5 Tips on Marketing Innovation from Land O’Lakes, AE, MetLife, HARMAN Intl & Rabbit Hole

Senior marketing executives at Land O'Lakes, American Eagle Outfitters, Blackberry, HARMAN International, Rabbit Hole and MetLife spoke at Brand Innovators Marketing Innovation day. Here are five key takeaways from the event from these thought leaders.

Youth culture and sustainability are core components to innovation for brands in 2021, and leaders from a variety of brands shared by at a recent Brand Innovators livecast event.

Dairy brand Land O’Lakes is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and with the focus on sustainability, the brand is as relevant as ever.

“We are a lot more than a butter company,” said Tim Brunelle, Director, Content & Production, Land O'Lakes, Inc during Brand Innovators’ Marketing Innovation livecast on January 22.We are farmer owned, we report to the farmers. Our mission is Feeding Human Progress. That works across our different business models: dairy for consumers and food services; farming technology and innovation; animal nutrition and feed; a sustainability service-model to ensure that farmers are sustainable.”

From a branding perspective, sustainability is woven into everything that the company does. They have a business unit specifically focused on sustainability called Truterra which works to ensure that farmers are profitable and sustainable.

“We want the farmers to be economically viable, and we give them incentives to do the right thing for the environment,” said Brunelle. “We are working on a large mandate called the American Connection Project as a way to focus on sustainability in farm communities. We need our rural communities to be more vibrant and vital. We are looking into broad-band connectivity for rural communities. Imagine what that could do for their education and health care. We are trying to look holistically at how our company and our members can impact the world at large.”

For American Eagle, being synonymous with youth culture is really important.

“I want to be able to ask a Gen-Zer who the best social and innovation brand is, and they’ll answer American Eagle,” said Ashley Schapiro, Vice President Global Media, Performance Marketing, Social, Influencers, PR & International, American Eagle Outfitters Inc during the livecast. “You want the customer to see you like that, it’s way more important than praise from the trade press. I believe you should acquire customers because they love your product or they love your brand.”

When the pandemic hit, the brand focused on staying relevant to consumers even as people tend to spend less during times of crisis. “We wanted to take a thoughtful approach last year, but we wanted our brand to stay relevant and present in our customers’ minds and eyes,” said Schapiro whose team has been focused on three words: “present, relevant, and nimble” since COVID hit.

Being present meant being in the places where kids spend their time such as Tik Tok, Twitch and Snapchat among others and creating relevant content that connects to the audience, fits with the brand and feels authentic. Over the last year, the brand has produced such content working with four out of the top TikTokers of the year and two of Forbes’s 30-under-30.

“With 2020, the plan was “no plan,” and that will probably be the same for 2021,” said Schapiro. “From this past year, I’ve learned the power of being able to shift. Other brand marketers can relate, they’ve seen the power of being nimble. A titanic organization like AE was able to completely shift everything we were doing and come out successful. Being nimble is important, not just in the face of a crisis, but in terms of the ever-changing nature of our young customers.”

Schaprio was joined at the summit by senior marketing executives at Blackberry, HARMAN International, Rabbit Hole and MetLife. Here are five key takeaways for marketing innovation in 2021. Head to Brand Innovators’ YouTube page to watch the whole event.‍

Take an integrated approach. Blackberry has taken the security its devices were known for and applied it to everything you touch from devices and computers to cars and home security systems. The iconic brand is working on a rebrand to tell “the greatest story that’s never been told.” The company is taking an integrated approach to getting this rebrand out when it launches in March.

“We’re taking an integrated approach, at that top-level, it’s kind of like that classic story of when you haven’t seen a friend in a long time - the first thing you ask is ‘what have you been up to?,’” said  Brian Clevenger, VP, Corporate Marketing, BlackBerry. “We need to answer that question and for us, that’s the ‘what’ - what do we do? People are going to see the BlackBerry logo and wonder where the device is. They’re going to see a picture of an astronaut for example. What we’re doing in broad-based media is basically buying eyeballs because we need to shift that perception.”

Data is more important than ever. As consumers are spending an increasing amount of time on digital channels, they are expecting smooth cross channel experiences.

“Data is great for marketers to find consumers and which channels they are on,” said Michael Craig, Senior Director, Global Marketing Communications, HARMAN International. “It’s more important now because people are behind screens even more and they are looking for more content.”

Lead with purpose. “More and more, consumers are looking to brands for advice, even more so than politicians,” said Michael Motamedi, Chief Marketing Officer at Rabbit Hole. “Standing for something is really important and following through is just as important. Here at Rabbit Hole, we believe in what we stand for: innovation, transparency, and authenticity. We believe everyone has the opportunity to follow their dreams and we try to instill that both internally and externally to the consumer.”

Be collaborative. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we need to work together to succeed and that could not be more true than among a brand’s different teams.

“Collaboration is one of the most important things for us,” AE’s Ashley Schapiro said. “You’d think that distance would make that challenging, but the pandemic has brought us together even more. We can bring more people into this virtual conversation. I don’t believe in the idea that brands and performance are separate. The best way to be nimble is to make sure that everything is happening in tandem. The whole journey of a customer is interconnected. We want to find collaborative team members who understand the value of their counterparts.”

Deconstruct ideas. Innovation requires the ability to take things apart and rebuild.

“The idea of deconstruction or undoing, really just trying to understand how things work - whether you’re confronted with a problem, idea, or concept, taking the engine apart to understand how the pieces work, allows you to gain different perspectives then building it back the way you envision it or in a way that you think would work better,” said Brad Blondes, Vice President, Global Head of Brand Creative & Design, MetLife.

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