The CMO Show:
Pamela Bishop on empathy in...

Pamela Bishop, CMO at Blooms the Chemist, sits down with host Mark Jones to discuss the role of trust and empathy in marketing, and how marketers can tell the story of a brand’s purpose.

Imagining oneself in the shoes of customers is one of the most simple ways a marketer can consider customer pain points and how they can be addressed—especially during times of crisis.

So, how much time, care and attention is your brand paying to the thoughts and feelings of its customers?

Pamela Bishop, CMO at Blooms The Chemist, says the 40 year old Australian pharmacy brand is driven by a purpose of looking after the community and building relationships with its customers. And in a market dominated by chain pharmacies, Blooms the Chemist is able to differentiate themselves as each store is locally owned and operated. 

“For me what makes marketing great is quite simply that it begins and ends with the customer. I personally think marketing is all about listening to your customer and being really clear on what you then want your customer to either feel or do,” says Pamela.  

“There’s over a hundred pharmacies out there that have Blooms the Chemist branding, but the actual owner is a pharmacist who works in that pharmacy, lives in the local community, kids go to school with customer’s kids. It’s that real, first-name basis.” 

While CMOs and senior executives do not traditionally have a role ‘on the floor’ in their organisations, Pamela encourages her peers to familiarise themselves with all the different facets of their organisation by ‘walking the walk’ of their frontline employees. 

“I worked my way up. I had a number of years on the pharmacy floor so I’ve been there, I’ve served the customers, I have so much empathy for what the elderly people in our community are going through right now. I’ve got the empathy for the retail managers and the pharmacists trying to hold their teams together,” says Pamela.  

“You need to hold the mirror up to yourself in the organisation and get really clear on, “What are we actually here for, and how can we make that even bigger and better?””

Check out this episode of The CMO Show to discover how marketers can respond to the needs and wants of their target audience, and differentiate themselves in a ‘sea of sameness’.

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The CMO Show production team

Producers – Charlotte Goodwin & Stephanie Woo

Audio Engineers – Tom Henderson & Daniel Marr

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript:

Host: Mark Jones

Guest: Pamela Bishop

Mark Jones:
As leaders, business professionals and, well, humans, we take pride in our ability to understand other people. For marketers, imagining yourself ‘in your customer’s shoes’ is one of the most simple ways to consider customer pain points and how they can be addressed.

Mark Jones:
We can use empathy to better understand and respond to the needs and wants of our target audience, and differentiate ourselves in a ‘sea of sameness’. So, how much time, care and attention is your brand paying to the thoughts and feelings of its customers?

Mark Jones:
Hello friends! How are you? Mark Jones here. It is so good to have you with us again on The CMO Show. My guest today is Pamela Bishop, she is the CMO at Blooms the Chemist – a 40 year old Australian pharmacy brand. So yes, that’s right. We’re talking about chemists, pharmacy and retail. In fact, in today’s conversation, we’re going to talk about brand identity, the role of trust and empathy in brand communication, and how marketers can tell the story of a brand’s purpose – of course, all within the context of the wonderful world of chemists. Here’s Pamela and her story. 

Mark Jones:
It’s great to have you with us, Pamela. How are you?

Pamela Bishop:
I’m really good. And thanks for having me today.

Mark Jones:
Now I’m going to confess straight upfront, Blooms is not a chemist that I normally go to probably just due to my circles, right? But you are a big brand, a hundred different chemists around the country, and I’m sure, given your community minded spirit, there’s plenty of fans out there. Give me a sense of the size of the company, what you do. What’s the heartbeat of this organised?

Pamela Bishop:
Yeah, sure. So Blooms The Chemist, we are a retail pharmacy group. We have been growing considerably over the last few years, so we now actually have over a hundred stores across Australia. Very community focused, like you mentioned, so glad you’re picking up on that. Blooms The Chemist is part of the local community. So each of the pharmacies are actually locally owned and operated and really big on supporting community initiatives and the families that are not just customers, but neighbours, kids go to school together. So the pharmacy teams really are part of the local community. Very committed to delivering better health outcomes for all Australians. And I think the sort of heartbeat is really, Blooms is big on putting people first and everything that we do. So that means, of course, our teams right across the country and also our customers.

