Episode 05 - Developing Future Marketing Leaders w/ Jenny Rooney of Forbes



Episode 4 - Developing Future Marketing Leaders w/ Jenny Rooney


Jenny Rooney:                  The industry has been transforming so dramatically that the task of keeping up with that dramatic transformation for universities has always been challenging but certainly I would argue is more challenging now than ever before.

Dave Knox:                         I'm your host, Dave Knox, and this is Predicting the Turn, a show that helps business leaders meet their industry's inevitable disruption head-on.

Dave Knox:                         Welcome to another edition of Predicting the Turn. Today, I'm joined with my good friend Jenny Rooney as we're taking the stage here at Cradle of Marketers in Oxford, Ohio as we both return to our alma mater. So Jenny, welcome to the show.

Jenny Rooney:                  Thank you so much for having me, it's great to be here.

Dave Knox:                         Thank you. I always like to start with a little background, and especially this is a little bit different. The last few episodes have been with some chief marketing officers, some with some venture capitalists. You're on the journalism side, but you spend every single day with CMOs. So tell us about your background that ultimately led you to be at Forbes.

Jenny Rooney:                  Sure, yeah. I've always been a business journalist, I got my master's in magazine journalism, and started in trade magazines covering the healthcare industry, and then quickly moved from that to covering the use of IT in the healthcare space, and then really early on in my career I made the leap to covering advertising industry by moving to Advertising Age. I was covering interactive agencies, this was during the dot.com boom, sort of 99, 2000. So I was able to cover the industry from that perspective, it was a super exciting time till it all went bust.

Jenny Rooney:                  But after Ad Age I continued to cover marketing, advertising, and branding at magazines like Business 2.0, which was one of the original internet economy magazines. I went to Chief Executive magazine, became editor of Sales & Marketing Management magazine, so I basically continued to climb my career ladder covering, not only marketing, advertising, and branding, but specifically marketing leadership and marketing executives. So that became my core focus, my beat if you will.

Jenny Rooney:                  So I went back to Ad Age another time to start something called Point, which was a monthly supplement, for and about CMOs. It later became CMO Strategy and was folded into the regular issue of Ad Age, and then after that I went to Forbes and I became editor of CMO Network, and that's where I've been for the past seven years.

Dave Knox:                         Love it. So, Forbes, one of the most recognized brands in the world. People might not be as familiar with CMO Network and what that is, so talk about the ... How does that live within a media industry, and what's involved with the CMO Network?

Jenny Rooney:                  Sure, when I think about the CMO Network I think of it as a component part of our overall CMO practice. Basically, CMO Network is our core content channel that I edit and I oversee, and obviously that's news stories, that's analysis, that's second-day news where we're looking at industry events and giving perspective, whether it's from myself or through my stable of contributors, they're all experts that are individually vetted.

Jenny Rooney:                  But then beyond the CMO Network, which is this core content channel, we've built out a whole community of CMOs with whom we engage on a regular basis through various touch points. We certainly have our events, we have our tent-pole event, our Forbes CMO summit that we hold every year, it's an invitation-only event for CMOs. We do one in Europe now. We do dinners throughout the year.

Jenny Rooney:                  And then I personally am engaging with CMOs in my video interview series, I actually am the cohost of the Wharton Business Radio Show CMO Spotlight. I do a lot of events with universities such as this one. So I engage with CMOs on a regular basis throughout the year in a lot of different contexts, and I think that all together comprises the CMO practice at Forbes.

Dave Knox:                         Perfect. So you mentioned one of the events that we're here at, the Cradle of Marketers. This event is all about helping shape the leaders of tomorrow. From your perch, what do you see in terms of the role of marketing leaders to help those future leaders and the future business, why do you find yourself involved with universities?

Jenny Rooney:                  To your first question, what's the role of marketing leaders, I think all CMOs or marketing leaders are recognizing that they have ... First of all, there's a big problem happening right now in marketing, in that marketing companies need the most cutting-edge skillsets within their walls. They need to be hiring, retaining, developing talent that's gonna enable them to meet their goals, and a lot of these goals are around digital transformation, etc., the new ways of engaging with consumers.

Jenny Rooney:                  For me personally, in covering the industry I've witnessed A, how important it has become for CMOs to really give back, and by giving back, not just talking about it and not talking about it from afar, but literally, physically being on college campuses, engaging with those students one-on-one, being in front of them, talking to them. It all stems from a personal passion that I think you share as well, of making sure that we're bridging marketing practice and marketing education.

Jenny Rooney:                  I feel like, obviously now more than ever, the industry has been transforming so dramatically that the task of keeping up with that dramatic transformation for universities has always been challenging but certainly I would argue is more challenging now than ever before. So anything we can do to bridge those two and bring them together is only gonna benefit everybody involved.

Dave Knox:                         So you talked about industries transforming every single day, and even more so. As you spend every single day working with these chief marketing officers, what have you seen over the last few years of how their mindset is changing in terms of thinking about their own jobs and their role within their company?

Jenny Rooney:                  I think that they're recognizing that they have to be driving, not just brand growth, but business value. So how they do that has become such a critical focal point, whether it's being able to have conversations in board rooms where you're basically selling marketing to board members, to others in the C-suite, the CMO has had to really hone and isolate his or her reason for being in companies, and I think we're all coming down to the fact that it is owning the voice of the customer in a way that nobody else in the company can. And that is the unique value ...

Jenny Rooney:                  Obviously, historically chief marketing officers were custodians of the latest ad campaign, and they were very functional. So, as we have all seen, this transformation of the CMO role to being so much more than that, it hasn't just come without effort in terms of CMOs having to take on the responsibility of telling their own stories within organizations, explaining to everybody, not just the value of a CMO, or equivalent title, by the way, but the value of marketing as a business growth driver and not a cost center.

Dave Knox:                         Love that. So, on that note, one of your recent efforts is the CMO Next that you just had published, coming out. It talks about redefining the CMO and embodying all that that role is becoming, can be, and will be in the future. Let's talk about that, as you pulled together that list, what did you see as the changes for what the CMO job actually is?

Jenny Rooney:                  What I looked at with that list is first I looked at CMO's experience, education, mandate within organizations, and mindset. I chose those things specifically because I think altogether they help to define the CMO of the future. What I ended up noticing is that all these people, just through their actions and by virtue of being in those roles at these companies, they are redefining the role. I decided what I wanted to do was not just talk about how the role's being redefined, but who is redefining it through the actions and through their actual posts.

Jenny Rooney:                  They're owning the customer relationship in a way that I had never, frankly, previously experienced in other conversations with CMOs. I had given every nominee, every candidate, a questionnaire that I had developed, and in reading through their responses one of the things that became strikingly obvious was a true and complete understanding and passion for the customer as the ultimate guide of everything that marketing's doing. It's almost like marketing exists only at the request of the consumer, if you follow what I'm saying. It's a different way of looking at it.

Jenny Rooney:                  As a result ... And they weren't all D2C companies, but certainly some were, and even at the ones that weren't, this concept of obviously owning the full relationship, the data behind that, the full transaction, and truly listening to what the consumer wants, needs, and is demanding, was pervasive throughout all the candidates.

Dave Knox:                         So you made an interesting comment there, you said it was a CMO list, but not every title was a CMO. So there was chief brand officer, chief customer officer, chief experience officer. When you looked at all of these different titles, is that a signal of real change, or is it marketers coming up with fancy titles like we sometimes do?

Jenny Rooney:                  I personally don't think it's marketers coming up with fancy titles, I don't think it's just semantics. I actually think it is indicative of the fact that the role is changing. Some will say, “Oh, the CMO's dead.” I don't think the CMO's dead, but it's certainly not what it had been, it's a new sort of role. The CFO doesn't own it, the CEO doesn't even own it. It is a unique role within an organization, and I do think it is about growth, it is about customer relationships, it is about engagement, it is about experience.

Jenny Rooney:                  And so titles, I think ... I'm gonna naïvely believe that they are actually legitimate reflections of the way that the role has been changing, is transforming, and how companies are regarding that role.

Dave Knox:                         Yeah, makes total sense. On that note of change, we have a fun story of how we even met, which was on social media through the power of Twitter and all of that. When you look at a lot of those CMO Nexts, they were talking about how to use social media, how to use customer engagements. How do you see brands doing that? How are they using these new technology tools?

Jenny Rooney:                  Well, I think they're trying to probably throw out any sort of rulebook that they may have had, or thought that they needed to be wedded to, in that social is about listening. It's about engaging. It's about reacting. It's not necessarily about pushing, it's not just one more medium the way past media had been. I think they're just using it to really capture consumer sentiment, to respond and to build that relationship because it's the tool that they can use to, in real time, in a very personalized way, respond to consumers. And that's what all consumers, certainly younger consumers, are looking for.

Dave Knox:                         Talent is a big part of Predicting the Turn, and as we talk about talent, I wanted to mention one of our sponsors: Hunt Club. Imagine the power of the best marketers in the world helping you to find your next marketing leader. That's the power of Hunt Club. Hunt Club is a new category of talent company that powers the network of experts, connectors, and business leaders to help you find the best talent.

Dave Knox:                         Let's face it: recruiting hasn't changed with the times. Hunt Club is changing the recruiting game by leveraging technology in crowd source referrals to find you the best people possible for your company. Stop paying job boards that don't work or recruiting firms that recycle the same active candidates. Partner with Hunt Club.

Dave Knox:                         Let's talk about content, though. As this next space, your career has been in journalism, and you've watched brands start becoming content creators.

Jenny Rooney:                  Sure.

Dave Knox:                         That's a new skillset, and not one that they traditionally have the power to be able to do, and the setup. So what best practices are you seeing of the worlds of journalism and brand coming together, and what watchouts exists?

Jenny Rooney:                  Obviously we're seeing a lot of brands start hiring journalists, people who have formal educations in journalism. I think marketers, now more than ever, recognize the value of people who can write, who can string words together, who can create narrative, who can create story. And I think storytellers are in high demand in all aspects of business right now, but certainly in marketing.

Jenny Rooney:                  On the flip side, frankly, journalism, media companies have had to adapt and create opportunities for brand marketers to help them create content, pulling on traditional journalism resources to create content that lives alongside pure editorial. And I think a while ago there was a determination made that the reader, if you will, the consumer, the audience had every ability to decipher editorial from branded content. In fact, value comes from both.

Jenny Rooney:                  There's such a blurring of lines there, but I don't think it's all bad, and I think both sides are benefiting from the prowess and skillsets that the other can bring. I will say I've talked to people who are, frankly, in journalism, journalism students, and I've said to them, “You have to start thinking more broadly about your career opportunities, because there are opportunities working for brands who, frankly, have amazing newsrooms, they're creating content, they want the same storytelling skills and abilities that you are bringing.” But that's a different ... Especially if you're a traditionally trained journalist, that's hard to sometimes get your head around.

Dave Knox:                         Very much so. One of the things I love from the perch you're sitting on is you spend your day with some of the most influential marketers in the world, with the most influential list. You then work with the CMO Next, and then you're working on college campuses. The common theme in that is marketers' jobs are changing today, and the job we're doing today is gonna be different than the job of five years.

Dave Knox:                         How can marketers think of themselves being agile in their learning, in their development? It's not just getting an MBA anymore and then building your career and going up the corporate ladder.

Jenny Rooney:                  Yeah, I think ... The CMO Next list is a great example. The people on that list have degrees in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, international relations, languages, English, it is such a mix of educational backgrounds that, if you wanna take the CMO Next as an example, these people are bringing to bear. Just like marketing in organizations has to get out of its ... We've seen the breaking down of silos ... I think marketers need to stop thinking of themselves as just siloed marketers.

Jenny Rooney:                  I think there's an opportunity to, within organizations, to spend time in many, many different functional areas, and also bestow the learnings of marketing throughout an organization at the same time that you're learning about it. And if you haven't spent time obviously managing a P&L or doing something else completely un-marketing related in a business, you might wanna think twice about that. Certainly if you're new in your career, think about working in other parts of a company first before you move into marketing. Some would argue that the best marketers don't have marketing educations, which is anathema around here, so I have to be careful about that.

Jenny Rooney:                  And then otherwise, certainly in the industry I think there's ... CMOs in general, there's a lot of collaboration, there's big community, and there's a lot of best practices sharing. We're seeing a lot of breaking down of competitive walls, and I think the industry at large is trying to better itself and learn from each other, and so there are a lot of similarities even as there are differences in CMOs and the companies that they're leading. But I think more often than not there are similarities.

Jenny Rooney:                  So talking to, spending time with, your fellow CMOs, your other peers, that's hugely critical just as it is hugely critical within company walls to be really talking to a whole bunch of different people. And I will say CMOs smartly are also recognizing that they need to go ... Hierarchy is gone, they need to get the best ideas, the freshest ideas, the best insight, the best wisdom, from frankly anybody at any level within a company. I think that bodes well for the success of CMOs, and also obviously for marketing and for the companies themselves.

Dave Knox:                         So, speaking of getting some of the best insights and wisdom, Forbes CMO Network's one of those. If somebody wants to go get involved in the world of the Forbes CMO Network, where should they go to learn more about it?

Jenny Rooney:                  To me!

Dave Knox:                         I love it.

Jenny Rooney:                  Yeah, start with reaching out to me directly, I'm happy to provide my contact information. But obviously we have an active Twitter presence, we have a Facebook page, and so hopefully people will reach out to learn more about either being a contributor or being part of the CMO community. Because hopefully, as CMO Next represents, my goal is to certainly widen that community and start to learn more about, frankly, people who may not necessarily be household names at this point, but who are truly innovating and changing the dynamics of marketing and the CMO role.

Dave Knox:                         Great, and what's that Twitter Handle?

Jenny Rooney:                  It's @ForbesCMO, and mine is @Jenny_Rooney.

