October 1, 2020
15. Being a Little Bit Dangerous at Everything w/ Jenn Grabenstetter
by Liz Pope
On this episode of Marketing Behind The Curtain, we hear from Jenn Grabenstetter, VP of Global Brand & Content Marketing at Sealed Air just down the road in Charlotte, NC. In recent, the packaging industry has garnered more interest as the public needs more reassurance than ever that the food in their kitchens has been properly protected from germs. Jenn shares how her team operates in two-week sprints, adapting an agile marketing model, and why they like to be “a little bit dangerous at everything.”
We’ll also touch on:
- Starting with a deep dive into the persona of their customer: their experience, their problems, and their needs
- Building multi-functional campaigns that cater to both B2B and B2C audiences
- Reallocating funds to content production practices that are safe and more productive during a pandemic
- The universal appeal of video marketing
- How every Friday afternoon is your personal ritual time at Sealed Air
Transcript of Episode
Jenn: [00:00:02] And we sort of spend a lot of time crawling away from ourselves and really thinking about, you know, a deep dive into that persona of the customer and really understanding their world, their challenges, how they approach their jobs. For many of our customers, packaging is just a piece, of a piece, of a piece, of the operation that they oversee.
Voiceover: [00:00:22] You’re listening to the marketing behind the Curtain podcast, where we pull back the curtain on the people, processes and technologies leading marketers are using to fuel growth within their organizations. Let’s get into the show.
Devin: [00:00:35] Welcome to Marketing Behind the Curtain, where we take a look at all the hard work that happens by marketers to put the shiny outward face on all types of organizations. I’m your host, Devin Kelly with Method Savvy, where a consultancy that helps ambitious leaders find better ways to grow their businesses. Today, I’d like to introduce Jen Grabenstetter. Did I get that right, Grabenstetter?
Jenn: [00:00:56] Ah, you did. That’s awesome.
Devin: [00:00:57] Awesome.
Devin: [00:00:59] Checkbox one for the podcast we’re off on a good foot, but I appreciate you joining us. And you’re with Sealed Air, which normally is not far down the road here in Charlotte. But I feel like it’s like a world away since we don’t travel or go anywhere anymore. So like a couple hours seems like a lifetime at this point.
Jenn: [00:01:20] Well, thank you. I’m delighted to be your guest today.
Jenn: [00:01:24] And yes, Sealed Air is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a global packaging company probably most well known for brands like Bubble Wrap. And then we also are pretty well known for a lot of packaging. You might never know is from us, but a lot of it’s in the grocery store. So some of the things that you’re fresh meat and cheeses and pastas and other things over in sort of the deli and butcher area of the grocery store, you know, your turkeys and chickens and things of that nature are all typically done in our cryovac brand packaging. So we are probably in your house and in your fridge and in your eCommerce boxes as we speak. But most people don’t know us. So it’s a kind of the best-kept secrets of the packaging world.
Devin: [00:02:10] Awesome. I want to come back to the bubble wrap there and also like meat packaging because you’re in a former life as a high school student. I definitely cleaned a meat room, so I probably removed some seal their packaging to some different things.
Devin: [00:02:26] But talk to us a little bit about your role and kind of what marketing looks like for someplace that maybe we all have in our homes, but we’re we’re not fully aware of.
Jenn: [00:02:36] Yeah. So we’re what we would refer to as a B2B2C companies that we sell B2B but all of our customers are generally providing consumer facing goods, not exclusively, but a lot of our customers are either sending goods to consumers homes or they are providing primary packaging for the stuff that you buy in the store. So that means that for me, as a vice president of brand and Content Marketing, that we’re building campaigns and narratives that have to sell our value proposition to our B2B customers who need us for automation and labor savings and sustainability, impact benefits and another sort of packaging needs. But we also have to have a value proposition that appeals to grocery retailers and to consumers and to ultimately the people who are going to touch and interact with our products. So it’s pretty fun on the marketing side to get to think through those multilayered narratives and not just have sort of a B2B story, but also get to think about the impact we have on consumers. I run a team of content experts so and copywriters and graphic designers and video producers, web designers. And then we also have our digital marketing team and then Web operations and Web strategy team. So we’re sort of all of the externally facing channels and messages that sealed our puts out into the world. And we are quite the multidisciplinary and group of marketers, and I’m very proud to work with the people that I get to work with every day.
Devin: [00:04:12] But I think that’s super exciting to be able to look at all those different kind of media types and things that are part of the marketing landscape now.