Mark Jones:
Now it’s obviously a transactional environment. If I think about my own experience, you go to the GP, you get your script, you come and get it filled. And, “Just give me the thing so I can get out of here.” Maybe that’s just me. But then I also see other people, mothers and fathers, and particularly the elderly, love a good chat in the chemist, right?  And that’s where I see the community aspect of it coming in. So really, I’d love you to just sort of paint a bit of a picture of how you understand people. What’s your perspective on how people engage with the chemist?

Pamela Bishop:
Yeah, it’s really interesting, and you’re right. I think everyone has a bit of a different experience depending on what stage of life they’re at or what their family situation is. So our largest customer base is the Baby Boomers, so we are looking at that. The more elderly customer, typically have quite complex health issues and concerns. And then our secondary customer would be mothers with children, especially new mums coming in looking for some advice on what to do about their baby’s colic or whatever it might be. So with the older customer base, in particular, they really do have a meaningful relationship with their pharmacist. So all of our pharmacists know their loyal customers by name, they know all their health concerns, they know their kids’ names and their kids’ kids. We’ve got staff in some of our pharmacies, we’ve got baby nurses, and they’re now actually weighing the babies of the mother who was actually a baby 30 years ago, and that same nurse has just gone through the different generations.

Pamela Bishop:
So they’re connected, and they’re part of their community. So absolutely, it’s very common for us to have customers come into the pharmacy and have a sit, then a bit of a chat and even a cup of tea, ask to get their blood pressure checked and they’re not just in and out for a quick five- minute transactional dealing. It’s more of a chat because they actually know each other and whatever might be on their mind about their health concerns or just wanting to have a chat because it’s the day they’re out, they’re running to the baker, the pharmacy, everything else in the local community. So, yeah, it’s really nice.

Mark Jones:
If I’m just to imagine, the people listening to us right now and if they’re in leadership and in marketing, they’re probably a bit green with envy because what you’ve actually just described there is loyalty. It’s a real sense of knowing who these people are at a personal level, so the goal of one-to-one, and there’s that sense of purpose and impact on people’s lives because it’s an ongoing relationship that delivers benefits, right? So how do you market that? How do you turn that relationship, which is, as you’ve described it, it feels pretty organic – just kind of happens. People waltz into the store one day and have a good chat and then it becomes a thing, right? Or it’s, as you described it, generations of people coming into the same spot. But how do you turn that into a story that is attractive and brings new customers in?

Pamela Bishop:
Yeah, you’re so right. It really is organic and one of the challenges actually from my team that we face is we’ve got over a hundred pharmacies across the country, and this is just what happens. Exactly like you just said, this is such a special thing and I say that to our pharmacists and they absolutely agree it’s a special thing, but it’s just what they do. They go over and above, they’re doing free home deliveries, they’re checking in. If they haven’t heard from a customer in a couple of weeks they actually pick up the phone and proactively call to check in. And to them they’re like, “But that’s just what we do.” So it’s this really special thing that we have and the pharmacy industry is just such a great industry and I’m really fortunate to be part of it. And it can be a challenge in terms of how actually capturing all of the great things that are happening out there across the 100 stores every day.

Pamela Bishop:
So I suppose how we capture it and the storytelling, where that comes into play, is what we do exceptionally well and what we want to be known for is the fact that we are trying to help our customers across all of these local communities in Australia who know their pharmacists by name to get the best health outcomes that they can get. So it’s very much about our people and our pharmacists in particular. All of our pharmacy teams undergo a lot of training so that they can provide that special over and above health information, knowledge advice, just be there for their customers. So we’re trying to capture that and then showcase that to our customers and to potential customers.

Pamela Bishop:
So in terms of brand storytelling, which I know you’re very passionate about, a good example of something that we’ve been doing over the last couple of years is we’ve created a series of videos and we call it the ‘Our People, Our Community’ series. And we’ve created these videos to really highlight, first of all, our brand’s heritage. So Blooms The Chemist has been around for 40 years, and we try to showcase the unique people we have within our actual store teams, but also in our communities.

Pamela Bishop:
So we’ve wanted to try and share these stories to try and get that message out. It’ll hopefully strengthen our brand and support the business, but really the crux of it is to communicate all about our people and the culture that we have at Blooms The Chemist to customers and potential team members, potential new stores – I mentioned we’re growing at the moment – so we’re also hoping to get that message out within the actual industry to pharmacists so they can learn a bit more about Blooms The Chemist and maybe want to come and be part of it.

