Marketing Trends 2018

Top 5 Marketing Trends For CMOs and CEOs in 2018

There hasn’t been a year in recent memory packed with as much change as we have witnessed in 2017. This groundswell of disruption stands poised to continue into the year ahead as the lines between culture and commerce, and the public and private sector, continue to evaporate. As our new age of business continues, the CMO function continues to rise in importance due to a confluence of factors ranging from digital transformation to purpose driven business.

As plans get underway for 2018, what follows are the top 5 things CMOs should be aware of as we inch closer to the new year:

1. We are in an experience economy. Antiquated rules of engagement no longer apply.

The old rules of business were ruled by what was dubbed TQM, or Total Quality Management. Winning companies would win or lose based off of their ability to deliver a quality product seamlessly and consistently. This, in their view, would drive customer loyalty and assure a category or market leadership position. Today, and for the past decade actually, largely in a Jobsian shadow, we have rapidly left that notion behind in lieu of the age of TEM, or Total Experience Management. As commodification has been rampant across industry sector, with offerings based on price point becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate, winning experiences have become paramount, and the ability to drive true engagement has become the Holy Grail, whether you are selling apples or automobiles.

 Consequently, marketers are being tasked with crafting interactions with customers instead of mere transactions. To do this, they must not lead the customer journey with the “sale” but rather the carrot that will drive to it. That carrot must be translated into the ability to transform storytelling into a vital business competency that takes the why and who of the brand and translates them into experiences that create lasting emotional connections. This type of thinking will without question help define distinction and competitive advantage in 2018.

Emotional engagement is the sister to rational engagement. Rational engagement is based on the stimulation of the mind, whereas emotional engagement is based upon the stimulation of the heart. In today’s age of brand experience, it seems that emotional engagement is proving to be more and more critical to achieving winning results and effective storytelling and digital marketing are at the heart of this movement.

In order to be able to master the new art of emotional engagement, you can no longer tell customers what you care to, or create the experiences you desire them to have. You must tell them the stories they crave to hear, and provide the moments that they seek to feel connected and emotionally engaged. This significant paradigm shift has led to an economy predicated on engagement and experience and has paved the way for an era of digital marketing driven by strategic, digital marketing analytics rather than naked creativity.

When thinking about how to gain competitive advantage in the marketing realm in the year ahead, think about capturing key insights and then use those insights to transform storytelling into a strategic business competency that generates content experiences that bring the brand to life.

2. In the age of experience, EVERYONE is a customer.

Today, organizations that use artful storytelling to create winning experiences are the ones who are leading our new era of collaborative commerce forward – and moving product, improving engagement and retaining employees. The key to their success is realizing that today, everyone, inside and outside of the organization, needs to be viewed as a customer. The following is a framework to use for experience design through a B2B, B2C, and B2E lens for the coming year:

B2B Experience

Pivoting from a product centric approach to one that is experience-based, B2B companies are harnessing creativity and technology to tell winning stories that will help educate and inform on the new age of business transformation upon us. To do this, they are using storytelling to optimize the customer experience through the following spheres: economic, innovation, agility/transformative ability, future aspiration and brand engagement.

Case in Point:

A B2B Experience: GE

GE focuses on telling engaging stories that make sense for businesses. They invite customers in to see ‘Imagination at Work’, and give customers a reason to believe and engage with their innovation that builds, powers, moves & cures the world. By harnessing storytelling, creativity and technology via content on digital platforms, including Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, GE is delivering on their desired business outcomes:

  1. Increase audience awareness of the scope of what GE does and highlight positive experiences with the brand.
  2. Support pipeline for young engineering and business talent.
  3. Drive interest among the next generation of potential shareholders. The company needs to attract the next generation of shareholders.

B2C Experience

Today, consumers want to be a part of a brand that does more than give them immediate gratification from a product or service. They want to become a part of a brand that they believe in – a brand voice – one that can enrich their daily lives in ways that create meaningful and impactful engagement. Conveying the cornerstone of your company’s purpose-driven thought leadership in ways that bridge to the world at large, beyond the bottom-line, is critical to success in today’s competitive landscape. Today’s best consumer experiences are defined by telling informed stories that impact the following spheres of influence and create emotional engagement: future motivation, trust, personalization/loyalty, empathy and education.

Case in Point:

A B2C Experience: Casper

 Casper’s founders believed if you’re going to convince consumers to trust you that sleep is a pursuit as worthy of obsession as exercise or eating, you have to approach the story arcs (of empathy and education) differently. Casper is combining science, design thinking, branding, and a winking sense of humor to redefine the humble mattress into lifestyle experience that has built a new cohort of evangelists proselytizing that the key to productivity and overall health stems from maximizing the quality of our slumber. Casper also upended some fundamental assumptions that nobody talks about their mattress and therefore word-of-mouth sales would be impossible to ignite, a notion that was shattered by an immediate boom in viral unboxing videos that captured the exciting unboxing experience.

B2E Experience

According to Harvard Business Review, 89% of executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction ; 84% said it can affect an organization’s ability to transform; and 80% said it helps increase customer and employee loyalty. To operationalize your purpose-driven narrative into mantras that bring your brand purpose to life in your organization, consider how you can impact the following spheres of influence to help you create authentic employee experiences that delight, inform and engage: future motivation, leadership/core values: trust, reward + recognition, education and immersion.

