CMO 2.0 Conversation with Phil Clement, CMO at Aon

Written by on September 25, 2012 – 5:30 pm -

My CMO 2.0 conversation with Phil Clement, who is the CMO at Aon was truly enlightening. Phil is an anthropologist by training with a background in econometrics as well — which makes for an interesting mix. Throughout his career, Phil has been in business development and marketing roles. He joined Aon, a $10B company operating in 120 countries, 7 years ago and recently moved to London to have better access to their worldwide operations.

Aon grew primarily though acquisitions — 419 acquisitions in fact. They range from startups to companies that have been around for more than a century — making for a rich mix of cultures, but also resulting in a tough job to brand a unified company. They built the brand from the inside out and spent more than two years making sure that everyone inside the company lived the brand promise before embarking on an external branding campaign. Phil truly believes that the 62,000 Aon employees are the ones that have the biggest impact on their brand. That is why they made the five qualities of the brand (e.g., teamwork, innovation, etc.) also an integral part of their HR system — with employees being evaluated by the same characteristics that are important to their clients. They truly “humanized” the Aon brand.

They account for local cultural difference in marketing through a program called Jazz — in which a global marketing platform gets developed and locally customized. One such platform was the sponsorship of Manchester United, one of the most recognizable soccer franchises in the world. In fact, more people have conversations about soccer than about religion, politics, and family — hard to believe. They developed a global marketing program whereby a football would go from one office to the next until it reached London, but what happened at the local offices when a football reached that office was totally localized — some might have a feast while others might have a show with native dancers for their customers. So they achieved global consistency while staying locally relevant.

Aon has not quite reached the level where they can do heavy customer segmentation based on behavior-based segmentation, which is one of the promises of big data, but they do know what makes a difference at different stages of the sales cycle.

Phil then explained how they have been moving from a more traditional insurance conversation to one that is centered on what we term “risk intelligence,” or he calls “empowering people’s decision making.” The main reason for this move is that their overall product footprint is now too large for the brand to stand for any particular offering.

Content marketing is a very important element in Phil’s marketing mix. It allows them to let the customer see how they think, it furthers their image and reputation, and it helps explain the depth with which they are approaching the problems in both risk and people. When they think about content, they use the acronym CUTT. Which is, Is the content compelling? Is it useful to the person? Is it timely? Does it lead to a transaction, or is it information about things you actually sell?

Next we delved deeper on the topic of culture. Phil being an anthropologist by training, of course, means that he focuses much of his marketing thinking on human behavior. He looks for hierarchies and symbols that dictate behavior, he looks at what gives people status and power, and always tries to understand social roles. He is also very aware of consumer cultures, and how you can sometimes influence those cultures. Internally there is a global work culture at Aon, one that emanates from their internal branding efforts mentioned earlier. Shaping culture can be very effective — in the absence of rules or the absence of a management decision, for example, culture dictates you what to do.

Lastly, we talked about the need for measuring the impact of marketing, and the difficulty associated with measuring some of the softer elements of marketing that we talked about. Phil thinks that marketing cannot be faith-based and wants to be able to measure everything. He will not embark on a program that cannot be measured. Measurement-based marketing is the only way to achieve consistency in marketing. The soft stuff, like the fact that a 15 year old will always see Aon as a big company in their life because of the Manchester United sponsorship, has to be a bonus — it cannot be the reason you embark on a marketing program. Good metrics include unification of the company, number of leads created, awareness increase, renewal rates, shortening sales cycles, etc.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of excellence in marketing and branding
  • What it truly means to have a team-work based culture
  • The importance of having a global brand on marketing budgets
  • How marketing is a mix of quantitative analysis and creative
  • The findings of the Social Workplace Trust Study

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 3 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Martine Reardon, CMO at Macy’s

Written by on September 11, 2012 – 1:40 pm -

My CMO 2.0 Conversation with Martine Reardon, who is the CMO at Macy’s was a great one. As usual, Martine started by describing her career path that led to becoming CMO at Macy’s. She started her career in retail early on with an internship at a local Brooklyn retailer, called A&S. During her career in retail, Martine covered just about all aspects of marketing, from PR, events, direct marketing, media buying, and analytics – so she is a real deep-rooted marketing person.