Mark Jones:
So if I’m to reflect back your messaging and yes, you’re right, I obviously do love brand storytelling. It’s probably the only thing I talk about on a daily basis. But what I’m hearing you say is, we tell stories about people, we create content that adds value to them to help them make purchasing decisions, and we’re sort of, if you like, community-minded in our outlook. So I guess, hard-minded marketers would say that sounds great, but it’s not very business-driven. It’s not going to drive a lot of sales in the near term, right? And if I compare you to another brand in your space, the Chemist Warehouse, right? I just think of these as the fluro sticker people. Like you walk in there and it’s bright and there’s like fluros for sale everywhere. It’s actually overwhelming going into this place. 

Mark Jones:
You guys are actually on a different tack. I like it. But how do you kind of position that within the broader strategy of the business, because you also have to make money?

Pamela Bishop:
That’s a really good pickup. What I would say is Chemist Warehouse have done a fantastic job. They are very clear on their positioning. They’re very clear what corner of the market they’re going after and they’re doing that. If you look at the industry itself, we do a lot of market research, of course, and it’s really clear that there are different segments within the industry. The segment you just described is that discount shopper segment, price conscious, really after the 50% off sales. We are playing in the community pharmacy segment and what’s different is, like I mentioned, locally owned and operated. So there’s over a hundred pharmacies out there, they’ve got Blooms The Chemist branding, but the actual owner, the owner is a pharmacist, works in that pharmacy, lives in that local community, kids go to school with customers’ kids. It’s that real, first-name basis and I think that’s the key thing.

Pamela Bishop:
The other elements to that in terms of driving business, of course, this is a business and at the end of the day business has to drive profit. We are really clear that we need to have a value proposition, and we do. So what we’re actually working on at the moment, and what you’ll see more of as we move into the future, is taking the high-low marketing, high-low pricing and actually changing it into, instead of waiting – we don’t want customers to wait until something’s on sale to come in and buy their medicine that they might need or something proactive like vitamins. We want to be really clear and say, “We have an everyday fair price propositions.” Our promise is we’re going to give you value every day and then it’s, “What are we doing over and above that?”

Pamela Bishop:
So in our pharmacies customers can come in and access health checks, which are really a screening tool. Our pharmacists work really closely with the GPs in the area. So we’re offering services like blood pressure screening, blood-glucose screening, iron testing, we do sleep apnea testing. So if anyone has health concerns on any of those conditions, they can come in and get a screening test with the pharmacist, the pharmacist then sits down and has a conversation and says, “You know what? You really need to go and talk to your GP.” Or, “These results are within normal range. Come back again in a few weeks and we’ll do another check.” So it’s, “What can we do over and above if we are all about delivering better health outcomes for those local communities? What are the things that we should be doing in that regard?”

Pamela Bishop:
I think the other really important one, and we’re really clear that we feel Blooms The Chemist has a role to play in education. So actually, when we are going to be going out and doing our marketing, more and more you’ll be seeing more content, more information, whether it’s about a specific chronic disease like diabetes or something that’s maybe a bit more topical, like COVID. We want to be providing really quality content that’s actually going to add value, and that our customers can trust and know that they can come to us as a trusted source of advice and knowledge for all things health as well.

Pamela Bishop:
And there’s, of course, lots of other things we’re doing and which I did touch on, but the community initiatives. So we’re big on giving back, supporting those local communities. And we’re doing a lot in the charity space at a national level with Make-A-Wish Australia and Gidget Foundation. And then right through to the grassroots level, supporting the local cricket clubs, and a whole lot of sports and different community initiatives across the country. So that’s what we want to be known for and it’s real and it’s genuine, and like I said earlier, sometimes it can be a real challenge because there’s so much good stuff happening out there in the pharmacies that we’re not even entirely across. So we hear snippets of it and go, “Wow. That’s so great that you’re doing that, and how can we harness that so that the customer hears that that’s what they can expect at Blooms?”

