Marketing Maestros

Counting Blessings, Not Miles

By Ken Beaulieu, senior director of marketing and communications, ANA
Posted: Apr 19, 2013 9:32am ET

Photo by Maeve Reilly

Ken Beaulieu heads down Boylston Street
toward the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon

I was one of the lucky ones who were treated Monday in the main medical tent at the Boston Marathon, just beyond the finish line. I had complained of feeling dizzy and nauseous after completing the 26.2-mile run in a time of 3:23:49. When I nearly collapsed attempting to take a seat in a wheelchair, I was promptly whisked into the tent for examination.

“I’m such a big baby,” I recall telling the attending nurse, who informed me that I was suffering from hypothermia and dehydration. “I’m completely wasting your time.”

“Just relax,” she said, wrapping me in a thermal blanket to boost my body temperature. “We’re here to help.”

We’re here to help. Little did she know — or anyone for that matter — that those four words would soon take on a whole new meaning. Minutes after I baby-stepped my way out of the medical tent and into the bright sunshine, two bomb blasts along historic Boylston Street turned the festive homestretch of the marathon into a horrific crime scene. The same nurse who had spent the day dealing with exhausted runners like me was now being called on to help save lives.

I was waiting patiently for my family in the designated meeting area, out of view of the finish line, when the first bomb detonated. It happened right about where I had been standing a day earlier to cheer on my wife and kids at the B.A.A. 5K. “What the hell was that?” I asked no one in particular. It was a question that reverberated throughout the sea of runners, families, and friends. I quickly scanned the surrounding buildings. No smoke. Good. Then I heard the second blast, somewhat muffled this time. Where was my family?

I pleaded with a marathon volunteer to let me use her cell phone. She obliged. I placed a call to my wife. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Four rings. Come on! Come on! Voicemail. I don’t ever remember feeling so anxious. Then I heard my daughter Jessica cry out, “Dad, over here! Dad!” It was all I could do to hold it together as my wife and three daughters enveloped me, pained expressions on their faces.

“Did you hear those explosions?” my daughter Hannah asked, tears welling in her eyes. “I think we should get out of here. Please, can we just go home?”

Word began to spread that something terrible had happened near the finish line. The race had been stopped. Possible terrorist bombing. People injuried. Police evacuating the area.

As we moved away from the family meeting area and toward the parking garage, the steady wail of sirens sent shivers up and down our spines. There were emergency vehicles speeding to the scene from every direction, and some of the runners leaving the finish area were wiping back tears. We didn’t understand the full gravity of the situation until we turned on the car radio.

It has been four days since the Boston bombings. I’m still struggling with it, still angry, still confused. How could something so heinous happen at a marathon, perhaps the most congenial of sporting events? We may never know.

Amid all the sorrow, I am thankful for having made it out of Boston safely with my family, thankful to the first responders who worked heroically to save lives and ease the suffering. The Boston I know and love will be back. Count on it. And I vow: on Monday, April 21, 2014, I will once again cross the yellow and blue finish line of the Boston Marathon, with arms raised and a more uplifting story to tell.

Bright Outlook from the Gap

By Lynn Santa Lucia
Posted: Apr 19, 2013 8:30am ET

When you’re trying to revitalize a brand, you can get lost in an avalanche of opportunity. And if you’re like Gap’s global CMO Seth Farbman, you can tend to push very fast. The former Ogilvy exec, who joined the retailer two years ago, is a self-described type-A marketer and admits that initially he was looking in all the wrong places to inject some oomph into the brand — namely, at brands that made huge statements very quickly to set the stage for a huge turnaround.

Then Farbman took a breath and asked: What IS Gap? He considered the fundamentals: Gap’s own story and its pillar products. “Without those, we have nothing,” says Farbman, who presented at the ANA Brand Masters Conference. With a renewed focus on the values on which Gap was founded (American optimism and casual style) and on its winning fashion trifecta (jeans, khakis, and t-shirts), the brand is bouncing back. Indeed, we’re all the happier for it.

This would fit right in with Gap’s m.o. to “Be Bright.” “We see Gap as a window to what’s bright,” Farbman says. “We are believers in bright.” By giving us a “store with heart” (a fundamental desire of founders Don and Doris Fisher) and working to “create a brighter future for all” (not to mention offering a new dazzling palette of jeans), Gap is giving us something to smile about.