Case in Point:

A B2E Experience: W.L. Gore

The executive team began to see trends that employees were anxious that slow decision-making and a lack of risk-taking might be weighing on Gore’s entrepreneurial endeavors. At Gore, a company built with innovation at its core, the risk of an innovation slowdown was particularly serious. Strong leadership, rooted in the company’s core values, worked quickly to streamline decision-making, encouraged the formation of small startup teams that were motivated to explore new ventures and also created an in-house team called the Innovation Center of Expertise to shepherd (and reward) promising employee ideas.

3. We are in an era of purposeful business driven by collaboration, inclusion, and the notion of leaving the world a better place. Empathy is the NEW BLACK.

The collaborative purpose economy we are living in has elicited a call to action to business leaders to contribute to the world as much as their own bottom-line, and do so in ways that bridge the gap between the public and private sectors to activate real change. This paradigm shift has instigated a pivot point where brands are now aiming to connect with customers on a much deeper and more personal level. The new recipe for successful engagement in business today is one centered around three core themes: aspirational purpose, inclusion and empathy.

Creativity is defined as the ability to make the complex elegantly simple, so for that reason, we see the definition for customer engagement that is authentic and measurable, as a simple formula that we call The New Inclusion Equation: Access + Ideas = Purposeful Action. What this translates to as we move forward, is the need for brands to make customers feel included in the aspirations to make tomorrow better than today. The key ingredient in making this endeavor successful is the notion of adding a touch of empathy to your marketing, storytelling and overall experience development.

Smart organizations will approach the creation of winning experiences by finding their purpose and then using it as a creative and aspirational theme with which to engage. Consequently, an approach to building + operationalizing brand purpose will be increasingly valuable in achieving desired business outcomes. Transforming collaboration and inclusion from activities into strategies will be critical to achieving such endeavors in 2018.

With internal audiences, the idea of brand purpose can be married with internal culture to deliver best-in-class storytelling and content experiences to employees with an eye on retaining them and turning them into brand advocates. Similarly, when applying this notion to B2B or B2C experience, a brand’s purpose must be connected to the themes driving external culture to achieve the same type of optimal experience throughout the customer funnel.

Case in point:

Part of Apple’s 2017 brand push included an empathic plea to “open your heart to everyone.” The Designed for Ian spot within this campaign celebrates the brands sense of purpose, and the world’s new sense of inclusion. Look for more of this in 2018.

4. Stop worrying about Artificial Intelligence. Start focusing on Augmented Intelligence.

 Many CMOs and other senior executives today have been inundated with messages and directives about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the past year, many of which have been inaccessible and confusing. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that the best path to the future will not be powered by AI as a stand-alone solution that replaces man, but rather by Augmented Intelligence solutions – Man + Machine – where man’s abilities will be enhanced by machine learning and cognitive technology.

When thinking about how to fold AI into marketing efforts in the year ahead, it’s important to think backwards in the sense of looking at what you are trying to achieve, and then introducing the best pieces of AI technology that can heighten your current brand experience.

 Most critical to such an approach will be realizing that AI is not just about harnessing the insights big data can provide on the science side of the marketing house, but having the vision to understand how AI can be used to positively impact the creative process as well.

Currently only .5% of data is used to generate advertising or creative at the world’s leading brands, according to Forrester. This creates a huge opportunity for smart marketers to harness data-driven storytelling that informs content experiences to achieve brand leadership and market distinction.

Case in Point:

In an article in the Atlantic in late 2016, a master’s thesis surfaced in anthropology submitted to the University of Chicago by Kurt Vonnegut. What Vonnegut said in that body of research was that he did not understand why simple shape of stories couldn’t be fed into computers, as to him stories were, what he called “beautiful shapes.”

The explanation comes from a lecture that Vonnegut did where he mapped the narrative arc of popular storylines against an XY axis graph and was able to draw a direct through line to Cinderella and the Old Testament, and what united them, and therefore made them so engaging. In the world of AI in 2017 then, wouldn’t this model assume that high powered computing would be able to help marketers identify narrative patterns in culture that would enable their stories and content to be more empathetic, emotional and therefore more engaging?

A group of researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide set out to explore this idea and what they did was collect thousands of story arcs for fiction, which resulted in the following classifications of six types of narratives:

1) Rags to Riches (rise)

2) Riches to Rags (fall)

3) Man, in a Hole (fall then rise)

4) Icarus (rise then fall)

 5) Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)

6) Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

What they were able to do with the help of AI was identify narrative patterns that had resonance around these themes, which then enabled them to develop story arcs under each of the six categories that would drive meaningful engagement around specific scenarios. The key takeaway from the research was that scientists could train machines to reverse engineer what they know about story trajectories and their connection to emotion and empathy to create compelling works that land right in the sweet spot of true engagement.

 So, what this is all means is we can and should think about how to leverage cognitive technologies to attain the insights that will help us push into the emotional levers that are resonating with customers. This will empower us to produce creative works of content that connect and procure meaningful customer engagement.

5. Don’t just be smart. Be emotionally intelligent.

As Simon Sinek told us all this year, it is much more important today to focus on the why and who as opposed to the what. In a world where products have become increasingly commoditized by price point, and consumers are looking for experiences that enable them to vote with their wallets, connecting on a deeply emotional level, has never been important.

