Golden Ticket for Brands: “Commerce Nirvana” for Customers

Two stats from a recent IBM study tell you everything you need to know about the state of customer experience in 2019: 80% of CEOs believe their company is delivering an exceptional customer experience. 78% of people do not believe companies understand them as unique individuals.

Two stats from a recent IBM study tell you everything you need to know about the state of customer experience in 2019:

  1. 80% of CEOs believe their company is delivering an exceptional customer experience
  2. 78% of people do not believe companies understand them as unique individuals

It was Guy Barbier, Country Manager-US for Zeotap, who shared this at last week’s Brand Innovators marketing summit in Chicago. He went on to point out that customer intelligence can be just the thing to bridge this regrettable gap and slow a recent erosion of trust between consumers and brands.

Family photo: Brand Innovators Summit @ Waldorf Astoria Chicago

No wonder digital transformation was on the minds of the 100+ brand marketers who came to spend the day with BI at Chicago’s holiday-decked Waldorf Astoria. If transformation was the organizational goal, a seamless customer experience across channels was the clear end-game.

“This is how I describe omni-channel: commerce nirvana,” said Brittney Williams, Director of Global Omni-Shopper Marketing Strategy for Kellogg Company. In a fireside chat, she said it’s important for brands to understand where and how people shop and to be there when they’re ready. “I expect my consumer shopping experience to be the same whether it’s Walmart brick-and-mortar or Walmart.com. They should be talking to each other.” Williams lamented the disconnect that sometimes occurs and urged colleagues to include their “shopper team” (experts on the in-store experience) in everything from brand planning to experiential.

Bryan Rotunno, Director of Sales, Spotify and Brittney Williams, Director, Global Omni-Shopper Marketing Strategy, Kellogg Company

Telling the Data Story

The morning kicked off with a panel discussion on ad tech and digital transformation. Cameron Koslow, Senior Marketing Manager for Empire Today, said his brand was striving for balance. “We must bring on new tech that helps us now but that lays a foundation for long-term growth.” Lisa Jillson, Marketing, Design & Communications Leader for Arity added: “Data is upending everything we do. Our hardest task is where to focus. Try to focus on where the change is going to come first. You have to look for the impact and shy away from things that won’t have real impact.” Stephen Murphy, VP-Cards and Payments Strategy for TransUnion, urged brand marketers to tell their data story in a more compelling way heading into 2020. “Data is a fantastic thing that can improve a lot of people’s lives and we need to tell that story better.”

Digital Marketing 2020 Outlook Panel (L-R): Brandon Rhoten, Chief Marketing Officer, Potbelly Sandwich Works; Lisa Jillson, Marketing, Design, Communications Leader, Arity; Cameron Koslow, Senior Marketing Manager, Empire Today; Moderator Bethany Steffen, Business Development, R/GA; Stephen Murphy, Vice President – Cards and Payments Strategy, TransUnion

Molson Coors Doubling Down on Flavor

How do you go from being a beer company to a beverage company? That is the central question facing Molson Coors right now, according to VP-Innovation Sofia Colucci. She said the brand is working to transform its portfolio to be more of a player in the above premium and better for you categories. “We have to think about how we transform,” she said. “How do we modernize beer? How do we double down on flavor? And how do we actually move beyond beer.”

Sofia Colucci, Vice President Innovation, Molson Coors
Kate Miller Spencer, Senior Sales Director, New York Media

Colucci mentioned canned wine, hard seltzer and even CBDs as possibilities. She said Molson Coors is paying close attention to consumer trends. For example, the cold brew coffee craze inevitably led to their new La Colombe Hard Cold Brew Coffee. (Love the tagline: “Rally like a grownup.”) And increasingly central health considerations for consumers inspired Coors Pure, a beer made from organic barley, hops and water. It will be 100% certified organic when it launches this coming March.

Packed House in Chicago

Potbelly Leveraging Special Moments

Potbelly Sandwich Works CMO Brandon Rhoten–a veteran of Papa John’s and Wendy’s–had straight talk for marketers at smaller brands. “Building it all from scratch is kind of cool but it’s also scary. When you’re small, you have to use that to your advantage and take some risks. You make small bets in places that have the potential to pay off big.”

Rhoten praised Wendy’s for being a big brand that takes chances, courting attention in social media and turning the interest into attention and ultimately sales. The key, he said, for brands both big and small is to leverage data and social listening to find “special moments” people have. “You give us signals and we’ll try to be there to let you know what we have to offer.”

Brandon Rhoten, Chief Marketing Officer, Potbelly Sandwich Works
Anees Merchant, Global Business Head, Analytics, Course5i

Breaking Down Silos at Mars Food

If you’ve ever worked inside a large, complex organization you know that, even on your best day, silos are a problem. Drew Brinckerhoff, Sr. Manager-Shopper and Digital Commerce Marketing for Mars Food North America, said it can be overcome with consistent hard work and collaboration. “Brand and customer teams have to get together. We needs lots of cross-functional people who can solve problems across teams. We need to be aligned. And we need to be transparent.” What works better, top-down or bottom-up? “Leadership has to be committed but you have to have people on the ground who can execute the plan. You need a leader who can push through barriers–and you need a compelling data story to support it.”

