“To be the most digitally fit consumer packaged goods organization, in the world.” That was the lofty vision I set for The Campbell Soup Co., when I first joined. Nearly 2 years later, the organization has leaned in, for the most part, into that vision. I’m proud of where the organization sits today. The progress was dramatic and it was something you could feel. It went well beyond the surface. When leaving Campbell, I had a mix of pride, satisfaction and excitement. Being the 1st digital leader for such a historic and iconic organization was exciting. I think the organization and I were both initially unsure how this partnership would work. I was certainly unlike their normal hire. And I was skeptical how much they really wanted to change. But, 2 years later, it’s clear the partnership was mutually fruitful. I’m certainly a better, wiser digital leader today, than I was before I joined. And, it’s fair to say, the organization is in a much better position to succeed in digital, than it was before I joined. Pride I often remark to people that the work I was apart of at Campbell, was some of the best work I’ve ever been part of. There are 3 initiatives that come to mind and fill me with pride:
- Changing Our Digital Investment: In year 1, digital media investment was increased by more than 40%. The headlines talked a lot about that number. It’s a big increase. It was increased even more in year 2. But, spending more, wasn’t the goal. Spending right, was. I’m proud of how those dollars were being spent. They were much more in tune with how consumers were spending their time across devices, screens, platforms, etc. The change in spend also lead to new partners and ways of thinking about the role of media. It certainly also helps that the ROI on many of the digital initiatives provided a real tangible positive return.
- Hack The Kitchen: This was the first major initiative that publicly demonstrated how far the org had come. From going beyond the traditional agency partners for ideas to enabling others to mashup intellectual property, Hack The Kitchen broke every traditional rule that existed, internally. The output was pretty damn good too. Sometimes initiatives are a success because of the cultural, process and mindset changes that occur. This was one of those initiatives.
- Launching The Consumer Learning and Interaction Center: Do you need a social media command center? I don’t know. I think launching one, just to have one, is a bad idea. But, I believe that launching one because you want to demonstrate to an organization the importance of social, real time decision making and that you can’t always do what you’ve always done, is a great idea. CLIC started out as a theoretical idea, the kind that starts on a white board and with people saying “it’ll never happen.” But, the people in that first meeting refused to let this idea die. I let others drive this initiative and I was so proud of their perseverance, drive and desire to bring upon something that would change the organization for the better.
Satisfaction In the Fall of 2013 we shared our progress with the Board of Directors and the Major Share Owners. One board member remarked that they never thought we’d get to where we were…ever, but to see it in only 2 years was nothing short of exceptional. At the end of the day, Campbell, like all public companies, answers to investors. A good board of directors, helps you deliver on shareholder return, while ensuring the company is well positioned for future long-term growth. To have the board validate our model and decisions, be impressed by the measured ROI of our digital investment and endorse our roadmap satisfied the burning question in my mind: are the choices I’m making, the right ones? Excitement My 2 years at Campbell were an amazing learning experience. As a marketer, leader, mentor, evangelist, business driver, etc., I’ve grown leaps and bounds. Building something from scratch is fun. It’s also incredibly draining. Every decision weighs on you. There’s no playbook to learn from, no original blueprint to assess and no trail to follow. The excitement that comes from blazing a path, creating a direction and building a capability is matched by the stress of wanting to be a perfectionist and do the organization, no harm. Heavy is the crown, and every day is something new. That’s where the excitement comes from! Building on that, I’m also excited about what’s next. The shelf life of a change agent is complicated. But, the ride, is exhilarating. Having helped build organizations, more than a few times, there’s 3 things I’ve definitely learned:
- The right talent is important, but perhaps not as important as the right cultural fit. You need a great team. Not a team of Super Stars, but a great team. When you hear stories about championship teams, you often hear about how great their chemistry was. Whether you’re building a Super Bowl team or a world class digital organization, chemistry matters. Individuals who are blessed with raw skills and technical prowess, but lack the cultural fit, aren’t worth the stress they cause.
- You need to know what you’ll comprise on. Some things are non-negotiable. Everything can’t be non-negotiable, but trust me, there are many times where compromise made in the sake of being a “team player”, simply sets you, your team and the organization back.
- Communication must be clear, simple and tailored to the communication medium. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how complicated communication creates an inefficient organization.
I’m thankful Campbell believed in me and brought me on to be their first global digital marketing and social media leader. I have no doubt the world class team at Campbell, will build on the strong foundation we created and continue their progress toward being the most digitally fit consumer packaged good organization in the world.