Tim Mahoney, Chevrolet's global chief marketing officer, oversees marketing plans for GM's heavy duty pickups. But in a recent interview, he gave competitor Honda accolades for a marketing campaign featuring minivans with installed vacuum cleaners because it “showed a commitment to their consumers’ lifestyles.” He added: "The best learning comes from outside your category. If something works, it works. That's where entrepreneurs can get inspiration."
So we asked other marketing honchos at The Economist's 2014 BigRethink for their favorite campaigns. The only rule: they had to pick from outside their company. They also list the forces that are changing the rules of consumer engagement and the top trends that every ‘startup CMO’ should know.
Vice President of Media and Consumer Engagement
Top Pick: The Guinness ad featuring the Barnes sisters
Why: The U.S. Olympic Committee only allows official sponsors to feature Olympic athletes during the “Ad Blackout” period [which ran from Jan 30 – Feb 26, 3014]. Guinness wasn’t a sponsor, but on the eve of the Ad Blackout, they leveraged the Olympian twin sisters’ story through YouTube, and managed it in real-time. The time, place, messaging were all really relevant and they used the blackout dates to their advantage.
Top Insight: Startups have to utilize data – any data – they have on-hand, learn how to segment and profile their audience, then respond accordingly. The Kraft Recipes website is not just convenient for our consumers, but we are also able to track what they want and why, be it diet trends or preferences due to geographic location.
Top Pick: #ShineStrong by Pantene Philippines
Why: When I showed it to my CEO it already had more than 45 million views. They used the power of social media to achieve this but it also struck a chord with women and it powerfully articulated the challenges that their target consumers face. That’s worth more than any campaign money can buy.
Top Insight: Mass media is expensive but you can find creative ways to reach consumers. Nowadays you can build a following for free. We’re restaging our Artistry beauty brand but we knew we were missing some things. First, there was repackaging. We wanted our products to be recognizable by its silhouette, before you even see our logo on it. Then, we found stars from the blogosphere with a huge Twitter following to become our brand ambassadors. The key is to sponsor someone or something that is emerging, and align them with your brand. For example, grow with an up and coming athlete before they make it to the big time. We chose Australian actress Teresa Palmer as the face of our global beauty brand. We also sponsored the Busan International Film Festival, which is the Sundance of Asia. So Teresa’s face and our logo will be everywhere at a global marquee event, and at an overseas market that prioritizes skincare.
SVP & CMO
Top Pick: The Dropbox 100 Million Thanks
Why: It’s quite inspirational because they turned customers into evangelists by giving them the incentives of more storage space by referral. This marketing approach works well in the world we live in. It also shows how their tech service resonates with the global masses. Too often, tech campaigns lead with functionality and features, and that’s not the place to start. Good tech marketing should start with the core benefits.
Top Insight: The DocuSign Global Network connects businesses with their customers, partners and suppliers -- and makes it easier for all the parties to use our solutions. Startups should also aim to build a community. It’s less expensive if you organize that community into brand advocates and champions. It’s not hard to do if you get early-adopting customers and equip them with tools to amplify your brand. For startups in the software and Internet space, overcome the tech barriers by simplifying the benefits that your solution provides, in a way that would win over your grandparents. If your messages don’t resonate with them, then you haven’t worked hard enough.
VP of Marketing and Content Strategy
Top Pick: GE’s “What My Mom Does At GE”.
Why: My kids literally knew every word of this commercial and asked my wife if her job was that cool. But GE has also innovated the way they tell stories outside of the classic campaign. You can see this at work in their “Science Fair” vines on Tumblr.
Top Insight: My advice to entrepreneurs is to think about speed and agility. “Fail, fast, forward” is a mantra that works because you learn so quickly what works and what doesn’t. When you try any new idea, you gain insights into your customer, your market and your business that you didn’t have before and that adds tremendous value. It’s also important that startups think about marketing from the start. Too often you see products emerge from engineers who then struggle to communicate.
At SAP, we no longer think in terms of “campaigns.” Instead, how do we continuously and effectively communicate with our customers? So you will see us talk about simplicity, especially with our Ariba Network, which we market as the Facebook for business. Think about all the meetings about meetings, the status reports that no one reads and all the managers who only serve to manage other managers. If you simplify the people, process and technology inside your business, you can do just about anything.
CMO and Chief Brand Officer
Top Pick: Oreos Tweet during the blackout of the 2013 Super Bowl
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
Why: Their Twitter response to the Super Bowl blackout in 2013 doesn’t need much explanation. Oreo continues to resurrect a great old brand and make it contemporary, fun and aspirational.
Top Insight: It’s about messaging. Have a sharp, consistent conviction and don’t ever deviate. For us, it's natural ingredients all the way. People think we’ve been around longer but we’re actually a young company [founded in 2005], so we don’t have the same amount of marketing money to mess around with. Our social strategy is don’t act like a company, act like a human. Whoever has the CMO role at the startup has to remember that despite advances in big data, one thing will never change: the COO’s role is to create supply and the CMO’s role is to drive demand.