Drew Brinckerhoff, Sr. Manager-Shopper & Digital Commerce Marketing, Mars Food

“Mass Personalization” at Walgreens

Walgreens Director of Media Briana Voss revealed a great deal about her brand’s march toward what she called “mass personalization,” no small feat for a 100-year-old company. “We wanted to ensure we are meeting customer needs,” she said. What was initially a narrower effort turned into a companywide movement to transform in-store and online experiences and more. “We began reducing silos and getting our data fixed,” Voss said. “We announced a partnership with Microsoft last January. The idea was to be more efficient, to reduce the number of data partners we had. You can’t have six sources of truth.” She called the process “difficult but exciting,” adding it may take as long as three years to complete.

Briana Voss, Director of Media, Walgreens and Crawford Nelson, Director of Sales, Central, VDX.tv

The Intersection of Content and Commerce

Our second panel of the day looked at how brands are using compelling content to drive commerce. Anthony Marshall, Head of eCommerce Marketing and Category Leadership for Kraft Heinz, said Amazon’s move to more prominently feature video led his brand to create more how-to content. “Our partners needed help teaching people about buying groceries online so we created video around how to do it and we highlighted products along that journey.” Tyson Foods works heavily with retail chains like Safeway and Albertsons, said Genevieve Mazzeo, Manager-Digital Commerce at Tyson. As a result, her team focuses on creating content that enables commerce on those partner channels.

“Life at the Intersection of Content and Commerce” Panel (L-R): Genevieve Mazzeo, Manager, Digital Commerce, Tyson Foods; Terez Stewart, Ecommerce Marketing Manager, Peapod; Julia McGillivray, Ecommerce Manager, Conagra Brands; Moderator Ryanne Laredo, Amobee; and Anthony Marshall, Head of eCommerce Marketing and Category Leadership, The Kraft Heinz Company

Julia McGillivray, Ecommerce Manager for Conagra Brands, said Conagra’s Slim Jim brand has gotten excellent traction by engaging superfans and participating in meme culture, but only after doing lots of careful social listening. Terez Stewart, Ecommerce Marketing Manager at Peapod, touted her brand’s data trove: “We harness data in a really smart way. And so we have cool ways to personalize how we sell, what we sell, when we sell.”

Conagra: Like Having 100 Children

Imagine trying to organize and align marketing content for 100 brands. Annie Reyes, Senior Director-Content & Strategy for Conagra Brands, doesn’t have to imagine because she’s been tasked with doing it for Conagra product lines like Slim Jim, Duncan Hines and Marie Callender. Between planned and reactive content, things get messy fast so Conagra recently installed an enterprise-level digital asset management system to meta-tag and distribute content far and wide. Reyes concedes it’s a long road getting buy-in and adoption but it’s picking up steam, aided by a committee charged with driving governance. “There is no magic MarTech stack–it’s more about your organization and your communication. You have to use what works for you.”

Elizabeth Marsten, Senior Director, Strategic Marketplace Service, Tinuiti and Annie Reyes, Senior Director – Content & Strategy, Conagra Brands

The Future of Media and Consumer Engagement

Brands are working harder than ever to keep up with consumers and our first afternoon panel dug into this topic. Heather Ruiz, Marketing Manager-Boost Mobile, Sprint: “I came from a premium brand in Verizon. Now I am working in the grassroots of urban culture with a smaller brand and more flexibility to be creative. I have the opportunity to know the customer better and to know what their touchpoints are. I want to put the power back in their hands.” Rachel Friedstat, Senior Brand Manager for Tyson Foods’ Ball Park brand, said new tech can help address changing customer needs. “We do a lot of test and learn, trying new things, even at a small scale.” Emily Josephson, Senior Brand Manager for Merisant Company echoed that: “The time for testing is now.”

“Future of Media and Consumer Engagement” Panel (L-R): Heather Ruiz, Marketing Manager – Boost Mobile, Sprint; Emily Josephson, Senior Brand Manager, Merisant Company; Drew Brinckerhoff, Senior Manager, Shopper and Digital Commerce Marketing, Mars Food North America; Moderator Lori Osorio, VP of CPG Sales, VideoAmp; and Rachel Friedstat, Senior Brand Manager, Tyson Foods

“Surround yourself with a tribe”

We promised our Chicago audience a big finish and it came in the form of a wide-ranging panel discussion on Women in Marketing Leadership. Fittingly, some of the conversation was specifically around gender and some was on broader leadership strategies.

Riley Haemer, Digital Activation Lead at Beam Suntory, urged women to “Fail fast and figure out what you need to correct. Own what you did that failed and then take those learnings and vocalize them.” Annie Reyes from Conagra added: “Surround yourself with a tribe, a small network you can trust. Be open to being vulnerable.”

Women in Marketing Leadership Panel (L-R): Co-Moderators Shelby Garlock (Account Director) and Heather Anding (Global Strategy Consultant), Zeta Global; Sofia Colucci, Vice President Innovation, Molson Coors; Katie Sotor, Vice President of Marketing, Crane USA; Riley Haemer, Digital Activation Lead, Beam Suntory; Annie Reyes, Senior Director – Content & Strategy, Conagra Brands; Ashley White, Associate Director, Brand Build Marketing, The Kraft Heinz Company; and Brittney Williams, Director, Global Omni-Shopper Marketing Strategy, Kellogg Company

“It’s important to talk about failures and not be embarrassed,” said Molson Coors’ Sofia Colucci. “Why not embrace it. When there are successes, take the time to appreciate the people who contributed. And when you do good work, bring a lot of people along for the ride.” Colucci was so insistent that her team take time to reflect, she instituted “Think Wednesdays,” a half-day block on everyone’s calendars. That works for us–lots to ponder after a great day in Chicago.

To learn more about this and other Brand Innovators events, go here.

Photos by Kat Papera

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