Mark Jones:
No. It’s great. And so from a positioning perspective on the good, fast, cheap model, you’re good and fast, right? But you’re not trying to play that low, ultimate discount model and you’ll say, “We’ll find whatever’s fair.” And obviously, you need that to be able to sustain all those additional services, because that takes time and money which-

Mark Jones:
Do you suggest that’s fair?

Pamela Bishop:
That’s fair. We certainly don’t want to be perceived as an expensive pharmacy group. We’re not an expensive pharmacy group. We do a lot of analysis in this space, there’s so much data out there. We do our own basket shops across our competitors. So we know we’re pretty in that right space in terms of offering good value every day and that’s something that we work on all the time, we’re constantly doing price reviews. That’s such an important thing. We want to make sure that our customers are coming to us and really feeling like they’re getting that value. And I guess what I’m saying is we’re not going to be going down the path of 50% off one week, back to normal price the next week. We find it’s a bit confusing for the customer and at the end of the day, we want to know that the customer can come in any day of the week, any day of the year and know that they’re going to get a fair price. The worst thing that could happen is customers waiting for their product to go on sale so they can come in and buy it.

Pamela Bishop:
If they need to be taking their medication, it’s absolutely about making sure we’re making that available to them every day of the year.

Mark Jones:
Now let’s change tack for a minute, and we obviously have to talk about COVID-19. It’s been a big year for chemists in that regard. Tell me about the experience. What’s it been like on the inside to be dealing – well, you’re doing it at personal level, right? So your own experience, of course, as a person like everyone else who has to go to the chemist, but also how do we look after this at scale through all of our stores? What messaging do we put out? How do we make sure we’ve got the right stock? I mean, there’s probably like a hundred things we could talk about here, but let’s just start with you about how you’ve approached this from a CMO’s perspective?

Pamela Bishop:
Yeah. Look, it’s been a crazy year and I know everyone’s saying we’re not through yet and saying that it’s November now. I keep thinking in my mind I’m still in August so it’s just been such a strange year all around. If I put my mind back to March, when it really hit us here in Australia, I would say the first few weeks were a bit of a scramble. I don’t think anyone was ready for this. We as a business certainly were not ready for this, but we managed to pull a core team together pretty quickly. We had a COVID-19 task force in our support office. And what became really clear really quickly for our business was the number one priority had to be safety for all people, our pharmacy teams and our customers. And pharmacy is on the front line during this pandemic. So that was a real concern early on, and we really needed to ensure the safety of our people. So there was a huge amount of work done to make sure that we could mitigate any risks, and we knew that risk of infection potential was high given the number of the high exposure. We had too many people, we know that pharmacy is typically the first point of contact for a lot of people with health concerns, particularly coming into winter. If someone’s feels like they’re getting a cold and flu they go to the pharmacy. And so that was absolutely front of mind for us.

Pamela Bishop:
What we did was roll out a number of conservative strategies. So things like – we split our rosters really early on so we had a, A and B team, to make sure that if anyone in either of the teams were to get sick or needed to quarantine, we had another team ready to go. We prioritised home delivery services for customers, which was free of service. Our message was really clear. Like I said, our largest customer base is the elderly who were the most vulnerable during this pandemic. So we were really clear, “We want you to stay at home. We’ll come to you.” We had our pharmacists working closely with the doctors to make sure that we could manage and maintain that medicine supply to the customers.

Pamela Bishop:
So, yeah, people number one, and I would say in those early days in March definitely, the next biggest focus was maintaining supply of stock. Also what was happening in the news around things like toilet paper. There was panic buying happening. We experienced the same thing in March, so we needed to take some measures there to make sure that we could manage the ongoing supply of medicine. For some people more important than things like the daily essentials, toilet paper, whatever it might be, this is people’s heart medication, things that they need to take to make sure that they have no health issues.

Pamela Bishop:
So during that surge back in March, it was really about continuing that customer support to make sure they could access their prescriptions. So we needed to develop a drug shortage plan that was monitored on a daily basis. There was countless meetings, we had daily meetings with our wholesalers, our key suppliers, and it was all about making sure that we could stay in stock of those products. So that was absolutely critical for us.

