CMO of the Week: Philips' Lorraine Barber-Miller

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Lorraine Barber-Miller joined Philips as chief marketing & ecommerce officer three years ago with the goal to build a world class marketing and ecommerce platform that would differentiate the 130 year-old company as a leading health technology partner. 

Lorraine Barber-Miller joined Philips as chief marketing & ecommerce officer three years ago with the goal to build a world class marketing and ecommerce platform that would differentiate the 130 year-old company as a leading health technology partner. 

The company was in the process of refocusing its business from consumer electronics towards health tech to address the global need for access to quality health care. “As the company pivoted the business, there was an opportunity for us to also think about evolving the ambition and the direction of marketing and ecommerce,” says Barber-Miller. “My ambition was to build a world class marketing ecommerce function to differentiate us as the leading health technology partner to customers and to consumers.” 

“In order to drive that overall transformation into an integrated customer-centric function, we really needed to lay down some foundational elements around that,” she continues. “For the first time ever, the marketing department defined strategic imperatives, set up a unified leadership team and a functional blueprint on how to get the job done.” 

Prior to Barber-Miller taking the post, Philips had attempted to create a digital transformation but it struggled to gain traction. The global pandemic helped accelerate this transformation. "Prior to the pandemic, very few of us had health care top of mind. Now, it's top of mind for everyone," says Barber Miller. "There have been some huge implications now for the entire industry speeding up the pace around health care and health tech. It was great timing for Philips to move from that traditional product-centric approach to more of a customer-centric and needs-based approach."

Brand Innovators caught up with Barber-Miller from her office in Amsterdam to discuss digital transformation, health tech and what it’s like to be the first-ever female CMO of a 131 year-old company. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you talk about how Philips transformed from focusing on the product to the customer has helped the company pivot to a digital-first mentality?

We very successfully dug deep to understand our customers' needs, so that we could really pivot all of our work with an audience-centric approach to solving pain points. Historically, marketing at Phillips was about product launches and events, a pretty traditional approach. We leveraged the opportunity around the pandemic to rethink the process. 

We used to have over 300 product launches a year. Each one would have its own launch plan. We've now prioritized to less than 50 integrated campaigns. For example, we're no longer really talking about a CT scans, MRIs or ultrasounds. Instead, we're talking about radiology workflow. We're talking about cardiology. Now it's about the challenges the audience faces. We took a holistic approach and connected upstream to downstream so that we could ensure that our customers really had a personalized and meaningful experience with us across the entire patient care pathway.

As part of this, we built the company's first ever integrated planning, digital-first and omnichannel engagement approach with direct commerce. We also own all of our D2C and B2B channels. For the first time ever, we have successfully powered it all by data, analytics, insights and predictive intelligence. We're using quite a bit around AI and machine learning to be able to not only understand but also predict or anticipate customer or consumers’ behaviors and needs.

Can you talk about your brand mission and how this shows up in this customer facing work?

Most people would recognize us for our historical product innovation but because we've been transforming into a leading health tech company, we had to establish an incredible and meaningful purpose. Our mission is to improve the health and well being of 2.5 billion people a year by 2030 through our innovation. 

What attracted me to Phillips was the 130 year-old company’s legacy of innovating. The company has been able to successfully reinvent itself many times, as has the brand. This is what unites us, all 80,000 of us. There is a meaningful purpose behind us. It's a human brand, everything that we now do is centered on bringing that purpose to life, through our portfolio, through our solutions, through our messaging, our engagement and our commerce. 

For example, the Pregnancy Plus app, ranked the No. 1 worldwide pregnancy app, was created to help expectant moms understand what's happening to their baby, as they prepare for the baby to enter the world. It helps the expectant mom think about nutrition, exercise and health, preparing for labor. Then once the baby does arrive, we have the Baby Plus app. That really helps the mother understand the baby's developmental needs. It's about improving the health and well being of people around the world. This example illustrates how we are staying with that mother and the baby throughout their journey around early parenthood.

Can you talk about the importance of brands showing up in culture and what that looks like at Philips?

Consumers are looking for authenticity and purpose, they really want to feel good about the brands that they're engaging with. They want brands that are doing positive work, particularly in the areas of sustainability, privacy, diversity and inclusion. It's critical that we have to be authentic and not be seen as green or pink washing. For example, privacy is a more universal concern with the importance of protecting individual data and respecting the consumers right to data ownership. We all know that trust and relationship marketing is a very difficult thing to build, particularly because we operate in the health care space. We are earning the trust of our consumers, our customers, our patients, through every single interaction. It all comes back to authenticity and living our purpose.

Can you talk about your approach to leadership as the company's first ever female CMO?

I am the first female CMO in the 131 year history of the company. That's important to me. I see that as a significant responsibility and privilege that I own for the organization. It's wonderful to see more female CMOs assuming these roles which have been male dominated historically until recently. I consider myself an optimist. As women, we've made great progress. However, I do wish there was bolder progress. I really do look forward to the day when I'm referred to as a leader rather than a female leader. For my part, I'm committed to bringing more women to the top and helping them stay there by expanding our influence and our leadership. We have always been powerful, and there isn't a room in which we don't belong. 

Within my own team, I'm proud to say that of my leadership team, we are 50/50 male and female leaders. Within the full organization population of 3000 practitioners around the world, 58% are females. 

Can you talk about how your past experiences and companies like IBM and ADP have helped shape your perspective in this current role?

I'm very proud to say that my career spans over 25 years in marketing and sales disciplines. Prior to joining Philips, I was previously at ADP, I was the global CMO. Also for the first time ever built the company's digital thirst and data driven marketing organization. Its first global purpose rebrand in the 70 year history of the company. Much of the work that I did there is similar to what I've done at Philips.

Prior to ADP, I spent over 20 years with IBM, where I had the privilege of leading in a number of senior marketing positions, not only as the CMO of the consulting business known as Global Business Services, but also a number of regional CMO roles. I've also had the privilege to work internationally in Dubai, Prague and Amsterdam, in addition to the US. I truly believe these international experiences have really shaped me into a global leader. These experiences are so rich, because they change you both personally and professionally. 

You recently spoke at Brand Innovators’ CES event. What did you take away from CES?

Before the pandemic, health or well being wasn’t necessarily top of mind. Today, we are seeing customers and consumers much more engaged than ever with their health and well being and they're looking for solutions on how to have connected preventive and personalized care. There's a dramatic shift that's happening in healthcare from what used to be very episodic or transactional to now wanting holistic health experiences. I saw quite a bit of those types of developments and new tech at CES, very focused on health and wellness tech. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the focus on AI and obviously the metaverse.

Do you have any 2023 predictions for brands?

The future continues to be about data ownership and respecting privacy. We're really driving towards a world where the customer will make all decisions. Digital media will become even more socially connected. 

There are two areas that are going to be a heavy concentration for us as brands this year. Number one, the content economy. We're all overwhelmed by content. With the shortage of attention, we're going to be very focused on what's most meaningful and relevant from a content perspective. The other area that is going to be community creation. You're going to see much more focus around brands that are becoming very authentic and relevant to their customers and consumers. We're going to see experimentation of new and disruptive technologies. AI and machine learning are already here but it's going to be more pronounced particularly in marketing. There's quite a bit already happening with things like ChatGPT and other emerging technologies.

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