The CMO Show:
The CMO Show: Emma Sharley...

What’s truly in a name? And what makes a brand and gives it voice beyond logos, colours, fonts and design? These are pertinent questions that every marketer needs an answer to. 

As we approach the 85th anniversary of Neil McElroy’s famous brand memo, in which he proclaimed the creation of ‘brand men’ as a role crucial to understanding what customers want, we’ve decided to delve deep into the world of brand to find out how it’s changed.

This week on The CMO Show, Mark and JV are joined by Emma Sharley, director at Emma Sharley Consulting and a brand marketer with over 10 years experience in markets around the world. With a unique combination of skill and experience, Sharley understands the value that comes from having a distilled brand voice and knowing where your customers place you.

“Now customers are a lot more empowered in the feedback they’re giving, which is really holding brands accountable in terms of what they’re doing from a marketing point of view,” she says. “It’s about having that two-way conversation and dialogue on an ongoing basis.”

When asked about brand positioning, Sharley added that, “When you’re looking to define your brand or reposition, it’s really critical to understand your market, your competitors, and it’s also important to look internally.”

Listen to the podcast below and subscribe on iTunes and SoundCloud.



The CMO Show production team

Producer – Megan Wright

Audio Engineer – Jonny McNee

Design Manager – Daniel Marr

Graphic Designer – Chris Gresham-Britt

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO ShowWe’d love to hear from you:



Jeanne-Vida Douglas (JVD)
Emma Sharley (ES)

JVD: Welcome back to the CMO Show. I’m here with Emma Sharley. She’s the owner and director of Emma Sharley Consulting. Thanks so much for coming in to the show.

ES: Thank you for having me, I’m excited to be here.

JVD: It’s actually going to be a really interesting chat, because Emma has a bit of a stellar background in one of the most important elements that marketers need to understand, and that’s brand and the role of brand.

If we we we look back sort of 85 years ago when brand was effectively invented by this chap called Neil McElroy and and his famous memo about Proctor and Gamble, which is a three page memo looking at what brand is and asking to be able to employ ‘brand men’ as part of Proctor and Gamble’s sort of marketing division. Is that he spoke about the importance of understanding where you are in the market and understanding what the customer wants and what the customer is looking for.

When did we forget, when was that disconnect between ownership of the brand, that disconnect between what a brand is and and the customer’s role in in expressing the brand and interacting with the brand?

ES: To have that insight almost 90 years ago is quite incredible, because obviously, today that is such a priority for businesses, you know, looking at what the customer wants and then delivering on that.

I mean when we look at marketing across the last few decades, if we take the 1970s as a very much a one dimensional approach. So if we develop a product or service then we build it and we market, we’ll tell the customer what it’s about, they’re going to come no problems. Then we move into an era where it was a little bit more two dimensional and it was based around a lot of trade promotions and short term strategies, so discounting, special offers et cetera, to get people through the door and incentivise them to buy.

JVD: So that’s the kind of price and placement mode [laughs]?

ES: Yeah absolutely, and now today, what we’re seeing is the two-way conversation where, as I mentioned earlier, we’re going out to market, doing the research to really understand what our customer wants. But once we develop that product and service and market it back to them, then it’s an ongoing conversation; it doesn’t stop there. And as we all know, there’s so many different touch points with a particular brand and there’s so many ways to give feedback now. So if I go and purchase an iPhone from Apple and I’m not happy with the service, which I’d be surprised at because I love Apple, there’s so many different ways to give feedback so I can call the store, which I probably wouldn’t do, I can email them, I can go onto their social media channels and give them feedback that way. So now customers are a lot more empowered in the feedback they’re giving, which makes, it’s really holding brands accountable in terms of what they’re doing from a brand and marketing point of view, and having that two-way conversation and dialogue on an ongoing basis.