Pamela Bishop:
At the same time, which probably made things a bit complicated for the pharmacy industry, because all of this was happening around the panic buying, the government actually had to come out and amend some changes to the regulations both for prescribing for doctors and for dispensing for pharmacies. The aim of that was to put some limits on purchases of medicines to prevent the stockpiling. So it was really clear and the Therapeutic Goods Administration said, “There’s no need to panic. We have enough medicine to go around in Australia, as long as people aren’t panic buying and stockpiling and there’ll be enough to go around.” So we were really trying to help get that message out.

Pamela Bishop:
The government also rolled out a whole lot of e-health initiatives. So things like faxing and emailing of prescriptions which allowed easier access to medicines for customers, and like I said, that really just helped the customer be able to stay at home and not have to worry about going and sitting in a doctor’s surgery and then coming and waiting in the pharmacy. So it was really about reinforcing that message.

Pamela Bishop:
One of the great things, I think, to come out of COVID in the pharmacy industry, is the fact, because of the e-health initiatives that had to roll out in such a short space of time, the digital evolution has been pretty extraordinary actually. I would say, the pharmacy industry, generally speaking, has been a bit slower to adopt some of the digital tools. What we’ve seen in COVID is just within a space of weeks, but the ramp up and the roll out of the digital initiatives has been amazing and all of the pharmacists have gotten on board. The digital solutions have enabled pharmacies to actually prioritise their supply chains, get the customers to just stay at home, being able to use free home delivery to get direct to the customers’ doorsteps the medicines that they need.

Pamela Bishop:
So what I’ve seen is this real shift and people are adopting the technologies much more than they were this time last year. So that’s been a really good thing.

Mark Jones:
I’m really glad you raised that – and just by the way, let me just say, I’m kind of – I’m almost overwhelmed and stressed on your behalf just hearing about everything that you had to do, right? You’ve just got to march through this incredible list of stuff that you had to do and I can’t imagine what that was like. Well, actually I’m sure you would know very well because, of course, you came from this retail manager on the floor of Blooms The Chemist. So I imagine you’ve got this real sense of empathy from a customer perspective, knowing kind of what that feels like, right?

Pamela Bishop:
Yeah. For the customers, absolutely and for the pharmacy chains. I mean, it’s just rattling all of this off. I am throwing my mind back to March, which feels like a lifetime ago, but it was a crazy time. And absolutely there was a lot for us as a leadership team and as support office to think about, “We have to roll out a lot of processes and procedures.” But really the people who have just stepped up and gone over and above are the pharmacy teams. Like I said, they know their customers, there is this real compassion and care. They know them, they’re worried about them. We’ve had so many virtual meetings throughout the pandemic to keep all of our a hundred store network connected. And we’ve had meetings for our retail managers and our pharmacists so that they know they’re not going through this alone, and they can share ideas and just talk about the challenges they’re facing.

Pamela Bishop:
And some of the themes, I have to say, that have come up really clearly on those meetings was that empathy for their customers and they know Mrs. Jones, she’s 92, she lives alone and the concern and the worry that they had. So they’re great people, they go over and above. Our pharmacists have worked around the clock this year, they’re in the pharmacy all day because the volume of the orders has gone up, all of the admin and the back end, and then they’re actually working late into the night to do home deliveries and check in on their customers. So I think they have done an incredible job and absolutely, there’s empathy. We’ve heard so much this year, mental health issues are on the rise, people are feeling lonely, not supported. So yeah, I think those customers that have been so loyal to Blooms The Chemist, and for so long, they have their close relationships with the staff and it really goes both ways. So I think some really nice stuff from this year is everyone sort of really looking out for each other and there’s a real genuine concern.

Mark Jones:
Tell me about how you’ve approached this as a CMO from that empathy perspective. You’re speaking a lot about how you’ve been involved in the business. So you’ve been working in the leadership team and retooling the business around that, which is great, but I hear a lot of leaders at the moment talking about how we need to be empathy-driven in our marketing and in our storytelling. And particularly, in the B2B space, there seems to be a Clarion call around empathy at the moment. That’s actually really hard if you’re in finance or another sector where you’ve not worked on the retail floor like yourself, right?  You’ve actually been there and you’ve kind of grown up in the organisation in this perspective. So what’s your advice for people who are thinking about how they get to know the customer to the extent that you have?

