn’t know what would happen but 98% percent of the people who participated said they would absolutely do it again.

Drew: What was the reception of the Bank it Forward initiative” among senior BBVA Compass executives?

Jennifer: Our executives have been extremely supportive of this because, as a company, they all understand that we can’t just talk about our purpose, we have to go out and fulfill it. For example, the Head of Business Development is an avid runner, so he ran around a park on Father’s Day and surprised other park runners with gift cards. He also visited one of our charitable partners along his route to surprise them with more gift cards.

Our COO, who is very much supporter of animals, visited an animal shelter to deliver much-needed supplies for the shelter. And our CEO pursued his passion for helping children by bringing a cool treat to kids at the Community Family Center in Houston. In addition to some new sports equipment and art supplies, he also served snow cones to nearly 200 students and staff on a hot July afternoon.

Drew: So have you changed or adjusted your hiring practices to emphasize brightness among candidates?

Jennifer: People are definitely looking to bring in others with a like-minded, positive energy. We aim to on-board people who share our purpose-driven methodology and look for ways to empower people to act brightly across our employee base.

Drew: How did you go about making employees feel comfortable to bank at BBVA?

Jennifer: As our CEO said, if we are going to talk about brightening the lives of others, we also need to do a good job of brightening the lives of our teammates. We emphasize our employee banking perks and make sure people take advantage of the benefits of being loyal to your employer. We’ve done a lot of employee banking drives to encourage people to sign up, and those events provide the perfect opportunity to remind employees why they should bank where they work. It’s more than just a reminder that each account benefits the company. It’s a reminder that, when you bank the brand, it’s easier to successfully live the brand and share it with others.

That said, we need to make sure it is easy and rewarding for those associates to bank with us, – for both clients and employees alike.

Drew: So we spent most of our time on internal activation, is there anything that you would like to highlight from an external standpoint?

Jennifer: Absolutely. We knew we had hit a home run internally, so we wanted to make sure our external push was equally successful. We created an online portal for our video content, and because we are official bank of the NBA, we were able to launch Bright Futures externally in a robust way.

Our brand ambassadors tell their own personal stories to bring to life the ten Bright Futures principles. For example, Becky Hammon, the first female coach in the NBA, talked about the hurdles she faced on the road to becoming an all-star player and the first female All Star coach. Instead of telling the athletes’ stories from the sports angle, these videos really captured the human angle.

Drew: What is the reason behind the sports focus of Bright Futures?

Jennifer: We started with sports because that’s where many of our sponsorship lie (we are the official bank of the NBA and the Houston Dynamo and Dash call the BBVA Compass stadium their home) but as I said, we intend to expand it to a lot of different walks of life. Ultimately we will feature musicians and artists, technology, entrepreneurship and other areas.

We’ve also incorporated the Brighter Future mantra into nearly all our external marketing. From a social media perspective, we engage our audience with our #LiveBright and #BrightFutures hashtags. The two work well together because we’re saying if you want to help others have a bright future, then you have to live bright along the way.

Drew: It’s fascinating to hear you talk about how you shifted from product-first to story first, which must have sparked a good amount of doubt and discomfort internally. What made you confident that this risk was worth taking?

Jennifer: Well, we still do free-checking and rate-based advertising for our deposit products, and we still promote our loan products. But we’ve tried to layer acquisition marketing, digital marketing, and branded advertising with messaging that’s consistent with the brand, using the video and the storytelling piece. The brand, the content, and the storytelling have enabled us to improve our consideration scores with consumers, to bring new clients to the bank and to engage our existing ones.

Drew: We’ve heard about the successes of the Bright Future initiative but I’m guessing there have been some mistakes along the way? Can you tell about some of the challenges you have encountered?

Jennifer: I would say that there have been definitely some creative executions that didn’t work as well in the beginning. Creative development for us was an iterative process, and we learned what resonated and what didn’t as we experimented and iterated based on learning. The good news with digital is that it’s easy to do a lot of testing, but part of our initial challenge was aligning the right creative with the right media and doing so in a nimble and flexible way. I don’t think it was a failure, but more of a learning process and a recognition that some efforts don’t produce immediate results.

Drew: You’re the Chief of Marketing and Digital Sales Officer. Do those two often conflict?

Jennifer: Not really. Digital has been a major focus to drive sales through all of our channels, along with improving the branch experience and engaging our clients. In fact, all of the key marketers in other countries in the BBVA portfolio also have this title. I’m lucky that I don’t just own marketing, but I actually have online account origination and analytics which allows me to see much more of the end-to-end experience.

Drew: I know you’re heavily focused on digital but how much of your role is centered on traditional marketing?

Jennifer: In the old days, marketing was very much “put the product over the fence and tell the clients what they need to know.” Historically, digital and traditional marketing have been separated. But having these two areas together is fundamental because I have the flexibility to allocate resources between digital and traditional efforts. We recognize that it can’t all just be about digital. There are many times when more traditional marketing like direct mail or newspaper ads make the most sense; in other cases, we know that branded content on YouTube will be more widely watched that television. Having ownership of both sides lets us leverage the best channel for each initiative. All in all, it’s been a very interesting time to be a marketer and the fact that I have both of these sides is wonderful.