In the year ahead, it won’t just be important for brands to continue to be more purposeful, collaborative, inclusive and empathic in all their engagement efforts, rather, what will separate the winners from the losers, will be those who make a commitment to sharpen their Emotional IQ.

As the general push for being more “mindful” across the board continues to ensue, the emotional factors driving it become even more important. According to this month’s Harvard Business Review “By understanding that the mechanism behind mindfulness is the improvement of broader emotional intelligence competencies, leaders and the brands they steward can more intentionally work on all of the areas that will have the strongest impact.”

Research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level – tapping into their fundamental motivations and fulfilling their deep, often unspoken emotional needs. That means that by appealing to any of dozens of “emotional motivators”, such as a desire to belong, to succeed in life, or to feel secure, brands will engage with customers.

On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. These emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more – everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do. Companies deploying emotional-connection-based strategies and metrics to design, prioritize, and measure the customer experience, find that increasing customers’ emotional connection drives significant improvements in financial outcomes. As a result, contextual, emotional and sentiment thought-driven AI is the next wave of marketing (and advertising).

Case in Point:

3 Elements Marketers Must Be Aware of When Using AI Tools to Drive Emotional Intelligence

  1. We are not all the same. Care for and customize your models and people will respond. One size fits all does not work in the realm of emotional engagement.
  2. AI only works and connects emotionally when it’s trained on good data. Using a known brand such as Watson or Google Cloud is great, but if you don’t train it on real-world data that is like your customer when you introduce it to real people, it won’t work — or worse. We currently use natural language understanding and machine vision with IBM Watson to deliver dynamic advertising that is built to understand people for who they are, enabling brands and agencies to move toward using AI products for their clients, without a headache and in an unbiased way.
  3. Use true care when looking at programmatic techniques.These affect people psychologically. Just because someone gives you 110% ROI by throwing hurtful content at anyone, doesn’t mean you should do it. Care about people and they will respond to your brand and emotionally engage.

Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog.

Emotional Intelligence Business

Centiment + BRANDthropologie Media Introduce Emotional Intelligence Accelerator Platform

Centiment + BRANDthropologie Media Form Groundbreaking JV Powered by IBM Watson to Introduce Emotional Intelligence Accelerator Platform

First Application: Turnkey Solution Created for CMOs to Bring Brand Purpose to Life

Centiment, an IBM With Watson company at the forefront of neuroscience development for emotional intelligence, founded by a cadre of data science visionaries, and Brandthropologie Media, a boutique consultancy that harnesses creativity to solve business problems, with a focus on helping brands embrace cognitive technologies to best prepare them for the future, announced a joint venture. The alliance will unite the two firms enabling them to introduce an Emotional Intelligence Accelerator platform designed to help businesses catalyze their growth through a unique blend of AI, neuro-based technology and business consulting services.

“At Centiment, we strive on leveraging emotional cognition and artificial intelligence, such as IBM Watson, to help brands and their leadership understand and apply the power of emotional intelligence,” said Micah Brown, Founder and CEO of Centiment. “We are excited that our paths crossed with Brandthropologie around our mutual work with IBM Watson. Our partnership will enable us to further the application of our technology and reach new audiences by helping businesses of all kinds cultivate emotional engagement and realize the unprecedented results it can deliver.”

The inaugural offering of the JV will be the first-ever turnkey solution designed to help organizations bring brand purpose to life in ways that deliver enhanced financial performance.

The application called the AI Experience Studio will use the emotional intelligence AI offers to create a solution that enables CMOs to pull brand purpose and empathy into any customer journey. The goal of the solution, which is among the first-ever to infuse the creative process with the power of cognitive technology, will aim to create content experiences, for both internal and external audiences, that define distinction and fuel growth.

“The future of both business + brand will be built on an ability to harness emotional insights to drive innovation,” said Brandthropologie Founder + CEO Billee Howard. “We are thrilled to be joining with Centiment, the market leader in AI powered emotional intelligence, to bring our new offering to the market at a time when the C-Suite is struggling to find the best means of harnessing cognitive technology across discipline and function to instigate growth.”

The new Emotional Intelligence Accelerator platform is built upon a future powered by Augmented Intelligence, which is the idea that machines will enhance man’s abilities, not replace them. Using this concept, the AI Experience Studio, will reverse engineer what we know about story trajectories and their empathic through-lines, to create narrative frameworks that land right in the sweet spot of emotional engagement.

The solution will help brands create more experiential approaches to marketing and storytelling that convey an organization’s purpose in ways that connect and inspire. The goal will be to operationalize brand purpose, transforming it from a critical driver of not just brand, but overall business performance.

“Purpose today is being embraced by the world’s top business leaders as a vital component of long-term business strategy, innovation and growth. The confluence of business stepping up to take more responsibility around societal issues, and consumer’s desire for more authentic and emotionally engaging experiences, has created a powerful new paradigm shift which is dramatically transforming the way business is done,” commented Todd Myers, Partner and CSO of Brandthropologie. “We are excited to be able to marry our firm’s legacy in both creativity and business consulting, with Centiment’s best-in-class technology, to bring our first end-to-end business solution to market, that while brand focused, will be directly tied to business performance.”

The alliance of the two firms was created as a result of the vision of IBM Developer Luke Schantz who worked with both companies independently, and then saw the power in uniting both teams to imagine a future of business, that is fueled by the emotional intelligence cognitive technology can offer.

