In this week’s edition of Marketing Matters, Jenny Rooney and Catharine Hays discussed some key tenets of WFoA’s recently published book, Beyond Advertising, with their four guests, Anne-Marie Kline, VP of Global Marketing at Living Proof; John Boris, CMO at Shutterfly; Phil Bienert, CMO and EVP of Digital Commerce at GoDaddy; and Geraldine Calpin, CMO of Hilton Worldwide. As Catharine explained throughout the show, Beyond Advertising identifies the five forces of change that are increasingly impacting our world, asks us to recognize how entrenched mental models can hold us back, and outlines how the future of advertising will be focused on value creation across all touchpoints. A crucial aspect of this future is the triple bottom line: advertising that is valuable for the company, clients, and the global community. As this week’s guests illustrated, the advertising ethos we at WFoA hope will proliferate in the future is very much taking root today.
Key Take Aways:
- Advertising in which a company lauds its own product increasingly holds less traction: today, people want to hear other consumers describe their own experience with the product, letting users create the brand story.
- Campaigns—which apply a one size fits all strategy—while sometimes useful, often hold less value than more personalized marketing, where authenticity and compatibility with an individual consumer is key.
- Education, and respectful engagement, are essential to a well-founded relationship between a brand and its vendors.
- Brands that have an emotional connection as part of their DNA recognize that emotion is all about the right time, the right place, and the right mode of communication.
- Data is a hugely useful tool for marketing—but must be used carefully, and with respect. Only drawing from self-selected identification is one way to ensure the user remains empowered.
- Offering a service is great, but providing a full experience is better.
- Advertising strategies must evolve, particularly if the brand is successfully changing the landscape of its industry. While large scale advertising may be useful to garner brand recognition, more individualized campaigns can help ensure the correct message is being delivered to the target audience.
- Smaller companies are often at an advantage when changing a marketing strategy, as the siloes are less reified. If all facets of a company are working with a unified and customer-oriented goal in mind, collaboration is inherent.
- Technology is best used in order to make a consumers’ experience smoother and more personalized, it shouldn’t just be a flashy add-on.
- Expanding into areas outside a company’s expertise can be risky—much better is to enter partnerships with experts from other fields. Doing so provides the customer with the services they want, while keeping the focus of a brand tight.
- All the technological swag in the world won’t woo customers if your employees aren’t on board: teach they why something is great for customers over how it functions.
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Catherine and Jenny first welcomed Anne-Marie Kline, who was named one of Business Insider’s Most Creative Women in Advertising. After working at Digitas for ten years, Kline joined the Living Proof team in 2015. As she explains, when Living Proof was started, its founders “analyzed all hair care products in industry, and realized the only difference was marketing—the active ingredients were all the same.” Living Proof thus set out to do something different: “our products are all founded in scientific research, and go to the root of the problem,” explains Kline. “We solve haircare’s toughest challenges.”
In an industry where marketing is normally the only distinguisher, how can a company present a genuinely unique product? “A brand can only say ‘we’re great, we’re so great.’ That’s not going to go that far,” explains Kline. “In the beauty space, and hair specifically, you want to have people with your kind of hair that tell you what they did.” Living Proof has thus focused on producing content where consumers or influencers tell their own story or ‘hair journey,’ thus letting the users create the brand story. Kline gave the example of the launch of their dry shampoo, which happened this year. “We had our beauty editors take a Soulcycle class with us, and challenged them to not wash their hair for the day” she explains. “After class, they went on their merry way, on to their date, or next meeting. The results were phenomenal.” The crux, Kline explains, is that they Living Proof isn’t just offering a new product, it is providing a lifestyle change. “People are saving one, or two, or three hours per week in their routines,” she says. “We’ve changed consumer behavior. People don’t need to arrange their workout schedule around when they can wash their hair anymore.”
Personal stories are thus central to Living Proof. “When I came to Living Proof it was easy for me to start employing personal as a mentality,” says Kline. “I’m not 100% perfect, we have little campaigns here and there. But our macro view is that we have an ‘always on’ mentality. We’re not building around campaigns, we’re building around asking, ‘how are we authentically part of her life?’”