JVD: Do you think there’s a disconnect between the marketers that have grown up in an age of fairly formal feedback mechanisms and delayed feedback mechanisms, and those that have essentially lived a time of instant feedback, instant gratification knowing that the numbers are available and just having to figure out how to, how to get access to them. Like it seems like a really different world.

ES: There definitely has been a journey in the last couple of years to close that gap. Yes, you’ve got the data that comes through from those customers and you’ve got all of the other quantitative data that’s available and very accessible to everyone now, and it’s really combining those two. I think a lot of marketing has been led by intuition.
And it’s not to say that intuition’s wrong but it’s now just looking at the data and then knowing that that’s backing up what you were thinking in the beginning.

JVD: How did you come into the marketing industry and where did you begin that journey?

ES: I studied marketing at uni along with architecture. So it was a real mixture there of the two different degrees. What I loved most about marketing and why I pursued it, is the fact that it’s quite creative, its business orientated but there’s a data element there, and I’m a real data nerd. I love getting behind the facts and figures to delve deeper into, you know, what’s driving business strategy or marketing strategy. So that love really eventuated whilst I was studying and I then moved abroad to London. My first marketing role was with Lord’s the cricket ground.

JVD: Oh wow [laughs].

ES: And I think they may have hired me because I was Australian and assumed I knew everything about cricket; I knew nothing. But, you know, that was a good thing in a way because I was able to come in with fresh eyes. I worked with the head of marketing there to develop their membership drive, and then moved onto T Mobile in the telecommunications industry, and also [Thorstenberg] I worked for over there as well. So that was great because it gave me a good ground in a few different industries, and I think with marketeers, it’s really important to wear a couple of hats, and yes you need to know your industry but you also need to cast the lens a bit wider.

JVD: It’s an interesting time to be a data focused marketer. I mean the last decade have seen some monumental changes.

ES: Absolutely.

JVD: Was the university that you did in any way relevant to what you were seeing?

ES: The level of data was very top line back then. So when we looked at how we would do our market research was really around focus groups, getting out, speaking to people understanding what they’re looking for. But a lot of it was based on one to one conversations with the customer, which is still a good way to source data, but you need to apply it with a lot of the quantitative data, in terms of where they’re spending, what they’re doing, how they’re behaving in their day-to-day lives.

JVD: When did you get back to Australia then? And what were you doing when you first got back and what did you find here, given what you’d sort of experienced in the UK?

ES: I came back eight years ago and what I really found was quite a disconnect between what we were doing and what the customer was after, and there wasn’t much of a two-way conversation happening. So there was, I guess, more of a one way conversation that was happening, talking to the customers, but it wasn’t across all touch points either.

JVD: Because there’s really been a revolution in the last couple of years in terms of getting that deeper understanding of customer experience…

ES: Yes.

JVD: …and how important it is. But also especially in, I guess, the retail sector more broadly of understanding the importance of your customer facing staff…

ES: Absolutely.

JVD: Because you then went onto, to Westfield. So what was your experience there?

ES: So Westfield I was with for six years across SA, Victoria and New South Wales, and that was fantastic because you’re marketing Westfield as a brand, but you’re also working with numerous retailers in each shopping centre.

And I think that experience really taught me that there was a lot of opportunities when it came to marketing and connecting with the customer in retail. When we talk brand, it’s so much more than logo and what you might see online, it really drills down to that in-store experience, and as we’ve all seen in the last couple of years, online shopping continues to grow. And one of the key differentiators for online shopping versus in-store experience is the staff. So everything from their presentation to their product knowledge to their service. If you have a good experience in-store it’s a face of the brand, essentially they’re an ambassador of the brand and you become emotionally connected to that person, and therefore the business at the same time.

JVD: Now that’s a fascinating challenge, because when you’re working for Westfield you’re potentially sort of five, six, seven steps away from the person who is working for one of the stores which is in one of your malls.

ES: Yes.

JVD: So how do you drill down through all those layers and actually have some kind of impact on that person who’s so crucial who is holding your brand when they have that interaction?