Dave Knox:                         There you go. Well, Jenny, it's always a pleasure, we've got a lot more of Cradle of Marketers to get off to, so thanks for taking the time.

Jenny Rooney:                  Thanks, Dave.

Dave Knox:                         Thanks so much for listening. If you like the show, hit that rating and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode, and for more resources head over to predictingtheturn.com.

Episode 04 -What Startups and Large Companies Learn from Each Other About Digital Leadership w/ Pete Blackshaw of Nestle & Cintrifuse



Episode 4 - What Startups and Large Companies Learn from Each Other About Digital Leadership w/ Pete Blackshaw of Nestle & Cintrifuse


Dave Knox: 

I’m your host, Dave Knox, and this is Predicting the Turn.  A show that helps business leaders meet their industries inevitable disruption head on. 


Welcome to another edition of Predicting the Turn.  Today I am joined by one of my favorite people in the world, Pete Blackshaw.  Pete just took the new job as the CEO of Cintrifuse, which is an amazing organization here in Cincinnati he’s going to be talking about, but Pete was formally the global head of digital for Nestle where he lead a lot of there innovation and the efforts they’ve done over the last seven years to be one of the leading CPGs of where this digital innovation is really going. 


So Pete, welcome to the show.


Pete Blackshaw:  Thanks for inviting me Dave.  Always good to connect.


Dave Knox:  Awesome, it’s great to catch up.  So, I want to dive right in and talk about where you’re going from a career standpoint.  A few months ago you left your role at Nestle.  You came back home to Cincinnati to take a new job as the CEO of Cintrifuse.  For those that aren’t familiar maybe with Cintrifuse, what is the organization and what are you up to?


Pete Blackshaw:  Cintrifuse is a very unique kind of combination of syndicate fund plus startup incubator and we have a singular ambition to be the, to establish greater Cincinnati as the number one startup hub in the Midwest and among the top innovation hubs in the nation.  And we do this by inspiring great ideas, empowering founders, luring talent, high tech talent to the region and of course seducing investment and so more specifically we have the syndicate fund of funds that a lot of big companies and entities have put money into.  We’ve had two funds of totaling about 100 million and that we’re putting money into some of the top VC funds across the globe, across the country that elevates visibility into Cincinnati and helps to forge a connection with a lot of the big co’s that are looking for relationships with startups in that portfolio and we see a lot of benefits kind of coming back to the region from that.  We also have a big company innovation division where we are helping large companies think and act like a startup, similar to what I did with Nestle, which we can talk about in a little bit.  And then we have a whole suite of services that we provide to any entrepreneur that walks through the door that might bring good odds of success and we want to do everything we can to increase those odds of success and that’s a big big focus area for me right now.  But a fascinating model and all those parts synergize with one another.


Dave Knox:  I love that.  So, really briefly, why Cincinnati?  Why does this region got the right to do everything you just said?


Pete Blackshaw:  That’s a lay up question.  This is a fantastic region.  I loved it.  I lived here 15 years before I went to Switzerland.  It was the one geography I was really hoping a fantastic opportunity would emerge, as you can imagine.  There are tempting things on the East Coast and the West Coast, Silicon Valley, but in my heart of hearts I wanted to come back and make a positive contribution and kind of pick up where I left off.  I mean, like you, I’ve always been very very passionate about unlocking value in this innovation economy.  I’ve done it both in big companies.  I’ve done it with my own startup.  I did it within Nielsen and now with this infrastructure that had been put in place, I’ve had two fantastic successors that really laid foundation for Cintrifuse as it is today.  The potential is absolutely enormous and I was just talking the chair woman of the chamber of commerce and we were both joking to ourselves that we have so many great attributes in place.  Shame on us if we can’t effectively sell it.  We’ve got an outstanding innovation corridor.  We’ve got some great success stories.  We’ve got big companies that for the first time are really opening up their doors and I have a good reference point on that because when I did a startup it was near impossible to really grease the skids on those relationships and we’ve got a civic culture that is really committed.  We’ve even got a city, both on the Northern Kentucky, but also in Cincinnati that are really pursuing very progressive agendas related to sustainability, smart cities, so all the ingredients are in place and I’m super super excited about taking advantage of that.


Dave Knox:  So, you mentioned the jobs you’ve done in the past and kind of starting where you left off.  So you’ve been a digital change agent within the Fortune 500.  You’ve been a partner to big co’s with your time at Nielsen and you were a startup founder with Planet Feedback and everything else you’ve done.  How is all of those, that kind of diverse experience, prepared you for this new job at Cintrifuse and all the things you’re going to be doing?


Pete Blackshaw:  Yeah, that’s a great question.  I mean I have this very unique blend of big company, small company and even public policy experience.  I actually worked in the California legislature before I went to business school and all three of those areas are coming together in this particular role and I do think, especially the mix of the small and the big company is super important because Cintrifuse is kind of obviously the big co’s are our major investors, heavily represented on our board, but they don’t necessarily have the agility and the flexibility and to think like a startup that the small entrepreneurs bring.  You know and it’s an interesting connection because both sides desperately need each other, especially today and if you really think about what’s happening with the big companies, whether it’s a P&G, Nestle, Unilever, it’s kind of the same movie with all of them.  You’ve got these small ankle biters start ups that are very digital by design and go direct to Amazon.  They’re operating structures are very flexible and digital and they’re grabbing a lot of share from the big players and so it’s a very unique time in history where the big companies can learn a tremendous amount from these startups both on the what and on the how, but of course the startups need that stimulation from the large companies, that first customer engagement to increase their odds of success.  So, I love being the marriage counselor between the two.  It’s not as easy as it sounds, it’s actually really hard.  You and I know this, doing startups is really really difficult.  It’s also incredibly satisfying, but that frame of reference really helps as we coach them to success. 


Dave Knox:  Love that.  So talking about that coaching, a few weeks ago you did a really cool event with virtual CS, that I was …


Pete Blackshaw:  Subversive.


Dave Knox:  Yeah, it was amazing.  And your idea was this whole thing of can we bring to Cincinnati and to a region that virtual experience of something like CES or South by Southwest or the Mobile World Congress.  When you think about events like this, whether it’s doing it in person or virtual, why is that so important to a business leader to be immersed in those things?


Pete Blackshaw:  Well, let me take a step back.  I mean, I’ve always believed since the very beginning of my career, even in the California legislature that digital is very very empowering, even in the California legislature we opened up public files to access through the internet.  We kind of changed everything, so I’ve always believed that new value can be created thinking about the better, faster, cheaper, more resourceful elements of digital and so we applied that to CES, 178,000 people go to CES every year.  They drop quite a bit of money.  They spend $500 per night in oversubscribed hotels and I’ve been to it like a dozen times and we thought to ourselves, okay not everybody can afford to go and we have a fantastic center in Union Hall, why don’t we take a crack at a virtual experience, so we created a panel.  You were on it.  We streamed some real time coverage.  We curated a lot of the tweets.  We looked at the social media, all of which is a really good proxy for the experience.  We took some of the best products and put it on a wall and let people vote on it.  We brought some mobile devices where people could do some real time ideation.  We created a small, we did a little gamification where we listed in some idea and we created value.  And again, that’s what digital entrepreneurs do, they create value out of events and they’re very good at building on the momentum and there’s absolutely no reason why we couldn’t create a meaningful conversation on top of CES.  Now, in all candor, Dave, I thought maybe we’d get 50 people.  I had no idea 250 people, we packed the hall and that gets me really really excited.  It gets me excited that Cincinnati can become the center of conversations all over the globe.  There’s no reason we cannot do that for Mobile World Congress.  There’s no reason we cannot do that with the Web Summit in Portugal.  There’s no reason we can’t do that around Con.  Part of creating value with Cintrifuse is how do we create fields of energy that motivate, galvanize and bring the entrepreneurs to our town hall, if you will, so we can motivate action and I hope to do a lot more of that.  It doesn't mean we’re not going to physically go to these events, but you know, we want to send a message to the rest of the world that we not only have an ambition to win in digital and technology, but we’re going to approach in completely new and novel, unique and own-able ways and I thought that was a good start.  I don't want to make it sound like it was perfect.  Next year will be even better, but we’re not afraid to test.  We’re not afraid to test.  You and I know that from our consumer experience, testing is everything.  Trail balloons with the consumer and I think there’s a wealth of potential there. 


Dave Knox:  So, speaking about that concept of testing, because I love that.  One of the things I’ve always respected so much is you’re a living breathing example of continuous beta.  You are always looking at that thing that’s next, the experiment, the learning.


Pete Blackshaw:  The ever improving ski videos on Facebook.


Dave Knox:  Exactly.  I love it.  Cutting it and slicing it and live streaming everything. So, as a business professional, why do you think that being on that cutting edge, that experimentation, playing in the sandbox is so important to being that digital leader today?


Pete Blackshaw:  Well, that method is the price of entry to compete in my view and going back to that example of the big companies and what they’re facing is these very very small nimble digital first companies that understand how minimally viable products work, both from a developing their product, but even how they think about optimizing, advertising, and reaching the consumer and managing consumer journeys and so, and again, the nice thing about today compared to when you and I were at Proctor and Gamble where there is actually quite a bit of cost involved in testing anything, you can do this stuff at a relatively low cost.  It doesn’t mean there isn’t risk, because sometimes if you make a mistake things can go viral, but generally, it’s not nearly as bad, generally I’d say it’s mostly risk free, but yeah, it’s kind of test and learn and yeah I’ve done that a lot.  I mean, I know social media has taken a pretty bad rap right now and people are down on Facebook, but I still find social media such a powerful learning platform, especially in terms of content and I used to always joke to the digital acceleration team members at Nestle that nothing motivates me more than the deafening sound of silence.  We put out content, nobody pays attention and you start to ask yourself some really good questions.  Was it good content?  Did I put it out at the right time?  Did I have an influencer strategy?  Was I tooting my own horn or was I genuinely adding value to others?  And so, there is a certain digital accountability that we see today, digital Darwinism, whatever you want to call it, where we’re constantly testing and learning.  It’s another reason why I’m such a big believer in this notion of trust your inner consumer.  I think sometimes we rely on other people’s research versus just looking at our own data streams to inform very very fast judgement. 


Dave Knox: 


Talent is a big part of Predicting the Turn.  And as we talk about talent, I wanted to mention one of our sponsors, Hunt Club.  Imagine the power of the best marketers in the world, helping you to find your next marketing leader.  That's the power of Hunt Club.  Hunt Club is a new category of talent company that powers the network of experts, connectors and business leaders to help you find the best talent.  Let's face it, recruiting hasn't changed with the times. Hunt Club is changing the recruiting game by leveraging technology, and crowdsource referrals to find you the best people possible for your company.  Stop paying job boards that don't work, or recruiting firms that recycle the same active candidates.  Partner with Hunt Club.


Dave Knox:  So you talked briefly about the digital acceleration team that you had at Nestle, so you and I both have been in roles at P&G and even at Nestle that is about this digital capability.  How do you teach this intuitive of what’s best practices, etc.  What was your inspiration for why you did the digital acceleration model and what were some of the successes from it?


Pete Blackshaw:  Well, the full answer goes all the way back to when I was at P&G and I introduced a program called FAST, Future of Advertising Summer Intern Program, which was outright subversive.  We basically convinced the top management, the CEO, to let the summer interns have a seat at the table in designing strategies and they actually went for it because at that time, the only folks who really had first hand proximity to technology were the students in business school.  They were testing the web for the first time and we got some fantastic results.  In fact some of our best entrepreneurs in Cincinnati, Bob Gilberth, were graduates of that program and they kind of brought that almost digital intuitiveness to the table.  So, with that experience I brought this program to Nestle called Digital Acceleration Team and it was kind of a similar principle, maybe a bit more ambitious, where it wasn’t about the interns.  It was we created a, how shall I describe it?  Kind of a different cultural ethos where we almost created a bit of a separate reality within the large somewhat conservative Swiss company by the beautiful lake in the Alps and we invited markets to apply to send their best talent to work for me for eight months at a time and we kind of gave them all the basics of digital and ecommerce and personalization and scale and data, but importantly, we really focused on the culture side and that is absolutely key.  Anybody can read a book about how programatic media works, but to really embrace the cultural side is the more difficult one.  So, for example, the, I’m a fanatic about internal social networks.  How do you use Slack, Yammer?  I’m really into Facebook workplace, Salesforce Chatter, but these are sharing mechanisms where companies are sharing without barriers to hierarchy.  You’re blending formal versus informal power and that’s like a cultural evolution and the DAT members were very good at doing that and that’s partly because if you think about the Millennial generation, the Instagrammers, they do this very very instinctively.  They’re very sharing by design and that’s what’s missing in larger organizations.  The reason why the startups are five times faster than the big organizations, the big organizations don’t know how to share.  They horde information, sometimes for good reasons, old school notions of proprietary data and the like, but how do you really soften those silos where you really drive more inner, multifunctional coordination.  In a company like Nestle, which is radically decentralized, the secret sauce is making sure that the knowledge from India gets to the U.S. or to the Philippines really fast.  And so, the leadership you need to bring is how do you ensure those knowledge flows are going.  And I think moving forward that is one of the most important skills as I take this new job with Cintrifuse, I’m really thinking about how do we create and unleash network effects.  So, if I think there are twelve Dave Knox’s out there that really bring mastery in how to bring a successful company, three of you may be in Cincinnati, but you may be distributed, how do I get that knowledge in real time to help those entrepreneurs, that’s a very very critical skill and we had a lot of success, a ton of success and again, a lot of fast learn.


Dave Knox:  So one of the other ways you were doing fast learn, kind of use those words, you talked, you helped start the Silicon Valley Innovation Outpost and with that you saw a lot of innovation theater.  People that were trying to immerse themselves in Silicon Valley, but maybe not doing it authentically.  What do you think big companies are doing right and what are they doing wrong when it comes to this approach about learning how to share, how to move fast, how to think of it MVPs?


