Combining brand building with ROI key concern for CMOs: Economist forum

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NEW YORK -- The challenging role that chief marketing officers face today in building brand loyalty while showing a return on investment was the underlying theme of the Economist's Fifth Annual Marketing Forum on March 13-14.

The conference featured a number of executives, including David Roth, chief executive officer at cereal café franchise Cereality, who spoke about the benefits of partnerships in a panel called "Reconciling the yin and the yang of marketing: Creativity/innovation vs. metrics/analytics."

"We have partnered with strategic companies like Quaker, Old Navy and Got Milk, in order to get the word out about our brand," he said. "Old Navy came to us and said that they wanted to feed their customers at 6 a.m. on Black Friday and asked us if we could make cereal bars. We didn't have a line of cereal bars, but we made them and had such a positive response [from] Old Navy customers calling up and asking where to get the bars that we added them to our line of products."

Product innovation is not just for mass-produced consumer products like cereal. Focusing on good design and listening to customers is another way that marketers have been able to increase on ROI at the high end as well.

Oliver Stip, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Cartier North America, discussed techniques for branding luxury goods in his case-study presentation on Cartier.

"Our brand is based on creating high quality products that the customer can relate to on an emotional level," he said. "Customers look to us for quality and, when we deliver, we see the return."

It is not just good design that draws a customer's eye, but merchandising at the store level is a way to grab attention.

Francesca Schuler, vice president of branding at organic cleaning products manufacturer Method Products, talked about the benefits of spending time on designing a good product and bringing this to the store level. Method has created M spots, Method branded store fixtures that are displayed in the cleaning aisles of retailers like Target and Duane Reade.

"It is completely contrary to merchandise cleaning products together by brand," she said. "Our goal is to merchandise our products together because we are not looking to sell soap to every household in America, but to have 10 percent of American households be Method homes."

Creating customer loyalty is not just for products; it can apply to the retailers who bring the products to the consumers.

Gary Briggs, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at eBay North America, agreed that customer loyalty is a way to drive sales. In a presentation called "Customer relationships and loyalty: How marketers are creating a lasting connection," Mr. Briggs discussed using technology to create a better customer experience.

"Personalization is important to building long-term relationships," he said. "At eBay, we track our customers' behaviors and send them relevant messaging to keep the customer experience engaging."

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