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On Jan. 24, Teddy Heidt — founder and CEO, The Gauge Collective — convened a panel of marketing executives to hear perspectives on how to reach customers in the era of digital disruption.

The experts, with backgrounds ranging from consulting to consumer and business-to-business brands, shared their unique, but complementary, thoughts about how to target audiences and pivot when circumstances change.

Elisa Holland, managing director, Innovation Labs, KPMG Ignition, said a key challenge is identifying the behaviors and expectations of different customer groups. Members of Gen Z, for example, are very different from millennials.

“We have a framework that we like to use, and it really helps us get kind of under the hood. We call it ‘The Five Mys.’ It is my motivation, my attention, my connection. And then the last two are my watch and my wallet — the trade-offs that you make with time and money.” EH

“You mentioned Gen Z. Obviously, this is a very digitally connected audience. How has that shifted how your clients communicate with customers?” TH

“I think it’s just understanding how and when those shifts are happening. It’s not ‘Go to this channel or that channel.’ …If you have that data, if you understand what their motivational profile looks like, you can break through that connection clutter that’s out there, if you have something meaningful to say that’s close to them.” EH

Farmer’s Fridge was conceived as a location-based meal provider with kiosks in high-traffic locations like airports and downtowns. But when the pandemic hit and workers stayed home, the company pivoted to delivery, which required a different marketing strategy. Meghan Hurley, Vice President of Marketing, Farmer’s Fridge, explained what happened next:

What was so interesting about delivery is we had to talk to our customers in a way we had never done before. We started interviewing people and what we saw before that was so great about Farmer’s Fridge was it was convenient, and then healthy, and that was awesome. What we found is it was still convenient, but (our customers) were strung-out parents that needed to plan a convenient meal. … ‘I just need to grab something out of my fridge and run off.’”

—Meghan Hurley, Vice President of Marketing, Farmer’s Fridge

To communicate the Farmer’s Fridge message effectively to these at-home customers, Hurley said the company needed to “relax a bit” and find its voice.

“The last two years we have had a little bit more fun with salad. We’re going to be a little bit more welcoming and approachable. I think a lot of people in the health and wellness space do ‘serious’ very well. That’s not what we do, and we find that resonates really well with our customers.”

—Meghan Hurley, Vice President of Marketing, Farmer’s Fridge

Rob Schulkins, Global Head of Digital Services, HH Global, said businesses may be tempted to focus entirely on digital marketing and selling, deciding that retail has no future in the post-Covid world. But, he predicted a backlash and opportunity for bricks and mortar selling because there are obvious limits to the ability of online consumers to examine products. 

“Retail physical has now got a stunning opportunity to reinvent, because there’s a hunger from the customer to go and play. So retail, yes, is price sensitive. Yes, use all the online tools because there’s a way to get the sale and get the ROI for the space that you’ve got. But don’t mothball it. Don’t close the doors. Give it that lick of paint.”

—Rob Schulkins, Global Head of Digital Services, HH Global

Brian Walker, Vice President, Chief Product Officer, Grainger, said his challenge is reaching a broad customer base that includes everyone from chief procurement officers of larger companies to individuals responsible for managing smaller warehouses. Understanding the needs and personalities of different customer segments is critical. For example, maintenance managers responsible for maintenance are practical-minded, rather than fascinated with new technology. Understanding those distinctions makes all the difference.

“This is a person that is fixing something, generally speaking. They’re not buying the most up-to-date technology. …They are slow adopters of technology. And so we’re building out campaigns that help them meet them where they are, with messages about how we can help them save time and be more efficient in a context that they recognize. If we’re dealing with a chief procurement officer, then we’re advertising in journals that they read. We are highlighting how we can help provide them with insights that make them more efficient in their job.”

—Brian Walker, Vice President, Chief Product Officer, Grainger

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