Pete Blackshaw:  Well, with regard to Silicon Vally or Shanghai or any type of innovation hub, I think it’s all upside.  So even if the model isn’t right, it still unleashes what I like to refer to as constructive paranoia.  Half the game is just motivating the executive to get off their butt and to take action, because you go to the Silicon Valley, you look around and suddenly a lot of the stuff you’re doing back at home starts to feel very very insignificant.  You realize you have this false sense of progress in Veve by the Lake, we would convince ourselves that we are making a lot of progress.  You go to Silicon Valley and you’re like oh my gosh, we are not making any progress and so it motivates behavior, so I, yes sometimes people would say it’s window shopping, but window shopping can motivate when you bring people out to the Valley and you see how fast these operating models, now if you put a little bit of design on the model you can really start to get some results and my colleagues like Mark Broder and Goran Kusick and Filippo Catalano, they have done a really good job of building kind of experimental lab in the Silicon Valley that would work on very very important and strategic projects against specific business needs in key areas such as augmented reality and voice, use of sensors, real time data flows and the like and to my earlier point, how do you use the knowledge flows from internal social networks to get that knowledge back to others and so you know there are ways of really really making it work, but going back to our earlier point about virtual CES, you can couple the physical proximity with virtual experiences that can have an equal impact.  So it’s kind of a blending strategy, but there’s no question that and if you want to move faster, you have to be externally focused.  You have to experience some of that paranoia.  You need to feel that competitive pull and that’s a lot of what we are doing with, I think, a reasonable amount of success.


Dave Knox:  So clicking into that a little bit, you know CPGs, they’re under unprecedented change that’s taking place and you’ve got a company like Nestle that was actually an early adapter of direct to consumer.  You had a company like Espresso that for a long long time was selling direct to consumers with retail and ecommerce and everything else, but you guys also started moving into a new path with stuff like blue bottle, acquiring them acquiring Sweet Earth, Chameleon Coffee and then doing some investments as well, strategic ones like tails.com and Freshly, when you think about that innovation portfolio mix, what was Nestle trying to do and what do you think big companies need to do when you think about M&A and acquisition and investment, what’s that mix and how do you get to it?


Pete Blackshaw:  Wow, Dave, you threw a lot at me on that one.  Well, let me just say…


Dave Knox:  Well you guys did a lot, so.


Pete Blackshaw:  Let me take a step back first off.  I think even before you get into a lot of the new stuff, I would say the Nestle I work for is an incredibly innovative company and I think a lot of that is because of the way it’s organized.  I think there is an intentional decision by management to decentralize the operating model.  So even though I was a center based leader, the power was limited, as it should be because when you’re facing the future, the market innovation takes place, it place in the markets and you want to empower them and they’re close to the data.  They’re close to their customer and the key is how you share and scale.  Now, a couple things are going on that take innovation in different directions.  One is just that the consumer preferences are changing and you’ve got to keep up and the millennial ankle biters did a very very good job of redefining what food is, what is beverage, what’s a healthy snack, what’s organic?  Big companies often bring this notion that we deliver food at scale for all, often very scientific based, processed food when a lot of the millennials are not only producing healthy food, but very experiential, they kind of really get experiences.  So there’s a part of the model, which is like how do we figure that out?  How do you kind of take food experience to the next level?  Is it a food recipe or is it food theater?  Then there’s this whole area of service models which gets into direct to consumer and is an espresso a physical product or is it a service?  Well, yes and yes.  And the service part is really getting interesting, especially, we are doing experiments with augmented reality and voice activation and you’ll probably read a lot more about that from my colleagues coming around in the coming months, but that is really exciting.  tails.com getting into the direct to consumer pet business.  Pet is a very very interesting category.  I’d love to say Nestle is the only company innovating, but it’s not.  If you look at players like Mars, they’re even some of the smaller players, they’re introducing the notion that the physical food is the lost leader.  The fundamental business model is the service.  And so, if you buy into that across many different categories, you have to ask yourself, how do we innovate?  How do we even define what the service space is?  It’s a big reason why I’ve always been a fanatic about the boring basics like customer service, like if you can’t answer the phone or deliver service in scale or ensure that your bought is truly relevant, you’re probably not prepared to get into these other layers of service that provide such a massive competitive advantage for brands.  In fact, it was funny, everytime one of my colleagues at Nestle would was poetic about the future or service models or even ecommerce, I would say, what are the top five questions that consumers ask you about your brand and I was always shocked at how few brand managers had any clue, top compliments, top complaints, that’s just not the way we’re trained to think.  We’re kind of in that hard driving, buy advertising, get people to click, but now we need to reengineer the way we think about brands and I talk a lot about the future of branding is about thinking and acting like a concierge.  All those technologies we saw at CES or P&G displayed, they’re all digital concierge of different stripes and varieties.


Dave Knox:  So you said something really interesting there, how you’re trained to think and you and I probably have coffee once a week with somebody that is thinking about making a change.  They’ve been at a company for 15 years.  They want to go do something different and a lot of them have been trained to think a certain way, but that might not be what they need to think in the next job that they go after.  So, as somebody that’s done a lot of different things and you’ve gone from being P&G to be a startup founder to go to Nielsen and then back to Nestle, what advice would you give to somebody about how they retrain how they think to approach new opportunities and new jobs?


Pete Blackshaw:  Wow, I’d love to say I could deliver the answer in bow, but it’s really hard.  I mean leaving my last job was really really hard.  I mean, you just have to be brutally honest with yourself about where you’re going to get the best recurving, about whether you’ve kind of plateaued in the skills that you’re going to acquire.  Eight years is a really long time to be in a large company and I felt like I innovate far longer than I ever expected, but I, what I saw in Cintrifuse, what clicked with me was okay, there’s this whole new business I’ve never managed a fund, you know that’s new territory for me, definitely not my comfort zone, let’s jump right in and see what happens.  It might create a lot of option value down the line.  And I also wanted to lead and there’s a point at which, like in a large company, you’re just, you may be the brand manager, the marketing director, but you’re not really the leader and that, and there’s going to be inflection points where you may even say, I may give up a little bit in one direction, maybe the comp takes a hit a little bit in order for me to be the real boss and to really kind of put that, those skills to use and I think that was kind of part of my calculus, but there’s no simply solution on those, but you just have to be very honest with yourself about growth.  I’m obsessed with growth.  You know, I’m one of those folks that just feels like I need oxygen, I need to, external focus I need, also for me, the other piece for me that I wasn’t feeling in Switzerland was the sense of community and I really missed Cincinnati.  I love the civic culture.  I love the difficult issues, even the racial tension I think is really important for people to understand and struggle with and I was so involved in civic organizations before I left and I just didn’t have a chance to do that.  So, part of me kind of felt like my role as a leader wasn’t complete until I assumed more of almost like the servant leadership role where I was really involved in those other areas.  It’s one of the things that I’ve really admired about a lot of the leaders here that I’ve kind of used as personal benchmarks from how you grow and how you lead.


Dave Knox:  Yeah, that’s a really interesting one be it’s one, when I talk to a lot of people about why Cincinnati, why Chicago, why the Midwest, how you think about it?  It’s actually that Renaissance factor of it’s an area where you can be involved in those different facets.  You know, because you’re a startup guy doesn’t mean that’s all you get to do.  Because you’re in politics it doesn’t mean that’s all you get to do.  You can span the different things.  You can be involved with nonprofits and with big business and with the arts and it’s almost encouraged from your point there.


Pete Blackshaw:  Yeah and you can touch so many others.  I say one of the most important things that I did when I was in Switzerland was actually helped you out with the brandry.  I didn’t do nearly as much I would like, but …


Dave Knox:  You were my first mentor.


Pete Blackshaw:  But I got to tell you, it’s really satisfying.  I was at a chamber meeting earlier today and we had an absolutely fantastic speaker and he talked about what is personal leadership and I talked a lot about what motivates me is seeing other people grow.  It’s kind of why I loved DAT program.  I did ten of them.  I couldn’t stop doing it.  I actually love the satisfaction of seeing leaders, kind of training change agents and you can do a lot of that in this type of environment.  Think about it, you’re coaching entrepreneurs.  Everything in entrepreneur is about rewriting rules, pushing boundaries, unlocking value in places that others haven’t found and if you can deliver the right advice at the right time and connect them with the right resources, that can be enormously empowering.  And of course I think about that as a parent as well.  It’s a little bit more difficult on that front, but of course there’s a massive prize if you get it right. 


Dave Knox:  On that note, you’ve seen people grow, you’ve been a mentor for me from everything from digital marketing to how you actually raise twins. 


Pete Blackshaw:  That’s right.  I still want to still want to start a business with you dosbabies.com


Dave Knox:  Exactly, bring it back.  So thank you for all the leadership and we couldn't be more excited to have you back here in Cincinnati.  And you know on that note, a special thanks, today we’re actually here at the RoadID studios, one of our great startups here in Cincinnati.


Pete Blackshaw:  Fantastic. I’m moving Cintrifuse, right now.


Dave Knox:  Cintrifuse South, we’ll be all set.


Pete Blackshaw:  Exactly.


Dave Knox:  So, well, thank you again, Pete, it’s always a pleasure, and welcome home.


Pete Blackshaw:  Great, thank you.


Thanks so much for listening.  If you like the show, hit that rating and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode.  And for more resources, head over to predictingtheturn.com.

Episode 03 - How a Big Heritage Brand like Wilson Doesn't Get Stuck in the Past w/ Kyle Schlegel



Episode 3 - How a Big Heritage Brand like Wilson Doesn't Get Stuck in the Past w/ Kyle Schlegel


Kyle Schlegel:                     I would say in six and a half years since, I've not worked a day. It's been a lot of fun to call your passion your profession.

Dave Knox:                         I'm your host Dave Knox and this is Predicting the Turn, a show that helps business leaders meet their industries inevitable disruption head on.

                                                Welcome to the latest edition of Predicting the Turn. Today I'm joined with a good friend of mine, Kyle Schlegel. Kyle and I know each other going way back to Miami University, Proctor & Gamble. I've been wowed with his career that he's had since then.

                                                Kyle, thank you for coming.

Kyle Schlegel:                     Dave, thank you very much. I'm always blown away by everything that you're doing, and adding a podcast to the mix seems like the natural next step as well.

Dave Knox:                         I'm a glutton for punishment, what can I say? It makes it fun that way. I want to start off talking about your story. You have one of those careers and those stories that I think is an inspiration to anybody that wants to follow their heart.

                                                Can you tell us, how did you go from Proctor & Gamble brand manager to working for some of the most iconic sports brands in the world?

Kyle Schlegel:                     Sure. I've always been a sports fan, I've always been an athlete my whole life. If I think back to my childhood, the memories that stand out the most somehow involve a bat and a ball, the driveway and a hoop. It was always about, the minute I left the office, sports was a big part of that.

                                                Then I think over time, the more I worked at P&G, the more I realized that I was creating passion, I was passionate about the brands that I worked on, but it wasn't my passion. It became more and more about, "How do I marry sports, and this love that I have for sports, with the things that I learned at P&G and my career."

                                                Faith is another big part of my life, and there's no other description other than this was a God thing. I kept trying to schedule a meeting with a mentor, and it kept getting rescheduled for all the P&G scheduling reasons that happen.

                                                We finally got it on the calendar, and the first question he asked me at lunch was, "What do you want to do?" He said, "I can tell based on the way you scheduled it, you're thinking about leaving P&G. What is it you want to do?" I said, "Man, the sports world and this work world, how do I bring it together?"

                                                He had literally gotten a phone call that morning about a job at Louisville Slugger, leading and creating the marketing department at Louisville Slugger. He wasn't interested, asked if I was. My resume was on the desk of the president by the end of the day.

                                                It was certainly fate I would say and a little bit of faith that brought those two worlds together. I would say in six and a half years since, I've not worked a day. It's been a lot of fun to call your passion your profession.

Dave Knox:                         That's wonderful. What took you from Slugger to now Wilson?

Kyle Schlegel:                     That one's a little simpler. Louisville Slugger was acquired by Wilson Sporting Goods. I had the opportunity to be on the deal team at Slugger, so it was a lot of fun to meet all the potential suitors for the brand. Ultimately, Wilson just seemed like the perfect fit.

                                                It fit the equity of the brand, it fit the family nature of what Louisville Slugger was and is. It was a natural next step. I was in that limbo for a little while of, "Do you go with Wilson? Do you go do your own thing?" They I guess afforded me the opportunity to lead marketing for the biggest business, which is racket sports at Wilson, and also the most global, which has always been a passion of mine.

                                                I jumped at the opportunity and our family moved to Chicago with the role.

Dave Knox:                         Perfect. Let's dive into that world of sports. Sports are probably the oldest industry out there, going back centuries to the earliest cave drawings. When you look at that, every industry has been impacted by technology though. Sports is no exception.

                                                What have you seen in terms of how technology has changed the world that you have been in over the last few years?

Kyle Schlegel:                     We actually had global meetings in Greece earlier this year and I had the opportunity to go to the original Olympics stadium. As you were saying that I was like, "The stadiums don't look that different really."

                                                I would say it's changed a lot lately. I would say the biggest driver of change that we see is literally on the commerce side of how do consumers engage in literally the purchasing of a product and what's expected in that moment.

                                                The days of going to the local pro shop at your club, those still certainly exist and there needs to be that one to one connection, but just the sheer size of the assortment and the availability of services in the nature of products, we're finding that that's shifting very quickly to the eCommerce side of things.

                                                I would say that's one major change, and then the way we engage with consumers. They have an expectation of both a physical and a digital relationship with the brand. Social media is I would say the most obvious version of that, but we're also trying to build in communities where we can engage with fans and consumers of the brand well beyond the one hour demo event they might come to with us on court.