Pamela Bishop:
That is such a good point and I think, for me, first of all, personally, as a human, as a leader in the business, one of the biggest learnings I’ve gained this year through this whole experience is actually about empathy and kindness. I’ve learned so much about empathy and kindness during this pandemic. I guess, firstly, within my own team, so the marketing and communications department, even though our team was apart because our office was closed, of course, everyone was working from home remotely, I really have found that I’ve gotten to know all of my team on a much deeper level this year. And we’ve had our daily check-ins. And so through the screen I’ve seen inside my team’s homes, we’ve seen everyone’s living rooms and kitchens-

Mark Jones:
Dogs and cats.

Pamela Bishop:
… waving at each other’s housemates or pets or kids or whatever it might be. So we’ve sort of had this special opportunity this year to like peek into our colleagues’ personal lives, and I think we’ve become a lot closer because of that. Even on screen you can sense when someone’s having a bad day. And I have found, within my team and across the business, there is this genuine care for one another. So if you pick up someone’s having a bad day, you call it out and, “What can we do to help?” And there really is this willingness to make sure everyone’s okay and hopefully, help everyone succeed. So I suppose that’s, first of all, one of my key takeouts as a leader during this pandemic, just how important empathy and kindness is.

Pamela Bishop:
And then yeah, absolutely, across the business and in terms of the customer, I do have the benefit that you’re right I worked my way up. I had a number of years on the pharmacy floor so I’ve been there, I’ve served the customers, I have so much empathy for what the elderly people in our community are going through right now. I’ve got the empathy for the retail managers and the pharmacists trying to hold their teams together. I know they had a number of challenges. For example, when we split the rosters to protect the team, but all of a sudden the team is now apart and they’re not getting to see each other every day. So it just caused more anxiety and concern in those teams. So I really feel for the staff working in the pharmacies. I really admire them. I think they’ve stepped up so much this year and they’ve done such a fantastic job. So couldn’t agree more, empathy is so important at the moment.

Mark Jones:
Have you seen those TV shows where the CEO boss goes down to the shop floor and puts on a wig and an… Undercover boss. That’s the one.  So is that your hot tip, right?

Pamela Bishop:
I would say absolutely in retail, but I think executives can’t lose touch with what’s happening on the shop floor. So if you’re in retail and you’re an executive, you can’t just sit in your office every day all year long and expect to have a clue of what’s happening. First of all, actually in the business on the floor. And secondly, with the customer, I mean, we can do all the market research in the world, but unless you’re actually out there and you can put a face to that customer, and like I described, there is that genuine connection. And I know our customers come in and they might stay in the pharmacy for half an hour and all while we’re having a cup of tea and a chinwag to the other customers and the staff. So unless you get out there, you can’t see that and you don’t know what that is.

Mark Jones:
There is a real challenge here in marketing and communications this year where, as you quite rightly reflect, we’ve got to get a lot more in touch with what it means to be human in our storytelling, in our teams and there’s no escape, right? There’s no masking anymore.

Mark Jones:
You can’t pretend you’re a faceless corporate, you can’t pretend all the data is all you need, right? There’s gotta be this sense of, “Who are the people that we’re genuinely serving and caring for and how do we do that in a way that has integrity.” You know? And we use buzzwords like authenticity and whatever, but I just don’t feel like we can escape that anymore. I just don’t think that this new era of marketing, whatever it’s going to look like next year, I don’t feel like we can escape that sense of what it means to truly understand how people think and feel.

Pamela Bishop:
Yeah. For me what makes marketing great is quite simply that it begins and ends with the customer. I personally think marketing is all about listening to your customer and being really clear what you then want your customer to either feel or do. So, yeah, you need to know who your customer is, you need to know what their concerns are. And I agree, I think this year, there’s been so much change, there’s been so much angst and people’s behaviours are changing, so it’s so important to have that understanding. And yeah, absolutely, if people can out there and make that connection and see it for themselves, they’re only going to be better for it.

Mark Jones:
Wow. I feel like we kind of hit something there so that’s kind of cool, right? What’s on your radar? What’s up next for you guys? I mean, give me a sense of the split of activities and how you’re going to be reshaping things into next year. I think a lot of people are now looking at 2021 with a completely different lens, changing the marketing mix, changing their stories, rethinking how they do analytics, rethinking how they put together narratives that are going to connect with customers. What’s your perspective?

