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Wanted: CMO Magician at Home Depot

I was reading an article in MediaPost regarding Home Depot and the decision to replace ROGER ADAMS, who has been in the position for just one year with John Ross, the new vice president/advertising.   We've all seen this movie before, a company with declining sales brings in a CMO to right the ship.

Adams described his strategy at the Association of National Advertisers Conference (as quoted from Sarah Mahoney in Mediapost:

"Adams talked about the reinvention of Home Depot as being "our home improvement project. The magic behind the brand is the emotional connection, the power of 'I did it.' Home Depot's overall strategy is to deliver empowerment to people." Adams oversaw ads that let all kinds of consumers--Hispanics, African-Americans, and single moms--show off what they were able to accomplish with the Home Depot's help."

Having worked with multiple Fortune 100 companies it could be pretty safe to say that Adam's career "unfolded" as follows:

Job Interview:    Roger, Home Depot needs you.  Your solid track record of developing marketing campaigns that turned around brands is impressive.  We think you can bring that kind of insight to "Home Depot"  We have world class resources, advertising agencies and people, but we need you to shape the image of the company in order to drive sales.  And oh by the way if you survive you are going to be rich based on this options package.  Don't forget the keys to the company car after you sign the contract.

Roger:  I accept.  Now let me get at the data and see where the need gaps are.

Agency:  Roger, based on our research sales are going down because do it yourselfers do not have confidence.  You need a big campaign that appeals to the everyman so that they have an emotional connection with Home Depot.  If you look at the studies for every successful campaign we have done at "big agency" while ignoring the campaigns that were done for those failed brands (which of course was not our fault since the product was flawed) you can see that emotional advertising is where you need to go.

Roger:  You are right.  I need to excite this organization and hold a mirror up to our customers and employees and rebuild the pride in Home Depot.  Do you think we can address the store experience so the advertising matches what happens when someone actually comes to the store.

Home Depot CEO:  Roger you are new.  Prove yourself and maybe you'll earn the organizational influence to change what is not yours.  Play in your sandbox.

Customer lost in aisle 17 of  Home Depot:  Now where are the custom blinds.  I've found them.  Hmm, I need help.  Help...someone help me.

Home Depot CEO:  Roger, that campaign that you are running doesn't seem to be getting us any traction.  Yes I know you've only been running it for 6 months, and yes I know that network TV just doesn't do the job you think you need to do.  And stop complaining about operations and the store experience, that's not your job.

Roger:  *&?#%(#

I could go on and on.  Usually companies believe that the CMO's job is to create communications that define the brand on one dimension - perception in the absence of store and customer experience.  Yet the CMO has little influence to "move the planets".  In other words to make the organizational changes necessary to project a clear positioning to the market.  The agency wanting to collect its fees does its best, but since they narrowly are looking at communications as the only tool at their disposal, are not considering the authenticity of the entire customer experience.

It's just a guess.  Best of luck to Roger Adams and John Ross.  I'm sure Roger is thinking..."John, you are going to need more than luck".


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