About Centiment                                                                                                                          

Centiment, an IBM With Watson company, strives to provide true understanding and insights by productizing research emerging in the field of data science and neuroscience. As a company in the forefront of cognitive analysis, Centiment aims to bridge formerly distant groups together in the hopes of cultivating innovation and fostering collaboration. Beginning with resolving the divide between people, marketers and the C-Suite, Centiment is in the business of cultivating innovation through simplifying the process of comprehending data and streamlining insights. The firm is committed to transforming both business and brand through the disruptive power that emotional intelligence can offer. www.centiment.ioIBM WatsonAbout BRANDthropologie Media

BRANDthropologie Media is a pioneering consultancy dedicated to harnessing creativity to solve business problems. The firm identifies the most powerful collision point of culture and commerce for each client to help articulate their brand purpose in ways that define distinction and create captivating story-driven experiences that instigate emotional engagement with both internal + external audiences. Brandthropologie is committed to helping brands transform storytelling into a vital business competency that drives toward both authentic engagement and desired business outcomes. We believe in leveraging the power of cognitive technology and emotional intelligence to help the C-Suite define the future of business.  www.brandthropologie.com

Ask The CMO: Joey Bergstein

Ask The CMO: Joey Bergstein On Cause Vs. Brand Purpose + Having A ‘True North’ For Your Business

Marketing continues to rise in importance inside the leading organizations in the world. As brand purpose goes from a marketing tool, to a critical driver of long-term growth and development, the creation of authentic experiences that allow brands to connect and engage with a consumer in ways that assure their safety and the hope of a better and brighter tomorrow has never been more important. As a result, CEOs are looking to collaborate with CMOs more so than ever before to ensure that these shifts take place quickly and effectively, in ways that deliver enhanced performance.

For my latest Ask the CMO column, a series dedicated to analyzing the latest trends and disruptions in the marketing landscape, I had the pleasure of speaking with purposeful business pioneer Joey Bergstein, former CMO, COO and now CEO, of Seventh Generation.  His rise within one of the world’s most purpose driven brands is a shining example of what we are seeing in the way of leaders and the brands they serve being rewarded for doing well by doing good, and setting a new bar on what is expected of business in today’s uncertain and challenging times. Following is a recap of our conversation:

Billee:  This column has been getting some attention because the marketing role is really in a period of flux. Instead of seeing that as a challenge, many smart marketers are viewing it as a major opportunity as the function rises in importance. I’d love to talk about your journey from CMO to COO and now CEO, and from that unique perspective, hear your thoughts on the changing face of marketing and its growing connection to overall financial performance?

Joey: It’s certainly been an amazing voyage that I’ve been on since joining Seventh Generation. I’ve been here for six years now. As you said, I came in as the CMO, leading the marketing team, but three years ago I took on the role of GM in addition to being the CMO which was pretty unique. It was a great opportunity for me to lead the business, while still overseeing the marketing team quite directly. Wearing two hats was a little bit like marking your own homework sometimes, but fortunately, it seems to have worked out in the end as we mastered that intersection and have built the business rapidly.

I would say over the last six years that our business has been through an incredible transformation. We’ve been remaining true to our founding mission, which is all about inspiring a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations. We have been able to continue to grow by sharpening our message, continually improving our products and building a passionate community base. People really want to get involved in the issues that we’re concerned about and believe in and the values that we stand for.

Billee: You were acquired in October 2016 by Unilever.  Can you factor that into your journey as well

Joey: That’s been an exciting voyage too and are discovering some really huge mutual benefits. Obviously, Unilever is enormous and brings a lot of scale and capabilities that were difficult for us to access on our own as a small company, but at the same time, we are playing a big role in Unilever’s sustainability agenda. They are clearly leaders amongst the multinationals when it comes to sustainability but there are many issues where we feel like we were able to help them find an even stronger voice.

Ingredient disclosure is a great example, as it’s an issue that we’ve taken a hard stance on and helped Unilever embrace authentically.  Starting in 2008, we listed all of the ingredients on the label on the back of all of our products, which isn’t required in the cleaning business but that was something that we felt the consumers had a right to know because these are products they use around their families every day. We’ve been advocating for that to become a standard across the industry and we’re seeing more and more companies moving to more disclosure of ingredients, particularly over the last year. So, for us with Unilever, it’s really been a nice relationship where we’re both giving and taking as we’ve been working through this integration.

Billee:  Wow. A ton of great information. I’m going to take a step back. It sounds like your evolution is emblematic of the shift that we’re seeing in the marketplace related to how you can no longer separate the brand from the product and how success is contingent upon an intersection of the two. Would you say that is the structure or path that you’ve taken?

Joey: Yeah, I think so. I’ve always believed that the consumer is at the heart of any strong brand or business. I think what I bring to Seventh Generation is the ability to bring together holistically what is it that we’re trying to achieve in the world. What is it that people are looking for and how do those things come together into a company to be able to reach all stakeholders in a powerful way?  One of the things that I’ve found amazing about Seventh Generation, as a company, is the fact that we are mission-driven and we embrace all stakeholders, not only in relation to the consumer.  So, a lot of decisions we make start with what is the change we’re trying to create in the world?  And, how do we move society and the business to a better place? Right now, I think what it takes to lead in the world today is just being able to think holistically about what any given company is trying to achieve.