Pamela Bishop:
Yeah, I think you’re right. I feel a lot of people I’m talking in the industry at the moment are sort of reassessing where they’re at and what needs to change for next year. So we’re the same. I mean, our business funds financial year, but like many, our marketing tends to be planned out for on a calendar year basis. So this is a very busy time for us at the moment. We’ve got all of our planning underway. I think what you’ll see a bit differently from Blooms, I sort of touched on it before, but what we’re going to be doing is moving away more from the high-low, the game, right? The up-down pricing, 50% off, 20% off, and we want to be really clear to our customers about that everyday value proposition. And then it’s about everything else that we want to do in our local communities, and to support our customers with their health concerns and try and deliver those better health outcomes, which it’s all about.

Pamela Bishop:
We’re also going to be doing some new things. So I’m really excited and one of the major pieces of work I am personally involved in at the moment is developing our CSR, corporate social responsibility strategy. We’ve been doing a lot over the last few years in the community initiatives and charity space, but it’s now about broadening that and getting honest with ourselves as a business and holding the mirror up a bit to say, “Okay, well, what are we doing? And what’s our impact to the environment and what’s happening in our supply chain that we might not be aware of?” It’s been an interesting process so far. We’ve got a lot of work to do over the next couple of years in this regards. But we’re sort of ready to do something that’s a bit of a game changer in the industry.

Pamela Bishop:
So we’re wanting to be that responsible business because like, I hope I’ve spoken passionately today about our role in the community, we take that really seriously. So we want to know what else can we be doing in the community? And we’ve got a hundred pharmacies across Australia in different communities, but it’s also bigger than that. We have a role to play in Australia. We also have a role to play on the global scale. So what are the steps we can be taking to do better and hopefully, having our customers be part of that? And I know, more and more customers are becoming very aware of some of the issues that’s happening – whether it’s on the supply chain side – and I think customers more and more actually have an expectation of businesses to be a good corporate citizen and to do their best.

Pamela Bishop:
For the planet, there’s so many documentaries coming out now about this and we’re taking them seriously as business. So I’m sure lots of storytelling to come out of the work that we’ll be doing as we progress down that path. We’ve also just partnered with a new charity partners, so Gidget Foundation Australia.  There’s this major issue in, not just Australia, but across the world at the moment with mental health, particularly after the pandemic and what Gidget Foundation do a great job in is supporting people who might be experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety, so expectant or new parents. The awareness is really important so also us a business we’re wanting to help raise awareness and, of course, support Gidget Foundation financially as well.

Pamela Bishop:
The other big thing in that regards is a lot of our pharmacy team members are actually undertaking mental health first aid training at the moment, over the last month and ongoing. So we take that role in the community really seriously. We know that pharmacy is the first point of contact for people with health concerns. And health concerns can be physical, it can be mental, It can be emotional. So we want to make sure that our staff are equipped as possible to be able to support people in their communities that may feel like they’re having some mental health challenges and be able to offer support and resources and connect them to the right people that they need to talk to to get the help that they need. So I guess what you’re going to see a bit more from us to summarise all of that is really trained to go over and above with the health screening tools and the services that we offer our communities.

Mark Jones:
I’m so glad I asked that question because not only is there a long list of exciting things that you’re thinking about, but it’s this sense of giving, it’s a sense of generosity, it’s a sense of how do we contribute to community? How do we have impact? And clearly for your own team to be part of an organisation that has that orientation, if you like, the outwards giving thing I think for any brand is a key thing right now. We all want to have a sense of meaning in what we do and knowing that it connects to something of value. I think that’s just going to become a non-negotiable for all brands, I think.

Mark Jones:
What I wanted to ask was – it actually takes a certain level of maturity and strength, and a sense of who we are as a brand and as an organisation in order to be able to do that. People with any kind of health condition would know that if you yourself are not well, you’ve got no capacity to give to other people. So what’s your advice, your perspective, how would you speak to or counsel others who are in a position of feeling like their brand is not quite solid or stable. It hasn’t really got a sense of its identity and its purpose in order to be able to do those kinds of things. They might aspire to giving back to being purpose-driven but they’re not quite kind of there yet in terms of really knowing who we are first. What would you say to them?

