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Two leaders in data-driven marketing, Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and PR Officer, Ally Financial, and Jamie Power, COO of Advanced TV, Cadent, took part in a chat for Brand Innovators’ Women in Marketing livecast recently. The executives shared their takeaways on leading during challenging times, what CMOs should focus on now and how brand marketers can learn from the COVID-19 crisis.
Read seven insights from their fireside chat below, including why there are some crises you can’t fully prepare for and why humanity should always be at the center of marketing.
The following has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
1. Provide levity to customers at the right moments.
Ally’s tag phrase is “Do It Right,” driving the brand to do what’s right for their customers. With that in mind, Jamie said, how is Ally engaging with consumers differently, and how is the brand practicing being “customer obsessed?”
Andrea replied that the brand has increased its frequency of customer communications, emailing customers at least once a week with relevant information. Additionally, the brand has increased its velocity in social, and generally, Ally is taking advantage of new opportunities popping up. For instance, the brand is sponsoring Jimmie Johnson, a NASCAR driver, and as NASCAR pivots to virtual racing, Ally outfitted Jimmie’s entire iRig with Ally branding, including a hat and backdrop.
“We’re having some fun with it, where we actually are surprising and delighting some of our customers,” Andrea said. The brand has also partnered with Katie Couric on a series called “The Bright Side,” focusing on stories of “the heroes, the helpers, and the people who are finding joy” under these unprecedented circumstances.
2. With the right tone, brand-customer communications can be a salve.
Jamie asked Andrea how Ally is being brave with its marketing in light of the pandemic. “In a lot of ways,” Andrea said, “brands are like a warm chocolate chip cookie right now,” reminding people that everything will be ok.
Andrea said for Ally, being brave at this time means focusing less on short-term business implications, and thinking more in terms of being human beings and good corporate citizens as a brand. The brand has implemented a comprehensive relief package for its customers including suppressing all auto payments to customers for 120 days, suppressing all mortgage payments for 120 days and waiving all fees. Ally is also focusing on providing helpful information like what customers can do with their stimulus checks, how to think about FDIC insurance and the importance of it right now.
3. TV’s reach is as powerful as ever.
As the COO of Advanced TV at Cadent, Jamie said she’s a believer in the power of data to communicate at the household-level. So is now the right time to get more targeted or more broad with TV messaging?
Andrea responded, “I think people that draw a line in the sand and say it’s ‘either/or’ are really not looking at the full picture, and not giving themselves an opportunity to reach the number of people that they need to reach,” adding that in many regards, there’s still no better medium than television to gain mass appeal.
4. CMOs should dig into the details with their data right now.
Andrea generally is a big proponent of keeping an active learning agenda as a CMO, aiming to allocate a third of her time to learning.
Under the current circumstances, she said, CMOs should “ferociously read every piece of information that they can get their hands on right now,” adding that they need to be more involved than ever in the social listening process, and actually listening to what customers are saying, and how they’re feeling.” Andrea said recently, she’s closer to the creative process than ever before, meeting more frequently with Ally’s various agency teams in order to stay fluid and adjust on a weekly basis.
She added that CMOs shouldn’t be afraid to get into the details of customer feedback right now: “The people that pay attention to the details, are the ones that are going to make sure that they don’t do any harm to their brand, and they actually thrive coming out of this.”
5. Show your humanity.
Andrea said her team is finding ways to connect remotely, from virtual happy hours and fitness bootcamps to a game of Marco Polo, adding, “I’ve literally sent a Marco Polo video message to all 120 individually, and I’m keeping in touch with anybody that’s responding on a really regular basis.”
Jamie said right now is an important time to support Cadent’s brand and agency clients: “As a technology partner, we’re looking for ways to be supportive to our agency and brand clients in any way we can. We’re not necessarily selling right now; we’re looking for solutions.” To stay connected to her team, Jamie said she learned how to use TikTok to regularly share silly videos.
6. Lean into your brand, in the good and bad times.
During the last recession, the brands that went dark took nine times longer to recover, Andrea said, adding, “We also know that a large portion of brands that go completely dark, will lose at least 1X their brand measures, and we’ve worked too hard, particularly over the course of the last two years, to have dramatic brand acceleration.” Ally has accelerated its brand valuation, doubling it in each of the last two years, Andrea said.
7. Learn from times of crisis.
Jamie asked about Ally’s history of handling national crises; the brand launched during the financial crisis in 2007. Did her team take learnings from the previous crisis into this one? Andrea said that while there’s no playbook for a crisis like this, and no one would have imagined they’d have to live through a pandemic, Ally was born out of customer pain points. Now, as people flock to digital brands that help them adjust to the new normal, like Netflix and Zoom, customers are also flocking to Ally, a digital-only bank.
“We will use the lessons that we learned of solving for customer pain points and providing great digital utility to carry us through this,” Andrea said.
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