                                                We're also looking at packaging and manufacturing, which sounds weird coming from a marketer. There's a lot of time that was spent talking about that and meeting with potential partners that can help us really explore new ways in that space to connect with consumers.

Dave Knox:                         Very cool. When you look at changes, the other thing that goes in with sporting goods as a whole is this heavy reliance on celebrity endorsers; Wilson and Roger, you can't separate it. Jordan and Nike, it's hard to even separate those brands from those people.

                                                How has that changed over the last few years as celebrities become not necessarily a controlled image, but one that's shared on social media and is 24/7?

Kyle Schlegel:                     We love it because I think the fans, and the media for that matter, are now seeing the authentic version of who the athlete is. We go to shoots every year with Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Grigor Dimitrov; names that roll of the tongue certainly for tennis fans, but sports fans in general.

                                                The person that we see at the shoot when the camera's not running, the person that we see in the green room that we're hanging out with before an event, is the person that the fan now sees. If you go back a generation to the Sampras' and the Couriers of the world, I don't necessarily know that the public ever got to see the real version of who that person was.

                                                Technology has certainly enabled that, where through social media, they truly project who they are. Federer, half of his tweets are a collection of emojis with no words. He certainly feels comfortable being himself in that medium, which bleeds over to when he's at a press conference.

                                                These athletes are now in front of the media, there's already a public version of themselves out there that's truly them, which empowers them to be that same person when they're in front of the press, that same person when they're at an event.

                                                I think it's amazing for fans today, especially younger fans who are looking for authenticity from their heroes. I think they truly get to know the hero now versus there was always this distant relationship. I get asked every time I meet somebody and I explain what I do, the first question they ask is, "What's Roger like when the camera's not on?" He's exactly like when the camera is on, which I think is really powerful.

Dave Knox:                         That's awesome. We're here at the Brandemonium Conference in Cincinnati. You're going to be taking the stage later to talk about partnerships and talk about what you've learned working with Roger and everything else that Wilson does.

                                                Today in business, partnerships have become much broader than just that. It's partnering with technology companies, with startups, with retailers, and others. What lessons have you learned from working with celebrities and doing the partnerships in sports that can be reapplied into the world of other partnerships for marketers?

Kyle Schlegel:                     I would say mutual interest is something that comes to mind. From our Proctor & Gamble days, I think back to the relationships we had which were powerful from an external standpoint. I would say we had a relationship with a lot of those partners. It was a monetary relationship, whether it was with an agency, or a brand ambassador, or a collaborator, it was monetarily driven.

                                                As I've moved to the sports field, it's so relationship driven; a deep relationship with the athletes and our partners is so critical to the success. Is there cash involved? Yes, of course. We found that we're much more successful when we know each other's last names and first names, and we know each other, whether we have children or not, and whether our children are into sports.

                                                It's that next layer that I think makes a big difference today versus before, and in finding that mutual interest. If again we go back to our P&G days, it was about what the brand needed. It wasn't always necessarily finding that middle ground between what the brand and the partner needed.

                                                We've spent a lot of time, even in the last year, doing collaborations. We just did a whole apparel line with Forever 21, which you wouldn't necessarily think of Wilson and Forever 21 working together. There was a mutual consumer, there a mutual interest, a mutual touchstone from a lifestyle standpoint that we found together.

                                                There was a lot of success that came out of that. I think that would have been very different had it been driven by one party's agenda rather than both.

                                                Even to the technology side, as we look to find partners it's about exactly to your point, finding those startups. It's about, a lot of times they're looking for proof of concept and credibility for what they're doing. Wilson can provide that. The skill that they bring or the widget, or whatever they've developed, is a big help to Wilson as well.

                                                It's about finding those mutual relationships.

Dave Knox:                         You talked about retail and commerce being such a change that's happened because of technology. You've seen that in the sporting good industry with Sports Authority and other major partners disappear overnight.

                                                How are you thinking about shifting that role of relying on the pro shops, relying on your traditional retail, but then going direct to consumer and new ways to connect with the people that ultimately using your products?

Kyle Schlegel:                     The last two or three years have been pretty eye-opening at Wilson in that regard. In 2017 alone, Wilson Sporting Goods collectively lost over 15 points of distribution in the US alone.

Dave Knox:                         Wow.

Kyle Schlegel:                     A big part of that was Sports Authority, but there were many others as well. Direct to consumer is a given, we have to do that really, really well. It's not just about having the product for sale, there's a huge service component that goes with that.

                                                When a consumer buys a tennis racket online, they're expecting that it's going to be strong as they want it to be strong. They're expecting to receive it in 48 hours. They're expecting to be able to talk to a knowledgeable person on the other end, whether it's a chat room online or on the phone, that can help them through that process.

                                                We're not an item merchant, it's a true service. I would say a year or two ago when we ran an ad somewhere and it said, "Buy now", immediately I had retailers calling me livid that Wilson was going direct to consumer. The number of conversations we had to have to, "Calm down, calm down. We're not trying to steal your cheese. We're trying to provide a service to the athletes and the consumers that are out there."

                                                I think we found a middle ground on how we can work together. We now co-invest with some of our online partners in our marketing campaigns. We truly have the same goal, we want to get the right piece of Wilson equipment in this case into the right hands of the consumer and have that journey be a productive one for the consumer. We're combining forces on a lot of those things now.

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Dave Knox:                         How do you have to change you as a marketer when you do that? Because the world we grew up with in P&G, as long as we got them to Walmart, or to Target, or to the retailer, we knew the conversion was done, they'd take care of the rest. You're talking about customer service, and sales, and shipping, and everything else. How do you deal with that?

Kyle Schlegel:                     Slowly. I would love to say we have the magic bullet right now. Admittedly, we don't. We learn every single day in that process. We don't sell commodities maybe outside of tennis balls, a $250 or $300 racket purchase is not taken lightly.

                                                In the P&G days it was certainly about the full purchase journey. I would say I spend more time on the consideration and conversion steps then I ever thought I would coming from the experience at Proctor & Gamble.

                                                It was very much about the top of the funnel there, "How do we make people aware of this product?" I'm blessed to have worked for Louisville Slugger and Wilson now, where awareness isn't necessarily the challenge. We've got a long standing, both 100 year brands. It's more about that consideration and conversion step.

                                                For us, that literally means boots on grounds. It means you've got your tennis shoes on and you're standing on the tennis court and you're engaging one to one with a consumer. I don't say that as hyperbole, we literally do that every single day.

                                                For me, I think that's been the major change. Technology enables us to stay in touch with that consumer over time, but technology doesn't replace the face to face I'm handing the racket and putting it in your hand.

                                                We have a new innovation coming out in February which is I would say is the most innovative racket introduction in more than a decade in the industry. We know that we could spend all day long and every dollar we have creating awareness for that, but if the racket doesn't ultimately end up in somebody's hand, it would have been for naught.

                                                I would say almost everything we're doing for that launch is about that moment. It's not about shop now, buy now; it's about try now. It's about getting them onto a tennis court somewhere where we can create an environment that we can control, but also be open to their reaction to the product.

                                                I would say that's a major shift versus what I was doing six, seven years ago.

Dave Knox:                         Yes, without a doubt. One of the other things technology brings is new competition, emergent brands. I know you dealt with that quite a bit in the world of Slugger, how do you think about emerging brands and the opportunities they see in the market? How do you respond to those?

Kyle Schlegel:                     I would say this is our biggest challenge right now. Each time my general manager and I get together, one of the questions that we bounce around the room is, "If we were just stating a racket brand today, what would that look like? Without the preconceived notions, or barrier, or constructs that exist for our brand and our distribution channels today, what would that look like? How do we evolve to that? How do we introduce pieces of that?"

                                                It's not going to be student body and we suddenly act as the new entrant, but how can we borrow some of those concepts? I know this is obviously near and dear to your heart and the idea of disruption, we've actually spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and with our partners lately.

                                                We took our entire leadership team last year to Silicon Valley and we've done something similar this year in Chicago, where we exposed ourselves to a curated list of startups that are disrupting other industries. How do we learn from those?

                                                I know this is potentially trite but it's red ocean, blue ocean conversations, it's, "Who moved my cheese?" At a leadership offsite, recently we took an hour break and everybody read the book Who Moved My Cheese? and really thought about which character are we in this book right now as a brand, as an individual, as a leader.

                                                I would say that we're not to the final answer yet. We know that to be a little bit better than Babolat, or a little bit better than Head or Prince at what the industry demands today, will not mean that we're around five years from now, ten years from now.

                                                A lot of it is about this back-to-back question of, "If we were just starting, what would this company look like? What would distribution look like? What would the organization structure look like?"

Dave Knox:                         I love that. Related to that, in your time at Wilson and Slugger, you've been fortunate enough to work with some of the most historical brands literally in sports, if not the world.

                                                How do you take that heritage and respect the past, but also use it to build upon the future and not let it be an anchor that ties you down?

Kyle Schlegel:                     I would say this is a really fun challenge for us right now. We're going through a purpose journey at Wilson for tennis specifically right now, and trying to identify what is that balance.

                                                When I got to Louisville Slugger, there's tons of history there and it's incredible. I think we were probably relying a little too much on the history being the benefit; the reason for buying the product was because Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron, and Ken Griffey Jr used it over time. That's not necessarily who the 18 year old consumer is influenced by today.

                                                It is a delicate balance. Ironically, Wilson's been around 104 years and it's the youngest company I've worked for, the youngest brand I've worked on. A lot of what we're looking back at right now is: what got us to today and how do we take those things that got us to today and celebrate those things without using them as a crutch, without using them as the reason for buying the product?

                                                We made a series of decisions over 104 years, a series of innovations and launches, a culture that we've built up over time. How do we celebrate those things and acknowledge those things, but use it as a way to communicate the credibility of what we're doing today?

Dave Knox:                         Makes sense. Shifting gears a little bit to you as a CMO, a marketing leader; we have to evolve ourselves as we think about our careers and what we're doing. How do you approach that personal development and making sure that you're staying on top of things so you can teach the people that work for you what they should be doing and where they should be going?

Kyle Schlegel:                     Podcasts obviously.

Dave Knox:                         And great books.

Kyle Schlegel:                     And great books obviously. There was a moment for me as I left P&G and I got to Louisville Slugger that was definitely an a-ha. I would say that I got, admitting it out loud stuff, but I would say I got lazy.

                                                I got complacent because in a company like Proctor & Gamble, there's groups that their entire role is to curate what's going on outside and put that into packaged forms for the marketers to go do. There was quarterly training and it was, "Here's what's happening in digital today. Here's how to apply it to your brand."

                                                I lost some of that curiosity of going out and learning those things on my own. When I got to Louisville Slugger, I called you and I called some other mentors and said, "Where do I need to go? Who do I need to be talking to? What conferences do I need to go to?"

                                                I've built that over time to, "What is that set of things?" For me, there's three or four podcasts that I listen to multiple days a week that give me that little push to explore something new. It's coming to conferences like this at Brandemonium and being genuinely curious about what's happening.

                                                I've probably went to conferences in the past and it was about being present and, "Great, I get to speak", or whatever it might be. I'm looking at the agenda for this and there's butterflies in my stomach because I'm excited about some of the things that I see being discussed. Thinking already, even before I go, based on the headline alone of that talk, "What can that mean for Wilson? How can I apply that?"

                                                I would say I have an energy now that maybe I didn't have in my last few years at P&G on just the curiosity of learning. It's changing so fast. The brand framework is the same, largely the path to purchase is the same, but what happens at each step is so different.

                                                A lot of it is also listening to the younger generation in the office. There was an Ad Age article that I think the headline initially offended me when I saw it a few years ago, which was our generation, it referred to us as digital posers. You read the headline, and you get a little offended by that. I went, "Oh wait", as I dug a little deeper.

                                                It was talking about there's obviously digital natives that are younger than me and there are parents of digital natives that are older than me. I'm in that middle ground where I didn't grow up in a digital world. My daughter is seven years old, so she's not necessarily driving my digital world yet.

                                                That was an a-ha for me as well of I can't fake my way through this, I can't use the headlines and the buzzwords. To have that work, I need to go roll up my sleeves and go learn on my own. Then teach those on my team, but also make sure that I'm allowing my team to teach me.

Dave Knox:                         Curiosity was a really interesting point that you brought up there. You talked about your team going off to Silicon Valley. Wilson also just moved to downtown Chicago, which is this great startup community going on with the Merch Mart and the rise of venture capital funds there.

                                                How are you thinking about using your own backyard to your own advantage as you think about that learning for the company?

Kyle Schlegel:                     I think the perfect example is what we did in '17 versus '18. '17 was about working with a partner that was based in Silicon Valley that took our business challenges and put a list together of who we needed to meet while we were out there.

                                                We did that and it was great. There's a couple people that we're working with now based on that trip. It was automatically assumed that in 2018 we were going to go back out there, we were going to re-meet with some folks that we had already met with and a list of new folks.

                                                I think all of us sat around a table and just said, "Wait a second, this is happening right here in Chicago. We don't need to board a plane, we don't need to pay for somebody to curate that. We could do this right here in our own backyard."

                                                We've started to do that. Some of it is through the natural relationships that exist between our leadership team members and those in the community. You naturally come across startups or new businesses in that way.

                                                I would say we're now trying to see, not to institutionalize it necessarily, but how do we create that in an ongoing basis. That maybe nobody in the room knows what's happening in a certain sector right now, how do we find those things? I would say that's the next step of what we're doing.

                                                Exactly your question, it was assumed a year ago that we would go to Silicon Valley for a week every summer and that would be part of our leadership team's strategy development. We don't need to do that, there's great stuff happening in our backyard.

