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An Interview with L.L. Bean CMO, Steve Fuller

December 8, 2014 — by Rachel Meranus    

Steve Fuller, CMO of Maine headquartered  L.L. Bean, recently sat down with Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade, to discuss digital marketing. You can read that interview here.

As a follow up to that, Steve sat down with MediaMath’s head of marketing, Rachel Meranus, to dive a bit deeper into L.L. Bean’s use of MediaMath’s TerminalOne Marketing OS™ in driving their programmatic strategies.

Rachel Meranus: How do you see the role of programmatic advancing for L.L. Bean?

Steve Fuller, CMO, L.L. Bean: With the new year around the corner, I see programmatic as a critical connection to reaching and driving engagement with our consumers. It’s not just a means of accessing remnant inventory; in fact, we will be driving more and more of our direct buys through our programmatic platform in the year to come. And as we ramp up our usage of programmatic, we’re testing interesting things like in-app advertising through MediaMath and iAd, advancing our use of programmatic social; and, we hope to be testing programmatic TV in the new year. But as you know, this is all a means to an end; the real goal is driving the efficiency of L.L. Bean’s marketing programs. Programmatic is part of that process. In addition, I see programmatic advancing the attribution and performance insights for L.L Bean’s marketing efforts. As a traditional cataloger, we sit on a wealth of quality first-party data. TerminalOne allows us to leverage that first-party data in ways we never could before. Lastly, I see programmatic technology increasing performance for us through the consolidation of touch points into one platform.

Meranus: You mention scale as a benefit of programmatic for L.L. Bean, can you elaborate on that a bit more? What are some of the other benefits? How are you employing ‘test and learn’ strategies?

Fuller: Yes – it starts with the consolidation of touch points that we just discussed. Programmatic allows us to easily look across customer groups, creative treatments, content stacks – you name it. We can measure revenue and, depending on performance, reallocate resources to optimize revenue for the organization. L.L. Bean has a very long history of “test and learn.” It’s been a core marketing principle here for over 100 years. Programmatic provides the perfect platform to continue that discipline and it’s one of the key reasons that we made the move.

Meranus: Do you think it was beneficial to have a programmatic platform in place during this busy holiday season?

Fuller: Definitely. Whether it’s a video campaign, banners or combinations, we are able to see how those views translated into site visits and ultimately shopping cart check outs. We can tie back actual advertising revenue to our strategies and ROI goals. This is extremely important to us. From the “pre-holiday” season up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and beyond, our programmatic campaigns have been and will be crucial in our seasonal marketing efforts.

Meranus: Lastly, you mention you have a ways to go with programmatic and I know from our conversations that a lot of this is focused on putting the right team in place. You’ve got the foundation of a terrific team today, and I understand you are continuing to build out that group. What are some of the skill sets are you looking for?

Fuller: When it comes to staffing our programmatic team, there are definite traits that we look for in potential hires. Many overlap with the skills required in all of our marketing positions, but a few are unique to this area.

• We look for people who ask “does this make sense?” There’s a lot of data flowing through these processes and consistency is still a challenge. It’s far too easy to sit back and accept the numbers blindly. If outcomes feel that they’re “defying gravity,” we want someone who’s willing to dig into the detail to better understand the dynamics.

• The ability to “interpret” is also valued here. Too often, there’s a temptation just to push along reports. We want people who can narrate a point-of-view, e.g. “Here’s what this means and here’s what we should do…” Yes, you’ll be wrong occasionally. But if you’re learning from those mistakes, you’re going to come out way ahead.

• Attention to detail. These systems are only as good as the data that goes into them. If you’re not paying attention – or don’t understand – your 3PAS tags, pixels, etc., you’re going to have a rough day. Especially when the results are challenging.

• Experience in advertising? Yes, it definitely helps and the work that MediaMath is doing to train future leaders in this area is amazing. But some of our most valuable employees in this area have never worked for an agency or in an advertising department. They’re smart, they ask questions and they want to push the program forward. And that matters most of all. We are actively recruiting so if you know any great marketers who have both the qualitative and quantitative skillset – creative + analytical – send them our way!

Meranus: I sure will! Thanks for your time, Steve!

Fuller: Thank you.

Learn more about MediaMath Retail here.