Tag Archives: coronavirus

Heidi Zak: Supporting Women with Brand Purpose



Heidi Zak has been in finance, in retail and in tech. Like most women, she’s also been in plenty of dressing rooms trying to find the right bra, leading her to build ThirdLove, one of the largest online bra and underwear companies in America.

Close encounters with the NOT ThirdLove kind of shopping experiences, meaning the universal ick-factor of cold hands and awkward measurement moments with in-store underwear salespeople, were part of Zak’s a-ha moment. So, putting all of her professional and personal experience together, she created a brand that disrupted an entire industry — to the great relief of uncomfortable women everywhere.

Her first-to-market service as a DTC bra retailer hit some, ah, curves, along the journey but Zak has been named everything from Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs to a Fortune “40 Under 40”, and more.

Part of the accolades stem from how Zak has embraced not just brand marketing but brand purpose. Inclusivity at ThirdLove means being the only brand to offer more than 80 bra sizes, including their unique half cup sizing – and donating over $40 million worth of products to women in need. It has also helped evolve an old school industry previously defined by a narrow concept of beauty with a focus on inclusivity.

“We didn’t want to look like any other bra brand which mostly photographed skinny, generally white women with small boobs and generally did it in a really sexy way. So, we set out to build something radically different from scratch…. Back then there were barely any plus size models.”

Further iterating on inclusivity, ThirdLove launched a new initiative during COVID-challenged 2020: The TL Effect, to support entrepreneurial women of color.

“…Brand purpose has to be authentic, true to who you are and what you stand for, and what you’re building. Otherwise it can fall flat, or a consumer sees through it.”

While Zak and I commiserated about finding a proper fitting and comfortable bra I was a bit discomfited to discover that this rock star CEO/mom of two has managed to use her homebound pandemic time to also hyper-organize her home, when I haven’t even organized my sock drawer. In a conversation perfectly apropos Women’s History Month, hear how, in addition to organizing her home, this efficient CEO/co-founder has organized her company for success through adapting to the changes of the pandemic.

Envy aside, we discussed:

  • Her path from small town Main Street to Wall Street, Herald Square to Silicon Valley
  • How an encounter with the founders of Lyft drove her to solve another consumer problem, one bra at a time

“In 2012, if you look at what had existed [for bra shopping] at that time, there were department stores, Victoria’s Secret and some big box stores. There certainly weren’t online bra brands at the time. And that was the idea: better brand, better product, better online shopping experience for women.”

  • Zak on disruption and her definition of DTC, and why it was important for ThirdLove to “have a direct way to speak to our customer, to educate her, to bring her along the journey, to make her feel really comfortable.”
  • The product evolution — from one bestselling bra to their recently launched Fit Finder — and the pivot required by pandemic-era marketing
  • Navigating manufacturing and funding, especially as a woman seeking financing from primarily men (Note: McKinsey reports women are still only 21% of the C-suite and of those are mostly white women.)
  • Early-stage ThirdLove marketing tactics and positioning
  • How their innovative “try before you buy” program along with ads that asked if women were ‘Ready to graduate from Victoria’s Secret?’ drove 1 million new customers
  • How and why they leveraged podcasting as one of their main ad vehicles in 2015, baffling some investors
  • The pros and cons of linear and OTT TV
  • How ThirdLove spans Black History Month to Women’s History Month and beyond by uplifting women, in all senses of the word

“We were trying to figure out how ThirdLove was going to help support and impact change in the broader community. The TL Effect helps give female founders of color a little more of a voice in a crowded marketplace. We launched in June and picked our first recipient, Arra Simms, founder of Kewtie Nails.”

  • How ThirdLove keeps the conversation going with unconscious bias training required for all employees
  • The value of brand purpose to the bottom line
  • Aside from having Katie Couric in the ThirdLove influencer camp, Zak describes her use of micro-influencers: “real women who act as an advocate or a friend to the people who follow them.”
We wrapped with Zak projecting which industry, just as she disrupted one, could be ripe for a revision next.  Whatever it is I am certain Zak will be first to leverage the next new thing.

For those who caught my mid-episode mention of my podcast and content marketing services please reach out for help with podcasting to grow your brand. Click here to request a copy of my Seven Steps to Setting Up a B2B Podcast.

