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General - FIT - Melissa Doug

Gemma Craven describes the Amazon effect and building content strategies for 2019

January 23, 2019

Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast with Jeff Ragovin is Gemma Craven, CMO of Melissa & Doug, who discusses her role in the Fearless Girl campaign, building for mobile, and what an in-store experience really means. Given the evolution of digital marketing, Gemma believes that purpose-led marketing initiatives are one of the most effective ways for brands to reach a variety of consumer demographics.

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Q&A

Jeff Ragovin: How are consumers engaging with content today?

Gemma Craven: I’ve always thought of it as a triangle- if you look at it, there’s the brand, there’s the agency, and there’s technology. For me, it’s always been important to understand each of the three sides to really focus on how to engage the consumer in the right way- because that’s how they’re engaging. That’s really been at the underlying root of my career.

Jeff Ragovin: How can marketers engage consumers through a mobile phone nowadays?

Gemma Craven: In a world where everything is done through a mobile, we haven’t gotten to a tipping point with a lot of backlash- but there’s more information about the intentional use of mobile. As a brand, we try to understand when and how to engage with consumers on a mobile and when to step back. I’ve always looked to Asia as a place to track digital trends. The internet skipped the desktop there and went straight to mobile. In China, there’s clinics for mobile phone addiction! As marketers trying to reach people on these devices, we need to be aware of doing so in a way that isn’t distracting but is useful and integrated into a consumers life- versus interrupting it, or tying them deeper into an addiction. It’s an addiction that we all struggle with, but don’t really understand how or why.

Jeff Ragovin: What are some of the big challenges brands are facing when building for mobile?

Gemma Craven: The consumer today has been able to filter out what they do and don’t want to see. Because the mobile phone is such an extension of our body and lives, it’s no longer the case that you build something and naturally reach the consumer just because you want to. There is intense competition for attention, particularly when it comes to mobile apps. It’s about understanding what you’re building, why’re you’re building it, and the app’s functionality. Once you’ve created that, the challenge surrounds how to bring the consumer into that experience, and how to keep sharing useful information. How do you become one of the 5-7 apps we all use regularly, and how do you compete? Consumers are becoming more savvy in what they want to access on their devices.

Jeff Ragovin: What do you think about true personalization where ads are concerned?

Gemma Craven: I think the most important thing is that a brand really understands the core demographic. If you’re selling a running shoe, for example, you need to know what runners you’re targeting and what matters to them. It’s not a case of spray and pray, which is creating content that you expect to be seen and consumed by everyone. With all the sophisticated targeting options that we now have across different platforms, we don’t need to create content that appeals to everyone. It’s about being very specific and really researching the audience that you are trying to reach. A promise of personalization is that brands have a relevant and targeted message that resonates with the intended audience.

Personalization has also been woven into e-commerce. Websites display products that you might like based on previous purchase behavior. There’s a lot of talk about how there’ll be a day when all we will receive is highly tailored ads based on every single part of our digital behavior online. There are two types of consumer activity on digital -- more transactional, intentional activity or more mindless activity. So it’s worthwhile that brands spend more time getting to know their core demographic and their online behavior, because then their work just becomes so much more efficient.

Jeff Ragovin: You were focused on leading the content and social strategy for the Fearless Girl. Talk to us about the process behind that.

Gemma Craven: State Street Global Advisors was the brand behind the idea. They’re an investment firm who had just launched a gender diversity ETF, and they actually invested in companies with women in leadership. Their numbers showed them these companies were more profitable and performed better. From that, the Fearless Girl was developed to celebrate the power and impact of women in leadership. I think intention should be at the heart of marketing- brands and companies actually taking action as opposed to just talking about it. Anyone who has worked on a creative process will know the different steps and stages you go through to actually get there. For the Fearless Girl, it was a year in the making to get to this defiant young girl who took on the business world. There was a lot of strategy in terms of behind the scenes work to bring her to life- so that she actually became this iconic symbol of the women’s movement and women in leadership.

Something I always find interesting is how the moment in time that she was launched was a core part of the creative work. We always knew that we wanted to launch her around International Women’s Day on March 8th. There were a lot of brands trying to jump into the cultural conversation and support the movement so we decided to launch the Fearless Girl the day before. Our research showed this day as open space where we could bring the Fearless Girl to life into the world and start a conversation about the power of women in leadership and business.

We focused on fairly adept social listening to understand the conversations happening around this time. Another key moment was looking at what it takes for a conversation to actually start around a brand. We looked at the science of successful movements, how content is shared and how conversations are spread among the different communities that would care about the Fearless Girl. The genesis of this was to support the launch of the fund and promote the power of women in business, and from that you think about reaching a broader consumer network.  When I think about how she came to life and the team that worked on designing her, they considered her ethnicity, the way she was standing, the clothes she was wearing, and even the material she was created from. There was so much thought that went into the process so that she became this iconic figure. We were all aware of the importance of this moment, and attention to detail was really important.