Drew: Now, you have to tell us about your 500 mile bike ride. What a great example of how you are living the brand purpose. 

Jennifer: Well, it was the experience of a lifetime seeing our client, David Baldwin, literally ride from coast to coast. The trip really encapsulated living bright: everybody was happy, helping each other, and teaching each other. It was very powerful to know that we were doing something for a good cause, and that we were able to put ourselves literally our client’s shoes. The Pursuit ride raised $12.5 million for the Center, a private, not-for-profit organization caring for adults with intellectual and development disabilities, while raising awareness for adults with disabilities nationwide. Baldwin rode 3500 miles, and BBVA Compass was proud to be the ride’s presenting sponsor. The event aligned perfectly with our belief that that everyone deserves a bright future. I could not be more proud of riding alongside David and team. As the Chief Marketing Officer, it is my responsibility and honor to not only shape the brand but believe in it and live it, too.

CMO Insights: How to Build Customer Loyalty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew:  How did you find the customers to feature?

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

Drew: Did this have an impact on their business?

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

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

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

Drew: What’s the story behind PerkZone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CMO Insights: How the Grammys Became More Than a One Night Affair

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

Drew: What does your marketing purview include?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew: How was the concept further developed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew: How was UGC executed for this Grammy season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CMO Insights: How Marketing Can Take the Lead


As this is my first blog post of the year, I’d like to focus your attention on the power of positivity.  Don’t gag! Seriously, the first step to getting something big (or little) accomplished is believing that you can.  Conversely, if you harbor negative thoughts about a particular challenge chances are you will outright fail and then fall back on the easy out, “I knew that wasn’t going to work.”  So, let’s be positive people.  Positive about setting a few really big goals and positively committed to achieving them.

Which is a perfect segue into my conversation with Elisabeth Charles, the CMO of Athleta.  I’ve known Elisabeth for at least 4 years having met her at a CMO Club Summit. At that time, she was CMO at Petco and part of cabal of indomitable San Diego-based women CMOs that rivaled any group in the country for smarts and talent but were distinguished more by their gregarious positivity.  Amazingly, within a few months of each other, each of these ladies found themselves looking for their next opportunity, not with a “woe is me, how could this happen?” attitude but instead excited about facing new challenges and stretching their wings.

Since then, all have gotten one step closer to their dream jobs, especially Elisabeth. As CMO of Athleta, which is based in Northern California, Elisabeth can rarely be seen not wearing her new brand.  This is not an affectation.  Elisabeth has always been athletic and committed.  Wearing Athleta serves multiple purposes. It shows she’s proud of her employer.  It helps her experience the brand and be better prepared to talk with the designers especially since she gets a lot of feedback from other women about her attire.  And perhaps most importantly it sets an example for her team–don’t just market the brand, be the brand.  That’s the kind of positive message that made Elisabeth an easy choice for the CMO Club‘s Leadership Award.  (And of course, I’m quite positive you’ll enjoy our interview below.)

Drew: How would you describe / or how have others described your leadership style?

I am a leader who supports and drives change. It’s important to not be afraid to ask tough questions and be willing to challenge the status quo in order to move companies forward.  In order to do this, I try to be extremely diplomatic, collaborative and respectful of the past as I look towards the future.  I have very high standards and am extremely results driven, but also seen as compassionate and fair.

Drew: Do you have any role models that you’ve admired over the years and if so, what did you pick up from him/her?  
I admire visionaries who are purpose driven and able to build a vibrant business with strong company culture, while also doing good in the world.  Some of my role models in this regard are Howard Schultz, John Mackey, Kip Tindell and most recently Jessica Alba.

Drew: Can you talk about some of the actions you took as a leader in the last couple of years that were particularly challenging?  
Leading change at brands is always challenging.  You are asking employees to take a hard look at their business and acknowledge that they have to change what they’ve been doing to redefine where they are going.  It’s especially hard to do this with successful companies who may not fully accept the need to change.  But as they say, “change or die.”

Drew: How important is your peer to peer network to your on-going success?  What are the biggest benefits of having a peer network?
My peer to peer network is invaluable to my on-going success.  I rely on my peers, especially at The CMO Club, to help share best practices as well as challenges they are facing and how they are addressing them.  It’s great to tap into approaches that you would not have thought of on your own, as well as gain confidence that you can solve difficult issues with peer advice.

Drew: What’s the best advice you’ve been given to guide personal / career success?
Do what you love and work where you are rewarded for your natural strengths. Many of us chase the ultimate job or that next promotion or higher salary without really exploring how strong a fit the company’s culture is with our own values.  Don’t stay in a role where you are undervalued or unhappy – life is too short!

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you¹d like to overcome?
The biggest challenge I’d like to overcome is driving greater brand differentiation for Athleta in a very crowded and competitive atleisure space.  But I love challenges, so I am looking forward to an exciting year of change and taking some risks.