Dave Knox:                         What gave you the confidence of that? That's the one thing I see some of the Fortune 500s sometimes fall down on is, "Well, I know Silicon Valley has it going on. Do I know enough to know that Cincinnati, or Chicago, or Minneapolis, is it the high enough quality there?"

                                                What gave you guys the confidence to do that?

Kyle Schlegel:                     I would say credit to you as well on the Brandery here in Cincinnati. Through our relationship I've gotten to be exposed to Brand Fusion and some of the other things that you've done at the Brandery when I lived here and shortly after leaving. What you've developed and what has been developed here in Cincinnati was part of what gave me great confidence in really no matter where you are, that's happening in our backyard.

                                                As long as it's being nurtured in the right way and being directed in the right way, which it is here in Cincinnati, it is in Chicago, and obviously it is in Silicon Valley; I think experiencing those things first hand here in Cincinnati gave me the confidence in Chicago that the same thing is happening.

                                                A couple of ex-Proctor friends of mine were in that world in Chicago as well, so there's a trust factor that comes with that. I know they're super smart people and they're doing really interesting things. They're choosing to do it in Chicago, which gave me confidence as well.

Dave Knox:                         Great, thank you for the compliments on that. Final question for you; what do you see as the biggest opportunities for the next five years as you think about yourself as a leader, your business, and just the business community as a whole? What's getting you excited?

Kyle Schlegel:                     The first keynote today was about the age of disruption being changed to the age of bravery. I would say, "Am I brave enough?" That's one of the things that I want to challenge myself with I would say on and off the court certainly, but in the office especially.

                                                We know that this industry is changing. We know that we need to change because the industry is changing. Are we willing to do those things? There's every reason in the world not to change how we distribute product, how we use influencers.

                                                The age old, "Federer and Serena are amazing." They're not going to play forever. As much as we'd like to believe it, there's probably not a Federer and Serena coming right behind them. They're one of a kind.

                                                Are we brave enough to change the way we think about the tour, and the role of tour, and our athletes? Are we brave enough to think differently about how we engage with our markets around the world and it not be a western model that we apply everywhere else?

                                                The word brave triggered certainly this morning, but it keeps coming back to me in my mind of we know we need to change. Are we brave enough to make the change?

Dave Knox:                         Thank you Kyle, that's a great point to end on. I know you've inspired this audience in the same way you always inspired me. Thank you for taking the time.

Kyle Schlegel:                     My pleasure Dave, any time.

Dave Knox:                         Awesome.

Kyle Schlegel:                     Thank you.

Dave Knox:                         Thanks so much for listening. If you like this show, hit that rating and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode. For more resources, head over to predictingtheturn.com.

Episode 02 - Creating Entrepreneurship Innovation in Large Companies w/ Kevin Burke (Beam Suntory)


Listen to the episode on iTunes:

Episode 2 - Creating Entrepreneurship Innovation in Large Companies w/ Kevin Burke, Sr. Director Global Marketing - Innovation at Beam Suntory

Show Transcript:    

Kevin Burke:  It’s easy to say better faster cheaper, because you’re always looking for those inside of the organization, but sometimes the solution just presents itself.


Dave Knox:  I’m your host, Dave Knox, and this is Predicting the Turn.  A show that helps business leaders meet their industries inevitable disruption head on. 


Welcome to another edition of Predicting the Turn.  Today I’m here live at Brandemonium in Cincinnati, Ohio and I’m joined by a guest that I think is going to be a really fascinating conversation.  Joining me is Kevin Burke, who is the Senior Director Global Marketing-Innovation at Beam Suntory.   Kevin also comes from an amazing background, spending time at Coca Cola and even before the acquisition at Vitamin Water working on those businesses.  So, Kevin, welcome to Predicting the Turn.


Kevin Burke:  Thanks Dave, I appreciate you having me. 


Dave Knox:    I want to start off with that story of your background and the journey that you’ve gone on as somebody that joined Vitamin Water right before the acquisition but then stayed nearly a decade after that and helped really grow that into a global brand.  So, tell us a little bit about your story.


Kevin Burke:  So when I finished school, I was kind of out there hunting what do I want to do next and I was actually working in the spirits business out oddly enough, as a sales rep, trying to sort of find my way around what I wanted to do really with my life and I stumbled upon Vitamin Water around 2005.  They were looking at expanding a lot around their experiential marketing program at the time and I latched on doing some sampling events and things like this with them and started to kind of see the culture of the company, the speed at which they work with, the fun they were having and kind of hounded their brand team about what roles are out there.  Was fortunate enough that they had a regional marketing kind of position open.  I did it for three months and they were like, wait a minute, you seem to kind of know what you’re doing as a lot of these younger companies do and quickly brought me into more of a brand experiential marketing role.  So, directly working for the brand team, managing a regional budget, managing a lot of sampling teams, what events to partner with, that sort of stuff.  Little, unbeknownst to me at the time, they were looking to move and Coke came along in early 2007 and purchased Glaceau and I sort of went whoa, I guess I work for Coke now, right?  The fun part was for a couple years after that Coca Cola was smart enough to let Vitamin Water and Smart Water grow, still operate as its own entity, still builds, find the right people that they needed to fit with their brand and then started kind of weaving us into more brands that they wanted to see work like Vitamin Water.  One of the things I thought Coca Cola did really well in that acquisition was not just throw it over the fence inside onto the red truck. They used Glaceau and the people and their methods as a platform for other brands like Powerade and some of the other investments they had at the time, Fuse, Nos, was an energy drink.  And so, I got more exposure working on those brands. 


In 2011, Glaceau had started to go Global, so Vitamin Water, Smart Water started to go global within the Coca Cola company and I got the opportunity to go live in Germany and spend two years over there launching the brand around Europe.  Came back from that assignment into the Atlanta corporate HQ, the khaki pants and blue blazer building, that one I might get in trouble for, Dave.  But yeah, came back and worked in a global marketing role there on a lot of sort of enhanced water business and innovation. 


Dave Knox:  That wonderful, super cool journey.  So you came back into Atlanta and one of the things you started diving into was more of those, let’s call it entrepreneurial corporate innovation type stuff.  So you became a facilitator, organizer for startup weekend.  You went through the Flashpoint program at Georgia Tech and you even were the cofounder of something called Karma Forward that came out of, it sounds like, a startup weekend.


Kevin Burke:  It did.


Dave Knox:  So what caused you, coming back into corporate to do that nights and weekends extra work without understand the space?


Kevin Burke:  There were some mentors at Coke, a girl that’s still doing a lot of innovation, entrepreneurship work in Atlanta named Carrie Davis.  She built a program inside of Coca Cola that really selected people that were of like mind to try to do things differently within that large organization.  Carrie had a partnership with startup weekend, which fed me into it.  Carrie brought me to Flashpoint, which was a corporate incubator program that we actually ran some Vitamin Water stuff through.  So, really through people, finding those like minded people is how you get into that stuff.  For me personally, I think there was a desire, kind of coming from a fast moving Glaceau make our own choices but pay for those choices whether they’re good or bad.  What you got inside of all this structure of Coke, I was doing a lot of the standard brand management things, right?  A lot of reporting, a lot of analyzing, a lot of Power Point and there was a desire to do more, kind of play around in the sandbox, if you will.  And having things like startup weekend inside of Coca Cola or becoming a facilitator, pushing our brand outside of the building to do the Flashpoint Georgia Tech program, there was that desire and once you started, you kind of catch the bug, as they say.  And I started doing a lot of it.  Karma forward actually was a, there was an actual Coca Cola startup weekend where we gave people two days to come in and run the program with internal employees and we created the idea of, could you, the idea was kind of spawned of could you  give people rewards for doing good?  So, it was kind of do good, do some charitable acts, plant a couple trees on a Saturday, you would earn some karma points, right?  And then those would be redeemable with businesses.  We got it to a place where we actually had some pilots running with movie theaters and a couple of different charities in Atlanta and we ended up throwing it over to Points of Light, I don’t know if you’re family with Points of Light, civic accelerator, who liked the idea and they continued it and ultimately killed it.  But, just those things where you could play around outside of you day to day job and then the cool part was the opportunity to bring those together with Flash Point and Carrie and I went to Flash Point to do an actual project on Vitamin Water, that the Coca Cola company funded.  So it was this play around with startup weekend, do it on your own, now bring it back to your real job, which has been a really fun journey.


Dave Knox:  That’s awesome.  So last year you made the move and left Atlanta, went up to Chicago to work for Beam Suntory and the role you are now doing Global Marketing Director for Innovation.  So what’s involved in that role?  What innovation mean at a liquor company?


Kevin Burke:  So there’s three sort of areas that we focus on in my remit.  So one is exactly like it sounds, new product innovation.  Beam Suntory will release between 50 -75 new products this year or out around the world. That's everything from your limited time offerings in our whiskey portfolio.  This week, we actually launched two new products from what we call the house of Suntory.  So Haku Vodka, which is a hundred percent rice based vodka and Roku Gin.  So both Japanese vodka and gin came out in the portfolio, so that’s sort of remit one, is new products. The second is what we call foundational insights, it’s really trends, what's going on in the industry?  How do we predict what's coming 3, 5, 7, 10 years away?  And our team takes a deep dive into that.  And then third space is what we call marketing capabilities, which is defined a little bit differently being within our team.  It's, it's really about finding new ways to work.  And that's a lot of the reason I'm here at Brandemonium and Brand Fusion is to look at startups.  Look at new ways outside of the company to do things differently.  It's easy to say better, faster, cheaper, because you're always looking for those inside of an organization.  But sometimes the solution just presents itself right?  And you just didn't know that company existed.  So unless you're kind of always looking outside within that marketing capabilities vertical we have, we're never going to even find them.  So I encourage our team to do that.  We work with 1871, the startup hub in Chicago, working with a lot of their folks on a kind of monthly basis to see what's out there as well.  So those three things, new products, foundational insights and what we call capability building.


Dave Knox:    So let's dive into the second part of that.


Kevin Burke:  Sure.


Dave Knox:  So in Predicting the Turn, I call that market intelligence.  You know, this idea of predicting the how and when the future of your industry is going to happen.  Ten years ago, big companies relied on futurists, these people that just thought about big ideas and where things could go.  Today, I'm seeing people in corporate innovation dive in a lot more of looking at things like venture capital as a predictor of where things might be in five years, doing engagements with startups like you are.  What are the tools of how you think about that, and dive into that roadmap of not a guarantee of where things might be, but the scenario planning of where things might go?


Kevin Burke:  I think it's a balance of the old and the new, to be honest, right?  So we still use some futurists.  What we do task those futurists with those, is what I like to call sort of shock and awe.  So I think it's really interesting to get a really strong futurist agency to go out there and paint a picture for your company on what the world might look like, just to shock people into what we, to get things moving, right?   So I think kind of using the old in a different way is kind of step one.  One of the other things we do a lot of is we've recently started looking into where government money is flowing, right?  So where's the government money being spent on research around alcohol, around cannabis, CBD, around rules and regulations.  Because typically, if you can figure out where the money is going to start flowing, and who's doing what in that space, and what research is taking place, you can predict 5, 8, 10 years out.  And then we use a balance of, I'd say other sort of partners and methodologies, right?  Events like this one today, we’ll use scouting events like London Cocktail Week, or Tales of the Cocktail in our specific industry.   Try to find those people that are truly kind of ahead of the game and get them in the building for interviews, try to find the bars or the mixologists that are out that are really reinventing menus. Things like this, and try to bring those in through either M&A or strategic relationships, right?  So I think kind of getting out, the Japanese Suntory team has a thing called Gimba, which is about getting out into the field, getting out into seeing where your customer truly lives.  And so I think a balance of those three right is sort of where we're figure out what's going on in the world of insight.


Dave Knox:    That’s great.  Yeah, I love that you mentioned Tales of the Cocktail.  I went to my first one ever last year down in New Orleans.


Kevin Burke:  It’s a lot of fun.


Dave Knox:  It's a blast, but it's fascinating seeing an industry where your front line is the bartenders, the mixologists and seeing an event where they are talking about that engagement in the industry, that it's the B2B side of the liquor industry.


Kevin Burke:  Yeah, I mean, one of the big trends happening today is this idea of sort of low ABV or even zero proof cocktails, right, that's out there happening in the world.  It's here today.   William Grant, one of our competitors, opened Tales last year with a zero proof party.  Who’d imagine at a bartender conference that you'd open with a party that doesn't serve any alcohol right?  But just their showing their mindset, kind of signaled to us, we better start doing more in that space.  And we've got 5, 7 projects in the pipeline right now addressing and that sort of thing, right?  We're probably behind.  So if you can get out and start to see what's going on ahead of the game and I think those kind of key events like that, or like this one today, are the places that happens.


Dave Knox:    Talent is a big part of Predicting the Turn.  And as we talk about talent, I wanted to mention one of our sponsors, Hunt Club.  Imagine the power of the best marketers in the world, helping you to find your next marketing leader.  That's the power of Hunt Club.  Hunt Club is a new category of talent company that powers the network of experts, connectors and business leaders to help you find the best talent.  Let's face it., recruiting hasn't changed with the times. Hunt Club is changing the recruiting game by leveraging technology, and crowdsource referrals to find you the best people possible for your company.  Stop paying job boards that don't work, or recruiting firms that recycle the same active candidates.  Partner with Hunt Club.


Dave Knox:  So, the last few years of your career has really been spent in this dead center corporate innovation, where big companies kind of evolve and go.  As you've started this journey what other companies have inspired you?  Who are you looking to, to learn from and take lessons from?


Kevin Burke:  That’s a great question.  I've had the, working on Powerade back a Coke, I got kind of a deep dive look at what Under Armour has done with their data platform, something that's super, super fascinating and kind of opened up my eyes to by having things like MapMyRun in their portfolio and the data that they can pull off of consumers and then use that to innovate, right?  They've launched a ton of tech products around sort of that as sort of a new vertical for them.  So I think that was one that sort of sparked what I was doing.  I recently met the founder of a product called Seed Lip.  I don't know if you're familiar with Seed Lip.


