How Electrolux’s CMO Unified Her Global Marketing Efforts Through Content

It was 2012, and MaryKay Kopf, Electrolux’s CMO, realized she had a problem. The Internet—the mobile web in particular—had changed the way people shopped. But Electrolux, the second-biggest appliance maker in the world, hadn’t fully kept up.

“When online emerged it became a new silo, followed by mobile and social,” she wrote in a 2014 article for the Harvard Business Review. “The organization was locked in a structure that made it difficult to connect and integrate all the different ways that a person gathers information, makes a decision and receives support—online and offline.”

Along with the rest of the company’s leadership, Kopf decided it was time for a change—a company restructuring to break down silos and create a cohesive consumer experience and brand story, with content playing a key role. For a company that spans continents as well as numerous brands, such as Zanussi and Frigidaire, it wasn’t an easy task. But it’s paying off, with Electrolux seeing continuous growth and successful new initiatives like Live. Love. Lux., a popular online magazine that reaches consumers early in their purchase cycle.

Recently, I caught up with Kopf to learn more about Electrolux’s transformation, and how she keeps up with the challenges of an increasingly complex digital world.

During your time at Electrolux, you realized that silos within your organization were leading to a really inconsistent and frustrating customer experience. How did you go about fixing that?

First of all, customer experience—and how it functions—is something our entire group thinks about. Whether that’s marketing, design, R&D, product line, engineering, manufacturing, or consumer care, we all own it.

Secondly, we think very broadly about how our consumers get inspired. How does she shop for—and then live with—appliances? We are a company that has a number of strategic brands, but we focus our overall policy on consumer experience.

Electrolux is a giant, global brand. How do you manage to have that unified experience and story with a number of different target audiences across so many different product lines?

That’s a great question. We do it in two ways: One, we have a strategic brand portfolio. We target specific brands to specific consumer segments. Electrolux, for example, targets two different consumer segments and we know everything about those segments. We know our consumers demographically and typographically; we know her style, what’s important to her at home, and what kind of relationship she wants to have with brands. We think about how she gets inspired, how she discovers what’s right for her, how she shops, how she makes her selection, and then what happens when she gets her new appliance home. We look at pre- and post-purchase as one experience.

We focus everything we do for her with that brand, and fill that positive consumer experience. We build products for her. We build shopping experiences for her. We build ownership experiences for her.

How does content fit into that whole equation?

I think content is the most important thing we do. We curate custom content for wherever she is in that journey, with our brand as her friend. Then we utilize all that content to tell one story and develop technology to enable that.

How do you make sure that you’re reaching your target audience where they’re already spending their time? That’s a big challenge for a lot of brands now—making sure you’re reaching customers, through social or email or whatever channel they’re on, so they find your content and engage with it.

One of the things that we’ve done recently is to start earlier in the journey. We’re worrying about how our consumer is getting inspired. How are they cooking? How are they talking about food? How do they feel about sustainability? Things like that. We start by connecting with them on those passion points to engage with them, build a relationship with them, and then bring them back to our brand. Then, as they get inspired and start to discover appliances, we’ll move through that journey into the ownership experience.

So basically, if you see that a lot of people are reading and sharing your content, that’s indicative of this relationship being built with the consumer that will translate into lasting commercial relationships down the road.

Right. We measure a lot on whether or not the consumer engages with our content. We do a lot of experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t work, and then get that content on all of the right channels.

And then we encourage our customers to be part of creating content by sharing a recommendation, sharing a review, or sharing experiences. For example, how to cook a new meal using steam. What was it like to roast a chicken in a convection oven and roast a chicken in a steam oven? You’ve got an amazingly better tasting chicken if you steam it. Questions like that enable us to build community through content creation.

Focusing on your role a little bit more, it’s never been a crazier time to be a CMO than it is today, with the rapid technological advances that we see. How has that changed the way that you approach your job?

For me, it’s more about how technology is enabling consumers and changing their power. That is what’s driving how I approach my job differently than I did in the past.

