CMO of the Week: Grove Collaborative’s Jennie Perry

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When Jennie Perry left Amazon after almost a decade to join Grove as chief marketing officer, her job was to sharpen that mission and brand positioning. 

D-to-C company Grove Collaborative is on a mission to change the impact that CPGs have on the environment. Instead of being complicit in environmental issues, Grove aims to transform the paradigm and turn the industry into a force for good for the environment.

When Jennie Perry left Amazon after almost a decade to join Grove as chief marketing officer, her job was to sharpen that mission and brand positioning. 

“My vision for marketing is to help communicate and inspire customers with this mission,” says Perry. “Part of is through customer education. There's so many choices in the world right now, Part of what we do in its simplest form is to help educate customers as to the choices that they have and really introduce them to easy ways to build healthier habits.”

One of the categories that Grove is focused on is the cleaning category. The company is focused on product innovation in cleaning, particularly offering fairly priced cleaning alternatives that are easier on the environment but don’t sacrifice on performance. 

“Our mission for marketing –in its simplest terms as possible– is to help customers understand, give them the information that they're desiring, and introduce great products and great experiences to allow them to participate in healthier choices,” she says. “The good news is, customers' mindsets are already there. They're seeking this out.” 

Grove Collaborative found that 60% of their customer base considers themselves consumers of natural product shopping, but currently only 15% of consumer products are fulfilled by natural products. 

“There's a big discrepancy there,” explains Perry. “Customers are curious and they're beginning to want to participate more, but products aren't available. They're too expensive or they don't perfor,m as well. There's hurdles being sorted out in the industry right now. For marketing, it is really about bringing the brand to life and helping customers participate in something that they're already predisposed to want, which wasn't true five years ago.”

Grove Collaborative has enlisted Drew Barrymore to help champion the brand’s platform of using non-plastic packaging for its products as the company’s first-ever Global Brand and Sustainability Advocate. Barrymore stars in the company’s first-ever multi-channel brand campaign which kicked off in April. The effort that centers around the idea of “wish-cycling,” putting recyclable plastic into a bin and hoping that will be enough. Barrymore is also  helping the company meet its goal of being plastic-free by 2025.

Prior to joining Grove, Perry spent over nine years working at Amazon, most recently as the chief marketing officer of Prime and Amazon North America, where she led Prime Day and Prime marketing globally, and led communications and media for the United States. Prior to her role in Prime, she built the first marketing organization within Amazon retail and served as chief marketing officer at Amazon Fashion. 

Brand Innovators caught up with Perry from her home office in Seattle, WA to talk about the partnership with Barrymore, marketing channels and how the company is committed to the environment. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Can you talk about how you're helping educate consumers about your products so that their desires to be more ecofriendly can be met?

We look at all touchpoints to customers. One of the great advantages that we have is our own website, which brings customers through that journey. Everything that we do, including the language we use to talk to customers about when they choose to put something into their cart, reinforces that they have made a sustainable choice. That’s a very end of funnel way that we talk to customers. 

At a very high level, we just launched a campaign in partnership with Drew Barrymore. The key message of that campaign is that only 9% of all the plastic you put in your recycling bin is recycled. Recycling is not the answer. That is a misconception that is supported by the CPG industry, that we are just recycling wrong. But it's not the solution. Plastic has an end life and the number of times it can be recycled. It's not infinitely recyclable, like aluminum and glass. So by definition at some point it has a negative effect on the environment, even if it is recycled, which most of it isn't. 

Our challenge is to bring that information to customers in a really succinct, easy to understand way and then present them a solution with optimism. Our brand is very optimistic. We're about defining a solution and inspiring the industry to come along with us fast. One of the things that we're most proud of is when a larger company copies us, we had a format that we've defined. We sell other brands on our own platform, and we work with those other companies to share insights we have and how to develop packaging more sustainably, as well. 

Can you talk about the channels that are important for you to communicate with your audience?

We have a diverse and fluid channel strategy. The team is very sophisticated in measuring continuously how our messaging is resonating on different channels. When we started we had a lot of success on paid social. As the company has grown and matured, we have followed customers to where they are. We're in linear television. We're in streaming. We use partnerships. Referrals are super important for us. We've even experimented and have used podcasts and direct mail. We are really inspired by TikTok right now because customers are inspired by TikTok. So we have a diverse set of channels. We consider our own website a channel, and also we recently launched into Target and that is a great awareness builder for us. We're seeing that brick and mortar is an awareness channel for us, not just a sales channel.

Are you finding then that retail is a big part of your sales channel too or are you still selling a lot through your website? Or is it a combination of online and offline?

We're just getting started, so it's a combination of online and offline. It was really important to our mission for us to be in retail because 90% of consumer products are still purchased in brick and mortar and buy at big box retailers, so that's important for us to be there because that's where customers prefer to buy products. We listen to the customer as much as possible. I like to let the customer drive my decision making and lean on that as much as possible. So it really is a mix right now. We've had success in retail, so I highly suspect that that will grow over time.

Can you talk about Grove’s commitments to diversity and inclusion and how this manifests in your work?

We have an initiative within the company that focuses specifically on diversity and inclusion. It is one of the things that inspired me about coming to Grove. As a leadership team, we have gone through phases of education about diversity and inclusion, we're transparent about that. And we offer that to the rest of the company as well. We have a system of exposure to different points of view –articles, videos – and then we publish our thoughts and insights, as a leadership team, for the company to view. Then we make all of those resources available broadly to the company. In addition, we have developed our own diversity goals that sit with our business schools. And each of our functional areas have those built into our goals as well. So for marketing, that looks like this things like casting and making sure that we can when we conduct primary customer research, we are thoughtful about garnering insights across the population. 

Developing our products, thinking about where those products will be sold, and making sure that they connect getting different points of view about how they literally in our product testing, how they resonate with different different people. We also talk to our employee base through a  pulse survey. How do you feel about working for Grove? How do you think we're doing? Are you feeling like you can express yourself, all those really important questions. So we get a beat on how our employees are feeling about the company and how we can enrich their roles and their leadership.

Can you tell me how your experience in leadership has helped your approach to leadership?

My last role was with Amazon, I have a completely different scale of company at a different I mean, I was there for nine years. I have used tools I developed at Amazon that I have brought to grow that have been really satisfying for me. One is obsession with the customer. That is something that is Amazon truly founded on. I'm naturally wired that way, which is why marketing is so appealing to me.I am bringing that to Grove now. Obsession with the customer thinking through the customer lens at all times, instead of in siloed kind of initiative lens, like what's the laundry soap we develop, you know, overall thinking of the customer backwards about the customer experience. 

I think that my background has been the balance between creativity that has allowed me to bring a fresh perspective to marketing and be good. As far as what the needs are within marketing, there's no right organization, there's no right way to spend your day every day. It's such a great mix of strategic creative and operational work, that I think my history in working more in that balance of creative and analytics experience has been super helpful.

What are you most excited about in the second half of 2022?

We have the brand new campaign that we just launched with Drew Barrymore. We have a handful of new super products that we're launching that are really innovative in a couple of core categories. Using Drew to get the word out and bringing new products to life from customers is quite exciting. We're also doing a lot of redesign on the website, so using design to help to lead that strategy and design of the customer experience on the website. We're really building some new capabilities in the website that will make the experience much better for customers. 

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