Thinking Omni-Channel AND Cross-Channel: Our Livecast with Henkel’s Ken Krasnow and LVMH’s Luis Spencer-Freitas

On April 30th, our Matt Wurst led a thought-provoking conversation with Vice President of Omni-Channel Marketing at Henkel, Ken Krasnow, and Director of Omni-Channel Marketing at Moët Hennessy, Luis Spencer-Freitas as part of the Our Brand Innovators LiveCast video series. Their conversation covered a variety of timely, relevant topics, including the meaning and nature of omni-channel marketing in their respective industries and for their brands in their portfolios, the importance of understanding and connecting with desired audiences, the “how-to’s” for striking the right balance in content as well as their respective approaches to channel experimentation.

How You Should Be Defining “Omni-channel” Marketing

The definition of  “omni-channel” marketing is often used interchangeably with “cross-channel,” and, according to Krasnow, inaccurately so. Despite the countless activations and interpretations of the term, Krasnow defines omnichannel marketing as a solution that, at its very core and most basic levels, is rooted in “orchestrating all channels through connection and integration.” This term, however, has a much different meaning than “cross-channel,” and Krasnow gave us the perfect way of juxtaposing both concepts. According to him, “cross-channel” simply means that “multiple channels are activated at the same time.” It lacks the high(er) level of advancement that omnichannel requires for creating a harmonious blend and seamless connection between all of your channels- both, digitally and face-to-face. Freitas summed all of this information up into one, impactful statement that differentiates both terms: “Cross-channel is 360, and omni-channel is 365.” 

But What Does Omni-channel Mean To You?

Now that the technicalities around the term “omni-channel” had been sorted out, it was time to open the conversation up to the unique ways in which both, Krasnow and Freitas, interpret omni-channel marketing in, and for, their respective industries and brands. In our conversation, the way that these marketers chose to interpret omni-channel varied according to factors, such as the nature of the business (D2C, B2B, B2C etc.) and the distinct industries that Henkel and Moët Hennessy brand compete in. Although the basic, textbook definition of “omni-channel” marketing is shared among all marketers, Freitas, who belongs in the D2C Luxury Wine and Spirits industry, has a unique philosophy that differs from Krasnow on what it means to integrate channels as a seamless point of connection. And the difference lies with whom both marketers are trying to connect. For Freitas, omni-channel marketing is rooted in connecting directly with the consumer, but for Krasnow, omni-channel marketing is rooted in making connections with retailers.

Freitas summed up his philosophy on this subject by recognizing the importance of channel adequacy over anything else. In making his point, Freitas stated that the best prerequisite for creating a seamless consumer is adequacy, over anything else. Before you focus on consistencies, you must develop the worth and value of your channels.

When Krasnow introduced us to his philosophy omni-channel marketing, he stated that rather reaching out to consumers in order to drive sales, the focal point of his version of omni-channel is “telling the right piece of narrative to the retailers” and “coordinating the tactics into one, harmonious ecosystem” in order to achieve this. Picking the right piece of the narrative challenges the marketer to choose the part of the brand’s story that will most effectively engage the listener and activate the right feelings and emotions. Telling the right piece of the narrative will not only introduce your target-market to your brand identity, but connect you both in a way that sparks memorable, impactful moments. And what is the connecting force between a brand and its target-market? Content. Purposeful content.

The Importance Of “Understanding Our Audience”

The conversation then transitioned into how both Freitas and Krasnow are adapting their strategies during unconventional times like this, when sensitivities, emotions and challenges to the competitive landscape are higher than they have ever been. Just when we thought our industries were advancing at significant levels, challenging marketers to adapt to and keep up with with new advancements, COVID-19 hit and disrupted everything. At the very core of our conversations with both marketers emerged a central theme: the importance of data and how it can be used to understand exactly who their audience is.

First up was Freitas, who led with the power that data holds, and how different sets of data can come together to tell a story. He paralleled this with the dramatic shift in the “obsession” over using data to understand your audience. Extracting and mining data holds a tremendous amount of opportunity to segment and profile your target-marketing according to its demographic, psychographic, and behavioral landscape. Understanding your target audience with these insights will help you connect with them the way that they want to be connected with. And, given these uncertain, sensitive times, connecting with the consumer is tricky.

Freitas then transitioned the conversation into one about the role of consumers’ feelings. The challenge that COVID-19 has brought to marketers requires us to become as sensitive as possible to the heightened feelings of our consumers. We are humanizing our strategies to offer a helping hand and partner to those who are most impacted. Given the current crisis and state of the market, Freitas told us that his long-term plans are becoming more immediate to the relevant situation, where instead of prioritizing pushing the product and driving conversion, he is now prioritizing “filling the need that is sensitive to the times.”