Next we discussed the biggest change that Martine has seen in the world of marketing – that of course being the shift of media into the digital space and social space. The pace at which the shift happened is astounding. The shift in technology, the shift is how people use it, and the rise of millenials all have forced marketers to challenge themselves to stay ahead of the curve.

Macy’s does an especially good job at integrating the digital space with the bricks and mortar stores. There are clearly no walls between the digital marketing efforts and the marketing efforts for the stores — it’s all one integrated branding campaign. They focus much effort in making sure that people have similar experiences online and in stores — something many companies could do a better job at. There are challenges in doing that — stores don’t have the rich navigation capabilities that online environments have, and online you cannot really recreate the richness of merchandising displays that you can have in stores. So they focus on taking best of both worlds and making sure that both worlds have the best of each other. They put technology in stores to enable customers to share potential purchases with friends, and they are making online navigation real easy by adding hints and rich media to allow the online customer to put their whole outfit together.

The next topic we tackled was branding – and how Macy’s deals with the fact that while it is a national brand, it also needs to stay locally relevant. They deal with that in three ways – through marketing, products, and local events. On the marketing front, they have dedicated regional marketers who have their own budgets. They integrate with national marketing campaigns but also add a local flavor. So, for example, while they may be marketing a national fall fashion event; California may be talking about sandals and sleeveless dresses for the fall while Oregon may be highlighting fall boots and coats. They divide up the country into cold, mild and hot for seasonal events. Another way to stay locally relevant and be a real part of the community is by celebrating local events. So, for example, they celebrate the Kentucky Derby by buying Derby hats and marketing those locally with a tie in — “Come to Macy’s for Refreshments after the Derby.”

Another marketing challenge that Macy’s faces is that while they are a national brand which has to stay locally relevant, they also need to stay relevant to different generations, different genders, different ethnic groups, and different type of buyers (e.g., value-conscious buyers vs. fashion buyers). They do this by making sure to balance the marketing calendar with big store-wide events that would appeal to all and other events that are very targeted to millenials, or the beauty customer; or just a men’s customer.

Martine then talked about how in the last three to four years they have been able to leverage customer data to come up with a better customer segmentation system. So, for example,  they can now focus on women that like to buy fragrances and jewelry versus the ones that like to buy for the home and children. They also have identified new types of customers, like the service seeker. Those are the people that want hands-on sales associate interaction. They want to be taught how to apply their makeup. They want someone bring them three different shoes, or they want someone to tell them “if you like this, you might also like this.” Another example is the practical spenders — those who, like me, just get in and out when we need to replenish something.

The promise of big data surely seems to be realized at Macy’s. Mining the rich data that they collect through many channels allows them to become more customer-centric and also to be able to focus more on the customer lifetime journey rather than just the transaction. That is especially powerful for Macy’s considering that when they start engaging with a customer at 18-19 years of age, they generally keep them for life. So, being able to follow a customer throughout their life is important — college, first job, first home, holidays, etc.

The last topic we tackled was that of balancing the iconic brand, which dates back 156 years,  with the need to develop a brand that also has a future and will appeal to future generations. Using the heritage of the brand allows them to instill trust, loyalty, and credibility in the mind of the customer. At the same time they are an entertainment brand and use their heritage in new and innovative ways to continuously be part of pop culture. A good example of this is the 85-year-old Thanksgiving Parade, which they have been able to keep new every year, with new licensed characters or new artists.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of content and user generated content in marketing
  • The importance of listening to customers
  • How to leverage the fact that shopping is a social experience
  • The importance of loyalty programs in the marketing mix

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 1 Comment »
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