Pamela Bishop:
I would empathise with them because I think it’s hard. I think a lot of leaders have some fantastic ideas and great initiatives they could roll out, but you really need everyone on board with that. So I think it’s about the culture in the organisation. That’s one of the great things about Blooms The Chemist, like I’ve been describing, and it’s hard to actually describe it because it’s something that all of the pharmacists owners just do. They give back, they don’t expect any accolades for it, they don’t want to make a big deal about it, but it’s something that’s so special. So I think that makes my job a bit easier because we have that culture ingrained right across the organisation.

Pamela Bishop:
So to other leaders who are wanting to make a bit of a change and do something a bit more meaningful and whether it is giving back, I think the point you made is really important. You need to be clear on what that company purpose is. You need to be able to articulate and hopefully, everyone in the business be able to articulate, “Why are we here? Why does this business actually exist?” And then build on it from that. So at Blooms The Chemist, if we’re all about delivering better health outcomes for Australians, then how do we build on that and what else can we do? And we’re all about community, so what else should we be doing in our local community? And it’s kind of challenging yourself as a leader to say, “Well, hang on. Can I do more? Should I do more? And how might we go about that? What might that look like if we said we wanted to do more for the community?”

Pamela Bishop:
So I think you have to hold a mirror up to yourself, but also to your entire team, because it’s something you need everyone to be on board with. You can’t do it on your own. These things come to life when you’ve got an amazing team around you, who are talented, and driven, and who really believe in what that strategy is. So I think having your team on board and believing in it, that’s what’s going to make it happen. But yeah, you do need to hold the mirror up to yourself in the organisation and get really clear on, “What are we actually here for and how can we make that even bigger and better?”

Mark Jones:
In other words, have the courage to ask yourself the tough questions. Before you go, what’s one thing you would’ve done differently this year?

Pamela Bishop:
I guess it would probably, again, going back to early March, I think we’ve done a really good job. We’ve pulled together all the new processes and managed all the regulation changes, but the thing we probably could have done differently and a bit better is getting on the front force immediately. Those first few days in March were absolutely critical. By the way, I think we were ahead because we did make a lot of drastic decisions in March around splitting rosters and working from home for the office team and all of that, but it was hard, right? Because if we think back there was so much information coming out, there was a lot of misinformation. We were just trying to keep on top of everything, understand what was happening overseas. But I would say, if I had my time again, it would probably – to jump into action immediately.

Pamela Bishop:
I think it was the 16th of March, that week, when everything started going a bit crazy and just being a bit more proactive those first couple of days. We got there towards the end of that week and definitely into the next week we had the COVID task force set up and meetings already underway. And we became a lot more agile and flexible as a business, a lot more and I really hope that they are traits that we can continue into the future because I think it’s so important in marketing to be able to be flexible and adapt. I’m not going to use the pivot word, but you need to be able to do that and I think COVID helped that for us in our business.

Mark Jones:
Well look, I think, all things considered, everybody was in the same boat. We hadn’t done this before so being upset about a few days is probably not such a bad thing in retrospect. But yeah, what an amazing story. I’m really encouraged to hear how you’re stewarding this brand and thinking about how it can connect with community. I think a lot of people will resonate with that. And, of course, then flowing it through to a different set of priorities and tactics next year, playing the long game with content and thinking about your strategy to help answer people’s questions, I think is all great aspects of the story. So Pamela Bishop, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today and all the best for bringing your own story to life.

Pamela Bishop:
Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed the chat.

Mark Jones:
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Pamela Bishop. I think Blooms is a solid example of a brand that’s using empathy as an authentic lens for its messaging and marketing efforts, in order to build lasting customer relationships across the generations. In fact, I loved her advice to CMOs and senior executives to get out of your comfort zone, and interact with your customers to better understand their needs, their pain points and their ideals. Get out there on the shop floor. Get on the phones, and make sure you speak to them – because obviously, you’re going to get the best insights you possibly can in that environment.

Mark Jones:
Now, before I go, please make sure you “subscribe” to the show on your favourite podcast app so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoy our show, please give us a “rating and review” on Apple Podcasts. This helps us to move up the marketing chart and get our CMO insights in the ears of more listeners. Your support is greatly appreciated! So that’s it from me on this episode of The CMO Show. As always, it’s been great to have you with us. Until next time.

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