Dave Knox:  No. 


Kevin Burke:   It’s zero proof gin, essentially, out of the UK.  The founder distilled over 45 batches in his backyard, trying to get to something that could taste like gin.  Then he did another 450 to get to this product that he now sells to consumers.  He's selling a distilled product with no alcohol, right?  When you meet these kinds of people, Diagio has invested in him, something we missed on, unfortunately, but you see these kind of people, you meet these kind of people.  I think that finding one insight, someone's driving it all the way through, or those companies that are truly interesting in the space.  I met some guys recently, to give you another spirits example. They're selling carved ice.  So everybody likes to drink their whiskey with the right clear glass block of ice, or the right ball of ice for their serve.  They're selling it in six packs, and twelve packs in stores, right?  Taking something that molds, you can make them at home, or you're seeing in the restaurant experience and kind of bringing it to retail.  I think these are the kind of nuggets that are starting to inspire where we want to go with pipelines.  Something the corporation, frankly, it's hard to convince your bosses to let you get in the ice business if you're selling spirits, right?  I'd say those three are probably something that's been pretty interesting, Spotify, their data is fascinating, what they're able to do, and kind of, they probably know more about me than then Google does at this point, just based on when I turn on, what I listen to, what mood I'm in, those are some good ones.


Dave Knox:  I love that. So you know, what's fascinating about what you just described is there are things where there's an emerging seed of an idea, something that looks really interesting, but it's not yet a big market opportunity.  How do you start educating and convincing your peers, your management of, there's something interesting here, don't evaluate the company on its own. but look at the idea behind the company?


Kevin Burke:  Prototypes, I would say, or even (packseps) 15:12, right?  So if you've got a great design partner, or and in-house designer, mocking up, I'll use the ice example again.  Seeing this product show up in a store, there’s no interest in kind of our business to get in that today, but if we went and mocked up a Maker's Mark prototype of what a box looked like with six cubes of ice at it, right?   Now, all of a sudden, they're interested.  Oh, you've connected it back to something and that could help me sell more Maker’s Mark.  I found with our leadership teams that visuals and kind of walking them through what a potential business could mean for Beam as an adjacency, as a new product, as something new.  It sounds simple, but just illustrating it into something that they can touch or feel, or even just see on a slide during a business review, or something like this,  tends to spark interest in them.  Now, will they green light it?  Now you got to go do the business case.  But you haven't even got permission to do the business case yet.  So we'll build prototypes, we work with a great partner in Chicago called Kaleidoscope, that will literally mock up a bottle, and then we'll pour a competitive liquid in it, right, just to show the bosses what it might look like.  I think this is a step that a lot of startups do, right?  They make minimum viable products, which helps get across what they want to do.  Helps give them that first iteration.  In the corporate world doing that with whatever you have, and whatever ability you have, whatever budget you had to do it, is a great tool to continue to use.


Dave Knox:  Yeah, it's kind of the essence of design thinking and how to use that.  So that's how you do it right.  What do you think companies are doing wrong when it comes to corporate innovation with?  There's probably a long, long long list, but what are the two or three things you think people are doing the wrong the most?  


Kevin Burke:  They’re not taking enough swings, right?  They're not trying enough.  For whatever reason, many corporations are stuck in the world of create some, create an idea, I've got to research it 2, 3, 4 times,  iterate it again, research it again, right?  Spend a lot of time and dollars versus just take a bunch of swings at it.  Try to make a prototype.  Try to build version one or two, without so much time or effort or cost and see where it could go from there.  They don't even try.  We kind of wait for our process to come before you get there.  I think stages and gates are a big problem with a lot of corporate innovation teams.  They are necessary to trigger decisions.  I think they're necessary to signal to other parts of the organization what's coming, so they can plan for the future.  But many of the stages and gates processes that I've witnessed or talked to colleagues about in other industries tend to get in the way of a lot of innovation.  I think someone could reinvent that.  That would be a huge step forward.  I’m trying to think what else do people do wrong?  They don't listen to the person, the consumer.  I think is the other, it sounds it should be principle number one, right?  Consumer first, product launches consumer first innovation, but people don’t, they let the corporate world get in the way of that, in thousands of ways, right?  You get a boss that might fall in love with the project and then you just kind of ignore what the consumer is telling you. You let a customer dictate what flavor something should be just because they think that's the right thing to do.  Truly try to stick to the principles, I think is what helps.



Dave Knox:  So when you started your career, you went into that emerging brand category, joining Vitamin Water before it was even bought by Coke and beverages is probably that first industry that emerging brands, new brands, what was happening 10 years ago is now starting to hit a lot of other categories, including craft liquor now, finally.  The examples you mentioned, with Diagio, when you think about big companies engaging with these emerging brands, is it investing, acquiring, partnering, trying to compete directly against them by replicating?  How are you thinking about that portfolio strategy of what you want, not just Beam Suntory to do, but what big companies should do as a whole?


Kevin Burke:  The best model I've seen is actually the one that Coke built over twelve years ago now, right, which is venturing in emerging brands.  I had a chance to small part of it for part of my career there, but they truly saw the roadmap to, we're going to make 75 or 100 investments right and we're going to do this over time, and some are going to be big and some are going to be small.  Some are going to be really small bets and distribution into data companies, into retailers, right.  They've done a really nice job of that, which is a really good model.  If your company hasn't built something, so Suntory a much more traditional M&A operated company, which has its advantages as well.  What we try to do is is sort of create opportunities for those M&A guys to see potential in something.  We're running a program at Beam called the founders forum, which is much like your event today, where you're going to bring in 8-10 startup spirits companies from different verticals, right.  There might be a craft mixer, there might be a craft whiskey.  We may find a data company, a spirits media company that's emerging, bring them all kind of in and spend a couple days with Beam under the opportunity for us to learn from them. But also we're taking a look and kind of seeing what they're doing.  And you can run these kinds of workshops and hopefully that opens up the eyes to M&A.  I've seen different tactics.  It can be as small as a one time event, once a year.  It can be a full fledged venturing and emerging brands like Coke, but you got to have something and I don't know if it needs to be super formalized.  I think all that's dictated by our strategy and where you want to go as a corporation.  But, innovation teams could do it on their own.  It doesn't have to be something that's dictated from the top down


Dave Knox:  So with that founders forum, is that something you're curating yourselves?  Are you working with agencies, partners, vendors?


Kevin Burke:  We are curating ourselves, something that we, you know, great artists steal something that we plucked from a previous boss that work at venture and emerging brands.  A model that truly an innovation team can lead.  Now we're involving corporate strategy, we're involving the commercial team, we’re involving the customer teams, right?  Because we want someone from Walmart to come speak to these startups on our behalf and explain to them what it's like getting a listing there, right?  So there's value for these startups to want to join our program too.   We, again we're taking an active chance to meet those founders and kind of understand their businesses and what we like about them during those days that we can have the session.   So we’re curating ourselves, building it, doing it in Chicago, in the office. If you know, anyone, please throw their names my way.


Dave Knox:  I've got a couple names I’ll toss out to  you.


Kevin Burke:  Yeah, I’d love to have them.  We could get some invites out.


Dave Knox:   When you think about companies a lot of times, they get management says, you know, we need to act like a startup.  We need to do all this.  You talked about prototyping.  You talked about some of the lessons for corporate innovation.  But, what’s it really even mean when somebody says, within the corporate halls of, let's act like a startup?


Kevin Burke:  I don't even think they know.  Typically it means a ping pong table.


Dave Knox:  Yep and jeans to work.


Kevin Burke:  Yeah, something like this, right?  All the cliches kind of come to mind.  It starts with a culture of a leader, right?  It’s going to take a high level leader putting something in place or giving someone a license to do it, right?  I've had that fortunately at Beam from the top down from our CEO to CMO have said, you guys are global innovation, go figure some things out for us.  In my previous world at Coke, right, I guy named David Butler, and Carrie Davis created this innovation entrepreneurship group that was blessed by the CFO, actually, to go figure some things out.  So it does take a blessing.  It does take a cultural shift for someone to kind of give a push to it, for them to start understanding, but I truly don't think they know what that means.  You hear it all the time.  We have an entrepreneurial culture, we have these things, we move fast, we move quick.  But, in the end, they tend to default back to the to the status quo.


Dave Knox:  Yeah, makes sense.  So final question for you, since you've been so gracious with your time.  So you meet a lot of startups.  It was point number three, when you talk about what your role at Beam Suntory is, what advice would you give to a young company that is coming in to talk to a Fortune 500?  How should they approach it?  What should they keep in mind?  And how are they going to have the best success?


Kevin Burke:  Don’t come in, I think there's two things that come to mind.  One, don't come in with the attitude that a lot of startups you meet, come in with this attitude that they're going to get a sale that day, right?  They're going to come in and they're going to hit their home run right out of the gate versus this first meeting.  Chances are, it's not the right person to make that decision you're meeting with.  Chances are, they're showing up there for something different. They're evaluating you as a potential partner, not necessarily something that could be a 10 year relationship, or even acquire.  I feel like startups show up with the wrong mindset sometimes.  I like it when startups show up to these meetings and say, help me understand your business, right? Can you tell me more about Beam?  And they spend the bulk of the time learning about that, and then ultimately go to well, who's the right person that our business could fit into.  So that's a trap I think that the teams tend to fall into.  And then the other one that I think that's pretty blatant and easy for people to get, and if your startup that’s ever worked with a corporation, once you have convinced that contact to work with, know that there are 15 other hoops you're going to jump through from master services, agreements, to PO processes to Net 30, Net 60 days, payment processes, approvals, all that sort of back end stuff before you can even become a vendor in many cases.  So, don't think that just because you had a successful sales meeting that you're going to be able to turn it on immediately.  Be ready for those things.  Be patient with those things.  Trust me, the person wants to hire you as much as you want to work with them, but there's going to be a long loop of process you're going to have to be ready for.  If you show up with the right attitude, and you're willing to be patient, there’s a lot of cool work that can happen between the big guy and the little guy.


Dave Knox:  Yeah, I love that last point, because I think a lot of people forget once that person decides they want to work with you, they are your champion, but they're under as much pressure to get it down as anything else.  So help them to be successful. 


Kevin Burke:  Yeah, just because you decide to work together doesn't mean that it's done.  You still got to continue that relationship. 


Dave Knox:  I think that's a great kind of point to end on.  So I really appreciate you taking the time, it’s been a fascinating conversation.


Kevin Burke:  Yeah, it's a really fun day. Thanks for having us.


Dave Knox:  For sure, we’ll talk real soon.


Thanks so much for listening.  If you like the show, hit that rating and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode.  And for more resources, head over to predictingtheturn.com.

Episode 01 - How Food Service Marketing Leaders Cut through the Clutter with Authenticity w/ Jim Taylor (Arby's) and Jason Loehr (Inspire Brands)


Listen to the episode on iTunes:

Episode 1 - How Food Service Marketing Leaders Cut through the Clutter with Authenticity w/ Jim Taylor (CMO of Arby’s) and Jason Loehr (VP, Media of Inspire Brands)

Show Transcript:

Dave Knox:          

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another issue of Predicting the Turn. Today I'm joined by actually two of my favorite people in the world of business. They are up from respectively Atlanta, Georgia, and the great city of Louisville, Kentucky. Joining me today is Jim Taylor, who is the Chief Marketing Officer of Arby's, and Jason Loehr, who is the Vice President of Media for Inspire Brands, which is the parent company of Arby's. So, welcome, Jim and Jason.

Jim Taylor:                          

Thank you so much.

Jason Loehr:                      

Thanks for having me.

Jim Taylor:                          

You're making me blush with your kind words over here.

Dave Knox:                        

The least I could do. So, we're live today, actually at the Brandemonium Conference here in Cincinnati, where we're going to have these guys taking the stage later on today, to talk about the remarkable story that really is Arby's, and everything that's gone on with that business.

So, I'm lucky enough to have them to talk about the world of innovation, though. So, what I want to do is start off with Inspire Brands. That's a name that a lot of people might not be familiar with, but actually a portfolio that includes Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Rusty Taco, and now a recent deal that had you acquire Sonic. Combined, that means you have 8,000 locations, and combined sales of $12 billion. So, what's the history that led to Inspire and what you guys are working on today?

Jim Taylor:                          

Yeah, I mean, it's really exciting. Our CEO, Paul Brown, has a vision for us to be the largest restaurant company in the US. And to be a company that continues to be driven by the things that drove Arby's success in terms of being innovation driven, and always focused on what we can do to differentiate our brand versus competition, and make Inspire an employer of choice. You know, from the team members that interact with our guests every day, to the folks that we have supporting all of those people, back at headquarters. And creating a really special culture that can drive that engine of innovation.

So, it's really exciting to be a part of. I was part ... Fortunate enough to be a part of Proctor and Gamble. And of course, huge portfolio, biggest portfolio of consumer brands and software, and the power that that scale can bring to driving growth. And we're expecting big things, and more things to come from Inspire as we continue to advance toward that vision.

Jason Loehr:                      

Yeah, and you know, it's interesting when you look at Paul Brown, our CEO's background with Hilton Hotels, and very familiar with the whole house of brands environment, and knowing that you can build some great efficiencies and as a result, grow the brands both individually, but then as a whole, get an even larger impact. And I've ... Similar to Jim when it comes to looking at the backgrounds of those house of brands, I spent a lot of time at Brown Foreman, and looking at that global footprint and all those brands that are trying to do similar things, that are slightly different, but still trying to gain from the overall good.

The thing that has struck me, because I've only been with Inspire for about six months now. There's a ... When you look at the culture and the principles that Paul and the team, that we've laid out, there's this notion of mavericks, which is probably my favorite part of as we look to the culture today and where it's going, and it's the idea of doing things that others haven't. And trying to forge ahead in areas that people haven't been successful, or maybe haven't done it the same way.