Best-of from Palmer, Keswin and Silver: Creating Human and Brand Connections



Shelly Palmer: It was fascinating to me to see the speed with which people were willing to adopt bad lighting, accept it, bad camera, angles, bad makeup hair, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Everybody’s fine with it. And I think it’s fantastic because the most important thing is that we all get together.

Erica Keswin: From a brand perspective, how are you going to be remembered during this time in terms of what you did, what you said, what you supported and how you brought your human to work?

Claude Silver: Let’s not deny the fact that you and I are talking through a screen rather than in person and call it what it is, but also communicate trust, empathy and vulnerability.

Those are just some of the takeaways from three past episodes of Insider Interviews and as a special little bonus edition for Thanksgiving I am sharing back some of these words of wisdom from Shelly Palmer, Erica Keswin, and Claude Silver, who each happened to talk about how we can create connection and how that helps brands and employees thrive. Especially in tough times like this pandemic.

Highlights of the highlights:

Palmer:  “People are quickly adapting to and evolving into good citizens in video chat. It’s fantastic. …And the other thing I love about what’s happening right now is formality has gone out the window.

…They’ve been willing, accepting of technical glitches that you would never have accepted before. It really reminds me dramatically reminds me of the change in video grammar in 1980, oddly enough.

…And I think what is most important thing is that we all get together; that we figure out how to be social animals in a time when, when coronavirus is making us forcing us to be less social.”

Erica Keswin Guests on Insider Interviews
Erica Keswin, Author of “Bring Your Human to Work” -Epi 3

Keswin: Think about communication along a continuum: you have instant message and texts and Slack and email and picking up the phone. We used to be able to walk across the hall or  visit people. …Now, from a societal perspective, many of us are defaulting to that technological end of the spectrum during this COVID-19 quarantine. How can you …pick up the phone, turn on the camera…and speak in that human voice, across all mediums of communication.

…”If you’re running the meeting make sure you say to your people, ‘you need to take some time to turn it off.’…It really is up to the leaders to model and to push people, to make sure that they’re taking care of themselves.

…From a brand perspective, how are you going to be remembered during this time in terms of, you know, what you did, what you said, what you supported and how you brought your human to work?”

Claude Silver on Having a Heart at Work
Claude Silver speaks with E.B. Moss on the role of a Chief Heart Office at VaynerMedia

Silver: I believe in people and I think that pretty much anything is accomplishable with vulnerability, with people showing up to be big and authentic and not building walls, but really finding ways to bond with one another and connect.

…You know, when you’re on a screen, everyone has the same size square. It has leveled the playing field. And I definitely think that while we have to work a little bit harder to create this connection

…On one hand, I do think that brands have a very big responsibility to be as authentic as possible today and not try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes because we are all reading the same news. We are all in the same climate. We’re in a sea of sameness right now. We’re all in this world together. So don’t try to fluff that. … I don’t think we need to be cotton, candy and Illy gooey. But I also don’t think we need to be showing things that are not attainable today…. Let’s get real about that.

I think that there is resiliency, authenticity. I think there’s fine to have a little bit of levity, which we see in these memes on Instagram and everywhere. …like me going to the refrigerator 20 times in one hour, because it’s there. Those are things that I think are they capture human emotion and that’s what it’s about. That’s what it’s always been about.

…I would like to think every brand would be mindful of the fact that we are all in this world together. … I would show more ads connecting people together, coming together on a zoom or a squad cast or a hangout, let’s not deny the fact that you and I are talking to a screen rather than in-person but also communicate trust and vulnerability.

Again, my thanks to everyone for listening and to all of the 20 interviewees that I’ve spoken to thus far.

And if you’d like help with building your own podcast or any content marketing, please reach out to me at podcasts@mossappeal.com.

I look forward to sharing more in the very near future.


Andrea Palmer of PHM on Marketing Healthcare – with Innovation and a Conscience



Andrea Palmer, now President of Publicis Health Media (PHM) has wanted to be in Healthcare Marketing since her college days despite the field not always getting credit for being dynamic or embracing creativity. With PHM’s reputation for having their “finger on the pulse” (sorry), she’s proven those perceptions wrong and inspired many to follow or stick to the healthcare marketing path.