Billee: I think that’s exactly right. You actually live brand purpose and ensure that it’s not just a nice ‘wrapper’, but actually a critical driver of long-term strategy and growth, regardless of what constituency you’re trying to reach. It’s at the core of your DNA. Are there any thoughts that you can share with other marketers about best ways of approaching that?

Joey: I love that you mentioned DNA. We talk about our DNA and purpose all the time and I think it is often confused with cause. I think real purpose is quite different. Purpose should be about why was a company developed and what is its mission ? What is it that it is trying to achieve? The key is identifying the things that you think are really important and driving that purpose through all aspects of the business. If you really believe in your purpose, then it affects everything that you do. It affects the products that you make. It affects every choice you make and how you treat your employees. It even affects your compensation system.

A great example of how purpose impacts our compensation system is that 20 percent of our annual bonus is based on delivering against our mission-oriented goals. Goals such as: improvements in post-consumer recycled plastic in our packaging or reducing the environmental impact of our diaper. We set very specific goals that go to 2030. And we’ve got a path that gets us from where we are today against each of those goals to 2030 and success in achieving these goals becomes a really substantial part of us of our compensation. It’s amazing how that helps everybody focus on the totality of what we’re trying to do. Not just driving sales and profit but making everybody into 360 degree stakeholders.

Billee: That’s fascinating and leads me to my next question. We’re in an experience economy. Regardless of who you’re selling to, be it a business, a consumer, or an employee, it’s really got to be about getting people to believe in the why and who, as much, if not more so, than the what. Can you talk about that and share an insider perspective from Seventh Generation?

Joey: I think that’s really true. People are looking for companies that are trying to make a difference. They want to support them with their dollars. And we live in a world where there’s just so much transparency, that people can learn almost anything they want to know about a company and it impacts the choices they make. Inside our business, we’ve been amazed when you run a market mix analysis and see the benefit of some of our advocacy efforts. So, taking a stance on ingredient disclosure, or taking a stance on toxic chemical reform, which isn’t really about trying to sell Seventh Generation products at all, but really just about trying to move the industry to a better place, benefits the business.  We do this simply because we believe business should be a force for good and instill trust.

It seems like many brands have just imploded on trust over the past years. I don’t remember a year where you heard so many stories about brands just losing consumers’ trust and I think a lot of these brands will get it back, but it won’t be easy, as it can’t be bought. It must be earned.

Billee: That’s brilliantly said. One of the areas that I’ve been looking at in my work in this column and with clients, is the reason behind that closing point, so I’m actually really glad that you brought it up. What I have found, is you can say you are as purposeful as you want, but if you’re not informed through the lens of emotional intelligence it really doesn’t matter. I’m seeing a lot of brands that are succeeding placing g an increased emphasis on emotional literacy across the board. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Joey:  I think you’re absolutely spot on. I think what’s going on, not to get all nerdy, but I often think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it feels like as a society particularly in a developed country like the U.S., that safety, security, health and well-being are generally pretty well met needs.  What people are actually looking for, is a form of self-actualization and in making the choices that they make, they are seeking to make more meaningful statements about who they are and what they stand for.  I think the brands that are doing it well have acknowledged that. I think the brands that are doing really well are not just creating marketing campaigns that are purposeful, but are really finding ways to truly bring purpose into the products that they create and I think that’s what’s making an exponential difference.

Note:  We have designed a platform to help businesses catalyze their growth through a unique blend of AI, neuro-based technology, business and creative consulting services. You can learn more about our Emotional Intelligence Accelerator Platform right here

Billee: Amazing. It kind of goes to what I think is a shift in business overall. Beyond just the notion of purpose, to this idea that in the uncertain times that we’re living in, there is an increased desire for business to step in and give back to the world as much as the bottom line. Almost a need for CEOs to have a grander sense of moral leadership and responsibility. What do you think about that?

Joey:  I think that that’s absolutely true.  Much of the change in the country is being driven by business and that it’s also amazing how people are looking to business leaders as a source of inspiration in many cases. I think that there’s absolutely a responsibility for CEOs and for business to take stances on issues that are important and to make their voices heard because ultimately, they can make a real difference. We certainly see that in our business and the issues that we get involved in. We are able to make a difference where we want to. I think when it comes to the greater social issues that are out there, when big business makes bold statements it’s hard to ignore.

Billee: Circling back to something you just said about scale. I’ve noticed two things happening. One is big brands trying to demonstrate authenticity and failing to do so. The other is that smaller brands are trying to become bigger and losing their authenticity in the process. Do you have any thoughts on the best way of scaling a business, but not at the expense of your ‘North Star’ if you will?

Joey: I think North Star is exactly the right word. I feel like we have the same dictionary sometimes (during this conversation). I think it’s exactly that. It’s knowing who you are, what you’re about, and what you stand for and holding yourself accountable to continuing to make the right choices even when that means making decisions that may not necessarily enable you to grow at the pace that you want to grow. Where Seventh Generation takes its name from is the Great Law of the Iroquois. In our every deliberation, we must take into account the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. So that’s where the name came from. We have that stenciled on the window of our big conference room and it makes a difference for us.