The importance of authenticity carries over into Living Proof’s communication with vendors: rather than just pitching the product, the company focuses on education and learning. This is particularly important because of the scientific quality of their research and products. “We have a program where people come to our HQ in Cambridge to our style lab,” explains Kline. “As part of the program they talk with the scientists—a meeting called Coffee with the Scientist—where they get a condensed version of a talk, dubbed Hair 101, from our head of R&D.” Such an approach sets Living Proof apart from its competitors, because, as Kline explains, “scientists engage the audience with respect, aware that they care and understand what is being talked about. For a long time, other brands didn’t respect the level of interest in the technological aspect of hair care, but because it’s a core part of our business, we want to be sure we are educating people on it.”
Next on Marketing Matters, Jenny and Catherine were joined by John Boris, the CMO of Shutterfly. Shutterfly, the leader in personalized product creation, is, as Boris explains, “a mission-driven company. We help people share life’s joy by helping them memorialize and share all the occasions in people’s lives.” Such an approach puts emotion front and center for the brand. “There are very few companies in the world that help you create, share, and give something that makes people smile,” says Boris. “This is so unique to what we do, we are an emotion-focused brand, so you can see how that becomes engrained in our DNA.”
This DNA leads the marketing strategy of the brand. “Since we have by our nature an emotional connection, it is critical we build on that,” says Boris. “And not just on our website, but out in broader universe.” At Shutterfly, this is dependent on hitting customers with the right message, at the right time, on the right device. The company has, through its cloud storage and customers’ self-tagging, a huge amount of user data about seminal moments in their lives. “We protect this data above everything else, but use it to reach out and communicate in a meaningful way,” explains Boris. “We can remind our customers if their personal events are coming up, such as an anniversary or a birthday, and offer our services for it.”
Further, Shutterfly can target marketing at specific people on specific holidays, for example mother’s day. “We have 30 billion photos stored in our cloud, and we are able to identify who people self-selected as the mothers in their lives,” explains Boris. “So we created three or four personalized gifts, and sent a personalized email saying, ‘we believe these are the mothers in your life, here’s some gifts: we’ve done the work, but you can customize.’” In doing so, Shutterfly not only focused on personalization, but also on ease, giving customers an even more fluid access to a personal, emotive gift. Boris was also aware that drawing on data to create personalization is a delicate balance. “With data, there is always a creepy factor,” he laughs. “We often talk about it, but we don’t believe we cross it. If someone self-selects a person, and the holiday is geared towards that selection, we think it is OK.”
The cloud storage Shutterfly offers is also what sets it apart from its other competitors. “What’s unique is not just the creation options,” explains Boris. “We store every photo in our cloud for free, nothing is ever deleted, and we have triple redundancy. And it’s not just storage, it’s intelligent storage that’s device agnostic, creates a timeline, and includes face recognition.” Shutterfly thus offers an experience, not just a service. As Boris puts it, “people can engage with their photos and know they’re in a place that is safe and secure. And then we overlay smart creation on top of that.”
Jenny and Catharine’s next guest, Phil Bienert, is the CMO and EVP of Digital Commerce at GoDaddy, a company that helps helps the world easily start, confidently grow, and successfully run an online presence. “We are dedicated to the success of small businesses around the world that are underserved by big players out there,” explains Beinert. “We help them do something critically important: establishing a digital ID and getting themselves online. In 2016, any business, including the Mom and Pop store down the street, will fail if they don’t have a digital identity. It’s essential to having a successful business.”
GoDaddy has been well-known for its Superbowl advertising, which was key to building brand awareness—today GoDaddy has 80 percent brand recognition domestically. But things have changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and GoDaddy’s marketing strategy has changed with it. “Buying a domain name 10 years ago was not an easy thing,” explains Bienert. “If you think about whose buying those products at the time, it was primarily IT people. The Superbowl advertising was therefore intended to appeal to a specific audience of people.” Today, however, buying a domain name is a simple process—in large part thanks to GoDaddy. “We made some pretty radical changes to what it takes to buy a domain and what it costs,” Bienert says. “Today people buy domain names via a search, and it costs 10 or 12 dollars. We changed the process in order to democratize a big part of the internet.”
Through this democratization, small businesses are able to buy, and manage, web space far more easily. “We wanted to drop the prices to make it achievable for small businesses to do these things themselves, because that is what is important to us” explains Bienert. “The ease of use was what GoDaddy brought to the market place, and we’ve evolved our advertising because of it,” he says. In the past three- to- four years, GoDaddy has focused on messaging around what they can do for small businesses. “We’ve evolved the brand while changing a big component of the internet, and so now we’re in a position where we can evolve our messaging to reflect more what we do.”