In the process, Farbman has discovered what really matters:


Contribute to The One Fund Boston

By Bill Duggan, Group EVP, ANA
Posted: Apr 19, 2013 12:00am ET

I was in Boston on Patriots Day -- first for the Red Sox game and then we (I was with my wife and three kids) walked to Boylston Street to watch the runners in the final stretch of the Boston Marathon. We were close enough to hear the two explosions. Just minutes before, we decided to walk to the finish line but after a few steps changed our minds. We were lucky. Our hearts go out to all those impacted.

Good will come out of this tragedy and there are (and will be more) stories of heroism and support that will inspire us. The One Fund Boston has been established by Boston Mayor Menino and Massachusetts Governor Patrick to aid those most affected by this terrible event.  And business leaders are stepping up. John Hancock has contributed $1 million. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. and parent company Ahold USA have pledged $500,000. Adidas is selling Boston tribute T-shirts and will donate 100 percent of the proceeds to The One Fund.

Corporate America will play a major role in the healing process and making future Boston Marathons better than ever.  I hope to be there in 2014.  In the meantime, I plan to support The One Fund Boston and encourage others to as well.

Sharing Is the New Essential

By Lynn Santa Lucia
Posted: Apr 18, 2013 12:03pm ET

The poster child for brand building, Larry Light, who last spring was appointed chief brands officer at InterContinental Hotels Group, says the company’s new mission boils down to this: To build brand preference. But here’s the kicker: For IHC, branding is not a marketing process but a business plan.

The new emphasis, Light says, is on shared responsibility for success — and that means everyone at the organization shares the common goal of building strong brands. Sharing, then, is more than simply activity as we’ve come to know it in social media. It actually defines the culture of the operation itself (i.e., how we are organizing our business).

For the majority of brands, the time has come for a different model from that of “partitioned responsibility” (you do your thing, I do mine) and “global thinking executed with local tinkering” (think USA, do as I say). Evolving to a “three-box shared responsibility model,” as Light sees it, will create fantastically strong brands. Here’s where everyone needs to come together:

  1. Defining the brand’s “north star” (where the brand can be and should be). Getting clear on that ambition and crafting an inspiring definition should be responsibilities shared across functions and geographies.
  2. Establishing the brand framework. Though difficult to execute, and would require discipline, a shared approach to design standards, trademark policies, etc., will work to reinforce any brand.   
  3. Delivering results. Marketing is all about results. Too often in marketing we start with input or tactics rather than output or results. In the new model, there is no “brand plan” and there is no “business plan.” It’s all one plan, with the objective being to build brand preference.

Business success is tied to building strong brands. And recognition and reward must reflect that common goal. Light predicts that the financial reward system ultimately will be tied to that measurable objective.

Light leaves us with this: As a chief marketer, ask yourself: What percentage of your day is dedicated to helping build brand preference? If it’s less than 50 percent, then you’re a cost to doing business.

8 Lessons on Fixing a Mistake

By Rick Knecht
Posted: Apr 16, 2013 8:12am ET

On Tuesday, April 2, the public web-based secure digital file delivery service YouSendIt lost access to half its functionality: files couldn’t be downloaded. Users got error messages. Work couldn’t be completed. What happened? How did the company handle it? Is YouSendIt about to be YouEndIt?
Mistakes happen. Things will go wrong — it’s not a matter of if, but when. No matter how you try to foresee all fail scenarios, or create backup plans, you’ll never anticipate every possible contingency. What’s important is how companies cope with challenges when they occur, so they don’t turn into brand-destroying disasters.
YouSendIt’s business was disrupted for part of the day, which in turn inconvenienced their users. But it’s likely that there won’t be much fallout, because the company responded in the right way.
YouSendit apologized, within 48 hours. They sent out a public apology, signed by a high-level staffer. It was clearly and plainly worded and took responsibility for the problem. They explained what happened — a database table could no longer accept new information — and reassured users that their files were safe and undamaged. The company followed up by saying they’d fixed the problem, so it wouldn’t happen again, and finished with another apology and a personal invitation to contact a senior staff member with any concerns.
YouSendIt was faced with what was nearly an existential failure in a critical system, and came out with continued customer goodwill.
There are eight important lessons to be learned here about how to handle a potentially significant stumble so that it doesn’t blow up the brand you’ve spent so much time and effort carefully crafting.