Let’s start with what’s not changed: It’s still all about focusing on the consumer and meeting their needs by building strong brands, bringing innovative products to market, and delivering remarkable customer experiences. That’s still front and center. But how our team accomplishes this has definitely changed. And it keeps on changing—sometimes it feels like it changes every five minutes. It used to go like this: we would advertise a new product, then we would support the product launch in the physical store and sell appliances.

Now, we do much more. We engage our consumers before they even start looking for an appliance. There are innovations that help them interact with appliances on their terms, online as well as at the store. All of this is enabled by technology that helps us interact with our customers and across different teams within our company.

How has that impacted the way you view media buying and allocate your budget?

We have an omni-channel approach and we have a 360-degree-consumer-experience approach. We’re looking at it before she buys, when she buys, and after she buys.

In fact, we’re working toward a more coordinated media approach with our entire inter-agency team. It’s kind of like a buying strategy: more social ad units, more digital, less traditional print and TV. Also with the content we create, it’s not just the story we put into it, but also how we use bloggers and social personalities we partner with to help us create it.

We’ve got to synchronize those changes that are happening in the media but also to make sure that we’re providing the right content.

What excites you the most right now?

There are a few things that are particularly interesting. For one, creating relationships with our consumers. What’s so cool is that we can now use data to be better at building relationships. The more data-driven companies have been doing this for years, but now it’s really proliferating and being packed into every industry. I think that being able to shape the experiences we deliver to our consumer, based on data, is going to fundamentally change how we ideate, develop, and execute on the consumer experience.

Another exciting innovation for us is the Internet of Things. As marketers of appliances, we have real estate in consumers’ homes all over the world. We’re especially excited about the new services we can deliver with our connected products. For example, this year we launched the world’s first connected oven and we’re just getting ready to introduce that to market. It has a number of features: an internal camera lets you see how your meal is cooking even if you’re not in the room. You can share what you’re cooking with friends and family, and share that on social channels. Just imagine, you could be cooking in Stockholm and share it with someone in San Francisco!

We’re also excited about storytelling technology, like the ability to use things like VR to tell our stories and co-create stories with our consumers.

That’s really cool. It’s kind of like thinking about your appliances as assistant chefs in the kitchen with you, if you make them smart enough.

Exactly. One of the things about Electrolux is we are the world leaders in professional appliances. Over half of Michelin chefs in Europe have Electrolux appliances in their restaurants. We develop a lot of the latest and greatest technology for professional chefs, then we customize that technology to bring to consumers.

An idea just popped into my head—I don’t know if it’s good or bad. How about a virtual reality content experience where you put on a VR headset and get transported to cooking with your favorite 5-star Michelin chefs, presented by Electrolux.

Actually, that is an idea that we have!

All right, cool.

It would put you, the home chef, right in their shoes. What is it like to be a professional chef? Maybe you’ve never used induction before. Or maybe you’ve never used steam before. What if you had an experience where you could actually walk through that? You’ve got a cooking class at home with that new technology and you cook your favorite fish using that technology. I think that there’s some cool experiences with post-purchase as well, where the home chef can experience the kind of valuable digitized content.

We talked a lot about the stuff that excites you. Is there anything that worries you about where marketing landscape is headed? Anything that keeps you up at night?

Yes, definitely. It’s one thing: building our digital capabilities fast enough. How do we keep up and keep moving things ahead, because change happens so quickly? We’re continuously working with our people and their capabilities.

What’s your big prediction for the marketing industry in 2016?

I think there’s going to be a profound shift from focusing on what’s the right media. There are so many new media channels that are out there right now. We’re all thinking about the consumer experience across the entire journey, from the moment I start looking to my purchase and post-purchase experience. I think this is where content comes in—it helps consumers stick to our brand and builds directive. The content needs to be tailored to fit their needs and experiences. I think this is where video, VR, and 360-degree video are going to come into play this year.

Image by Olga Bell
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