A glimpse inside the trends in marketing in retail, healthcare and financial services as seen by some of the city’s savviest marketers.
Written by Alex Watson
Shopping is social. Experiential. It is also phoned in from a bed in the middle of the night. Wrapping your mind around the marketing mix that can encompass that kind of range is no mean feat. Yet it is an exercise that keeps Doug Schneider extremely active these days.
“Shopping has always included a social aspect; however, we continue to see a rise in the need for enjoyable experiences,” Schneider says. “This social aspect and experience are the unique selling propositions for brick-and-mortar retail. Marketing efforts now go beyond establishing a gathering place to creating an experiential environment that encourages consumer interaction with and within the shopping center. This might include bringing your pet to Fido Fest, enjoying the Sounds of Summer live music events, discovering pop-up shops with local artisans, doing yoga with friends, taking a cooking class, cheering for your favorite team during fall tailgating, or playing in the snow during the Christmas parade.”
With more than 20 years of retailer and packaged goods marketing experience, Doug Schneider leads the business planning and marketing efforts at Bayer Properties. Before joining the Bayer team in 2007, Schneider directed national marketing efforts at retailers such as Kmart, Johnston & Murphy and most recently Saks Department Store Group. He has an understanding of department, specialty and chain store merchandise and marketing strategies, and an in-depth understanding of research and branding principles
After graduating from Western Kentucky University, he joined the Kmart Corporation and in 1992 began working for Fruit of the Loom, based in Bowling Green, KY, and was responsible for all global marketing efforts for the company. Schneider served as one of six executives who brought the $2 billion company out of bankruptcy with a 2001 sale to Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway. In 2004, he started working at Saks Department Store Group in Birmingham which consisted of seven department store nameplates including Parisian, Proffitt’s, Carson Pirie Scott, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Schneider was responsible for the corporate level marketing of these department stores in addition to store specific private label branding. With the sale of the department store group in 2007, Schneider joined Bayer Properties as Vice President of Marketing and today oversees the business planning, marketing, and human resources efforts for a commercial portfolio of 10 million square feet of mixed-use assets which include retail, office and residential components.
Locally Bayer is best known for The Summit, a lifestyle center that not only changed the way Birmingham shopped, its trend lines have reverberated around the nation. How to promote brick and mortar while acknowledging the digital buying channel is much on the mind of marketers these days.
“Many ask whether marketing the experience can differentiate shopping centers enough to compete against online purchasing. Conventional wisdom assumes that shopping centers must compete with online shopping when in fact it’s a symbiotic relationship. Online shopping is simply another distribution channel that serves a consumer need, primarily one of convenience. A consumer is less likely to classify shopping online as a social experience, and might not always think of brick-and-mortar as convenient, indicating the two channels serve different consumer needs. Several e-tailers, such as Warby Parker, Bonobos, and Google continue to open brick-and-mortar stores so their customers can physically experience their brand. The store itself is a marketing tool,” Schneider says.
Digital certainly factors into the marketing mix for brands such as The Summit. “Another growing aspect of shopping center/retailer marketing is geo-targeted digital advertising, which continues to account for a larger share of the media mix,” Schneider says. “While the Baby Boomer and Gen X demographics will still read some printed materials for example, the Millennial and Gen Z consumers are almost completely digital. As a result, the digital technology for more accurately and efficiently reaching consumers continues to become more sophisticated.”
The digital landscape has opened up the marketing toolkit for the rise of Big Data. That new-found flood of knowledge has shifted the ability of marketers to reach customers and understand their needs. “As with other industries, Big Data plays an integral role in our consumer marketing efforts,” Schneider says.
“Using wi-fi and/or a smartphone’s unique identifier, we can now measure individual shopping center visits, dwell time, visit frequency, center traffic patterns, store preferences and originating zip codes among other data points. While we do not receive personal information, we can use the aforementioned data to somewhat customize the experience for the individual, such as with targeted digital advertising with relevant messaging. We can also use data to improve the consumer experience on-site, including parking and traffic control for areas with historically significant car counts, managing peak shopping hours, and determining ideal event locations. This data helps with new developments as well when we design shopping centers through a better understanding of consumer behaviors and traffic patterns,” he says.
Big Data also plays a role in Bayer’s commercial leasing business, both on the retail side and within other components of their business.
“Retailers today are looking for brand alignment and asking whether the shopping center represents their retail brand,” Schneider says. “Marketing commercial space to prospective retailers involves demonstrating that the shopping center and its mix of retailers reach the same consumer base. This can be demonstrated using the Big Data analytics to define the customer demographics, psychographics and shopping trade area, among other data points. Retailers also are focused on experiential engagement as part of their own marketing efforts, so demonstrating the shopping center’s marketing initiatives is also key to the strategy in attracting new stores and restaurants.”
If marketing retail shopping has grown increasingly complicated, so has the marketing of healthcare services. That component of the marketing world presents a whole different set of challenges today, beginning with the whole notion that, as opposed to that shiny new toy or great dress, we’d just as soon stay as far away from a doctor as possible.
“Most people don’t want to need us,” says Kate DeWitt Darden, vice president of marketing and communication for Brookwood Baptist Health.