Devin: [00:04:22] And it’s one of the things we talk about a lot like marketing is the most like interdisciplinary department of any department of business today. Accounting still payables and receivables. Right. Marketing is like everything that you could possibly consider in the multimedia world. And that talk a little bit about, just like the types of people that you have to have is as part of that team is it’s like a collection of specialists. Is everybody a little bit of, you know, kind of working together? And how is that changed at all with, you know, the production constraints that exist in, you know, pandemic world?
Jenn: [00:05:00] Yeah, absolutely. We have a little bit of everything, we have some real specialists, some people like our video production and multimedia team, they had experience with brands like NASCAR and Disney producing live broadcasted events as well as special event production. So having those guys in-house with our own video production studio is a truly specialized treat that we get to have for our marketing team. And they do everything from broadcasting live sports with our CEO to be on Fox Business to doing customer testimonial videos that we shoot on sight with our customers to. Now we’re producing virtual events, you know, because we’re not going to as many trade and industry events as we were previously. So now we’re looking at how do we bring those entires or a virtual trade show experience to our customers through R and R VR and all sorts of blended reality experiences. So that’s a truly specialized discipline. I tend to hire a lot of journalists. I myself am an extra and also bringing in people with experience and editorial writing and copy editing and copywriting from the magazine and newspaper world.
Jenn: [00:06:16] First of all, I think it’s a good service that I owe to my fellow journos as the world of journalism continues to condense and collapse, that I helped them find their new home. But that’s you know, that’s a group people who know how to find the story. And it really doesn’t matter what story it is or who your audience is, it’s sort of that ability to zone in on exactly what matters and how to put it in a very compelling sort of structured format to reach and compel your audience. That’s what they’re good at. So I love hiring people who have that expertise. But we also we always use the phrase we like to be a little bit dangerous, that everything. So we try to build really well-rounded marketers who get experience with our digital channels. You don’t have to be a channel specialist, but it’s really good to understand how our channels like email versus paid search versus paid social versus video and online how they work and how they perform for us. So we like everyone to get trained up in our systems and in our marketing automation platforms so that you can really be truly a multi hat wearing marketer and that you can think if you’re a content producer, you’re thinking about content based on the channels where it might ultimately be rendered.
Jenn: [00:07:29] And if you are more of a multichannel marketing planner, you’re also thinking a little bit more about what types of content are going to be interesting and compelling. So it doesn’t really matter what side of our house you sit on. We sort of expect people to respect and understand each other’s worlds and be a little bit dangerous across that marketing spectrum. And I just got in to work with some awesome people who do everything from actual packaging design experience to virtual experience and both renderings. And just they bring such cool backgrounds into this world and they get to use all of it, because, like you said, marketing is everything now. So pretty much any skill you’ve acquired along the way, you’re going to get a chance to use in some campaigns somewhere in this crazy world. I think you also how they’re working together. Was that the other thing sort of an covid times?
Devin: [00:08:23] Yeah. How is that change? You have production, right? And you’re like, hey, like you can’t shoot video and I don’t like being in the same room. Right. Like what if you had to do that might just be different or has been challenged by this and everybody’s finding their footing a little bit and how to do this safely. But that’s his biggest challenge, talent or budget or anything else these days.
Jenn: [00:08:48] Yeah, it really has been an interesting challenge. And one of the things that our video team has had to figure out is what their constraints are and what they can safely achieve. So at our own headquarters, where there certain safety restrictions in place, you know, they can do certain things in certain parts of our buildings. So we did we made some investments like investing in a 360-degree camera for shooting photography of our products for online and for video. And that was a pretty significant investment for the business. But that was also going to replace what was a lot of travel to other vendors we were working with out of state or trying to get photography shoots done in multiple locations around the globe. So investing in that central capability in a room that they have access to that’s sort of safe and sanitized was one of the sort of important investment decisions that we made. And then also, I think I mentioned we’re starting to look into a lot of virtual broadcasting capabilities. There’s a lot that can be done now with just a little bit of equipment that you can provide to someone in another location that basically turns their sort of terrible laptop cam. And just something a bit more powerful and a little bit more of a handheld camera experience, and that way we can get up close and personal with some of our equipment and machinery and people and kind of do some user-generated footage that we ordinarily probably would have done professionally. So we’re just getting really creative with how we capture the stuff that we need and also how we kind of rethink the types of investments that we make so that we have more control and sort of local use of some of the things that we need to be able to do.
Devin: [00:10:32] Yeah, I think that’s that’s something everybody’s got to think through now is like you can’t make that trip. So how do we do it here?
Devin: [00:10:38] How do we we make the most of the space that we have.
Devin: [00:10:41] But, you know, and having that variety of skill sets, it sounds like you guys are somewhat a shared service within the organization. But you’ve got a variety of skill sets, a variety of channels that you can leverage. But it sounds like you also have a variety of kind of products and probably customers as well. So how do you think about whether it be the journalist type folks or otherwise you’re getting some level of kind of product knowledge into these people and figuring out what maybe the most easy to understand product is, is not the top priority in terms of what needs some content produced around. So how do you make sure people are kind of focused on the right priorities internally from the business perspective, never mind all the variety of marketing outputs that could be there.
Jenn: [00:11:27] That’s a it’s a great question because, yes, while bubble wrap is very easy to understand, it’s not our top margin product that pays all the bills. So we do have to learn a very wide variety of industry verticals as well as products and services, that you really have to be a little bit a bit of a packaging geek as well as an industry geek in order to want to kind of get inside these topics. So that’s one of the things we hire for, is really people who desire that sort of eternal student mentality where they can really constantly be learning and upskilling themselves on the business and on our customers and on our industries. But we also use a lot of process, tons of process internally to create pipelines of campaigns and allocate our team’s resources across them in a really thoughtful manner so that we do create sort of leads or content knowledge pods where the same people can work together on multiple campaigns and kind of build that expertise together and provide additional value because they’re learning and building upon some of that subject matter expertise. But then we also want to make sure people get experience across a wide variety of the areas of our business. So we sort of do both. We sort of want to make sure that you work together enough on a certain set of products and industries to learn them and to be credible at producing content for them, but that also you don’t get bored having to write about the same products day in and day out. So it’s really a thoughtful resource allocation model that we’ve put together to make sure that we’re using our talented brains the best we can. And we do use the agile sprint.
Jenn: [00:13:13] We use a scrum model to organize the work of our team. And that way, each individual content producer also gets the chance to choose every two weeks what they are going to work on and how much they can work on. And so they get a little bit of autonomy in deciding when they want to stretch into something new versus when they need to kind of power through the assignments in front of them.
Jenn: [00:13:36] But yeah, that that product knowledge, you can’t get it overnight. So we do have to be really thoughtful about who we assign to what and how long they get to work at a particular discipline to really build up that knowledge.
Devin: [00:13:48] Yeah, I want to get back to the agile and SCRUM idea there.
Devin: [00:13:51] But, you know, with so many different products and especially coming from the brand side as well, you mentioned the process that you kind of drive-through and maybe the idea of a lead around a campaign starting somewhere. But what is the start of that process? Because you can always start from the kind of, you know, business owner perspective saying here’s what’s important to the customer. You can say here are kind of brand pillars or messaging pillars from the organizational side of things like what starts a campaign lead or begins that that process that you guys have started to develop, like where did the spark come from?
Jenn: [00:14:30] Yeah, so it’s a great question. We derive a lot of our inspiration from the Challenger messaging model. So whether someone is trying to launch a product or grow in a particular segment or reposition an existing product or juice the sales of a particular legacy product, it really doesn’t matter what it is that you’re trying to sell. The most important thing for us to understand is, you know, a deep dive into the persona of the customer and really understanding their work. Their challenges, how they approach their jobs and basically get as far away from the packaging part of their job as we can, because, for many of our customers, the packaging is just a piece of the operation that they oversee, whether it’s a food production operation or a retail store operation like packaging is there. But it’s not their number one concern. And in fact, they would prefer never to think about it. They prefer for it to just be there and work and be affordable and effective. So it’s very sort of selfish or sort of myopic of us to think like that. They are they have these packaging challenges on their brain all the time. So we sort of spend a lot of time crawling away from ourselves and really thinking about the overall set of objectives, challenges, CPI’s problems, pain points that our customers face on a daily basis. And then what is our ability to impact their lives? Their day to day working lives through packaging is our medium. But ultimately, what’s the impact that we can have on them as an individual or on their operation holistically? And then we can sort of tuck the packaging in as the thing that’s going to help them achieve this goal.
Jenn: [00:16:08] So that’s kind of how we find our North Star in a campaign or in a product launch project. And we build sort of a master narrative for each campaign, sort of a message Bible that has these persona elements and these challenges. And in the challenge our messaging world, it’s called in a gap statement. So it’s sort of the current state. The thing that’s sort of a surprising reframe or thing you want to teach and then sort of how you’re going to walk them to that new reality. So we create a ton of messaging up front and then those live with us for the life of that campaign. And we go back to that well again and again to find a new angle or a new title or a new piece of copy that just kind of reignites that spark when we’re seven months into this campaign and we’re still writing or creating new activations for it. So we invest a lot up front on the messaging side. And it’s usually whoever that content person was that runs those workshops and talks to those SMEs and does that voice of the customer research, that kind of becomes that lead for the life of the campaign. But other people step in and out. So they that lead is always sort of your one source of truth for that message Bible. But other people can come and pick and pick and choose from that message Bible in order to add to that campaign over time. So we’re a very message driven customer challenge or customer-centric driven content organization.
Devin: [00:17:33] Yeah, I really like the kind of removing what you’re trying to sell from the process and kind of embracing the customer experience. And one of the ways we’ve always talked about that, because business owners in particular are probably salespeople as well, often need to be reminded that, like maybe what you’re selling isn’t the most important, but always, always encourage people when you’re going through that persona process to think about what’s going on when you’re not in the room. And I think I get the same idea of like, yes, you need to focus on this, but maybe we shouldn’t be saying this is going to take up a lot of your time, because maybe that isn’t the value proposition of the product or of the business overall.
Jenn: [00:18:15] Yeah, it’s actually we experienced kind of the opposite effect with some of what was happening with covid-19 and also what’s been going on for a while. With sustainability and plastic waste challenges sort of impacting the globe and our global climate. People started talking about packaging like it was kind of front page news, right, with both either climate change and waste and then also with covid-19 and people thinking about contamination and food safety and shelf life, am I going to be able to get enough food and how long is it going to last in my fridge and who touched it? Where did it come from all of a sudden? This kind of stuff that we’ve been trying to get people to talk about and think about for many years was suddenly not just front of mind for businesses, but like consumers were asking these questions, you know, how is this plastic made and what is it? Can it be recycled and who touched it? And how many touchpoints did it go through to get to my kitchen? And these are exactly the types of infographics we’ve been making for years. But just nobody cares. Right. And so it’s an interesting thing when all of a sudden you’re sort of dark corner of the supplier universe becomes a really focused, focused in area of the national and global narrative. Luckily, we were ready for that because these are stories we’re prepared to tell and talk about. But it’s not usual. Usually, you are the thing that people are hoping is a quick check in with their supplier to guarantee their pricing for the next year and not a major groundbreaking conversation. So being able to stand out when they’re not focused on you is a really interesting challenge.
Devin: [00:19:55] Yeah, and so much has been kind of turned upside down. So it’s.
Devin: [00:20:00] Maybe the work that you put in overtime kind of find a new set of value, whether it be like a blog post you wrote a long time ago or some content they created before.
Devin: [00:20:09] So, you know, that’s that’s got to be a nice pat on the back when you see some of that work kind of pop back up in the analytics or otherwise, dust off a lot of old content that we were like, can you believe somebody wants to pull it out of 2010?
Devin: [00:20:26] That’s awesome.
Devin: [00:20:27] Well, I want to get back to the original idea because I think, you know, especially with particularly marketing departments that are tied to software products or come from of technical founders, you know, everybody wants to be agile. Everybody wants the kind of benefits of moving to a model like that and operating that way. And somebody who’s kind of operating in a variety of products, a variety of channels, large team. What’s that experience been like? Like what’s living kind of the agile marketing structure look like and doing that at some scale and with a variety of masters? I think there’s there’s some pros and cons for just doing it, kind of an individual leader, but doing that kind of multiple leaders, multiple business lines, multiple channels, adds a whole other wrinkle.
Jenn: [00:21:19] It really does. And one of the reasons that we were so committed to adopting an agile working model for our team was you mentioned we’re essentially kind of a shared service. We’re sort of this central S.O.P for content message, brand, and digital marketing. And we have somewhere on the range of 30 key stakeholders within the business, a mix of different marketing leaders, commercial leaders, sales leaders, et cetera, all of whom need some amount of resource from us on a daily, weekly basis. And that’s almost an impossible set of work to organize because people’s priorities are constantly competing and everyone’s to some degree correct that their thing is the most important thing for some part of the business. And because we also serve such a wide array of customers, it’s not like we can focus on the parts of the business that are just the ones that are growing or just the ones that are growing at a certain rate, because that still leaves you with, you know, tons and tons of different potential target opportunities, industry opportunities, et cetera. So there’s just no way to zoom or narrow or focus in a way that was consistent. So we really said, OK, we’re never going to be able to get our hands around that. There’s always going to be more stuff and more priorities that we can ever handle.
Jenn: [00:22:37] So we need to apply as much discipline and rigor to the sort of triaging process as we can understand. Financial impact, margin, impact, growth rates, you know, who’s got product launches, who has emerging segments that we have to spend more time attracting because they don’t know us versus who’s in segments where we are well known and we have some brand reputation that we can ride on. We have to take all those things into account and essentially create a list. We call it our pipeline. It’s roughly one hundred and twenty-three campaigns long for the year. But there’s no other than being sort of relatively stack ranked, there’s no set of rules that says who should we serve first? Who should we serve second? And in a situation where No.
Jenn: [00:23:23] Four and five come at us at the same time, who should go first between number four, number five. And so what we did is we took the agile model to say, all right, well, every two weeks is a chance for us to micro prioritize what’s going to happen for the next two weeks. And so we have this sort of macro prioritization. But then every two weeks there’s a chance to sort of relitigating how we’re going to spend our resources, what needs our attention right this moment.
Jenn: [00:23:50] And so it’s almost like seeing the entire forest for the trees and then zooming in down to like an individual set of leaves that you’re going to groom and plant for the next couple of weeks. And it’s it was a difficult thing for us to adopt, even perhaps more difficult for our stakeholders to understand that there was going to be this sort of constant iterative micro-planning, sort of getting them to agree to a certain set of liberals. And right now, we’re going to sprint against these deliverables and you’re going to get these deliverables and then we’re going to move on to these other deliverables. Like that was just a lot of cadence for people to take in. And at first, it felt very overwhelming to everyone. But now we’ve come to really appreciate the idea that we can get through so much more work because we’re sort of biting it off in these much more intentional chunks. And we’re really looking at how we spend every hour of our twenty-six people’s time on our team and we’re able to spread ourselves across a lot more outcomes.
Jenn: [00:24:46] Occasionally it goes off the rails and we spread ourselves too thin across too many things in a particular sprint. And then we sort of feel how hard that is. And we’re like, all right, guys, we got to refocus. We need to put more people on fewer priorities for the next two weeks because otherwise. We’re going to take tiny little incremental steps and we really want to take big giant steps every time we embark on a set of developments. So it’s been about a year-long process for us now and we could never go back at this point. The thing I think is most valuable is the time we spend together. All twenty-six of us now on a zoom call, but all twenty-six of us get together in a room for an hour and a half, two hours every other Thursday. And we talk about everything we’re going to do for the next two weeks. And we plan it out and we put things in scope and out of scope and we figure out who’s going to work on it and who’s not. And I don’t know how people survive without that sort of focused, intentional planning on such a micro level, because otherwise everything’s important all the time and everybody’s urgent and you’ll never get to any of it. So it’s been a lifesaver for our team for sure.
Devin: [00:25:52] That’s awesome that you’re finding success with it. You mentioned something there at the end I’m curious about, but you said you get together every other Thursday.
Devin: [00:26:01] I’m interested in how people can manage the cadence and why you end up with, like Thursday afternoon as the the meeting time there, because I’ve always thought it was odd. Everybody always wants to cram something into Monday morning, noon. And that’s also what we’re all like trying to cut out for the weekend or just getting ramped up for the week.
Jenn: [00:26:19] Yeah, we ended up building our sprint schedule so that it’s a two week of two Business Week, 14 days sprint, but it’s Wednesday to Wednesday. So we always start and finish our sprint on Wednesdays. And so what that leaves you is the opportunity to maybe, you know, if something didn’t really get done during the sprint that you’re waiting on one more approval, you still have those extra two days to kind of like quickly try to get that tied off before the weekend. But then also you have this chance to get like dive right in to whatever comes next. So I think there’s something about like sort of having it be a midweek ceremony with the next one starting sort of kicking off the next morning with that planning process that keeps us on it, sort of forward leaning momentum. You’re never sort of letting things kind of trail off into the weekend and then you have to, like, pull it up from your bootstraps on Monday morning. Like, everything just sort of stays in this sort of constant rhythm. So it was our scrum master who recommended that. And it’s been pretty helpful to us to kind of just always think of the middle of the week as being the point at which we are starting anew and instead of starting anew on a Monday, it just keeps your brain in a different place.
Devin: [00:27:37] I think I would have greatly appreciated that scrum master. An earlier role I had were there.All of our customers were on the West Coast and they all set RFP used to be do at 5:00 p.m. on Fridays West Coast time, and I would always get the follow up from their RFP questions.
Devin: [00:27:54] I like eleven o’clock on Friday and that ruined a lot of Fridays, so I would appreciate that scrum master.
Jenn: [00:28:03] Yeah, it’s what we at Sealed Air about a year ago instituted in the US offices, they instituted at a summer Fridays sort a half-day schedule, and it proved to be so popular and so productive that people were essentially working almost four day workweeks. And so they they’ve made it permanent. And officials so we have every Friday for eternity is sort of meant to be a half-day. And people protect that afternoon for whether it’s personal time or has downtime or working time or family time. So we don’t have any meetings on on Friday afternoons. And that does really clear up like is kind of become your personal, whatever your personal ritual is for finishing out your week with confidence. Those it become sort of sacred days, which I truly appreciate. And it’s been a big, big influence on how our team sets up the rest of our work so that we can always keep those Fridays safe.
Devin: [00:28:58] Yeah, that’s that’s fun as well. And it’s fun not just because you have a little extra time if you needed it for the weekend, but like that to be able to start something new that maybe the week.
Jenn: [00:29:09] Yeah, absolutely.
Devin: [00:29:11] Well, you’ve talked about a bunch of technology kind of already here, whether it be really cool cameras that you guys got to bring on as part of the or just managing kind of a scrum model that you guys are running on an ongoing basis to the content and where it lives, whether that be kind of digital content or through marketing automation channels or a variety of kind of product platforms that you guys have. So how do you kind of keep up with all the technological demands? I imagine you have as broad a skill set is as anybody kind of among your team to to know kind of what’s important and what’s not, because the technology stuff’s never cheap and therefore never easy to prioritize. So how do you think about all the tech floating through your world?
Jenn: [00:29:54] It’s a great question. It does get on top of you quickly. We had it we hired a marketing technology leader in our team earlier this year, and she spent the first sixty to one hundred days just kind of auditing our tech stack and really understanding how we use each piece of it. And she uncovered things that have been under-leveraged for possibly months or years because there’s just there’s always something new. And so you sort of leave this detritus behind you of half-used, half abandoned, half adopted tech platforms. Meanwhile, you still know you have all these gaps that you haven’t filled yet. So we have some core tent poles that are pretty consistent. Our marketing automation platform is Marketo. We just rebuilt our entire Web presence on Adobe Experience Manager. We video streaming. We’ve been upgrading our video streaming capabilities probably year over year. And we’re going to continue to keep putting more of an emphasis on the role that video is playing in our external content delivery strategy, as well as our internal communications. One of our clients at Sealed Air is our internal communications and leadership team.
Jenn: [00:31:09] They use our team to create messages for change management and leadership transitions and strategy. So we get used to tell internal stories as well. And video is a really powerful part of that. So investing in our video team is has been an important technology decision photography. I think I did mention the camera. If you’re going to try to play in a world that thrives on e-commerce interactions, whether you are actually selling direct online or not, people have an expectation that they’re going to be able to spin images around, look at them from all angles, you know, explode them open, like that’s just starting to become table stage. So that was one of the places where we really had to catch up to organize all of this. We are incredibly dependent on our digital asset management platform, which is also through Adobe, and then our project management tool, Rike, which we use for all incoming work. It organizes all of our sprint schedules. And then we also use it to coordinate with stakeholders to get their reviews and approvals actually tracked in a system.
Jenn: [00:32:11] We were losing a ton of time to reviews and approvals. That was sort of immeasurable because it’s all happening over email. So actually having the number of days and hours that we spend tracking down reviews, revisions, approvals, et cetera, and being able to visualize that was not comfortable and not pleasant to see it reflected in a spreadsheet, but it’s also helped us get control over it. We saw are one-offs that we were working on going down from something like 15 to 20 percent of our time to less than two percent of our time. So we’re getting a lot more focused on the things that have been prioritized. And our review and revision cycles are starting to shorten significantly as well. So that was probably a really fast horse or some of our key technologies, but we’re never done. Our Martek stack is still in its infancy, so we have a lot of other things that I’m desperate to get my hands on and pay for. But those are some of the ones that have been really helpful to us in the last couple of years.
Devin: [00:33:10] You can always spend an hour just on technology, try to avoid that for today.
Devin: [00:33:16] What you mentioned AR/VR having to adjust a little bit with the pandemic and maybe having less kind of face time with clients. But, you know, some of the businesses that you’ve mentioned here, whether it be the supply chain side of things or the shipping and warehouse side of things, maybe you strike me as more kind of historical businesses that are based on sales relationships, maybe a little bit more technologically laggards, like in trying to do cool new stuff with AR and VR and things like that, or is there resistance within the organization to kind of try some of this stuff or do it digitally or modify kind of existing behaviors?
Devin: [00:33:57] And maybe that goes all the way down to customers that just don’t expect the tech thing, but expect you to take them to the dinner in a state.
Jenn: [00:34:07] Have you been talking to my field reps? This sounds very familiar. No, it’s true. There is that there is a lot of traditional sales expectations, both with our sales teams but also our customer teams.
Jenn: [00:34:20] It’s been changing really rapidly, even just in the time I’ve been at Sylvere, which is about five years, I would say in the last three years or so, we’re starting to see a lot of not just. Millennials, but Gen Z as well, starting to enter some of these companies on the procurement teams and on the packaging engineer teams and on the fulfillment operations teams, like there’s a lot of younger talent that’s coming into these sort of long-tenured organizations, people like UPS and XPO. And these are logistics companies that are growing so fast and they’re bringing in talent as fast as they possibly can. So some of our considerations set for people who are really looking at it and thinking about supplier relationships differently are much younger than maybe our senior sales decision-maker relationships are. So we have to serve both. One of the things that seem to cross over both of those audiences pretty seamlessly is video people and older buying groups have gotten accustomed to being able to see as many different demo videos or angles or things on as they want to. They want to be able to find a playlist and sort of watch through things. And then obviously the YouTube generation thinks that they should be able to not just look at it, but possibly buy it, install it, use it themselves without ever interacting with someone. So that has influenced some of our video strategy when it comes to VR and are partially what we’re trying to do is get as close to our customer’s facility or as in context for them as we possibly can be so that they’re not just looking at a demo video where a single piece of equipment is being demoed in an empty warehouse or on a showroom floor.
Jenn: [00:36:08] But they’re really seeing as much actual context as we can possibly give them, putting it into a fake warehouse environment or production environment and showing some of those variables that would take place in their world. So partially, what we’re trying to create is the sort of familiar environment that they can then imagine these solutions, even if they can’t see them in person. And then a lot of it’s about blending the in-person experience with a remote experience. So we still expect that we’re going to be in our facilities and they’re going to come to our showrooms, but probably not in the same quantity or frequency that they did before. We’re certainly not going to go to trade shows with the same frequency or velocity that we did before. So it’s really about how to if there’s only one guy here, how do we make sure that the 20 guys who stayed home also have the same experience as the person who’s standing here looking at this solution or a piece of equipment? How do we trade designs back and forth? In a way, the entire design teams feel engaged, and it’s not just a file-sharing system. So we’re trying to just sort of blend the traditional sales interactions with more at scale virtual experience without just shoving people into Web Xs and zoom calls and hoping for the best.
Jenn: [00:37:22] So it’s a journey we’re going to have to go on, but we imagine that it’s going to be it’s going to pay off in the long run, that we’re creating experiences that can be more widely shared with great bigger audiences and more time zones, you know, whenever you want them, as opposed to on a particular schedule.
Devin: [00:37:39] That’s awesome. It’s an awesome tip on the video front because I think so often people kind of think about the well, there’s one audience that wants this and another audience that wants that. And that means double the budget, double the timeline. How do you get to bridge that gap?
Devin: [00:37:52] So I the video tip, there’s huge it seems to be kind of the one medium that everyone can agree they would prefer to watching another PowerPoint or looking at a brochure. So when in doubt, go with video.
Devin: [00:38:05] Awesome. Well, as we wrap up, we like the question to you about in all this process and all these different team members and different work that you’re producing, we always like to look behind the curtain here and see if there’s a time or two or maybe the process didn’t go quite as planned or maybe something made it out to market that maybe wasn’t quite supposed to do yet. Or maybe you thought you had under control, but it just didn’t work out that way. What’s an experience that you’ve had where, you know, despite best efforts and good people and having all the boxes checked in the process maybe just didn’t turn out quite the way that you’d hoped?
Jenn: [00:38:45] Oh, gosh, there’s so many to choose from. You know, most recently, I think the most humbling experience that we had just this year was this was our first year fully executing this master macro prioritization process. And it was there’s so much time and attention put into this, you know, the financial sort of number crunching and the discovery interviews and the stakeholder alignment. And it’s just it was this magic throng of work that just came together to create this perfect list of here’s all the things that matter to our business now. We’re going to run out and do them. And we produced that list and sort of stamped it and shared it probably the second week of January. And it managed to stay valid for about three and a half weeks before. Things started to unravel in Asia and then Europe and then the US, and so it was bye-bye. Probably the second week of March I was holding a number of meetings with our various marketing leaders, basically just trying to figure out if any part of what we thought was going to be happening in 2020 was still salvageable. And the part that was really heartbreaking for me is that we had it had taken so long to get people to agree to the credibility of this prioritization process that we have to, as a business, agree that these are the marketing priorities that need to be acted upon. And everyone finally shook their heads and said yes. And then I was the one that had to come back and be like, well, let’s throw that list out and just find some other way to figure out a way to survive the next quarter.
Jenn: [00:40:18] And we did. We found a new process. I mean, you just have to kind of break your own processes and create a new one. But we did have to find a way to kind of get through the second quarter with some amount of order. And but now we’ve essentially told people that that process that we made wasn’t the gold standard because we were able to break it so easily. So now as we get into 2021 planning, we’re trying to decide, well, how much of that do we want to try to put people back on track with versus how much are we just now living in this sort of quarter to quarter reevaluation process? And that’s a hard decision to make because we really committed ourselves to this idea that there was this magic stack rank that we could do of our business priorities. And we were shown the truth about that very quickly that that was a fool’s errand. And you have to learn how to adapt real quick. So it wasn’t a total fail, but it definitely felt like a lot many, many, many, many hours of meetings and talking and planning down the drain just to be able to kind of recover and stay relevant in this crazy, crazy time we’re living in right now.
Devin: [00:41:28] Well, I don’t know if anyone’s 2020 priority list survive. This is such a humbling experience.
Jenn: [00:41:40] And we had a whole campaign’s bite, the dust, which just nobody ever feels great about. But I think it just shows you what marketers are made of. Our years were all torn to shreds, but we all had to find a way to power through this and still represent the brands that we represent and do it proudly and find the right message at the right time. And it’s a good, proud time to be a good marketer.
Jenn: [00:42:07] We are where necessary right now. An ordinarily marketing is not necessarily in the same breath with crisis communications and with change management, but we’ve had to ride right along with these major cultural changes that all of our businesses are going through. So it’s an important time to be a marketer, I guess you could say.
Devin: [00:42:27] I think that’s a good message to leave it on and appreciate the time.
Devin: [00:42:32] And everybody kind of take away the idea that whether it’s content or brand priority messaging like it’s just as important as crisis communication or anything else these days. And notice just from the Gartner survey, middle of this year, like, you know, brand and brand affinity and brand reputation have become kind of number one on the priority list, overtaking taking analytics, which had been on the top of the list for like the last five years this year. So it’s not a bad place to leave it. Guys, what people are doing on the marketing front is important.
Devin: [00:43:09] Well, perfect. And I appreciate the time, I appreciate the thinking in kind of parting here.
Devin: [00:43:14] Is there a plug for their social channels, the content you’re producing personally you want to leave us with?
Jenn: [00:43:21] Yeah, you can follow our brands.
Jenn: [00:43:24] Our bubble wrap brand Cryovac Brand, Sealed Air brand, Auto Bag brand where we’re on social and we’re sharing interesting looks behind the curtain, to use your phrase, at the world of logistics and food. It’s there’s a lot of interesting economics and consumer behavior and consumer psychology even that goes into how people buy what they buy and how it ends up in their home. So if you find that sort of thing interesting, we try to make it as interesting for you as we can. And we’ve also got a podcast that is slow to start because it was one of our priorities that kind of got back burner this year. But we’ve done dozens been working on it behind the scenes. It’s called the bubble wrap up. And we do look at sort of that hidden world of how goods get to your home. So keep an eye out for the bubble wrap up.
Devin: [00:44:13] Awesome, thanks, Jenn.
Jenn: [00:44:14] Yeah, thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it.
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