In Episode 18 of Insider Interviews, in which I perhaps sing again (umm, twice, I’m just sayin’) Palmer clearly demonstrates just how creative and important messaging around healthcare can and should be. It’s certainly an area that’s very top of mind with us all these days and Palmer makes it digestible. You’ll pick up on why she rose through the ranks quickly at PHM — the strategic media planning and buying agency within PHCG, and the only global media agency solely dedicated to the health and wellness space. This industry trailblazer of nearly 20 years shares what’s currently happening in the healthcare media space, along with some interesting projections from PHM’s prescient “Disruptors List.” Get the insider scoop on what inspiring innovations emerged from the “Shark Tank”-type element of their industry-convening Health Front, and what we should be concerned about.

Palmer is determined to ensure the right information is getting out there and helped drive home PHM’s mission to equip brands AND people with the tools and communications they need to make healthy decisions. We learn why it’s important to create content with conscience and why brands need to listen to other voices than their own.

What we talked about:

  • What’s happening in healthcare marketing
  • How a childhood illness put Palmer on the path to healthcare…and college led her to marketing
  • Health trends and disruptors
  • How PHM markets to consumers who’re apprehensive about embracing telehealth
  • How PHM helps its clients with being ‘the resource’ instead of Dr. Google
  • Defining the concept of Content with a Conscience
  • Facing down racism: communicating to diverse audiences and not just “to the mean”
  • How Palmer is advising her clients on approaches to ensure that health message is communicated well and heard by all cohorts and communities
  • Thinking about the bigger picture
  • Pushing for innovation in the health realm
  • The future of healthcare

And yes, I find a reason to close with a song…again.

 

Follow Andrea on Social Media

 Resources mentioned in the episode

PHM: Publicis Health Media

Health Front 2020

The Healthcare Industry’s Big Disruptors


Marketing NPR – The Insider Scoop from CMO Michael Smith



Michael Smith joined National Public Radio as chief marketing officer at a time when the nation — and the world — had just entered crisis mode. In addition to adapting to his new job he’s needed to shift the company’s marketing message, outreach and the very stance the brand has taken over the past years. Part of that shift was motivated by more digital audio listening given more at-home workers during our pandemic. The parallel motivation was to amplify more multicultural voices and drive greater diversity within the halls of the company itself. 

In Episode 15, Michael shares his observations, his approach and some insider scoop from his winged-back chair in New Jersey. For example, he explains how different audiences respond to NPR’s content. Michael tells us that “among regular users when we look at people of color versus white listeners, their satisfaction levels are actually higher. So it’s an exciting thing in the sense that if we can get more people to know that we’re there and to get us into their consideration set, when they come, I think they’re going to love it.” 

Michael had primarily been focused on network video, developing strategies to reach younger and more diverse audiences on streaming platforms for Cooking Channel, and Food Network — where he and I worked together during the last big crisis for the country, 9/11! He has quickly learned to apply his know-how to linear radio and on demand audio.

“When they start to know some of these shows where there are young, diverse hosts, a Sam Sanders or [they get to know the] hosts of Pop Culture Happy Hour, that creates so much more engagement than when they just see the three block letters, NPR.”

The fast 35-minute discussion includes suggestions all brands can appreciate from a world-class marketer like Michael Smith. We talked about:
  • The challenges most media companies are facing right now
  • How to move from linear to on demand streaming digital platforms
  • Balancing linear, podcasting and the NPR One app
  • How has Coronavirus Daily evolved as a show…and the ongoing need for that content?
  • How NPR itself has evolved since its origins in the 60s, and why its signature audio style is intentionally like a mental “exhale”
  • Working with the sponsorship team, NPM
  • Michael’s optimism — and any pessimism — for the future.

Follow Michael on LinkedIn. Follow NPR on Twitter.

Follow Insider Interviews on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And reach out to be considered for an episode or for your own bespoke podcast series produced and/or hosted by E.B. Moss. 

Michael’s “studio” chair

CMO Minjae Ormes with the Scoop on Making a Visible Difference



My work is creating content that drives change. Mostly for businesses. But I have always shared my perspective through content: journalism, blogs, podcasts — even just journaling. I had to balance the “best practices” of regularity in my podcast publishing schedule, with bigger things in mind. The crisis in America. I only had Tuesday available to record for this week, which was #BlackOutTuesday. And, on top of that, today – the Thursday I publish –  is also the memorial for a martyr to racism, George Floyd

If you – as most listeners to this podcast – work in media, marketing or advertising, chances are you know of Minjae Ormes. Most recently global head of partnerships for YouTube, and for the past couple of years chief marketing officer of disruptive phone service from Verizon, Visible. She personally has been visible for her innovative, and appropriately “disruptive” approaches to marketing the new service, but more recently she’s been seen in various trades and on panels describing how they’ve embraced broadcast TV campaigns for the first time. That said, Minjae is also widely respected as a mentor to women in business, and a role model as leader.