  1. Apologize.
    The key part of this apology is to say, “We’re sorry.” The word sorry is non-negotiable. Without the actual apology, apologizing is useless. And you can’t go the passive-aggressive route of saying, “We’re sorry if anyone was offended” (or inconvenienced, frustrated, etc.). Assume that your customers are offended, inconvenienced, or frustrated, and act accordingly.
  2. Apologize in a timely manner.
    “Timely” is dependent on context. A rude tweet posted to a corporate account should be removed immediately upon discovery, and the apology should follow right on its heels. Conversely, in the face of a disaster like a database collapse, you may need a day or two to figure out what happened, but no more than a few days. Apologizing weeks or months later looks forced, no matter how sincere the regret is.
  3. Explain what you’re apologizing for.
    This may be the hardest part: own the mistake. Go into detail about what occurred. Acknowledge that your clients were inconvenienced or hurt. You aren’t going to cover yourself by trying to deny or downplay anything. Don’t make excuses or try to shift blame. Take responsibility and say what happened, in plain language.
  4. Have the apology come from one person.
    That person should be someone high up in the company food chain. “WidgetCo is sorry that we shipped defective widgets to our Minnesota stores” is insufficient. There needs to be a spokesperson attached to the apology, because that helps to humanize your brand. The vague corporate WidgetCo isn’t going to catch much of a break, but Jane Smith, CEO of WidgetCo, sending a personal email to all registered widget owners apologizing for shipping widgets which weren’t waterproof, will be looked on much more positively.
  5. Consider the tone and wording of the apology.
    Being straightforward will go a long way toward earning back business. Today’s consumers, particularly Millennials, value authenticity and honesty. Don’t lie; it will only make things worse when the truth comes out (and it will). Owning up to the error and telling your customers that you recognize their pain can help engender their sympathy and loyalty — after all, everyone makes mistakes.
  6. Fix the problem.
    You have upset customers. How are you going to make them whole? A refund, a credit, free shipping, replacement goods? You must offer something to the customers who were hurt by your mistake.
  7. Ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.
    Sometimes the fix for the past is also the fix for the future, like a software upgrade. Sometimes you need to change policies or methodology, like requiring that all social media posts are screened by a senior staffer, or more thoroughly vetting a product with beta testers before releasing it to the public. But you need to reassure your customers that this was an anomaly, not SOP.
  8. Apologize again.
    It’s not about your brand; it’s about your customers. You failed them, so they need a reason to forgive you and come back.

Brands can survive blunders (Apple Maps giving people bad directions), miscalculations (O.B. tampons going missing from shelves for a few months), and even poor product itself (Domino’s) if you play it straight.

Results of Latest ANA Recession Survey

By Bill Duggan, Group EVP, ANA
Posted: Apr 3, 2013 12:00am ET

ANA has just released the results of our latest Recession Survey, a survey initiated in the depths of the recession in 2009 (hence the name!) and repeated annually since. The objective of the survey is to understand how the current economic atmosphere is affecting client-side marketers. 

Here are topline findings:

In this new normal period there is a short-term focus and higher levels of uncertainly — and that affects budgets. Those budgets must work harder and incremental dollars will be more difficult to come by. This will put a spotlight on marketing accountability.  The “winners” in this new normal environment will be those companies that relentlessly optimize their marketing investments and media budgets to drive even greater accountability.

The complete Recession Survey results are available to ANA members.



Are You Listening to Your Customers?

By Ken Beaulieu, senior director of marketing and communications, ANA
Posted: Apr 1, 2013 12:00am ET

As a mother of three children, Dell CMO Karen Quintos has learned that there’s a real difference between hearing and listening, a difference that also applies to the business world. For example, if your company is monitoring conversations on Facebook and Twitter but not acting on the rich insights, you’re not really listening, she says.

Too often, Quintos notes, marketers look for the “silver bullet” — the new and most innovative aspect of their products, services, or brand — but the best marketing organizations validate the richness of a brand through a maniacal focus on listening. This is especially true at marketing powerhouses such as Dell, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Zappos, and Amazon, among others.

“There is no question that listening enables us to continue to deliver great products and services while simultaneously building customer relationships that inspire,” Quintos says. “When I talk to customers, I ask them fundamentally the same questions: Why are you loyal to Dell? What has you coming back to do business with us? Delivering great products and solutions is certainly a big part of it, but it’s also the constant focus on the customer, doing what’s right for the customer, really caring about customer outcomes, and understanding how technology can change our world. It’s about making every decision with the customer at the center. And listening becomes a cornerstone of doing just that.”

In 2006, Dell launched the blog, Direct2Dell, with a focus on customer conversations. A year later, the company introduced the website IdeaStorm, which allows customers to not only evaluate Dell’s products and solutions, but also offer ideas to improve its business. The best ideas are then incorporated into future products, services, and marketing. Dell also monitors the 25,000 conversations about the company each day through its award-winning Social Media Listening and Command Center.