We’ve made decisions not to launch products because we weren’t 100 percent sure of consistency with all of the standards that we set. I’m thinking about one product in particular, and while it would have been a huge success, we’re pretty confident it wasn’t up to our standards so we actually took more than a year to improve it to get it consistent with our standards. Those are hard decisions when you’re growing a business. But if you don’t make decisions like that, then you know, with each decision that comes after that, it becomes easier and easier to lose sight of that North Star. Our new Maya disinfectant product is a great example of us staying true to our North Star throughout the entire process, from invention to market.

Billee:  So true, and so impactful. Just one final question. The end of the year will be here before we know it and it’s been quite an interesting one chock full of many changes.  I’m sure that business and leadership will continue to face some new challenges and opportunities in the year ahead. Is there anything you’d like to leave us with along those lines?

Joey: I think that business can be a real powerful force for good, especially during difficult and trying times. I think the stronger the voices are that keep us moving forward towards a true North Star, the better off we’re going to be as a society. I think there’s an opportunity for business to lead in a big way. It’s times like this that people need strong leadership most and today it’s the responsibility and duty of business to step in and accept that challenge.

 Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog

Brand Purpose Emily Culp

Ask The CMO: A Conversation With Keds CMO Emily Culp On Digital Transformation And Brand Purpose

There are many forces driving seismic paradigm shifts inside the marketing departments at leading organizations across the world. We are in a period of significant business change, catalyzed by the digital transformation that is upon us, which is requiring leading brands to deliver winning cross-channel experiences to consumers, where they live, work and play. With this in mind, I have decided to launch an “Ask the CMO” series where I talk to some of the top marketers in the world to uncover the leading issues and trends driving change in the marketplace.

For my inaugural piece in the series, I had the privilege of speaking with Emily Culp, digital pioneer, change agent and current CMO of Keds, to get her thoughts on the key strategies that marketers, regardless of size or industry, should be aware of to effectively compete in our challenging and complex environment. Below is a recap of our conversation:

Billee:  Right now I’m looking at two big things: one is the digital transformation of business and its impact on marketing and the other is the intersection of creativity + technology and the impact it is having on an organization’s go-forward strategy. So maybe we could start with what your thoughts are on digital transformation and its connection to marketing?

Emily: For me a core part of marketing is digital. In fact, over 21 years ago I started my career in digital/eCommerce and I did that because it appeared to be a unique way to engage with consumers. It was a completely new and unchartered revenue channel. Fast forward to today, I believe if you are a consumer centric company you have to embrace digital as part of your core business.

Billee: Wow. That’s amazing. A true digital native. Can you tell me a bit about your focus on using digital as a catalyst for change and meaningful transformation?

Emily: A key element of transformation for many companies is pivoting from a wholesale or manufacturing centric business approach to one that is fully focused on direct to the consumer. A critical component to rapidly achieve this pivot is to focus on where the consumer is – and that is the digital/mobile world.  I also inherently believe that by having digital as the backbone of my career it has enabled me to be extremely receptive to the unprecedented rate consumers change behaviors because of the rapidly evolving omni-channel world they live in.

Billee: Can you give me an example of keeping digital as the backbone of a consumer centric approach?

Emily: You actually put your consumer at the center of everything you’re doing and see what untapped potential exists. You have to understand the whole ecosystem where your consumer lives, works and plays. Simply put, what I do is I come in and I unite all channels to then unlock revenue growth.

Billee: Well you definitely have a unique perspective. Is there any way of crystalizing your point of view on the need to have digital as a centerpiece of business strategy as opposed to a single channel approach for our audience that might still be grappling with a comprehensive digital strategy?

Emily: Most businesses, especially B2C, are focused on consumer engagement. If you look at how your consumer lives their lives you’ll see that they are engaging with digital experiences across multiple channels. As you said, it’s not just about focusing on one channel. It’s understanding what people are actually doing in the digital space and how that space connects with all other channels.  I teach at both Columbia and Stern and I make this analogy.  No consumer says: “I’ll leave my phone in a black box for two hours, and experience the store purely as you want me to.” That’s just not how they live.

Billee: Love the analogy. So, simple, yet spot on. So, what’s the best strategy for marketers needing to instigate these kinds of shifts effectively?

Emily: Getting the organization to pivot is most important. A core aspect of change is understanding the “why” and “how” a new way of working will ensue. Hence omni-channel education is critical, as is a culture that embraces innovation, smart risk and speed.  It is hard to change but if people have a clear vision, knowledge about new skills needed and a strong culture—anything is possible.  Additionally, the fastest way to implement shifts is by changing the organizational structure and bonus program. These two elements can powerfully re-align talent to focus on the consumer, which in turn will unlock revenue. Part of the work is not just giving people new titles and goals, but it’s also finding the fastest way to change behavior within a company while shifting to meet the changing needs of the consumer.

Billee: Let’s shift gears for a moment to pivot to internal culture as you mention needing to change behavior to keep up with the current vision of the brand and consumer behavior. There has been much talk of brand voice meeting culture and CMOs needing to begin to shape employee experiences, less HR focused, more so very similarly to how they do so for consumers or customers. What are your thoughts?

