Dara Treseder is serious about marketing, but she doesn't think that marketing always has to be serious. "We all enjoy a good laugh, and people will remember how you made them feel," she told me. "If humor makes sense or is a core part of your brand voice, don't be afraid to lean into it."

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As chief marketing officer of GE Business Innovations & GE Ventures, Dara knows the value of creative thinking and a human approach to business. Her previous experience leading strategic marketing at Apple and Goldman Sachs gave her perspective on serving very different audiences, as well as the importance of diversity to the success of any marketing organization.

"As a [chief marketing officer], you have to be ambidextrous," Dara observes. "You've got to have the creative, artist's side, but you also have to have the scientist's side—the data and analytics."

I invited Dara to Marketing Smarts to discuss branding and demand generation, and ways those two things interrelate. We also cover building and assessing brand value, incorporating humor into your marketing, and using data and emotion to craft effective messaging.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

To assess whether your brand is building relationships with customers, look at "health metrics" (05:26): "Look at the customer journey and see how the customers move along that journey. Some of the core metrics we look at are our leads and how they flow across the funnel, the different conversion rates we have, the click-aways, the unsubscribes. We also look very carefully at the amount of time customers spend—whether it's watching a particular video or other piece of content—to figure out, Did we hit the mark or didn't we? 'Health metrics' for our content is something we really consider when we're using new technologies to deploy content. I'm not a fan of vanity metrics. People know, 'Do not ever bring impressions to Dara, she is not going to be happy with you.'"

Before you can align brand strategy and demand gen, you need to understand the customer journey (07:56): "Ultimately, I think it starts out with trying to map out that customer journey. Understanding what you're trying to accomplish from a brand perspective: What are your demand-generation goals? Then design a customer service that will bring you from Point A to Point B—understanding the buyer personas and crafting a unique journey for each persona.

"Three key things that you need to make sure you're doing: the first thing is that you're providing deep insights. The Internet is cluttered with a lot of stale, recycled ideas. How do you make sure that the...content you use to move leads along your demand generation funnel [is] actually insightful? You want to inspire people that are consuming your content.

"The second thing is making sure that there is emotion. Sometimes when people are getting into demand gen activities, we get so tactical that we forget about the  purpose behind that. Emotional campaigns consistently outperform those that are based on rational arguments alone. So don't forget to bring your artist's marketing hat to the table and make sure that whatever you're doing is providing a window into the human experience, drawing people in, reflecting their own values.

"And also, explore ways to bring in interesting concepts. How do you bring in humor? Is that a part of your brand? What is your brand voice? If humor makes sense, how could you incorporate that? Thinking through these things. What are the insights into what we're doing? Are we still working on narratives and making sure we're evoking something in our customer? And then how are we using levers of things that are important to our brand personality and voice, such as humor."

Don't be afraid to bring humor into your marketing, if it makes sense for your brand voice (13:30): "It really depends on the brand. The fun thing in the seat I'm currently sitting at is that I get to see a bunch of [GE's] different portfolio companies, and it's always great to see how each brand...has its own unique voice. For some brands, humor does not make sense because of the product or whatever. But we all enjoy a good laugh. And people will remember how you made them feel. So if humor makes sense or is a core part of your brand voice, don't be afraid to lean into it. A good way to do that is the blend your brand personality with information that you want to pass across.

"For example, if you're trying to talk about a specific sentiment, you can use humor to do that. One of the things I loved was how KFC successfully used humor to bolster their brand recognition. They noticed that only 43% of their fast foods ads were linked correctly to the brand that produced the ad, so KFC brought in SNL alumnus Darrell Hammond and others to impersonate the brand's iconic Colonel Sanders in an ad and it really worked for them. Don't be afraid to lean into it: Humor allows people to experience your brand in a very personal way. Buying decisions are emotional, they're not logical; creating a bond is essential, and humor can help you do that."

Promoting diversity on your marketing team is good business (22:29): "Diversity is key. Diversity is not something that is a 'nice to have.' It's something that really is a 'need to have.' It's critical, because there's a diverse consumer base out there. Your customers on the business side and the consumer side are diverse, and in order for you to design the best campaigns, reach them in the best ways, build the healthiest relationships with them, it is so, so, so important to have a diverse team.

"When I think about diversity, I have this thing I came up with one of our entrepreneurs in residence, Jessica Strauss. It's called 'R2P2'—you recruit the diverse talent, you retain diverse talent, you promote diverse talent, and you protect diverse talent. Because, remember, if you've got a homogeneous group, and you've got someone who comes in who's not like everyone else, there's a challenge that exists with that. As a leader, it's your responsibility to make sure that you're recruiting the right talent, you're retaining them, you're promoting them based on merit, and you're protecting them from some of the nonsense that can come from people who don't necessarily understand or value the importance of diversity."

Promoting and protecting diversity means encouraging team members to share their thoughts (25:02): "When I think about 'promoting and protecting,' it's not just about promoting and protecting people from an HR perspective. It's promoting diverse thought and protecting diverse voice. It can be as simple as when you're in that team meeting—and you've got the people that always talk really loud and have got lots of things to say and you've got other people who are a little big more quiet—pausing and saying, 'Hey, I'd actually really like to hear what X has to say,' or 'Y, what do you think about this?' Creating that culture of debate and making sure that you facilitate. As the leader, your job is to facilitate to make sure you get those different perspectives."

To learn more, follow Dara on Twitter @Dara_Johnson.

Dara and I talked about much more, including the three steps to launching a brand and building brand awareness, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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