CMO of the Week: The Container Store's Melissa Collins

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Melissa Collins recently celebrated 25 years at The Container Store and the company threw their chief marketing officer a surprise party. The CEO asked her to come and look at some graphics in the company’s cafeteria, which was a ruse for the big surprise. 

Melissa Collins recently celebrated 25 years at The Container Store and the company threw their chief marketing officer a surprise party. The CEO asked her to come and look at some graphics in the company’s cafeteria, which was a ruse for the big surprise. 

It was time for celebration. Collins has spent her career at the company working her way through different creative departments, helping to build the disciplines across channels that she oversees today. She oversees everything from brand, storytelling and loyalty marketing to PR, social, user experience and visual merchandising in the stores.

“My vision as CMO is to communicate our mission to transform lives through the power of organization to anyone and everyone” in a creative and approachable way,” says Collins. “We want to feel approachable to the not so organized, people who have yet to really experience The Container Store experience. What it feels like to get really organized is important and how to get someone started on that journey, as well as staying connected and engaged to those customers who've already experienced this and love us.

“I also always think growing a brand that is loved and can transform a space and a life is pretty special,” she continues. “There is definitely a feeling when someone does tackle it and gets organized. We call it the ‘Power of Organization,’ that really strong feeling that you're in control and there's a lot of love for that.”

In February, the brand redesigned its company logo for the first time in 40 years and launched a new national brand campaign called “Welcome to The Organization.” The slogan acts as a double entendre that welcomes consumers in with a nod to the power of getting organized through the brand’s organization products. 

The brand has brought this to life in a number of different campaigns and interactions. For instance, the company ran a TikTok challenge with the hashtag #ShowUsYourDrawers on 2/2/22 – the most organized day of the century– calling on consumers to show photos of their junk drawers as a starting point for getting organized. The campaign was featured on The Drew Barrymore Show. 

“It was actually our first ever sponsored hashtag challenge,” explains Collins. “We wanted people to reveal a challenge area of the home, and the junk drawer is a great place to start. We all have them.

Brand Innovators caught up with Collins from her office in Dallas to talk about the company’s collaboration with Drew Barrymore, the updated loyalty program and shifts in media since the pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you talk about the brand purpose and how this shows up in your creative executions?

Our brand purpose is to transform lives through the power of organization. In 2021, we surveyed our loyalty members and we received more than 17,000 positive responses that we are their happy place and how the brand brings them joy. That really solidified our belief that the brand purpose needed to be more of an emotional sentiment of the customer and match that and less functional. So we started that journey to transform lives through the power of organization and then we developed a new tagline and branding campaign –Welcome to The Organization. It's really meant to serve as an open invitation to all to discover the possibilities that The Container Store has to offer.

We kicked the campaign off in February of 2022 and encouraged people to reveal and share that one place that you don't really want to admit. Or you don't want to show. It's the junk drawer. What a great place to start your journey, right? A simple junk drawer. By them revealing it, it showed that we can all use a little help with organizing. Organizing doesn't have to be big and overwhelming, it doesn't have to be a huge undertaking to start somewhere, so why not the junk drawer. We used that as our starting point.

In terms of the loyalty program that you recently launched, can you talk about the importance of loyalty to your program and what the idea was behind this new launch?

We've had a former loyalty program called POP – perfectly organized perks. It was a surprise and delight program. It served us very well over the years. But when you say something like a surprise and delight, we realized there's definitely confusion for the customer. With this new program, the idea was to be very clear and move to a tier based loyalty program so customers understand “what I'm earning and what I get”.

Our program is called Organized Insider. It has three tiers: Enthusiast, Experienced and Expert. And we've designed it around rewarding behavior. The more you spend, the more your loyalty benefits go up. And you get special access to events and offers. Our goal is to be more connected than ever to the customers who are members. No surprise, they're feeling connected, because they understand the benefits. They know what they want to earn and they know how to get to the next tier. This program is the center of our customer experience. While we're only two months into it, it's off to a great start and we're really excited about what we're seeing. 

Have you noticed a shift in your media buying since the pandemic?

Yes, we shifted to more digital marketing channels, but we still like a nice mix. I'm always trying to find a good balance and a mix with some traditional, connected TV, radio and out of home. We do some print and depending on if it's around our custom closets offerings maybe shelter publications. So we still have a mixed approach, but the pandemic definitely shifted our buying. Not only did our media planning and buying shift, but what we were saying, what we were sharing and what we're focused on shifted as well.

Can you talk about the biggest challenges facing retail brands this year, and what you're doing to overcome these challenges?

For The Container Store, one of the things we're highly focused on is attracting new and younger audiences. There's a little bit of that with Welcome to The Organization. Sometimes we're showing someone organizing for the first time, and they can be a lot younger. You don't have to be a homeowner to want to be organized. 

We're always looking for opportunities to reach new audiences and that can be through influencers. We have an amazing brand ambassador program, but also through brand partnerships and product collaborations. Our most recent is with Rosanna Pansino, who is  a YouTube influencer, a New York Times best-selling author. She has 13 million fans on her YouTube channel and her audience is much younger than we've talked to before. She has a beautiful kitchen organizing collection coming out with us, so it's a great opportunity to talk to that new younger audience.

Can you talk about how you're embracing innovation and digitization?

We've definitely been focused on giving our customers options in the ways they are shopping and making sure we're there. We launched our first mobile app in March - it actually coincided with the launch of Organized Insider. So having an app now, offering a buy now and pay later option with Afterpay, having same day delivery, and then really focusing on enhancing our e-commerce experience, have all been embraced by our customers and our vendors’ customers. We have also been improving content, better storytelling, and telling the why behind the product. 

Social commerce is a hot topic for us right now. It is something we plan to do in the near future. But just being able to meet the customer where they're at with a great mobile app, and then some of the services that we're now offering are key elements of how we’re embracing innovation and digitization.

Can you talk about The Container Stores' commitments to diversity and inclusion?

We've always been committed to doing everything we can as individuals, as leaders and as a company to ensure that all of us, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, abilities or religious affiliations have an equal opportunity for growth, development, and to achieve our goals. In 2021, was we hired a Senior Director of DE&I and she's made a tremendous contribution in her first year, giving us a more defined and purposeful journey. Thanks to her guidance, we've done some great things. I've had the opportunity to lead one of our employee resource groups, which is abilities. Our goal is to foster greater awareness and opportunities and advocacy for individuals with disabilities, and their family members who care for them.

What are you most excited about for the rest of this year?

I'm excited to see where Organized Insider, our loyalty program continues to go and grow. I can't wait to see how everyone keeps tiering up and how many more people make it to the expert tier. The next big thing is transforming what is currently called Custom Closets, to Custom Spaces, and focusing more on all areas of the home, not just closets, but living spaces, pantries, entertainment centers, garages, mud rooms, attics, basements and more. We really do have a full offering in our custom spaces lines. And we all also want to make sure that customers know we offer a whole line of in-home services at The Container Store.

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