“My organization is pivoting away from marketing about institutions and awards and things of that nature. Patient-centric messaging is the key for us. That sort of marketing puts patients back in the center of focus. In other words, what do healing and wellness look like to them? That is what we need to find out and how we need to craft our messages. That is what patient-centric marketing means,” Darden says.
Darden joined Baptist Health System in 2013 and was recently named to the senior management team of Brookwood Baptist Health, the joint venture uniting Baptist Health System, Brookwood Medical Center and Tenet Healthcare. The new company is affiliated with 1,500 physicians and operates five hospitals and over 70 primary and specialty care clinics across Central Alabama. In her role, Darden is responsible for communications, brand management, service line marketing, advertising, public relations, content strategy and community engagement.
Darden started her career with Southern Progress, a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Inc. She was on the management team and led marketing for the Healthy Living Division, which included blockbuster brands Cooking Light and Health. During her tenure, Cooking Light was named to AdWeek’s Hot List four times, Advertising Age’s ‘A List,’ Capell’s Circulation Report’s prestigious ‘Triple Play Award’ three times, and ‘Most Notable Launch of the Past 20 Years’ awarded by Media Industry Newsletter and Samir Husni.
Before joining BHS, Darden also devoted time to being an entrepreneur. She and two partners with a shared passion for brand strategy and careers devoted to launching, building and re-inventing brands created a full service firm, DARDEN I TATUM to put that experience to work on behalf of clients in industries including travel, higher education, legal, and commercial real estate.
Darden graduated from Spring Hill College with a Bachelor of Arts degree and is a native of Oklahoma City. She is active in the local community currently serving on the boards of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama and Momentum Women’s Leadership.
While consumers might prefer to never need a doctor, when the need arises the Internet has turned patients into researchers, shopping for information about procedures, products and providers.
“Research is becoming more and more important. Patients are acting increasingly like consumers when it comes to healthcare, in part because more of the cost is coming directly from them. They are doing more and more research into procedures and providers to a depth they never have before. We have a role to play in all of that as a resource, a source of knowledge,” Darden says. “For our part, we have to do research into what the triggers are for consumers making a health care decision.”
One of the aspects creating a surge in healthcare research is social media. Darden sees individual providers connecting with patients via social media channels. “The practices are celebrating what they are doing that is noteworthy, good and unique; and they are really doing it the right way, using social media to create a community.”
The community Jennifer Duren is trying to create revolves around a suite of financial services. Jennifer Duren joined Warren Averett in 2008 and manages the marketing needs for the firm’s four North Alabama offices as well as five industry groups: financial services, construction and real estate, healthcare, government contracting and professional services. A graduate of Auburn, she has more than 12 years of marketing and advertising experience. Duren’s primary responsibilities include developing growth strategies, budget planning, internal and external communications, event planning and business development.
From her perspective, marketing is all about finding solutions.
“When you’re looking at the 40-plus services we offer, it may seem overwhelming, but really it’s quite simple in that we offer solutions in six areas: accounting, corporate advisory, technology/risk, HR, finance team support and personal financial needs. Many of the services that we have today were developed out of the needs of our clients, specifically where we saw they were being under served. Although our firm has grown substantially through 12 mergers in the last four years, we have not grown just to get bigger, but to gain more depth so that we can offer those expanded resources and solutions to our clients. All businesses and individuals have pain points, and it’s our job to identify those and offer the solutions,” Duren says.
The marketing strategies that Duren employs are fine-tuned to reach the customer that can most benefit from Warren Averett’s services.
“We also have to be specialists, and not generalists to truly meet our clients’ unique needs. Being a jack of all trades, master of none will not cut it in our profession. There are several ways to ensure this is accomplished—you can develop the specialists in-house, you can bring in strategic hires, mergers/acquisitions as well as strategic alliances or partnerships. Warren Averett utilizes all of these strategies,” Duren says.
Reaching a broader market yet still within the financial services field, Michele Elrod recommends a systematic approach to marketing with a clear handle on important benchmarks.
Elrod joined Regions in 1984 and provides strategic marketing direction and management as the head of marketing for Regions Financial Corporation. Regions is a top U.S. bank-holding company headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with $117 billion in assets, operating over 1,700 banking offices and 2,100 ATMs in 16 states across the South, Midwest and Texas.
Before serving in her current position, Elrod held a number of management roles in strategic marketing and sales training for Regions and AmSouth Banks, and was the marketing director for The First National Bank of Tuscaloosa. Prior to entering the financial industry, Elrod served in management roles directing public and media relations, fundraising, education and volunteer services in the Mental Health Services industry. Elrod has a master’s degree from the University of Alabama School of Communication and Information Sciences.
The rise of digital marketing has substantially increased the role of data in marketing. And that has led to real-time ability to adjust dollars and campaigns as needed. But for a major financial player like Regions, the role of marketing often extends beyond dollars and cents.
“There are some things that are not monetary but are very important to the foundation of the brand. It’s really important to us to help people make more informed financial decisions. To do that, you have to educate, and to do that, you have to build a resource center with content. Efforts like that can be harder to measure,” she says.
What these marketers, all working in different industries and trying to fill different needs, have in common is a belief that more than ever smart marketing relies on managing the flow of data and information and repositioning that knowledge to impact consumers.