Emily: Internal campaigns exist to drive different factors, but in my opinion there is a distinct reason why. Yes, I absolutely have branded #LadiesFirst water bottles and T-shirts which I know are very tactical elements, but my point is by creating a whole experience for our team, I’m finding I’m retaining talent and I don’t have to be distracted by the brutal activity of looking for new talent. Finding amazing talent is akin to finding a purple squirrel. I will hold out if need be for 9 months for the right fit for one director position. I know what it takes to get the right talent and ingrain them into not only the company culture, but also what your brand stands for; because in every interaction they have, whether it’s engaging with the founders, or with consumers, they need to live the brand. The DNA of your brand needs to become a part of your team and you must absolutely market internally to them. Everything we do is designed to build culture and establish what our brand stands for.  A solid grounding in understanding the day to day purpose of our brand frankly helps me motivate my team.  That work helps all of us do our jobs better and helps us stay passionate about our consumer.

Billee: I totally agree and think your point is spot on. So, you know a lot of what you just talked about goes to a sense of brand aspiration. A lot of people are talking about infusing purpose into brands, which I believe is a result of the chaos of the country and the society that we’re living in. But, taking a step back, you know people sometimes think that purpose is about sustainability or being green or doing this or that when in reality, I believe that it is just feeling a sense of aspiration that a brand, like Keds, is about female empowerment, as much it is about sneakers. Simply put, it’s as much about the who and the why as it is the what… how do you feel about that?

Emily: I fully agree with that. It’s about authenticity. Our brand was founded on the idea of empowering women through accessible, fashionable footwear back in 1916. This history makes the female empowerment movement a very sincere and authentic effort for the brand that we communicate both to our consumers and internally. Everybody’s very clear on that. We also have environmental initiatives such as the recycled shoe boxes we produce, but there’s a certain point I don’t think we need to amplify every purposeful angle. I think it’s important to own what really makes you different in the marketplace and what’s really authentically you . And that’s where I feel very fortunate about this brand because championing female empowerment is authentically what the brand has done for 101 years.

Billee: I’m noticing that it’s almost like brands are feeling a greater sense of contributing to the world. And I’m not talking about their environmental footprint. I mean contributing to the world in a meaningful way, almost kind of stepping in certain places where maybe the public sector has dropped the ball. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Emily: I do. I actually think there is an amazing thing that’s happening at a macro-level surrounding championing women and Keds’ authentic role in this conversation. For example, on International Women’s day we did a panel with an amazing group of women: Allison Williams, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Reshma Saujani and ShiShi Rose we were talking about how you can be bold for change. We live streamed this on Facebook and had half a million views around the world because of this powerful message. So, I think going back to your original point, there is a place for brands to bring information to consumers.  What they do with that information is up to them, but we give them the opportunity to then vote with their wallet, and that’s most important.

Billee: Last question…connecting to consumers voting with their wallet. How do you use AI to be additive and create winning experiences that elicit positive reactions like that as opposed to being polarizing? What is the right balance?

Emily: I think AI is one of the most misunderstood things right now. AI to me is truly fascinating. The best way I explain it to everybody is that its powering everything you already do! Guess what?  If you want to use real time translation or anything like that, you’ve been using AI.  By demystifying it, AI becomes less of a scary thing. In terms of how AI helping business, it goes back to business rules. The amount of consumer data we now have access to requires a team of purple squirrels to use this information efficiently and responsibly. Frankly, I think the most important part is the talent, with sound judgement to manage the AI. I believe that’s even more important than just the technology capability right now.

Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog.

brand purpose

Optimize Customer Experiences Using Brand Purpose + Data Driven Storytelling

The old rules of business were ruled by what GE dubbed TQM or Total Quality Management. Winning companies would win or lose based on their ability to deliver a quality product, seamlessly and consistently.  In their view, TQM would sustain customer loyalty and assure a category or market leadership position.  For the past decade, we have rapidly left that notion behind in lieu of the age of TEM – Total Experience Management.

As mass commodification has impacted all industries, it’s become harder and harder for a brand to stand out. Consequently, storytelling and the authentic content experiences it creates, has become one of the leading ways brands can engage with customers to drive distinction and competitive advantage.

The big news out of 64th International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, was that the current approach to content development, where storytelling is still pushed to the end of the supply chain, is missing authenticity – a brand voice.  This explains why many customers are moving from big brands to smaller ones as they tell better stories, infused with purpose and authenticity, to create winning experiences.  Simply put, if you want to compete in today’s marketplace you need to embrace TEM through a lens of purpose.

The bright and shiny objects no longer win, unless they are married with insights that make experiences go from good to great through personalized, emotionally engaging moments that set you apart from the pack.  Emotional engagement is based upon the stimulation of the heart.    In today’s experience economy, emotional engagement is proving to be a critical factor in achieving winning results throughout every customer journey, and effective, data-driven storytelling is at the heart of this movement.

With all this in mind, thinking about how to gain competitive advantage in the marketing realm today – inside and outside of the organization – marketers must capture key insights and then apply the principles of needs-based, experience design, combined with an understanding of the levers that impact each experience differently, in order to bring the brand to life for each customer.  No longer can a CMO do this from pure instinct, or in a silo.  They must listen, analyze and interpret data across all customer touchpoints, online and offline, and then use these insights to inform experience development.

brand purpose and storytelling

The formula for success in today’s CMO is simple:

Brand Purpose + Data Driven Storytelling = Optimized Customer Experiences

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit

Organizations that use artful storytelling to create winning experiences are the ones who are leading our new era of collaborative commerce forward – and moving product, improving engagement and retaining employees.  What follows are optimized experience frameworks that help bring this equation to life for each customer – B2B, B2C and B2E – and real-world examples of how purpose-driven thought leaders are bringing such experiences to life today.

