Predictions for the Future of In-House Marketing w/ Laura Cunningham
Brand-Side
Brand-Side

Episode · 1 year ago

Predictions for the Future of In-House Marketing w/ Laura Cunningham

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

More and more brands are creating in-house agencies. Is this approach the future of marketing?

Many organizations associate time-efficiency and cost-savings with taking the marketing department in house. But a lot of those same organizations are finding it a challenge to attract the caliber of talent that an agency can secure.

Could external agency partners complement an in-house team? How will the work-from-home model affect the agency vs. in-house discussion?

On this episode of BrandSide, I interview Laura Cunningham. Laura is the integrated marketing manager at Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service that uses algorithms and data to make individualized clothing recommendations.

We talked about:

  • Aside from keeping the team motivated, what makes a successful in-house agency?
  • The day-to-day life of an integrated marketing manager
  • How brands can differentiate themselves in an online direct-to-consumer world


Find this interview and many more by subscribing to BRAND-SIDE on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, or on our website

Welcome to brand side, a new podcast by Celtra where we interview marketing creative operations and design meters to find out what life is like in house, first agency side and how big creative ideas come to life at the world's best brands. This is brand side by Seltra. Welcome back to brand side. My name is Christine, I'm the director of Brandon coms over at Celtra and I have a very special guest here with me today. I Have Laura Cunningham. She's the integrated marketing manager over at stitch fix. Welcome Laura. To kick things off, how did you get into marketing? Hi, Christine, and super excited to be here. I actually spent most of my career agency side, so I create about agencies. I ended up getting hired by one of my clients to work on their advertising team to oversee creative strategy and production and manage the agency. Interesting flip flop. That's kind of the way I made the switch from actually going from agency side into true marketing and really kind of getting that bigger, broader breadth vix marketing experience on the brand side of things. It's so good because you have this sort of view into the agencies and then also what life is like on the brand side. And so what do you like about it? Yeah, you know, I think brand side alluded to, it gives you like a whole new perspective on the world of marketing as a whole as like, yeah, as a whole, you really kind of think you know it all when you're at an agency. It's easy to get a little tunnel vision on the advertising world specifically, and so moving brand side really giving that broader perspective and I kind of realized me out whole, I don't I don't really know as much about marketing as I thought I did when I worked agency side. But you know, if you if you love agency life and that's the work that you love, like more power to you. I personally just wanted a little bit more of that, that breadth and didn't really want to go continue going like deep on advertising specifically, like there's so much more to marketing than just the Ad Agency piece of it. And...

...so, you know, I think having that agency background in like invaluable and vital to my success personally, and I always recommend to people that they start agency side if they can. But yeah, if you are looking for more breadth of experience. I highly recommend all some making that switch to go work at a brand for a while. You can always go back. Yeah, and there's so many opportunities right now. I feel like more and more brands are starting their inhouse agencies. They're evolving their inhouse teams and growing them. What do you think? What's your prediction for the future of the in housing movements? Well, it's a million dollar question. Yeah, it's hard to say. I know a lot of brands are building their inhouse agencies for out there. You know, obviously there's cost savings and time efficiency associated with going in house, but personally I don't think in house agencies are unless you're in Uber or bigger brand, it's hard to attract the talent that is attracted agencies. So I personally think you're never gonna really going to get the caliber of talent that you would get a creative ad agency because there's always that a lore of working on a bunch of different projects and different clients. Right. But yeah, there are some people that do value going deep on one brand and in house agencies are perfect for them and I do think in house agencies are getting better and better. I've kind of worked with a for T two different in hace agencies throughout my career now and to very different types, and it just depends on how they're set up and what kind of talent you can attract. Yeah, absolutely so. So kind of a follow up on that, do you think that the sort of the brand org of the future is a hybrid between, you know, working with some external agency partners to get that outside creative perspective and then complementing that would an inhale team that can work at speed and just turn a lot of content out to match the growing needs online. Yeah, definitely, I think that's detainly one way to tackle it and it's the what I'm most familiar with is kind of a highbrid approach of the...