And that part has got a lot of interest, especially for Jim and I. When we look at what innovation means for the company, I just love having that as a key tenet that we can always speak to.

Dave Knox:                        

That's awesome. Well, so speaking of that word innovation, Jim, you joined Arby's in 2014.

Jim Taylor:                           That's right.

Dave Knox:                         ... To lead product development and innovation. And you once told me that your job at the time was to make sure the menus lived up to the we have the meats kind of slogan that was coming out.

Jim Taylor:                          

That's right.

Dave Knox:                        

So, how did a classic CPG guy, who I met when you were selling Old Spice deodorant, end up in charge of the menu development for a quick service restaurant?

Jim Taylor:                          

Well, I'll tell you what, it all kind of started ... I loved my time at P&G, but my last assignment was on Metamucil. And I've always been passionate about food, and it just struck me at some point, that it would be more fun to create problems than to solve problems in a world of food.

So I jumped over to Darden Restaurants, and really learned the business. I mean, it's a retail business, it's a fast-paced business, and it's one that's all based on guest experience, which excited me as a marketer. You know, to get to touch not just the advertising and the media, but how we brought the brand to life in the restaurants.

And I happened to work there for four years, and then I get a call from Rob Lynch, who I knew from back in P&G days, who was the CMO at the time, and I was blown away when I came to visit Arby's and saw firsthand the culture that they were building, and how they were building a company based on continuous improvement and innovation, which is exactly what turns me on. And I love food.

So, you know, I came there with a mission, to say, wow, how do we bring food experiences to the world of fast food, which is dominated by hamburgers and chicken, and bring these interesting things that just surprise people that we even offer, and even more so when they taste them? How on earth do you do a 12 hour smoked brisket, 13 hour smoked brisket, in about two or three minutes through a drive-through, that tastes every bit as good as any barbecue joint?

And so, that's what drew me to it, and it's just been a great ride to work with people that really take what we do really seriously, but not ourselves too seriously, we like to say. And have a lot of fun along the way.

Dave Knox:                        

Love that. So, talking about taking yourself not too seriously. So, we have the meats has been one of the most famous kind of classic campaigns of the last few years. But you guys gone a lot further than beyond that core campaign, generating all kinds of buzz, by being mavericks, as Jason kind of indicated. You grabbed headlines originally with telling Pharrell that you want his half back.

Jim Taylor:                          

That was a great moment.

Dave Knox:                         You ran a brutally honest apology ad for Pepsi, for forgetting to, frankly, do enough marketing with them, that you signed up in the contract.

Jim Taylor:                          

Just keeping it real.

Dave Knox:                        

Exactly. And then recently, you landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's largest ad and the world's smallest ad.

Jim Taylor:                          


Dave Knox:                        

What has drive you to kind of think about those worlds of classic media campaigns mixed with buzz, to really get kind of the Arby's mojo back?

Jim Taylor:                          

You bet. Well, it's a core part of our strategy. You know, we can't compete on spending, dollar for dollar with the bigger guys. But what we think we can compete on is having a really differentiated, interesting tone of voice that can cut through the clutter, and entertain people. I mean, there's certainly a lot of effort we devote to getting guests in seats and in cars through the drive through. But we also put about an equal amount of effort to figuring out how we can engage people, and just show the human side of the brand. Show that we understand what their passions are, and are fellow fans along with them.                     

And also embrace imperfections. People talk a lot about authenticity, and I don't think there's anything more authentic than actually owning some of your imperfections or shortcomings, and being willing to have the confidence to be comfortable enough in your own skin to say hey, this is who we are, and hey, we messed up here and we know. For example, we did the Jon Stewart thing too, where he made fun of us for years, and we just played along with it instead of push back, and that led us to an opportunity where on the final week of his airing, we actually bought a commercial that got a lot of publicity, thanked Jon for making fun of us for all those years. As someone that we'd miss, even though we're not sure why.                     

So I think just that spirit of, again, taking what we do seriously, but not ourselves too seriously, has allowed us to do brand activations that help us fight above our weight. And it's one of the parts of the job that I just enjoy the most, is to figure out how we can, not really create conversation, but figure out what are the conversations that we think we can plug into and have a point of view on, and that people will engage with.

Jason Loehr:                      

Yeah, that knowledge itself is huge. Because when we know who we are, it makes the filter for what we feel this works, this doesn't, so much easier to be able to manage, too. Because we know who we stand for, we know enough about ourselves and what that conversation is in culture to know this would work and this won't. And frankly, that's ... You know, the word authenticity is thrown around a lot, but I think a lot of that goes back to knowing yourself really well as a brand. And it's hard to do. And it's taken a lot of time to get there, and it's nice to be in that position.

And we're starting to do the same with the other brands in the mix, especially Buffalo Wild Wings right now.

Dave Knox:                        

Love it. So, switching gears a little bit. Predicting the Turn is all about how industries are changing, and both the opportunities and the threats that that creates. When you look at this world of restaurants and food, what opportunities and threats are you seeing because of the rise of technology, and how has it changed your day to day job?

Jim Taylor:                          

I think that for me, one of the things I'm most excited about, and we have a saying in the restaurant industry that the experience of the guest can never exceed the experience of the employee. And I'm excited about the power that technology has to make the job of our employees easier. Whether it be scheduling, or the job of our general managers, who frankly, is the most important job in our industry, making their jobs easier to forecast their business. To prepare to delight each and every guest that comes through. To give them dashboards that can help them understand real time and overtime, how they're performing on key performance metrics.

I think that ... And new ways to train our front line employees, so that they understand why we're doing things and how to do them correctly. I'm really excited about technology's ability to do that, and move from what frankly, five years ago, was a very much a mail a bunch of paper out to people type mindset. And now we're moving on to more ways to connect with people the way they do in social media and chatting and texting and all that.

So that's one of the things that I'm really excited about.

Jason Loehr:                      

And the thing that we're running into a lot today is where technology is leading, before there's a solution that's an order of magnitude to actually be able to take advantage of, and I think that we're being a little bit more deliberate. Because there's a business case around things, and also, you're trying to look ahead to see where the consumer's going. And obviously, with things like Uber Eats and Grub Hub and this delivery service and online ordering, it's making sure that the context fits.

Because when you think about it, Arby's, they're a 3,500 apps around the US. Because I can go in, I can go to the drive through, I can get my brisket, I can get my Coke, and then I can go out. And I'm there in a very short amount of time. So the convenience factor there is huge.

And I was just in another QSR store recently and saw the ... And did one of the kiosks. And I go up to the kiosk, and it's a fairly busy time. By the time I get through the kiosk, ordering my hamburger with ketchup only and whatever, there's four people that have gone through the line next to me. So, I think that the disruption is happening, but it's an order of magnitude piece that we're looking out for.

And for us, it's also just the business model. The optics on it are there, but the metrics aren't exactly there. So we're trying to strike a balance with that. And the knowledge and understanding of that first party consumer data is where technology is helping us in a big way. And that's what, for my world in particular, where we're aggregating all these media touch points across the brand, there is great wealth of information to find from that.

So that's where technology is helping us to identify spaces to potentially play in, but it's going to take a little bit of time for some of these to come to light.

Dave Knox:                        

So, I want to double click on that. One of you leads media, one of you leads marketing. Yet the first thing you both talked about were customer service things, employee, HR, engagement, store operations. How is the role of a marketer changing today, that is broadened, that it's not just fine fancy 30 second ads any more.

Jim Taylor:                          

Yeah. 100%.

Dave Knox:                         How do you think about that, and what your role in the two leadership seats you have?

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Jason Loehr:                      

Sitting at the center, it's the POVs of Inspire, where we're looking at it from a holistic point of view as to what is the best thing individual brands are doing, and then working with Jim and the Arby's crew, it's hey, we have got to move this number up, and this trans here, and all that. So it's the macro and the micro that are key, but there are so many points that go into that. Because, from a media standpoint, I'm driving a ton of traffic in store. The impacts of that on labor, on actual product and all the touch points that go into the actual supply chain, and then actually when the consumer comes in the door, there's impact to that.

So I have to be aware, to know that if we're doing these things to drive more butts in seats, that there are impacts of that beyond my world. So I have to have a visibility to that. So I feel very fortunate that Inspire has embraced what media is, because it is our largest spend. I mean, when you combine our three brands at the top, there's a lot of, lot of outlay in costs there, in investment.

So we have to have an understanding of that visibility, and that's where I feel like, as we continue to grow, we're going to lean into that heavier, and understand that there's kind of that T-shaped individual, from a marketing standpoint, where you have to know all the areas very well, and you might go deep into one category, but you've got to really know the whole space overall.

Jim Taylor:                          

Yeah. And I have to say, I have never seen a business that is more interconnected than restaurants. I mean, ultimately, the restaurant business is about bringing a thousand details together in just the right way, across thousands of restaurants. And the job of marketing or branding, as I view it, is to really own the guest experience across each and every touchpoint. Whether it be outside the restaurant, in terms of how you're trying to drive them in, as well as inside the restaurant, how we equip employees to give every guest a great experience, and what the guest experience is there.

So, it's just, it's a lot bigger world. It's a more complex world. But it's one that is so fun to work on. There's so many challenges and opportunities, and we really focus innovation across every guest touchpoint.

Jason Loehr:                      

And you know, that's one of those ... The elements of that innovation that can happen upstream, if the dots are connected downstream. Because obviously, we sit, when it comes to innovation, a lot of things are planned in advance. That consumer experience is being managed by our 3500 stores and the employees that are there, that are average age, fairly young. So making sure that it's actually easy for them to execute is huge.

And if those fall down ... So, we can promote something great. So, if I get my two for six heroes, by the time it gets to the store and the experience inside of it fails, that's not a great experience. So we're trying to make sure, to Jim's point, that that's not as connected across the board. And even though I may be looking after media for all of it, I'm very understanding of what that experience is like, and those supply chain implications. Because they all have to work well together.

Dave Knox:                        

Very cool. So, with Arby's, when you look at the turnaround that you guys have had for that business, it's been pretty remarkable. So, you recently bought Buffalo Wild Wings, you just bought Sonic. When you go in and look at those businesses, how can heritage really be the foundation for a future?

Jim Taylor:                          

Yeah, I think that any good brand refresh starts with really understanding the DNA of the brand, and what made it special from the start, and defining those characteristics. And then figuring out, well, how has the world changed around the brand, the consumers have changed, the competition have changed, and where are things going? And updating it to be more relevant. But making sure it's always grounded in the DNA.

And I think, you know, the Arby's story's really interesting, because it was started ... I think is was kind of the original fast, casual restaurant, in a way. In a world of 10 cent burgers, the Raffle brothers introduces premium roast beef sandwiches, sliced straight off the roast in front of you, for four times the price. So ultimately, what they were kind of serving was a fast crafted, premium sandwich experience.

So we went back to that DNA when we repositioned Arby's, and said, Gosh, instead of just being about roast beef, we can be about a wide variety of meats. And we can stand for being the meats place, for meat lovers who eat a variety of meats each and every week.

And so, I think that's an example of the type of thing that we really believe in. And making sure that you are authentic to the DNA the brand is, while making sure you evolve it to changing consumer tastes and competition.

Jason Loehr:                      

This whole notion of there's fruit in the root, and when you look at the brands that we have in our ... In the family that is Inspire, you look at the core. There is some really strong core values and core experience, but Buffalo Wild Wings being started out, just off the campus of Ohio State, and being rooted in what is sports, and being the original sports bar. The great American sports bar. And keeping that forward.

And as we look at the brand, there will never be another 1250 location sports bar nationally. It's just not ... It's not feasible. It's not a thing. Sonic is a similar one. 3500 drive-ins around the US? Probably not going to happen again. Arby's is in a similar boat.

So I think that heritage is actually a fairly significant part of what we do to evaluate who comes in next, as far as what the team is looking at to bring as another brand into the mix. That's why there is a good, the bones of these brands are so solid. And it's a matter of what we're doing to help amplify that. And Arby's is the best example of that.

And then taking that similar knowledge for Buffalo, and then on the way down to Sonic, which is brand new to the mix, and we'll see what happens there.

Dave Knox:                        

Great. So, the three of us came from the world of classic CPG companies. Brown & Foreman, P&G. Those businesses are struggling a little bit today. You know, you've got all these emerging brands that are coming out, and their retail channel's shaking up. There's just a lot of change taking place. If you were walking back into those hallways, and getting involved with those brands, what should they be doing? How can they inspire innovation and change, and embrace what's going on?

Jim Taylor:                          

One thought that comes to mind is just evaluating what business they're in or want to be in. Because I think if they keep themselves in a product in a box business, and they don't think about what are the problems and friction points in guests lives that have to do with their beauty routine, or their over the counter health regimen, and thinking bigger picture about how can they add value beyond the product itself.

I think that there's probably a lot of opportunity that they walk past, and they ... I mean, retailers have gotten stronger and stronger, it's been really interesting to see them evolve from House Brands being a cheaper knockoff of branded products, and frankly having products that are every bit as good and better, in some times, than the big CPG companies.

So I think that would be one of the things that I would go back and do if came in, and really ask ourselves that question of what business are we really in, and what higher order needs are we really trying to solve, other than sell someone a new product. And what business opportunities would that open up?

Jason Loehr:                      

I think that the biggest thing is to get out of their own way. I mean, when you look at the total market effect of a lot of things that are happening, and where we're at right now, if I'm a retailer of spirits, and the implications of things like, you know, autonomous vehicles and all that. There's a lot of that that's further down the road, but there are so many things before that that have to get sorted before that actually can become even viable.