“Listening and acting on customer insights helps us deliver the technology solutions that give our customers ‘the power to do more,’” Quintos points out. “Whether it’s to listen or proactively ask for customer ideas, social media allows Dell to put the customer at the center of all we do. We’ve come a long way. But every day there is a new development in the social media space, and every day I learn something new about the way Dell can use these communication channels to improve our listening, ultimately, to better serve our customers.”


Marketers Still Challenging Agencies to Reduce Costs

By Bill Duggan, Group EVP, ANA
Posted: Mar 26, 2013 12:00am ET

ANA is about to release the results of our latest Recession Survey, a survey initiated in the depths of the recession in 2009 (hence the name!) and repeated annually since.

The survey asks (a) if advertising budgets are increasing/decreasing; (b) if marketers are challenged with identifying cost savings and reductions in their current marketing and advertising efforts; and (c) if so, how specifically they are planning to reduce costs.

Interestingly, the top six strategies for reducing costs of marketing and advertising efforts have remained consistent for the past three years.

It’s no surprise that departmental travel and expense restrictions continue to top the list (noted by 58% of respondents).  The next most prevalent cost reduction strategy is to challenge agencies to reduce internal expenses and/or identify cost reductions (55%).  

Meanwhile, the strategy of reducing agency compensation is way down on the list.  Only 15% of marketers surveyed said they plan to reduce agency compensation. This is a significant decrease compared to past surveys, especially from 2009 (when it was 56 %). It’s possible that many marketers have reduced agency compensation as low as possible and now instead are challenging their agencies to reduce costs internally and/or identify cost reductions which, of course, could then indirectly lower agency compensation.

Look for full results of this Recession Survey to be released next week.



Transparency and Agency Trading Desks

By Bill Duggan, Group EVP, ANA
Posted: Mar 22, 2013 12:00am ET

This week’s Advertising Age features a terrific article by Alexandra Bruell reporting on a panel discussion at the recent 4A’s Transformation Conference.  The panel featured six media agency heads and a contentious debate on agency trading desks.  ANA agrees that there are indeed transparency concerns with agency trading desks. 

In late 2011, ANA released a white paper titled,"Agency Trading Desks: Basics Marketers Need to Know & Questions to Ask."  Its purpose is to help educate ANA members on agency trading desks including what they are, what they do, potential benefits, questions to ask, and more.  

Most importantly, the paper advises marketers to be educated on how their company's money is being spent. Every holding company (and independent) does things a little bit differently, so if working with a trading desk, marketers need to understand their agency's model and make sure they are comfortable with it. The following questions and action steps are important.

Facebook vs. Twitter: Hashtags and Social TV Ratings

By Marni Gordon, vice president of committees and conferences, ANA
Posted: Mar 19, 2013 12:00am ET

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is working on incorporating hashtags as a way to group conversations. Hashtags, one of Twitter’s key symbols, are already prevalent within Instagram which was acquired by Facebook last year.       

This has implications for ad targeting as well as opportunities to build out Facebook’s graph search product, which currently relies on the “like” as an indicator of brand interest.  This tends to be a weaker measure as users may “like” a page if they are in fact interested in the brand, but other reasons could include entering a one-time contest or to “like” a page as part of a social obligation.  In addition, the main barrier for Facebook to widely adopt the hashtag is their high levels of privacy for publishing user content. 

If Facebook’s hashtag efforts are successful, they could be a formidable competitor to Twitter and even other third-party television ratings providers like Nielsen in the social TV ratings game.  Twitter is already becoming aggressive in this space with their recent acquisition of Bluefin Labs.  Twitter also mentioned last month that half of the 52 national commercials that aired during the Super Bowl included a hashtag within the advertisement. 

However, Twitter is only a fraction of Facebook’s size.  Facebook’s mass reach combined with using the hashtag to group conversations around TV programs could potentially provide a substantial sample size for real-time social TV ratings.

It will be interesting to watch the battle between Facebook and Twitter continue to unfold and how this could impact television and even cross-platform ratings in the future!

Learn more on social media from senior marketers at companies including Unilever, Taco Bell, Virgin America, Pepsi, MasterCard Worldwide, and Reckitt Benckiser at the ANA Digital & Social Media Conference on July 14-16!


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About This Blog

To complement our two leadership blogs and build dialogue on the seismic changes happening in marketing, we launched Marketing Maestros. Our in-house citizen journalists will talk about everything from marketing technology to accountability and everything in between. This blog is written for marketers by ANA's marketers whose insights are drawn from the voices of the client side marketing community.