E.B. and Minjae Ormes after our first interview in 2019
Her thoughtful comments – both in this interview as well as in sharing more of her personal journey the first time I interviewed her in March of 2019 — on learning to adapt to new cultures and countries are as insightful as her marketing approaches are. So, since she made the time for me on her actual birthday this week, we made sure to discuss not just her shift from event marketing to mass media, etc., but — like in my last episode with Sree Sreenivasan — the absolute need to embrace empathy in our professional and personal paths.
  • I think you’ll get her tone from this quote: “How do we first and foremost create the kinds of experiences that people expect now across the industry? Just the simplicity, the seamlessness, but also the humanity with which you show up as a brand and a business.”
  • She also explains their pandemic pivot: “going into April, our traffic and some of the KPIs were actually picking right back up, which told us that phone services are one of those things that people rely on, no matter what happens, if not more so now. It’s been an interesting exercise, both in listening, but also… as all of us as marketers can’t really do create a production the way we used to it created spaces for us to think about what’s old is new and new is old again, and different ways to ultimately listen to consumers and what they’re telling us implicitly and explicitly for us to follow their lead.”
  • Another visible difference in Minjae’s approach? Making a difference in people’s lives. Literally. Hear her description of their pro-social campaign, #VisibleActsofKindness, and the story of one customer that moved her most, plus how they supported volunteers forced to immediately return from Peace Corps volunteering.
A final note, while Visible’s difference is that it has no brick and mortar locations, many of its parent company retail stores were looted and stripped bare during protests this week. Verizon also just donated $10 million to social justice organizations, including the Urban League and NAACP. So to honor the legacy of necessary change that we will hopefully learn from the death of Floyd, I am publishing on his memorial date so these words might inspire some to consider how they listen, and how they market to all people, with respect.

 

What Is It Like to Be a Girl of Color?

These middle school girls in Brooklyn are speaking up about being a girl of color in America.

Posted by Global Citizen on Tuesday, June 2, 2020

 


The Scoop from Sree on Good Talks, Listening and Journalistic Integrity



As we crave connection during these isolating times, Sree Sreenivasan has stepped up to bring people around the world together, sometimes several times a day. While almost 80 straight days in a row of recording his Global COVID-19 show drove his family to furlough him from his own home during livestreaming hours, this social and digital media expert, known by many as “@Sree”, has an expanded family of connections that faithfully gather round for a dose of positivity.

And every Sunday, they tune-in again for his New York Times “readalong,” now five years running, with his own scintillating and scholarly guests perusing the paper and op-eds alongside him. So, that’s 80 days in a row and literally twice on Sunday. Did I mention his 21 years of conducting Social Media Weekend gatherings to educate on the latest tools and tactics? How about his frequent appearances on radio, or CNBC as a tech-expert?

Hear why this the former chief digital officer for The Metropolitan Museum of Art is now focused on the art of generous content both altruistically and, candidly, as a business development vehicle for his digital marketing and virtual event business. Less generous, perhaps, in his opinion of social ISSUES, Sree’s stories – from adjusting to new countries and his quirky love of comic strip Calvin and Hobbes to how he adopted new communication tactics to connect people through every crisis of the past two decades – are equally passionate. The throughline is also his ardent belief in journalistic integrity, veracity and humanism.

We joke about how his livestreams and social sharing are the perfect outlet for a man who likes to talk, but with Sree, people want to listen. He’s learned the art of that, too.

Listen to the inaugural Marshall Loeb visiting professor at Stonybrook University, and former Columbia University journalism professor,  Sree Sreenivasan, and you’ll hear why.

We also discuss:

  • His humble and sometimes humiliating path to acculturating to America
  • The evolution and promise of his Global COVID-19 Show
  • How reading the New York Times out loud on Facebook Live become bigger than he could have imagined
  • How he competes with – or defers to his wife, Roopa
  • How that love for Calvin and Hobbes has played a role in his life