Understanding and being empathetic to the feelings of our audience also gives us meaningful insights into the performance and behavior of our different product categories. Freitas gave us an example when he mentioned an industry-wide decline in champagne sales. With overall morale not quite s celebratory, and gatherings and celebrations few and far between (at least 6-feet, we hope), as people continue to socially distance themselves from others and non-essential errands, certain products, like champagne, may not being having their “moment.” Certain categories of products, however, are surging in either grocery or ecommerce sales as shifts in phases of “panic buying” change as the weeks in quarantine continue to pass.

How Can You Strike The Right Balance Between Art And Science?

Krasnow endorsed Freitas’ overall point about the importance of data and its use for narrating a story. In doing so, he stated that, like Freitas, he is listening to what his consumers are saying and using the correct tools to optimize this in order to better understand exactly who audience composition, shifts, expectations and needs. Interestingly enough, he then proposed that understanding and interacting with your audience requires a delicate balance of art and science.

In many ways, the science piece of the puzzle is fueled by collecting data that uncovers exactly who, what, when, where and how your audience has conversations, looks for information and uses its emotions. These datasets and insights provide a blueprint for crafting omni-channel content that will effectively connect the brand with its audience and its genuine interests, needs and passions. The tricky part, however, comes in striking the right balance… and Krasnow and Freitas started the next portion of the conversation with their perspectives on striking the right balance in the complicated landscape in which we are living today.

First, Krasnow began by recognizing the reality for how alarmingly simple it is for a valuable member of the target audience to simply unfollow or block your brand from their social feed if their trust in the brand is broken. To avoid this, the art (or content) side of the balance must be purposeful. It must serve the consumer, who is the center of the universe. The content must be niche, narrow and highly focused on the problem that the brand wants to solve. This brings the brand to life and builds a cushion of trust that does not inspire followers to unfollow the brand.

Freitas then put in his two cents, exemplifying how his interpretation of balance in the context of the pandemic and its effect on content consumption.

“Think about the number of emails that you have gotten concerning how your favorite brands are responding to the pandemic, he challenged the audience of over 400 viewers. “With a series of emails spamming your inbox, there comes a point where nothing beyond the subject lines of it are read before they are deleted.”

At Moët Hennessy, Freitas recognizes this behavior, is working with his team to refine the strategy and publish content that the user will not delete. Instead, he hopes it will “enhance your day-to-day at home.” He gave the examples of including simple Moët  recipes in newsletter emails that will more effectively engage and interest the user. Who doesn’t want to experiment with a new recipe while being stuck in quarantine? So what were the results? Newsletter readers and email subscribers actually shared many of these recipes on their own social channels. Freitas boiled down this notion of striking the right balance of content: “It’s not more content, it’s more relevant content.”

Channel Experimentation And Optimization

With so much in-depth discussion on the meaning, interpretations and evolution of omni-channel marketing, the natural progression flowed into the importance of optimizing and, in some case, experimenting with the right channels. The remaining minutes of their conversation together covered digital and social platforms strategy and execution, and how Freitas and Krasnow approach the experimentation of new platforms.

Freitas recognized that a variety of tools must be used to maneuver the brand in order to reach consumers and drive them down the conversion funnel — and in a very careful manner. Marketers in the luxury wine and spirits industry must be especially careful in engaging the right (and legal) age bracket. Despite the significant growth and potential opportunities in certain channels, such as TikTok, brands in this industry must be especially mindful of their audience and the younger demographic that many of these emerging platforms attract. This is one reason why, according to Freitas, he views channel experimentation as less of a priority for experimentation and investment in new channels for his brand. Instead, his focus is mostly focused on pivots in content within existing channels, especially now, to be more empathetic and engaging.

Henkel’s diverse portfolio of brands – from laundry care to health and beauty products – allows for more experimentation and less restriction between social platforms. Krasnow pointed to two platforms as examples in which Henkel has recently experimented in light of recent shifts in content consumption. Recognizing significant opportunities on Pinterest and TikTok, consumers are seeking out and creating more DIY experiences and at-home self-care inspiration and content. Krasnow admits that he was shocked by some of the early results from experimenting with these channels, especially TikTok. Henkel’s hair-focused brands have performed exceptionally well in driving views on TikTok, making it a “great experience” for the company.

So… Now What?

There is a ton of insightful, jam-packed information that came out of  our conversation with Ken Krasnow and Luis Freitas, but so much of the wisdom that they shared can be rooted in a general theme: The biggest takeaway is that using an omni-channel marketing approach to facilitate a seamless and holistic connection between brands and audiences requires great content. With the power of purposeful, data-driven content and omni-channel strategies, we can help your brand establish a meaningful, last connection with your consumers and customers the right way.

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