ES: Absolutely it’s a really, really good question. So with the retailers we worked closely with them when we were developing marketing campaigns, and on a category by category basis. So what we might do for the fashion category would be quite different to what we do for the kid’s category.

We also have a number of teams within Westfield that are on the floor, so to speak. So we’ve got security teams, we had facilities teams, operational teams, and they’re interacting with the customers. So it’s really, you know, it was a priority for us to ensure that that service was excellent and six star at all times, and really getting them to understand the brand and why that service needed to be that high, because again, when you’re shopping in a centre, when you’re visiting a Westfield, it’s the whole experience which really defines whether the customer will come back or not.

JVD: So the importance of frontline staff is actually really interesting, because there’s been a number of commentators in the industry that have pointed out that once upon a time that retail role was seen as a fairly low skilled role, and that not only is it now associated with an increased basic skill level, but also the importance of interpersonal skills in that role has been really, really emphasised by a number of commentators. What role is it playing in the retail branding trends that you’re seeing?

ES: Absolutely. I think, I think retail is an incredible industry and I don’t think it’s been given the attention that it deserves. So retail, typically, when I when I started – started university, I was a retail assistant…

JVD: Weren’t we all [laughs].

ES: … and store manager. Exactly, with Witchery, and I mean it was a great experience whilst I was studying marketing, because you’re really understanding how your role is impacting the business. I’m really excited to see where it will go across the next few years, because it’s a great industry, it’s fast changing, obviously with technology coming in, really critical roles for the business to have high experienced and personable staff. And I think it’s really around rebranding the retail industry, so to speak, and attracting higher quality people and then looking at how we do that as a collective in Australia. That’s the challenge obviously.

JVD: We’ve come from having like checkout chicks to having geniuses working in-store.

ES: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely, and I think one of the things around that is the ownership that brands and businesses can give to their frontline staff. So one of the key trends that we’re seeing for this year, when we talk brand and brand strategy, is when you’re looking to define your brand or reposition, yes you need to do the external piece that’s critical and really understand your market, your competitors and all of that. But it’s also important to look internally. Often you’ve got brand ambassadors within the company of all different age levels or different backgrounds that you can consult and really get their feedback on, you know, where you’re taking the business. So, you know, even redefining the name, it’s not a sales assistant anymore, as you say, it’s a genius or it’s a brand ambassador or whatever term may be relevant for the industry.

JVD: It’s really interesting this notion of of who owns brand and where it’s expressed. How has that changed since you, since you sort of started out ten years ago?

ES: That’s changed a lot. Talking from a general marketing point of view, when I started out marketing was always a support function in business, and it was something that, it’s something that’s shifted quite a bit across the last ten years, and marketing now is consulted right up front.
And now, because businesses are understanding the importance of a customer led strategy and essentially marketing teams are the custodians of that data and that insight, the insights and trends. Marketing has a much more critical role to play and they’re really involved from the beginning in terms of the strategy development and looking right from the beginning. Marketing has a seat at the table which ten years ago they may not have.

JVD: How does that change the skillset that marketers need and the need to continue to develop?

ES: From what I’ve seen, the best marketers are very, very curious and very willing to learn and adapt. Really understanding the roles of the others in the company, who are your key stakeholders, what stage the business is at, what part of the journey you’re on, and then what can you influence, and that might be on a short term basis or a long term basis. You might be able to implement some quick wins initially and then work on a long term strategy, but it’s really important to have a broader lens across what you’re doing, rather than looking at well these are my KPIs I’m going to develop a strategy that’s going to drive these five things for 2016, rather than the wider business objectives.
So now when we look at marketing and what we’re aim to deliver, often a lot of the objectives will be general business objectives rather than just specifically marketing.

JVD: How satisfying is it now, given your background, to be able to actually work with the founder and principal of these companies, and to help them understand that more comprehensive role that marketers can play, as opposed to, I guess, being in that more siloed role that marketing was in ten years ago?

