Marketing Titans: Annemarie Frank and Consumer Engagement

Connections 2014 brought several opportunities to speak with marketing giants. The interview below continues my series from the conference and offers further insight into the present state of marketing and where it is going. Annemarie Frank is the Vice President of Marketing for HSN. Prior to HSN, she was Executive Director, Digital and Business Development at Avon Products, Inc. Her experience in the industry is outweighed only by her passion to serve the customer.

How has consumer engagement changed with HSN since 2011?

"The fact that there are so many new ways to engage with the customer is the biggest change, and the most exciting. For example, games have become a big part of our platform. These provide a personal interaction that the individual can recall. Additionally, social platforms have taken a big roll in digital engagement, especially Pinterest, which acts as a discovery platform for the person who regularly shops with us. Our mobile app also takes a front row seat with engagement, as we've found that many of our customers dual-screen (they look at their phone as they watch one of our programs). Our mobile app features a live chat option which allows the person to directly speak with the hosts of the program. Through our app and games we can see engagement and improve upon it. Our goal is to fold the brand experience into our customer's daily habits, providing solutions that help and serve each person, individually."

In your marketing experience, where does print play a role?

"Print needs to be reserved for targeted campaigns. Using predictive models, we (HSN) are able to figure out how to maximize print and direct mail with measurable results. Usually, print is part of a multi-touch campaign where the person has had other exposures, most of which are digital. It's always very specific because it has to be. The days of random print campaigns are long gone."

How has consumer marketing shifted over the last five years?

"The biggest shift is the idea of relevance. There's been a reframing of consumer marketing from 'how can I sell x number of units' to 'how can I deliver value to my customer'. This reframing changes how you go to the market and ask the questions. Another way it's shifted is the importance of understanding the effectiveness of your marketing. Back in the day, most companies focused on the click-attribution and considered this linear measurement the most valuable. After that, the new measurement was how many "downloads" (ebook, study, etc.) a company could get. Many marketers still have the download and click as the end objective and the absolute measure of success. Obviously, these types of goals don't take into account the multi-faceted customer, do very little in the long run for brand engagement, and can ultimately represent a disconnect between the measurement and what's really happening. To be successful, a marketer must understand the path in the engagement. Our customer is smart, well-researched, and aware of what's going on in the industry because she wants to find what's best for her. Instead of focusing on a download or click, learn the path of the customer and engage accordingly."

What are some challenges you face on a regular basis, and how do you alleviate them?

"Big data is the first one for sure. Skill is required to create meaning in the data and inspire action. Data moves faster than companies, so it's hard to keep pace. You can only do so much but as a marketer you want to use it all, but you have to parse it out and use what is required to meet your customer where they are in the experience."

"Another challenge is content, because there are so many ways a brand can fold into a person's daily life. Content needs to be contextually relevant and inspirational. The different type of content should help a relevant audience and should speak to the person being targeted so that they can be served in the best possible way. This challenge also goes back to my first point, in that you have to know what data to use in order to create the content and then where to send it. Right now we are just chomping at the bit to use what we have in order to help the customer. As said before, content is not just an eBook or a blog post. Its copy, its responsive design, its video, it's a tweet, it's a Pin. Broaden your mind about content and work towards the best possible way to engage (and serve) your customer."

What attracts you to the consumer marketing industry?

"I'm passionate about serving the customer. Changes in this industry always keep you on your toes. It requires you to be a passionate customer advocate because it forces the customer into the driver's seat and allows them to control the experience. I love that. It's about the customer, and the blend of technology and marketing enables me (and marketers like me) to utilize the tech that gets me closer to who the customer is and where they are in the experience. Salesforce's Journey Builder has been, and will be, phenomenal in helping us accomplish that. Remember my comment about Big data and mining through it? Software like JB helps sort through it all."

What advice to you have to a marketer going into the consumer marketing industry?

"Jump in, ask lots of questions, and pursue the opportunities. There are so many opportunities, so choose according to your interest, and always, always, always put yourself in your customer's path. Focus on them and what their needs are, keep them top of mind, and pursue every endeavor with them as the end goal."

This interview continues a series dedicated to the interviews and experiences had at Connections 2014. In marketing, it's no longer about tricking, persuading, or influencing the customer. Marketing is about serving the customer. Special thanks to Anna Marie Frank for this interview.