Marketers Who Strengthened Their Brands With Digital


John Ellett, Contributor

March 4, 2014

Keeping a strong brand relevant can often be a challenge as risk-aversion sets in and customers find newer, fresher alternatives that attract their attention. Not so for these companies. Aflac has embraced digital tools to enhance the buying experience for agents and customers. Samsung delivers meaningful digital experiences for information-hungry consumer electronics buyers. Banana Republic is building omni-channel connections with customers living digital lifestyles. And MasterCard is evolving its iconic Priceless campaign to deliver Priceless Moments in the digital world. No resting on their laurels for this group of finalists.

Lilian Tomovich, SVP Consumer Marketing, MasterCard – The phenomenal “Priceless” campaign was launched 17 years ago and has become a huge piece the credit card company’s brand. Now the challenge is continue evolving and keeping the MasterCard brand campaign fresh and relevant. “Where do we take it from here? How do we get people to think MasterCard is the card for me? And how do we engage with them and create ways for them to see us as the preferred card? That’s the journey from celebrating priceless moments to cultivating and curating priceless experiences. That’s the journey that the team undertook.”

To Tomovich, courage is having a point of view that drives the business forward. “True leaders have the ability to respectfully challenge the status quo, and to ask why, and not to be afraid of making that unpopular decision.”

Her advice leading major change initiatives:

  1. Change is not going to be easy. The sooner you come to terms with that the easier it becomes. Whether it’s undergoing a transformation initiative or moving toward omni-channel, it takes a lot of work.
  2. Change takes an army. So it has to become part of the DNA and fiber of the corporate culture. It doesn’t happen overnight and you really need to engage, empower and ignite the entire organization around the idea. 
  3. Results talk. You need to make your success metrics clear up front. And you have to make sure that you get wins early so you can rally the team in a larger organization.

Catherine Sadler, Global CMO, Banana Republic – The apparel retail business has changed dramatically as shopping behavior has become more digital and social. Banana Republic’s Sadler has been a catalyst for a new way of thinking in order to drive the conversation with their customers.  “We’ve gone from being advertisers, manufacturers and retailers, to becoming content producers and syndicators of that content across all different forms of media to participate in our customer’s lifestyle by appealing to them where they’re already engaged so that we can be top of mind.” Sponsoring  a webcast from the red carpet of this year’s Oscars is their latest example.

To Sadler, being courageous is being a change agent. “It’s being a provocateur even in a complex approval-oriented culture.  It’s also about being agile and comfortable working in an ever-changing highly dynamic environment such as ours.”

Her advice on becoming an omni-channel marketer:

  1. Customers are motivated and inspired by different things today. Stay broad, stay open. Don’t narrow your focus.
  2. In order to be relevant your brand has to evolve and you have to evolve with your brand and take risks.
  3. Be authentic. Customers are looking for authentic relevant connections. You have to engage with them on a whole new level today.

John Lavoie, Director, Brand & Consumer Marketing Communications, Samsung Electronics America – Possibly the only thing changing faster than the customer decision journey is the pace of innovation in consumer electronics. Customers love new products and Samsung has emerged as the clear leader in satisfying their desires. “We discovered through social media that people are passionate about Samsung’s innovation and products, about TV, entertainment and audio. How do we harness that and get them involved? It isn’t about broadcasting; it’s about engaging the audience because they really are interested in the products.”

To Lavoie, courage means having the guts to get where you want to go. “You’re going to fail, you’re going to encounter some obstacles but courage means you’re willing to try to leap over those obstacles to get to where you want to go.”

His advice for using digital to accelerate a brand’s success:

  1. Start with knowing what you want to accomplish. When you’re clear on what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it and who you want to talk to, the briefs write themselves.
  2. Be grounded in why you want to do the things you do. What is the consumer telling you? What are the markets insights that are driving what you’re trying to accomplish? When you have that then it isn’t just an internal opinion of what you want to do, the consumers have told you what they need.
  3. Everybody wants everything really quickly. You’ve got to manage for that. I tell this to people all the time – just because you turn the oven up doesn’t mean the cake is going to bake any faster, in fact, it burns. So things take some time to put together and that ultimately is what you want. I know you want it quick and I know you want it fast. But really, you want it right.

Michael Zuna, CMO and EVP, Aflac – In the financial services industry which is all about eliminating risk for people, how do you get marketers to innovate and try new things? ”The good news is that even though insurance isn’t thought of as the most innovative industry out there, and we’re certainly not, the one thing that everyone here is incredibly comfortable with is data. We’ve created a sales, marketing and training app for our sales force that enables an agent to come into your place of business and ask you a couple of questions when they’re setting up the appointment with you. Your responses are fed into a tablet enabled process. We take the data of your particular industry so [we can offer a tailor-made product for you in your particular industry]. That’s using the latest digital technology from a sales enablement perspective.”

To Zuna, courage is doing what you know is right for the business. ”So much of my agenda, being on the pointy tip of the spear, is change by nature. I’m responding to the market, analyzing the market, pursuing new distribution channels, pursuing new products, listening to my customer.”

His advice for formulating strategies in the data-driven digital world:

  1. Listen to the customer. First and foremost you have to be creating something that’s designed to solve or address a customer need.
  2. Keep it as simple as possible. Often you can get analysis paralysis if you’ve got too much data. It’s about using big data in the simplest and most straightforward way possible
  3. Have the courage to trust the data. There are things that data will tell you that may be counterintuitive to tradition or ‘business as usual’. It’s like learning how to fly a plane with instruments. When I look outside the cockpit it looks like it’s telling me this, but my instruments are telling me that and I’ve got to trust those instruments.”

The Cojones Awards winners will be announced at SXSW on Saturday, March 8 in Austin, Texas.

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