And right now, I just ... There's a bit of an ostrich effect, where they're digging their heads in the sand at too much of a scale, and they're fat and happy where they're at. And they're like "Nobody can touch us." And I just ... That hunger for continuing to push where you're at, where you're going, and how we get there. I think that they're moving way too slow.

And it's what happens. You know, you get to corporate level, and you get to 10,000 employees or 5,000 employees, and you get a bureaucracy in process, but the faster that you can get out of the way of that, and build those methods to streamline it, it's a critical state right now. Because competitors are popping up all over the place, and that reaction is difficult, versus what you can build as a proactive nature going forward.

And that's, I think for us, while we're trying to be as proactive as we can, for the CPG world, where you have these consumer direct products that are just coming out of nowhere, fostering that internally is a huge ... Because the resources that you had, if I was starting a new spirit line inside of a Brown Foreman or Beam Suntory, or Campari, or whomever, I would be encouraging that as much as possible when it comes to what is new and next. And, being able to help get to a what is a business model versus a hobby? And being able to understand how we graduate from hobby to business model as quick as we possibly can.

Dave Knox:                        

So, both of you, one of the things that's always inspired me is you're students of our industry. Constantly learning, that child-like sense of curiosity. When you look around at brands and companies today, who's inspiring you to go to new heights, and pushing you to be better as marketers?

Jim Taylor:                          

You know, I talk about experience innovation. I will give credit where credit's due, to one of our fellow Atlanta quick serve companies, and that's Chick fil a. You know, they're talking here at Brandemonium Two about their guest experience model, and I think it's a very robust one. And they have made a lot of investments that have been long term investments, frankly, that have paid out and allowed them to differentiate themselves in the space. To be beyond just the food, but have been a place that has an experience that is, if you take a look at any of the key metrics of virtually any data source, is a step above most QSRs.

So I think that, you know, I see them continuing to innovate on that experience, and they are, you know, a source of both kind of learning and inspiration, and frankly, a source of competitive pride, that I want to out-experience innovate them, as well. That would be my example.

Jason Loehr:                      

The Stance Socks brand, I think, has been a really interesting one to watch the last few years, where they've really done an interesting thing with the match stuff that they've done, with different brands or experiences or events. And then, what they continue to do on their own, as you see in real time, their expanse ... As they expand their product line, what that looks like for their business model and how it's changing.

And I just, I have a lot of respect for the brand. I've followed them from the beginning, just because of what niche they got into, and how they were able to take advantage of it. But they're just ... The creative aspects of it are great. And in addition to that, I just, I love the role of these challenger brands that are coming to market. And just, whether it's an Albert's or it's any of the mattress companies and what they're doing, I love to see folks getting disrupted, and I love competition.

And if I was in those competitive spaces, it would be like, Gosh, it's as much wanting to beat them as it is the respect of what they're doing, and how we can bring that into our own. And that's similar to what Jim was talking about with Chick fil a, where there's ... It's amazing respect for what they're doing, and it's an eye on that, because we want to be recognized as to what they're doing and how that works out, but also understanding what fits for us. And what we can take, from not only that space, but other categories as well.

Dave Knox:                        

So if you asked this five years ago, what categories would we be talking about? Mattresses and socks? I don't think those would be the top of the list.

Jason Loehr:                      


Dave Knox:                         What space are you hoping somebody just comes up with something, one of those challenger brands next?

Jason Loehr:                      

I think that the world of automotive is about to have its absolute clock ... Just, it's world rocked. The little things that are happening in ground swells to where, you know, down in Atlanta, I can go over to the mall, and I can buy a Tesla, and I can look at it and do all that. That's one thing.

But when you look at the role of tier one, tier two and tier three, it's just not a sustainable model. I think service is really going to be the factor that's really going to explode. But the buying and selling of automobiles is going to just, the next few years are going to be a very interesting time for that category.

Because the manufacturers are starting to look at this and go, hmm, these guys can do this and all you need is a footprint. I was overseas this weekend, and you could be walking down the street, and there's a Renault dealership that's literally stuck between the Nike store and the Izod store. So that whole category, I think, has just ... And there's so much, so much bloat in it, that I think that it's just, it's about time that something's going to happen. And there's too much money in it.

Dave Knox:                        

Yeah. So, are we going to be driving 3D printed cars, here? At some point?

Jason Loehr:                      

100% maybe.

Dave Knox:                        

So, final question for you guys, because I know you have to get up and take stage soon. What's the future marketing look like to you, and where are you most excited in terms of emerging markets, channels, tools, whatever have you?

Jim Taylor:                          

Yeah, I think the future of marketing to me is just about innovation that creates simultaneous value across every stakeholder group. You know, it's not just enough to position the brand and deliver great advertising. It really is about how you add holistic value to your employees' and your guests' lives across every touch point. And it's going to be more complex, and leaders in marketing are going to have to be up to the challenge of learning new fields and how marketing interacts with them.

And being able to present persuasive arguments, like you alluded to, Jason, for business model innovation, in addition to other types of innovation. And I think in the end, it's going to be a business of finding new solutions to old problems and friction points that really creatively overcome trade offs.

To me, that's really what innovation is about. It's about not accepting trade offs between the guests, your bottom line, franchisees, operators, etc. And how do you work to get a solution that leverages technology or some other tool, to solve it, to create that value.

So I'm excited to be a part of it, but you know what? It's going to be even more ... It's a more challenging job than it was 10 years ago.

Jason Loehr:                      

I'll tell you, to me, the future of marketing is such an emphasis on growth. And having a growth mindset that is recognizing the challenges that we have and how we bring our communications to life, but it's that continuous focus on how can we grow? And it may be market share, it might be sales, it might be transactions, it might ... But it's having that growth mindset and feeding that in.

And that's where, as I see this, we have a great example that we work with every day, in Rob Lynch, who, as our Chief Marketing Officer, led this incredible growth. And now as President, having that as a background, of understanding the consumer dynamic, the consumer marketplace, how all these feed in, has been a huge step towards then what that looks like for how we look at supply chain and all the other factors that go into that.

So, I think that the marketing world is going to expand when it comes to growth, to understanding those other areas that are touch points that lead into that, because having that view and being able to recognize little market opportunities that affect change and drive forward, is going to be huge.

And I'm an adjunct professor, and I teach a class called Digital Disruption in Modern Media. And I look at the students in there, and these are MBA candidates, so they know kind of what's going on. But as much as we see change on a daily basis, looking forward, the biggest opportunity that I can see, is in that system, to get them educated.

Because the universities and higher education are not built to adapt to this. Having worked on curriculum for programs, and taking 18 months to get through this counsel for this counsel and this group, and then as soon as it gets approved, you have to change everything, because it's like, what you're learning as a freshman, by the time you're a junior, is gone and obsolete. And then, these governing bodies that say this is what the curriculum should be, and if you're going to get your certifications, you have to be this.

It's a system that, like, we're not setting our own people up for success. And we see it, because we trying to basically train folks on the fly. But that core foundation of what marketing and especially leaning towards growth looks like, it's a system that needs a lot of help.

Jim Taylor:                          

One other thing to add to that, I think that we have to get better as marketers in the future. There's been so much emphasis put on big data, and I still think in the end, big heart beats out big data. And marketers need to figure out how to really bring to life compelling, emotional benefits, when guests interact with their brand. And I think that's been a little bit of something that's been a little bit of a lost art. So many times we start with the how, so much discussion about the how, and we don't go back up to the why and the who and the what often enough, and really think about the story arc that we're creating with the brand, and what can really engage and inspire people emotionally, to become attached and loyal to our brand.

Dave Knox:                        

Wonderful. Well, gentlemen, the greatest gift is that of time, and I thank you for taking the time to join me today. You've lived up to the corporate name of Inspire, so thank you. Awesome, and thank you once again.[crosstalk 00:31:47]

Jim Taylor:                          

Wonderful to be here.

Jason Loehr:                      

Anything for you, man.

Dave Knox:                        

Thank you.

Thanks so much for listening. If you liked the show, hit that rating, and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode. And for more resources, head over to Predictingtheturn.com.


Episode 00 - Why You Should Listen to Predicting The Turn w/ Dave Knox


Listen to the episode on iTunes:

Episode 0 -Why You Should Listen to Predicting The Turn w/ Dave Knox

Show Transcript:

Dave Knox:                        

I'm your host Dave Knox and this is Predicting the Turn, a show that helps business leaders meet their industry's inevitable disruption head on.

Logan Lyles:                       

Welcome to the very first episode of Predicting the Turn. We're here today with Dave Knox, the host of the show. My name is Logan Lyles, I'm one of the producers of this podcast. Today, I'll be talking to Dave about what you, the listener, can expect from this show.

Before we jump right into that; Dave, welcome to the show. I'd love for you to tell listeners a little bit about your background, and a little bit more about yourself.

Dave Knox:                        

Thank you Logan. Looking forward to going on this journey to produce, predict, and [inaudible 00:00:39] with you, so I appreciate all the help.

As a quick introduction, my background is at the intersection of the worlds of big brands and startups. I started my career at Proctor & Gamble, where ultimately I was one of our founders of our corporate digital strategy team, right in that time period where Web 2.0 was emerging.

I then spent the last seven years as the Chief Marketing Officer for a fast growing digital innovation agency called Rockfish, where I helped eventually sell that company to WPP.

On the nights and weekends, I spend my time in the world of startups. I'm an advisor to a few different venture capital funds. I'm also the co-founder of the Brandery, which has regularly been over the last seven years one of the top 15 startup accelerators in the country.

With that intersection, it's the topic of a book that I wrote called Predicting the Turn, which is subtitled: The High Stakes Game of Business Between Startups and Blue Chips.

Logan Lyles:                       

Dave, I'm glad you brought that up. Obviously, your book shares the same name as this podcast. I'd love for you to share with listeners one, a little bit more about your book, and two, how that led you into wanting to start this podcast.

Dave Knox:                        

Predicting the Turn is a book that I wrote really because it was inspired by the world I was living in, in the big brands and the startups. Spending the time of working with companies like P&G, and Kroger, and Ford Motor Company, and then working in night and weekends with startups that were many times actually challenging those very industries that some of those big companies were working in.

Predicting the Turn is meant to be a discussion about that. It's not aimed only at the world of big business or only at the world of startups, but really at the intersection between those two.

Logan Lyles:                       

I love that point there Dave, it's something you and I have talked about in previous conversations offline. Oftentimes what's happening in the world of startups can affect what's happening in the corporate world and vice versa. There can be leading indicators on both sides that can point to what's coming next in both worlds, right?

Dave Knox:                        

Without a doubt. We just saw it this week, there was an announcement that Coca Cola had invested $15 million into this little beverage company called Dirty Lemon. What was interesting when you read the press release, it touched upon Dirty Lemon's got these new beverages, they're really cool, consumers love them.

What it actually talked in the most was how Dirty Lemon has created a new way for brands to connect with consumers through conversational commerce, and text messaging, and everything else. That's what was interesting to Coca Cola, was not just a new brand, but actually a new way to go to market.

That's what's the fascinating thing about this world of innovation and what's taking place.

Logan Lyles:                       

Yes. I love that, that's a phenomenal example. Tell us a little bit more about what listeners can expect, what are some of the topics and the guests that you have lined up for future episodes? What can listeners expect when they tune in to future episodes beyond this one?

Dave Knox:                        

Being a guy that was born and raised in the world of brand building, one of the first things I did when I was thinking about this concept was I reached out and asked an audience what would they want. What came up was what shaped the direction I'll be going with for the show.

On the first part, I'm going to be inviting some of the leaders of some of the biggest brands in the world, chief marketing officers, heads of digital innovation, to talk about the challenges that they're faced with and how they're driving the change within their companies to embrace to this new environment.

Then on the flip side, I'm going to be inviting the venture capital world into the conversations. Having some of the venture capitalists who are the money behind some of the hottest startups out there, the most disruptive companies out there, come talk about how they look at the world of innovation. How are they predicting the turn, given that a venture capitalist, they're not looking for what's going to be the best idea one year from now or two years from now. They're looking at a five to ten year horizon.

We'll bring them on to talk about what they're looking at. Then I'll conclude with bringing in a host of some of those founders and those entrepreneurs that were crazy enough to think that they can change the world, and talk about how they saw an industry that was out there and decided that they were going to be the ones that changed that industry.

It should be a perspective from three different views of the table, with the common thread being everyone looking at how their thinking about predicting the turn.

Logan Lyles:                       

Yes, I love that. The rate of innovation is not slowing down anytime soon. The more that we can gain different perspectives on the changes, the innovations that are shaking up whatever industry that we're in, I think it going to be very, very valuable for a lot of folks.

I love that idea of different angles sitting at the same table. To that note Dave, based on what you said, if people listening to this have ideas for potential guests or topics that they would like to hear in this show, what would be the best way for them to reach out or make any suggestions, connect with you it in that way?

Dave Knox:                        

Email is always the best. I'm a zero inbox guy, so I love getting emails and responding as fast as I can. You can reach out to me at Dave@predictingtheturn.com.

You can also visit me on that same URL of www.predictingtheturn.com, or of course on Twitter, LinkedIn, et cetera. @Dave Knox is the way that you can find me one pretty much every social media channel there is.

Logan Lyles:                       

I love it, awesome. I love your zero inbox mentality, you've always been very responsive. I'm sure listeners will experience the very same thing.

Again, we've been talking to Dave Knox, the new host of Predicting the Turn. That actually wraps it up for this introductory episode. Dave, you'll be taking over the reigns for episode one and beyond.

As I've already said, I think this show is going to add a ton of value for listeners. I know I'm going to be tuning in regularly, I'm really excited to see this show grow.

Thank you so much for making time for this intro episode. It's been great to chat with you once again.

Dave Knox:                         Thank you Logan. We'll talk to everyone soon.

Thanks so much for listening. If you like the show, hit that rating and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode. For more resources, head over to predictingtheturn.com.