Recently, then, brand awareness has been less the focus than clear and direct messaging to those who could benefit from GoDaddy’s expertise. “In the last couple of years, our message much more directly connects with customers,” says Bienert. “We want them to understand that we know what it takes to be a small business and that we’re there for them.” Television marketing is still part of the GoDaddy approach, but more and more, digital touchpoints are the focus. “Through digital touchpoints, where focus our marketing efforts around content that is relevant and contextual, we’re finding that we can frankly create a dialog that’s helpful and useful for customers, and efficient for us from a marketing perspective,” he explains. “We can have a relevant message that is helpful, engaging, and will help them do business with us.”
Internally, such a shift in marketing approach was easier because GoDaddy is a smaller company, and silos between areas of expertise are less reified. “We’ve made a significant amount of progress in a small amount of time because we’re small and lean, and in a smaller company you have an easier time focusing on the end result,” explains Bienert. “We were able to make a pivot into marketing that is a lot about content and context in less than a year because we took advantage of the fact that we’re smaller.” Bienert noted that the collaboration between himself—the CMO—and the CIO was successful because, as he explains, “there is no disagreement around what we want to do for our customers—make them successful.” With this in mind, debates over who should fund what fall to the background. “It’s all GoDaddy money, and GoDaddy is here for customers,” says Bienert. “It is amazing how quickly things can happen if you have that operating philosophy.”
To conclude this week’s show, Catharine and Jenny spoke to Geraldine Calpin, CMO at Hilton Worldwide. Hilton, the most famous hotel brand in the world, is constantly developing and fine tuning its marketing strategy, “moving,” as Calpin puts it, “from a monolog to a dialog with our guests.” There are four facets Hilton is focused on, “how to improve guest experience by making their travel and stay easier; creating value as a brand—developing services and products that our guests want or will want tomorrow; putting the customer at the heart of our brand; and customization: rather than talking to segments, to groups of people, you can talk to everyone—truly one on one,” explains Calpin.
Calpin, who moved from the head of digital to her current position, sees technology as particularly crucial to this increasingly personalized interaction with guests. “We have a strategy to use technology to deliver even better customer experience and better hospitality for those that want to engage with us that way,” she explains. Using the Hilton app, guests can communicate that there is a problem, and will get a response in five minutes. Hilton Honors members can also use the app to select the precise room they would like to stay in, in much the same way airline passengers can select a seat. This service, Calpin explains, “has had huge customer adoption, and is beloved by our guests. Having that heartfelt emotion and huge adoption really makes a huge difference.” The next phase of the app, already available at several hundred hotels, is a feature Calpin is excited about. “You can check in the day before, and use the map to choose the room you want, she explains. “And then when you get to the hotel, you can use your mobile phone as your room key—so you can use your phone to go straight to your room.”
Technology is also an avenue through which Hilton is building partnerships with other companies, and thus providing even more value and customization for its guests. Through a partnership with Uber, guests can order cars straight through the app, which inputs the hotel address automatically. “While we’re not in the taxi business, if our guests want to use Uber, we thought let’s make it easy for them,” explains Calpin. Likewise, the Conrad 135 function—which suggests one, three, and five hour itineraries to explore a city, can be accessed through the app. “Offering services with content partners, rather than doing it ourselves, is rally strategically important,” she says. It makes sense both from a traditional point of view and in order to deliver greater value and improve the experience.”
But of course, technology isn’t the only facet important to guests—Hilton is a hotel, where you are greeted by and interact with humans, after all. “We have hundreds of thousands of team members, and engaging then in this journey has been a core part of our success,” says Calpin. “Making sure that our team members are enthused and excited about what we’re doing is crucial. They are the ambassadors, and at the end of the day, they’re the people who smile at you when you arrive at the hotel.”
To foster a sense of enthusiasm and engagement, Calpin, like Kline and Living Proof, see education and communication as crucial. “I spend less time telling staff how a new digital development works, and more time explaining why we have it, and why they should care,” explains Calpin. “We don’t just send a mass email to announce that we’re about to launch a product, we aim to engage the village so that they are excited.” Such engagement includes interactive launches and staff competitions. “It is so important,” insists Calpin, “to engage rather than bore.” As the research included in Beyond Advertising shows, authenticity is key: a lesson that Hilton, as it carefully adapts to the increasingly digital world, applies to customers and employees both.