...creative agencies take certain type of projects, at side agencies take certain types of projects and the inhouse agencies get others. But you know that counts a cause and strife within the in house agencies because of course they want to work on like the big flashy projects. It sometimes go to the the outside agencies and so you know it can justly can honestly cause some resentment and I think you have to find of the right balance and making sure that you're inhouse team is getting the opportunity to work on some of the bigger and more challenging projects, even if you do have an outside agency to just to keep them motivated and keep them challenged. Yeah, so a fun story for my agency days. I never worked with apple directly, but I was its TVWA and apple would actually give both their inhouse agency and then also Tvwa the same briefs and it would almost be like a twitch, a pitch each time. So then, aside from keeping your your creative teams motivated with challenging product projects, what makes for successfully in House Agency? Yeah, you know, I think the more you can set your inhouse agency up like an outside agency, the better. I've kind of seen both ways done, and what you want to avoid, personally, thank you. What you want to avoid is styloing your designers and your copywriters just for sake of churning things out. Then your design team becomes more of just like a production design team and it doesn't make for the best work. You know, you want that collaborative effort between your designers your copywriters, and I think that's where creative agencies have a leg up. Sometimes if they have those partnerships between writers and art directors and writers and designers. That just makes the work that much more impactaful. So setting up your inhalse agency like an outside agency, I think, is key, but also, just like I said, keeping them challenged and giving them the the bigger problems to solve and making sure that your marketers are good at writing creative briefs. To like that. Think it's easy to or I would say it's not easy to write a good brief. I would say there are marketers who do it really...

...well. They're marketers who do not so well, and the quality of the brief really reflecting the quality of the work that you get back. And prescriptiveness is really the death of creativity and I've seen marketers be very protective. I've also seen the other end of the spectrum where they're too vague and if you're not able to really succinct succinctly communicate the creative challenge to your team like if you're just not going to get that high caliber work. So it's kind of it's not just a creative team. You know in health agency it's problems solves. Like marketing team has to be really solid at like how do I write a good brief? How do I really pull out those insights that are going to get my creative team excited? So you're a marketer, do you? Are you currently writing briefs? I am. Yeah, yeah, and that's like to my own horn, but I think it's too decent briefs and I'm passionate about writing good greeves. You know, I wasn't always agree with them, but I've had the benefit of working with really strong strategists and creative teams throughout my career who have made me a better marketer and I've made me better a writing briefs. You know, I kind of know what information they really need and how to how to pose a challenge to them to get the best work that I can. I'm sure they really appreciate that. So, aside from writing briefs, what does an integrated marketing manager do? What's your day to day like? You know, it's like it's somewhat vague title for I think for a reason. I'm not managing integrated campaigns every moment of every day. My job really very is you know, I think it campaigns really up and flow. You might do one of year, you might do two year you might do a bunch of years, depends on on what company you're at. But for me I'm kind of in between big projects. is so working right now a lot on positioning and messaging strategy and working across teams and cross channels to make sure that our voice in messaging and strategy really comes to life across all touch points. You know, it's easy than teams work in silos, for things to feel disparate and you're you know, one team is saying one thing and the other team is saying another thing in there ads and just trying to bring that like cohesiveness to our marketing work through having a really structured sessioning a messaging framework, and so that's been a lot of the work I've...

...been doing right now, and I think you know having that messaging framework is now more important than ever. That you have all of your team's working remotely, working from God knows where. How has remote collaboration been like during this time for you guys? Yeah, it's so interesting. It was. It was Freney time for me because when I when I started as to tricks, I was only two months and when we when we went to work from home, and that was a challenge for me personally, because I didn't get the time to really like get to know the team and build those relationships in person like I typically would. I'm big on relationship building and I think that that is what brings me back to work over though, you know, is fostering those relationships with people and but I think we've figured it out and I would say it hasn't been that challenging for me because I just have a team who is they're all really passionate, a very smart, passionate team kind and everyone just kind of figured it out and we have. You know, I think one thing that the biggest differences. I have a lot more one on ones than I used to because you have to have those points of connection. You can't lose those. And you know, there's no more hallway checks, there's no quick chat in the kitchen anymore, there's no running over to someone's desk to ask a quick question. Thank you. You have to really deliberately set up those points of connection with key people, even if it's just to chuck in and say hi and see how their weekend was going. That's how you keep those relationships going. Yeah, it's so crucial during this time and I think another effect of the pandemic has been that every single brand is now trying to master that D to Sea strategy, sell online, direct to consumer. Everybody's doing the same thing. How can they differentiate themselves? This is probably not new, but I think solve a problem, solve the pain point, like put yourself in a shoes of your process and customers and and try not to get in the threat of talking to yourselves as a brand. I think it's really a can be really easy to lose sight of the customer experience and...