1) B2B Experience

Pivoting from a product centric approach to one that is experience-based, B2B companies are harnessing creativity and technology to tell winning stories that will help educate, inform and activate necessary change in this period of business transformation. The following are the spheres of influence shaping an optimized B2B experiences that can be sharpened through an informed purpose-driven thought leadership platform:

Sphere 1:  Economic

Develop products and services stories that demonstrate contribution to positive earnings and to long-term value to shareholders.

Sphere 2:  Innovation 

Deliver innovative content solutions that capitalize on the strategic marriage of creativity + technology.

Sphere 3:  Agility/Transformative Ability 

Demonstrate necessary pivots that deliver competitive advantage and change.

Sphere 4:  Aspirational Motivation

Enable contribution to the world (and business) as much as the bottom-line and create moments that are aspirational and give people a reason to believe + engage.

Sphere 5:  Brand/Engagement

Develop engagement across all key constituencies to optimize the customer journey and improve financial performance.

A B2B Experience:  GE

GE focuses on telling engaging stories that make sense for businesses.  They invite customers in to see ‘Imagination at Work’, and give customers a reason to believe and engage with their innovation that builds, powers, moves & cures the world.  By harnessing storytelling, creativity and technology via content on digital platforms, including Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, GE is delivering on their desired business outcomes:

  1. Increase audience awareness of the scope of what GE does and highlight positive experiences with the brand.
  2. Support pipeline for young engineering and business talent.
  3. Drive interest among the next generation of potential shareholders. The company needs to attract the next generation of shareholders.

2) B2C Experience

Consumers today want to be a part of a brand that does more than give them immediate gratification from a product or service. They want to become a part of a brand that they believe in – a brand voice –  one that can enrich their daily lives in ways that create meaningful and impactful engagement.  Conveying the cornerstone of your company’s purpose-driven thought leadership in ways that bridge to the world at large, beyond the bottom-line, is critical to success in today’s environment. Today’s best B2C experiences are defined by telling informed stories that impact the following spheres of influence and create emotional engagement:

Sphere 1:  Aspirational Motivation

Offer people the opportunity to believe in the brand through meaningful interactions.

Sphere 2:  Trust

Work to build a connection between the customer and the brand by showing that you care about what your consumers care about.

Sphere 3:  Personalization/ Loyalty 

Capitalize on real-time, predictive data, analytics and insights to create the experiences consumers want, before they know they want them, which will enhance consumer loyalty and advocacy.

Sphere:  Empathy

Fortify trust and a reason to believe by humanizing the brand and bringing a purpose-driven Living Brand to life.

Sphere 5:  Education

Build meaningful differentiation from competitors through empathic and
purpose-driven stories that inform, entertain and delight and heighten impact and effectiveness.

A B2C Experience:  Casper

Casper’s founders believed if you’re going to convince consumers to trust you that sleep is a pursuit as worthy of obsession as exercise or eating, you have to approach (the story arcs of empathy and education) differently.  Casper is combining science, design thinking, branding, and a winking sense of humor to redefine the humble mattress into lifestyle stories with a new cohort of evangelists proselytizing that the key to productivity and overall health stems from maximizing the quality of our slumber. Casper also upended some fundamental assumptions about consumer behavior that word-of-mouth sales would be impossible to generate because nobody talks about their mattress, a notion that was shattered by an immediate boom in viral unboxing videos that captured the exciting experience.

3) B2E Experience

According to HBR, 89% of executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction; 84% said it can affect an organization’s ability to transform; and 80% said it helps increase customer and employee loyalty.  To operationalize your purpose-driven narrative into mantras that bring your brand purpose to life inside your organization, consider how the following spheres of influence can help you create an authentic B2E experience that delights, informs and engages:

Sphere 1: Aspirational Motivation

Work to inculcate storytelling directly into culture through training and a process of
co-creation.

Sphere 2: Leadership + Core Values:  Trust

Develop mantras through a lens of inclusion to be truly authentic and representative of

both brand and employee values.

Sphere 3: Reward + Recognition

Create appropriate reward & recognition strategies to reaffirm purpose-driven behavior.

Sphere 4: Education 

Facilitate workshops and build a Living Brand content hub where all physical content is made digital and showcase employees bringing the mantras to life.

Sphere: Immersion

Create distinct opportunities to “live the brand” for all of your employees such as
hyper-localized community giving programs or branded internal events that celebrate your employees.

A B2E Experience: W.L. Gore

The executive team began to see trends that employees were anxious that slow decision-making and a lack of risk taking might be weighing on Gore’s entrepreneurial endeavors.  At Gore, the risk of an innovation slowdown was particularly serious. Strong leadership, rooted in the company’s core values, worked quickly to streamline decision-making, encouraged the formation of small startup teams that were motivated to explore new ventures and also created an in-house team called the Innovation Center of Expertise to shepherd (and reward) promising employee ideas.

Todd A. Myers is the Chief Strategy Officer at BRANDthropologie Media. He will lead client engagements to directly connect purpose positioning to value creation and content solutions. You can follow him on Twitter at @ToddMyers123 

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit