CMO of the Week: Tailored Brands’ Carolyn Pollock

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Carolyn Pollock took an unusual route to the chief marketing officer role at Tailored Brands. As a former marketing consultant, she joined the team of her client and has been on a mission to lead the company’s digital transformation ever since. 

Carolyn Pollock took an unusual route to the chief marketing officer role at Tailored Brands. As a former marketing consultant, she joined the team of her client and has been on a mission to lead the company’s digital transformation ever since. 

“We have been on a journey and the path got very accelerated during COVID, where we've been really transforming our marketing mix and really better connecting with our customer and all the different places that our customer is these days, and then making sure that we've got the right messaging,” says Pollock.

“A lot of it is really helping continue to lead the organization in that transformation, to ultimately benefit our customer and help improve the perceptions of our brands such that our customers are clamoring for us,” she continues. “And really creating that desire and that advocacy that we all are looking for in our customers.”

Tailored Brands’ portfolio includes: Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Moores and K&G Fashion Superstore. 

The brand is on a mission to help people look and feel their best for their most important moments. This year is the year of the wedding, with more than  2.6 million expected to take place in the United States.  

“We're making sure that we're really showing up for customers and helping them with any needs that they've got for their wedding, whether it's the groom, whether it's a guest,” explains Pollock. “We've been outfitting couples and grooms for their weddings for decades. And we do that through both our rental business, as well as our retail business. We also have a strong custom business, which is especially great for grooms. In our creative, we are very focused on showing our expertise.”

Men's Wearhouse, one of the company’s signature brands, has a new campaign promise with an updated tagline. The iconic, “You're gonna like the way you look, I guarantee it,” has been upstate with a more emotional touch: “You're going to love the way you look." 

“We really believe that if you love the way you look, then you feel really great,” says Pollock. “And there's really great things that can happen when you feel great. For now, it's weddings. But those important moments in life can be everything from a date, to a big presentation at work, to a graduation. And so we serve mentor customers through that entire gamut. And we make sure that our creative reflects those moments, no matter where we show up.”

Brand Innovators caught up with Pollock from her home office in the San Francisco Bay Area to discuss brand purpose, social media and the year of weddings. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What are the key channels that you're showing up in to talk to your consumers? 

We really overhauled our mix in terms of the balance between offline advertising and digital marketing. We've dramatically scaled our social media presence, we have a really strong organic and paid presence. A couple years ago, we were much more focused on organic. Now within social media across all the key channels there, we've really increased our approach and spend within search. And we are making sure that we're showing up for all the different kinds of usage occasions that a customer may have. 

And then we are still doing TV, but it's a much more balanced mix between offline linear TV and online video, where we can be even more targeted. When you think about trying to reach the groom or couples for a wedding, there is a little bit more of a narrow set. And there's some really great ways now that we can show up once some interest has been shown in that area, through search, or whatever. 

Finally, we have a number of important partnerships. So we've got a great partnership with The Knot, who's one of the leading wedding brands out there, and through our advertising presence with them and a bunch of different collaborations that we do that gets us right in front of our core audience.

You mentioned that the pandemic changed the way that you were showing up. Can you talk about how this transformation has impacted your media buy?

We've really shifted a significant majority of our spend, which was focused on broadcast TV. Now it's a much more balanced mix, almost 50/50 between TV and online video. And then we really dramatically increased the portion of the overall spend on digital, so everything from search, social, display, affiliates – just the full mix so that we're there, wherever the customer is showing up.

Can you talk about some of the challenges facing retailers this year and how you're overcoming them?

Supply chain is definitely challenging. I have so much empathy for our partners in the business who are driving sourcing and our buyer partners who are trying to determine what's coming in, when and all that. We've been fortunate in that a lot of our products were vertically integrated, and we design and manufacture a lot of our products. Over the decades of being in business, we have incredibly strong relationships with our suppliers and as such have benefited from them working hard to deliver on what needs to be done.

And that honestly extends all the way down to our team. So even in our stores where occasionally the rental inventory might be a little more limited, we're right down to the wire. If something comes in, it gets cleaned, and it's ready to go back out again. And we've had numerous examples of store managers who are literally driving a tuxedo to the church for a wedding. They show the above and beyond dedication to the customer and are focused on customer service. This supply chain has been incredibly challenging for everybody. I'm constantly in awe of our team's capabilities and how they've been managing it.

Is there a place for the metaverse and NFTs for Tailored Brands? 

If and when we do something in those spaces, I think it needs to be something that's authentic to our brand, and it's got value for our customer. I love seeing all the experimentation that's happening right now. We're learning a ton from observing them and making plans as to what makes sense for our customers, and what's the right way to show up for our customers. We've got some some fun ideas, we just want to make sure that when we do execute them, that it resonates and that it's meaningful and not just a superfluous approach to it. 

Can you talk about your approach to leadership and how your previous roles have helped shape your current perspective?

I've had a non-traditional background in that I had a consulting business for over a decade, prior to joining Tailored Brands, and the brand was one of my clients. I definitely have a very client service mentality to how I approach marketing and that extends first and foremost to our customers, but it also extends to the team. I believe that good ideas come from anywhere. We've got an incredibly talented team with an amazing bench from associate managers to vice presidents. I'm really constantly impressed by the ideas and the drive and dedication that comes from the team. As a leader, I’m very focused on making sure that that continues to flourish, and that the team feels supported and that their ideas are welcome. 

My consulting background also just helps with distilling down to the core of what an issue might be, and not getting swirled up in all the extra stuff that might be happening so that we can really get to the nub of the problem, figure it out, and  work together as a team to resolve it.

What are Tailored Brands’ commitments to DE&I and how is this showing in your workplace and in your creative?

We are very focused, first and foremost, on ensuring that our workplace is as inclusive as we can be. We've done a lot of work internally first, and making sure that all of our different communities are supported. We've created a number of employee resource groups that are very active within the employee community and making sure that the voices across the organization are being heard and that we're working as a collective team to help move different initiatives forward. 

Externally, our biggest focus right now is making sure that we're reflecting our very diverse customer base. We do a lot in our casting now to make sure that we're reflecting that customer base and most importantly, showcasing real couples. As we're very focused on weddings and love in all its shapes and forms. In our TV advertising, all of the couples that we feature are actually real life couples. We have a few different same sex couples that we've engaged with in our advertising, as well as just generally reflecting diversity. It's a big commitment. We've got a lot more work to do, as everybody in our industry does, but we're starting at home first, and then making sure, first and foremost that we're showing our customers that they're welcome in our stores, and that we're reflecting that in our advertising and our casting.

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

It's the year of the wedding. There are, on average, about 1.8 million weddings a year, and this year, they're estimating up to 2.6 million. In order to fit that many weddings into the year, they're happening all year long. It's not just the traditional summer, early fall, kind of crunch time for weddings, they are happening throughout the entire year. We’re making sure that we're supporting our customers as they're having to make last minute plan changes and that kind of thing. It's super fun to be able to connect with our customers around such a joyous occasion, especially coming out of the pandemic, and not just grooms and bridal couples are looking to celebrate, but all of the guests too. As more and more people are invited to weddings, and they want to get dressed up, we're really loving the ability for us to play a part in such a special time in people's lives.

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