Jeff Ragovin: There was a lot of polarization and backlash surrounding Gillette's recent ad. What do you think about the message?

Gemma Craven: I thought it was brilliant. It made me tear up a little at the end. It was powerful and bold. Considering their target market, it would be really easy for Gillette to ignore what is happening in the world around them. There are so many people who don’t care, and don’t want Gillette to be telling them what’s right and what’s wrong as a man. They would continue to buy their razors irregardless. The fact that Gillette realized that they could make an impact and put some good out there in the world is so important.

 It comes back to a discussion around purpose-led marketing, and the question of what a company’s mission is. There are a lot of words about being a purpose led brand, and actually taking action and doing something is what really speaks to me about this. For instance, shifting the tagline from “The best a man can get” to “The best a man can be” is so simple but so impactful. Children mirror the behavior they see out there in the world. Given the divisive time that we’re in, it scares me that this division is going to leave a lasting impact on the next generation. This ad is important because it shows the impact and power you can have by behaving in a certain way. If people weren’t talking about it, it wouldn’t have hit the mark. Gillette also has action oriented goals tied to this- for instance, they’re donating to nonprofits related to this stance such as the “Boys & Girls Club.” Many millions of people use Gillette’s products and this becomes a way to make change in the world. To me, this shows what purpose-led marketing and initiatives should be.

Jeff Ragovin: From a brand perspective, how do you balance taking a stance in something that you really believe in while at the same time, not polarizing the audience around you?

Gemma Craven: From a commercial perspective, purpose-led marketing is good for business. The two go hand in hand, and it’s okay to admit that. The reality is that consumers are shopping with their values and they’re not afraid to switch up if a company doesn’t match up to their own view of the world. I think that a transparency in values and mission, whatever that may be- doesn’t have to be such an extreme, but should be tied to the company and what the company stands for and can do. Going back to Gillette, this campaign is tied to the core demographic and it works. They’re not just jumping on the bandwagon, but it feels like something where they can make an impact. Nike’s recent “Dream Crazy” ad also ties in with the athlete’s struggle to succeed and the “Just Do It” ethos. That was a gamble that could have gone in a different direction, but they believed in it so much that they stuck to it. And the results showed that their profits actually went up.

Jeff Ragovin: What’s next in marketing?

Gemma Craven: I’ve been thinking about retail and e-commerce in particular, including the Amazon effect. The impact that Amazon has had on the shopping experience for the consumer, both from shipping times to how we buy, has completely changed the retail experience in traditional offline stores. When you think about being the steward of a brand and what Amazon represents, building a brand on Amazon is a thing. Amazon is a place where a lot of retail transactions are happening. Show me your product and clear, well styled product shots- but also, tell me about your brand! Create content that helps me choose what to buy, but also tells me more about you. This ties back to consumers shopping with their values as well as their wallet and thinking about how you bring the consumer to your space. Reports show the portion of spend going to Amazon behind Google and Facebook and it’s growing insanely.

Jeff Ragovin: How can brick and mortar evolve to compete with Amazon?

Gemma Craven: I don’t think brands are ready because the “Amazon world” changes so quickly. It’s really interesting to look at some of Amazon’s own label brands just to see the potential of what can be done on this platform. I think in the next twelve months we’ll see a real shift. Amazon just opened a brick and mortar store New York and a big portion of spend is going towards their more sophisticated offerings.

Jeff Ragovin: What do you think about Amazon actually having brick and mortar stores after starting digital?

Gemma Craven: Both sides- brick and mortar and digital- are really learning from one another. In terms of the direct- to-consumer model,  the consumer needs that real world experience. This could be in the form of a partnership like Casper and Target, through a sponsorship, or even their own store. If you’ve been to Amazon’s four star store in New York City, it’s not at the same level as competitors in terms of merchandising, but the product range is fantastic, and you have the ability to see consumer reviews at the same time as you’re holding something that’s in the store, as well as the ever-changing stock. It’s going to be really interesting to see where they take that.

Traditional brick and mortar stores need to build on the consumer experience- why would a shopper come to your store? What are you offering that can’t be found online? It’s about really digging in and thinking about why consumers come into your store. People might even come into your store and then eventually buy your product on Amazon, just depending on the size of your store and whether it’s more convenient to have it shipped to their door. It’s about being okay with that. At the end of the day, as long as the sale happens then the sale happens.

Jeff Ragovin: What makes a really good experience at a brick and mortar store?

Gemma Craven: A good example is the Dyson store in New York City. They have their hair styling equipment that you can play with, touch and actually use. In the vacuum section, there is an area where you can get a tub of glitter or some cheerios to “make your own mess” and actually use the vacuum to clean up. It almost feels like the Apple store, in that all you focus on is their products. It’s not cluttered and in-store associates are experts. They offer you the option to either buy immediately and take it with you, or have it delivered to your door at no extra charge. They are very aware of the fact that it’s okay if a customer walks out with nothing actually in their hands.  It’s very well thought out -- it’s all about creating an engaging a memorable experience.

Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes