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Luxury Brands Are Redefining Digitally Native Strategies with Doris Childs

This is a podcast episode titled, Luxury Brands Are Redefining Digitally Native Strategies with Doris Childs. The summary for this episode is: <p>Subscribe to Wunderkind's YouTube channel:</p><p><br></p><p>Follow Wunderkind:</p><p>LinkedIn:</p><p>Instagram:</p><p>Facebook:</p><p>Twitter:</p><p><br></p><p>More from Wunderkind:</p><p><br></p><p>Wunderkind is a performance marketing channel that delivers one-to-one messages across email and text at an unmatched scale.</p>
02:03 MIN
What Key Pillars Should Luxury Brands Focus on When Defining Their Digital Strategies?
03:27 MIN
Display Ads and Third Party Cookies Have Become More Costly and Less Effective - How Have You Been Able to Drive Efficiencies With These Channels?
04:51 MIN
Why Does Traditional Performance Marketing Not Work for Luxury Brands?
05:04 MIN
How Do You Navigate Relationships With the C-Suite?
05:14 MIN
Did Your Go-to-Market Strategy Change During the Recession?
02:29 MIN
How Important Is First Party Data From a Luxury Brand Perspective?
02:29 MIN
What Is Your Prediction for Luxury Retail in the Future?
03:21 MIN

Today's Hosts

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Vern Tremble

|Senior Director, Marketing, Wunderkind
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Richard Jones

|Chief Revenue Officer, Wunderkind

Vern Tremble: Welcome to another episode of Individuality Unleashed. Today, I'm sitting down with Doris Childs. Thank you so much for joining us, Doris.

Doris Childs: Thank you for having me.

Vern Tremble: So glad to be chatting with you today. Doris is a commercially minded and data driven digital marketer with 15 years of experience across performance and brand marketing, specializing in luxury brands. Today, we're going to be talking about how luxury brands are redefining digitally native strategies. Want to do that?

Doris Childs: Yeah. I'm up for it.

Vern Tremble: Okay. Sweet. So let's start with the first question, Doris. Well, before we get into our first question, I think it might make sense if you can give just a little bit more detail about you and your career, your background and any of your areas of expertise.

Doris Childs: Sure. So as you said, I've been in the business for about 15 years. I would say about 10 years of that, I worked for luxury brands. I have a mixed background, so I've been in agency side, I've been brand side, I've done FMCG and now, I specialize more in e- commerce, in D2C brands and I feel like I've finally found my niche. I find myself or my days either applying performance growth mindset onto big glossy brand advertising and ideas and vice versa, adding the brand lens always to growth strategies, performance strategies. And they're two different worlds and often, one type of people don't think the other way, so I'm constantly jumping from one to another and I really actually love that. So it's been a long time coming, but I feel like I found where I need to be.

Vern Tremble: That's fantastic. So that breadth of knowledge and experiences has certainly set you up to have this conversation today.

Doris Childs: Hopefully.

Vern Tremble: Trust me, it has and I believe that our audience will find a lot of value in everything that you have to share today.

Doris Childs: Okay. Me too.

Vern Tremble: So Doris, what are the key pillars that you think luxury brands should focus on when defining their digital marketing strategy?

Doris Childs: So I had a thought about this and I actually think that any good strategy, marketing strategy especially, should start with the customer, so it's almost like having the customer in the center, whether it's a digital or traditional marketing strategy. No difference there. I think it's the basics of marketing. But I think what's really interesting about digital strategy is that the tools are constantly changing. The way the customers are using the tools is constantly evolving. The tech is shaping customer behaviors. The laws are changing, the context is changing, so the only constant in digital marketing is change and that makes it quite interesting to keep us on our toes, I suppose. So there's a balance of having a really good solid base strategy, but then constantly leaving yourself space to test these new changes that are happening in the industry. What if we took this format, but made it into a video, or what if we took this format and tried it on the different platforms, or what if we ran this for, I don't know, six weeks, as apposed to two weeks? Just little elements of change happening all the time and I think you are in a good place if your strategy is solid, but you always have room for agility, you always have room for testing, because you just have to go into it with an open mind, that it will never be what you put on paper. It will always change.

Vern Tremble: I love that. I think one of the things, as far as marketing is concerned, that we go into is hoping that with any new strategies that we deploy, any platform, any tools, that it'll be a big success and a hit, but you never know when you're testing out things.

Doris Childs: Oh, most of them fail, so that needs to be a mind set that not everything will be a success. And then when you find that one nugget that you can then scale up and hopefully, drive loads of incremental revenue, that's then worth shouting about. But I think a very important part of leading a digital marketing team and organization is to celebrate those fails, because that's part of the learning curve and I found it a lot in the businesses that I worked in, that a few years ago, we didn't know how to celebrate the fails, so then it became a bit of a blame culture. And then all of a sudden, we all looked at each other and we're like, " Well, actually, no. That's what makes people feel like they're not good enough. We need to turn it around and celebrate it." And I think a lot of businesses who have got bigger digital departments have now definitely made that change, which makes things much more fluid. It's part of the BAU basically.

Vern Tremble: I love that. Going into your strategy, understanding that the majority of the things that you do will potentially fail, but avoiding that blame culture, as you're saying.

Doris Childs: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Vern Tremble: Oh, I love that.

Doris Childs: It's important. I think especially with a lot of mental health issues and things like that, we talk about a lot today in the workspace, so yeah.

Vern Tremble: Right. Because it shouldn't be discounted that people work hard and people are making a lot of assumptions and establishing hypotheses and testing those. We don't know.

Doris Childs: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. That's the thing. We're guessing. It's always a hypothesis.

Vern Tremble: Exactly right. That's great. That's great. So as you know, the traditional digital marketing landscape, display ads and reliance on third party cookies have become more costly and less effective. Have you been able to drive efficiencies with these channels in the current climate?

Doris Childs: Well, so my point of view is that it doesn't need to be a diverse channel mix for the sake of a diverse channel mix. I think it needs to work for the brand first and foremost and if it means that you have less channels, but they work really well for your brand, that's okay. I don't need to have a display as part of my mix just for the sake of it. And for the luxury brand especially, I feel like the brand needs to have a leading role and how it gets executed in different channels might work, but might not work. Yeah. So my point of view in terms of the channel mix, and even coming into the depreciation of cookies, is that we don't need to shoehorn every channel into the marketing mix, just so we would have a diversity of channels. It needs to work for the brand and it doesn't need to be always on. It can be on and off, so I believe that display can work sometimes, but it doesn't have to work always and I think in performance marketing, you always have this always on mind set. It's not campaign planning. It always needs to be driving you revenue. So the way I approach channel mix is that I put the brand in the lead and I can't participate in every single format, every single channel, just because it might not work with the tech, or it might not win my feed, or it might not work with my content and I will then happily take a step back, or I'll amend that. For display, for example, specifically because you asked, it's like I might be able to only participate in 20% of the formats, because I don't want the small formats. I don't want them to minimize my brand in wherever they show up basically. Even talking about taking Wonderkind as an example, off the shelf, it's a performance product and when we first started using it in some of the brands that I worked in, you amend it. For the first six months, we amended the off- the- shelf product to work for the luxury brand that we wanted just to put on the table for the customer, which meant we weren't able to reap the benefits of all your best practices, but we also meant that we created new best practices for Wonderkind, which after having chatted with my team, is something that they thought were never going to work, but actually outperformed everything that we set out. So I think there's the beauty of it, is you're taking that brand approach to a performance channel, or format, or best practice and you see if it works. And I think I don't believe in spending a dollar, or hitting a spend for just for the sake of doing it, or because it worked in my last job, it's going to work in this job. So I hope that inaudible.

Vern Tremble: It does. And I imagine it's especially true for luxury brands, where it's less about driving or delivering performance for the sake of driving revenue, but more so instilling or ensuring that your brand integrity is upheld-

Doris Childs: Yeah. Exactly.

Vern Tremble: ... throughall communication. Through all-

Doris Childs: And that's always a priority. The brand integrity always wins over the last click demand, or last click sales basically. And it's one that it's easy to forget. If you see the sales rolling in, you're like, " This is great. Let's do more of that." But you really have to force yourself and sometimes, you don't force yourself. Your CMO forces you, or your brand marketing colleague forces you to rethink it and then you're like, " Actually, hold on a minute." And I find often, myself challenging those product roadmaps and different vendors that we work with for the first time, so they haven't done it before. They haven't needed to do it before, because no client has ever asked them that before. So that is one part of the job I really enjoy, is going into it where no one's been before and really pushing the roadmaps, pushing the account managers that we're speaking with and it's usually painful, but it's twice as rewarding.

Vern Tremble: So next question for you, Doris. Why does traditional performance marketing not work for luxury brand consumers?

Doris Childs: I don't think it doesn't work for the consumers. I think it works for the consumers, or the consumer doesn't necessarily think about it in that way. It's part of their behavior. They just want to find what they're looking for and it does work for the consumer. It doesn't work for the brand and I think it usually doesn't work for the CMO, because they don't really imagine the brand to turn up in that way, or show up in that way and that's where the problem comes from. Because if it didn't work with the consumers, then there wouldn't be any revenue, but it does work with the consumer in that way. And I think we always want to think about not the last sale. It's more the brand and making sure that the brand can still outlive all these performance formats and whatever might happen in the next 50 years and we're still going to be here, so it's the longevity game, and that's the lens of the brand marketer I think, when we look at our performance, so making sure that if I look back on those ads, I don't know, a year's time or two years' time, we could still be proud of ourselves over that. So I think it's not so much that it doesn't work for the consumer. It just doesn't work for the company and that's why we need to find a balance between the two basically, or we need to compromise one towards the other. I also think that performance marketing itself, fashion brands love to talk about beautiful words like elevated and designer and luxury, whereas performance has got a bad rep, I think, as being that part of marketing that helps you meet the quarter, or a quick lever when something needs to be done. I spend a lot of time repositioning that mindset in the company and talking about longer term levers and longer term strategies, rather than, okay, we're down 20%. Let's do a flash sale. I think that's dangerous territory and I spend a lot of time even keeping chat away from it, or even training the planning and the forecasting team, that they can't come to us with that question. We're not interested in running anything like that. That's a dangerous territory, because then that will start having an impact on your consumer, because the consumer then will become used to knowing, " Oh, well, they're going to have a payday sale, or I can always get that 20% off or something." And I think this is when you start losing the brand equity. It's not so much about the always on, by doing a good job for full price, or a new season and things like that. So I try and stay away from that pure performance, I maybe call it and also train the company to think that way.

Vern Tremble: That makes a lot of sense and I love the point that you make about the consumers instilling, for lack of a better word, poor behaviors when it comes to interacting with your brand, with that expectation that eventually, they're going to have a doorbuster sale.

Doris Childs: Yeah. Exactly. And I think we do need to be mindful of the customer and especially in the recent six months, building strategies. I don't know if you guys had that in the US, but in Europe, we were massively impacted by the war and the recession and our electricity prices going through the roof, like people literally not having money to heat their houses. And then you think, how can we put something out there for the customers, that they can still buy presents, they can still gift? Because these needs don't go away, to pass along some humanity to our customers. And it's then coming on to adding value pieces and making sure that we gift wrap for free, or we make that gift really special, or they feel like it's worth spending that money, rather than saying, " Oh, it's 50% off," which what a lot of retailers and a lot of brands did have to go down. So you do have to be mindful of the customer and the economy that the customer lives in, but at the same time, you don't want to chip away on your brand equity while doing that, so adding value is a nice compromise for that.

Vern Tremble: That's great. I want to shift gears really quickly and talk less so about the consumer relationships that you have with your brand to your consumer, but now I want to talk about what's going on internally, with inside a brand when it comes to relationships, specifically the relationships between CMO, digital marketers and CFOs, those that control the P& L for the business. I'm curious to know what has been your relationship with CFOs and other executive leaders within the brands that you've worked for?

Doris Childs: Yeah. I think that communities have definitely come a lot more closer together in the last few years. There is a lot more dialogue between the marketing community, the CFO, digital marketing especially and it's happened because of COVID, I think, as a starting point, but it's continued since then. And I would definitely say that my CFO now knows when to reach out to me with what topics, but it's not always been that way. And I had to spend quite a lot of time building that credibility with the CFO and sometimes, it would require literally just sharing things with them that might help them in their job, or might help them understand the context a little bit better and sometimes it's speaking up in meetings, where marketing doesn't usually chip in basically. So a lot of those slightly awkward conversations later, I think they starting to see the value and my general approach has always been about upskilling in a organic way. I don't want to be a know- it- all approach. It's more like whether you're talking to a CFO, whether you're talking to an intern, you're always trying to build context around the answer that you're giving, so if someone sends you an email with a simple answer, you can just go back with a really simple reply, or you could say, " For this, this and this reason, that's why we want to do that." And immediately, they will understand a bit more about the big tech, the digital marketing, how it works, how spend is a big part of us driving sales. So it's finding those moments of education at all levels and I really encourage my team to do the same at their levels, so going back to their peers, they're always upskilling while they're doing BAU basically. And I think one key thing is that it's so easy to relate to traditional marketing. It's everywhere around us. We've watched TV for years, we see billboards and if you talk about out of home, or if you talk about a TV ad, everyone's seen it. Everybody knows what that is. I really think that performance marketing sometimes can be a little bit invisible and people are like, " Oh, are these ads?" Or, "Oh, I didn't realize this was an affiliate article," or things like that. It's quite technical in some ways and that's what makes it harder to understand and that's why I feel like I have a space to add value to the conversation around cookies, around iOS, around CPA, commission rates, whatever. I think shedding light on how the industry works is something that I can chip in in those conversations.

Vern Tremble: That's great. So in order to become a better internal advocate, not only for yourself, but for the business, being ready and able and willing to share information and educate.

Doris Childs: You can go in and be an expert who just knows it all and takes all the decisions, or you can bring everybody along with you and try and help them understand why you're making those decisions, or where it's coming from. So I've always felt like the second option is easier in a way, because you then just don't go in and out and you're replaced by another expert. You actually make other people experts. I still remember this article I read ages ago about there used to be people in companies who were head of electricity when electricity came in. People were just helping the world integrate with electricity or whatever and I'm like, " This is the same with digital." Ultimately, everyone's going to have to understand how it works. Right now, we have these people come in and talk about specific topics and tell you how to navigate around it, but ultimately, everyone's going to have to do it. So the sooner we get there, the better, I suppose.

Vern Tremble: That's great, Doris. I want to dig a little bit, now that we understand how CMOs and CFOs could and should work together with the education element. I know one topic that's really top of mind for many marketers is how has your overall go- to- market strategy changed with the recession for the brands that you've worked for?

Doris Childs: So on top of trying to be mindful of the consumer and what they're going through and what they're now forking out for, I think a really important part of planning for success in recession is also talent and having resource issues in your teams when we have a hiring freeze, or we hear a lot about the big tech layoffs. So I think that's a reality, that we need to think about when we might not be able to do everything. We're not to a sophistication we've used to doing it, or a scale that we're used to doing it, so we might have to compromise markets, or campaigns, or timelines in order to really focus on what's the core of our business, or what's the core value of our business? So I think I'm going to have to think a lot about in terms of how can I spread more work, bigger targets around either the same level of people, or less people, or how I might lose agency resource at the same time. I think in the last couple years, we've got so used to asking it, having it, asking it, having it, because we were such a big driver of the business. It needs to come back, take a step back and maybe we need to think more about how do we use data? How do we use platforms more wisely? How do we challenge our vendors a bit more? And I think first party data is very important when we start talking about that, because we get to be smarter. We have more time to think and less having to react, I suppose, just inaudible.

Vern Tremble: That's good. Which is actually a good segue to the next question. From a luxury brand perspective, how important is first party data?

Doris Childs: Yeah. Luxury brand, any brand, whatever you do, I think first party data is super important, because in the new GDPR world that we live in in Europe, without that, you don't really know who your customer is, or who your future customer is, I suppose. Because if you either don't know the first party data, you don't collect it, or a retailer collects on behalf of it, they will ultimately define your customer. So for us, it's hugely important, making sure that we collect it in a really honest way, but we also have a good value exchange with the customers. So it's not that they're giving something away without getting anything back. They feel like they're getting just as much out of that relationship as the brand does and I think that's what needs to be put at a front of a really good first party data. And it's hard to compete from a luxury brand, to compete with a luxury retailer, because the luxury retailer has huge scale, they have a very sophisticated back- end, they have a amazing supply chain, offering a discount here and there doesn't damage their brand. So they have a lot more front- end levers, I would say, to get their customer in. Whereas a brand would really have to think about what is the immediate value exchange to get people in? How do we keep them engaged? What can we offer them in the long run? What benefit will they get, like loyalty schemes and stuff? Because your scale is smaller than a retailer, so therefore, it will be less financially viable than for a retailer to do that. But still, for the sake of first party data, for the sake of caring for our customer, we feel like it's a very important strategic lever and when we talk about go- to- market strategy and recession, you focus on the small that brings the majority, rather than focus on the majority, who brings maybe a one- time purchase. So it's that sort of thinking.

Vern Tremble: That makes sense. This has been a really, really great conversation and I hate to end this, but I want to finish with one last question around what's your prediction for luxury retail in the future? Luxury brands and retailers.

Doris Childs: That's a really good question.

Vern Tremble: I know. I'm sorry. I just threw that one at you.

Doris Childs: I feel like there's a lot of chat around digital goods and going down the digital route. I think one trend I really love out of COVID is that everyone was predicting the world's going to go digital and it's all going to stay digital, but what's been really nice about it is how the digital and the physical have mixed and how people now go to the store and they use their phones, they use their digital aids, I suppose, to make that purchase in store. But the in purchase, especially in the luxury world, can be so powerful. Going and buying a luxury handbag from, let's say, a department store, where there's a million people there pushing, pulling, pushing, pulling from a little countertop for your brand, or walking into your own flagship store, having a dedicated person, a glass of whatever your fancy and choosing your product, it's such a powerful experience. So that digital, quick, scalable world cannot be brought to physical in that way and I like how the two mix. And when we talk about digital goods and NFTs and things like that, it's the same thing. It's using that digital technology to validate your physical products, or to be able to make sure that they can be validated 20 years, 30 years from now. I think that's quite a nice mix, which I think will probably continue and continue to grow. Do you know what I mean?

Vern Tremble: I do. Yeah. That's fantastic. And I think that's really great insight for our listeners when it comes to looking at the future and really prioritizing from a digital marketing perspective, that combination of in- store versus online and the power in combining those strategies. I think that makes a lot of sense and I think we're going to see more of that in the future.

Doris Childs: And there's a lot of martech that's supporting it. It's online and it's in store, various different products and I think it's nice how we're lending things from one to another and finding a world where both exist, so I think that will be interesting to see what else happens with that.

Vern Tremble: Fantastic. Well, Doris, thank you so much for taking time to sit down with us.

Doris Childs: No worries. I hope it was useful.

Vern Tremble: Oh my gosh. It was so useful. What are you talking about? It was so good. And we hope that you guys enjoyed yourself as well. Again, that's another episode of Individuality Unleashed.