ES: It’s incredibly rewarding because you’re essentially becoming partners to their business. So no matter what stage they’re at, you’re able to go in, access the situation and work hand in hand with them to, first of all, identify any additional information they may need, go out and do that piece of the project, then come back, regroup – the brand workshops I absolutely love. It’s a day where you have, you’re able to lay everything out on the table, really understand what’s in the business owner’s or the managing director’s mind, because often that makes it in business plan, but when you actually unpack it from their thinking, a lot more comes out.

JVD: And when you’re going through that workshop process, what are the things that, that company principals most often overlook about their brand and how their brand is being represented or being expressed?

ES: One of them is the single channel focus. So because we’ve got a website and because we’ve got, you know, nine stores in a couple of states then we’re good, we’ve got all the channels we need. But it’s really taking them through the journey of actually there’s so many channels out there. You don’t need to be in all of them of course, but really identifying what’s the most important for the business, and then looking at how we can set up a strategy to really target those channels and, and start the marketing through them. The other thing is the internal piece. I know we’ve spoken about the staff a lot today, but really understanding that they’re critical to the success of the brand. Yes the business of course, but also that brand message.

And ensuring that that’s consistent across all touch points. So again, getting back to that channel focus. Yes we might have an amazing website, but if a customer is not getting great service when they visit the store, there’s a disconnect and it’s a broken link, and of course, you’re going to suffer from loss of sales or decline in traffic. They need to marry up and they need to be seen as consistent.

JVD: What are some of the analogies used to get those company principals to an a-ha moment of a realisation that there are multiple channels out there that their customers do expect them to express themselves through these multiple channels, and that they’re already using them. How how do you actually explain that to people who are saying nine stores, website, we’re good?

ES: One piece that we do before the brand workshop is a full review of a brand audit, we call it. So looking at what’s currently out there for that particular business, but then complementing that with how a typical customer in that industry is shopping, researching. So the customer journey, now, is one of the first things that we would look at when we review the marketing strategy and the brand strategy, because if you’ve got a customer doing 70 percent of their research via mobile, yet the site is not mobile optimised and you don’t have a good strategy in place, then there’s a disconnect there. So understanding that customer journey, once we present or once we talk through that with the business owners and the directors, then the a-ha moment comes, because they can understand and often relate to how they shop or how they look for a new product or a service in the market.

JVD: I guess just to finish off, wWhere do you see the next 12 to 18 months taking us in terms of brand and the understanding that marketers have of their role in in establishing brand?

ES: I think mobile is a really interesting area. I don’t think businesses are optimising mobiles as much as they could be in the Australian market, and that’s a broad statement across several industries. The customer experience piece is going to become even more critical, and for marketers it’s our job to really put ourselves in the shoes of the customer. And I know that’s a term that’s been used before, but shop the way your customer would shop. So rather than turn, as you say, turn up to the office and look at the data and the analytics, actually go shopping to that retail store undercover. I do it quite often because then you get that real time feedback and an understanding of what pain points there might be and also what opportunities there might be.
And the other piece is around brands really looking at how they can emotionally connect with the customer that’s offline. So events and experiences becoming more and more crucial in brand and marketing strategies. Lululemon do that really well and I know that they focus a lot of their efforts on their offline strategy. Yet their online community continues to grow and grow, but at the end of the day, nothing replaces people connecting in person and face-to-face. So yes, social media is here to stay and, you know, definitely want to invest in good sound strategies for your business. But looking at other tactics to bring that online community experience offline.

JVD: Yeah I I guess what strikes me about this conversation is you’ve got those classic sort of four Ps of marketing, which is what position, price, placement and product. And really, it’s about the fifth which is people.

ES: Yes.

JVD: It’s not just the people who work for you it’s the people that buy from you, the people that supply to you and the people who you are, effectively and understanding that that is now fundamental to all branding.

ES: Absolutely, it’s all about the people.

JVD: Emma Sharley thank you so much for joining us.

ES: Thank you; it’s been a pleasure.

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