...the customer journey and only think about what you, as a brand want to tell people and say about yourselves. But if it doesn't relate back to something that consumers going to care about or some problem you're helping them solve or some pain point you're leaving in their experience, it's just going to fall flat. You know, I think what's that the core of a lot of the message decisioning work that that I lead is making sure that at every touch point we're taking into account the customer journey and a customer experience and really leveraging insights to craft the most compelling message, because otherwise we're just not going to matter. To people. You know, we can talk about talk about our own business all day long, but if it doesn't solve a problem for somebody, why should they care? Yeah, yeah, and and so I imagine you're spending a lot of time listening to your customers, going through social comments, feedback and then and taking that back into into the message. And what's that process like? Yeah, I mean we try to do a lot of consumer research and insights and x three research just to kind of keep a constant pulse on what people's needs are, what are their barriers to conversion, what are the things that, you know, get them excited about shopping? And so just really digging into consumer insights as frequently as possible and doing a lot of resurgery and, yeah, just keeping the finger on the pulse of our consumer. And then on the notion of selling online. If you have a brand that is more performance driven in their paid advertising versus branding, how do you think they can still build that brand simultaneously, because you need that point of differentiation? Yeah, again, another million dollar question. But I think you have to acknowledge that there's some channels that are better suited to brand building and storytelling and some channels that are better suited to driving conversion. And you know, it's not to say that TV, for example, that you have to abandon all hope that it's going to drive conversion. I think there is a way to find the balance between telling compelling and break through stories while also communicating like your key value props that you know drive conversion. It's probably not as black and white as a lot of people believe it to be, this like divide between brand and performance. Like I think, I truly think there's a way...

...to do it, do both well and just use your channel portfolio to tell the brand billowing story and channels for it's most appropriate. And you know, and that's again where you're having a really strong creative partner, whether it's outside agency or inhouse agency, is key. Like you need a partner who can take the constraints of like we know X, Y and Z works to drive conversion and think about that in a new and creative and innovative way, like within those constraints, how do you do something really creative? And I think sometimes the most creative work comes out of having constraints, whether it's budget or messaging. Oh absolutely, and then another thing that you know we've been discussing a lot of blade is the idea of design excellence and Pixel perfection, so meaning that once you're scaling across all of these different touch points, that you're still maintaining that design integrity. I think I just read this stat that two thirds of consumers will distress the brand if the ad looks different than the experience that's going to be on the website. So what do you think about design consistency? That's really that's interesting. I'm have to look into that now. I think there's something to be said for consistency, but I would argue that the consistency of your message it's probably more important. What is the overall add communicating? And you know, if you're really strict about design consistency, how do you test into their ways of expressing yourself? How doing testines to being more differentiated? You know, eventually, especially with maybe more legacy brands, you do start to just look like every other brand in your category. And so if you're constantly just being the the like brand guidelines police, and that's a perfection police, I think that limits how much you can differentiate yourself. But if you're telling this the same consistent message, and it's a compelling message and you've done your homework, then I'm not sure it matters so much to be quite so perfect and consistent in the design itself. But that's like opinion of one, not grounded search. I'M gonna have to go dig into this a little bit now. I love having this like different point of view and...

...you definitely hit the nail on the head with the with the messaging consistency. I'm seeing so many brands, especially when they're starting out, newer ones, they you know, they want to communicate about their key benefits, but then also about the products, but then they want to talk about their audience. It ends up the being this like fruit salad of things where you don't really know anymore with the brand essence is so I think it's so important. Finally, to close off our conversation, I want to get your thoughts and predictions on major marketing trends for two thousand and twenty one. Yeah, it's so interesting. I mean thinking about this recently around, you know, this move towards stricter data privacy laws and regulations. I think that we're going to end up in a world where maybe maybe it's a bit of a regression toward brand building because because it's going to be so much harder to measure one to one conversions and to measure anything. It's just getting more and more challenging and so you kind of have to take bigger swing swings and make bigger creative bets, and so you could, I think there could be a shift back to to more brand marketing and a little bit away from purely performance Roman marketing, but we'll see. Yeah, that's definitely something that I've been thinking about. If the two thousand and ten were all about data and performance and targeting, was kind of like the wild west and anything goes, and now we're seeing these restrictions like drive us back to brandon storytelling telling. I'm actually kind of excited about that, you know. Yeah, yeah, same as somebody WHO's, you know, with a background and a lot of brand marketing and advertising. It's exciting for me to but, like I said before, I don't think it's as black and white as we think it is. I think we'll maybe we'll finally come to a happy medium between performance and brand. You know, yeah, exactly. Well, Laura, this has been a great conversation. I'm as sure audience will love to listen to it. Thank you so much. Best of luck with two thousand and twenty one, and it was great having you on. Thank you so much as a pleasure. You've been listening to brand side if you like when you heard subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about creative production automation,...

...is IT SULTRACOM? Thanks for listening. Until next time,.

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