Tiffany Coletti Kaiser: “Don’t play price wars with less-worthy quality offerings”

User experience is the number one shift and comes in a few ways: Where some primary brick and mortar outfits have relied on beautiful in-store displays, experiences, and events — the shift to digital requires a level of visual stimulation that bucks product catalogue scroll pages. Simple areas of improvement can be seen on experiences, from local […]

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User experience is the number one shift and comes in a few ways: Where some primary brick and mortar outfits have relied on beautiful in-store displays, experiences, and events — the shift to digital requires a level of visual stimulation that bucks product catalogue scroll pages. Simple areas of improvement can be seen on experiences, from local grocery store’s enhancing their photography of products, and creating more “fanciful” descriptions to their offerings to big box retailers creating digital immersions to better understand products in an effort to replicate a consumers (in)ability to touch, feel, and hear products and offerings.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Coletti Kaiser, EVP of Marketing at Digital Remedy.

Tiffany has been conceiving and launching platform-agnostic, idea-centric marketing communications programs, platforms, and products since her teens at global communications networks like Grey Worldwide, McCann Worldgroup and ambitious independent shops like Eleven Inc. and Translation. She’s partnered with brands, independent agencies and holding companies to create new operational strategies, business development plans, digital team connectivity and creative infiltration of traditional systems. As EVP of Marketing at Digital Remedy she is responsible for global positioning, client acquisition, business development strategy, and marketing execution. Her success in business and marketing has earned her the distinction of AdAge “Woman to Watch” and the “Outstanding Achievement in Business” recognition by The Lab School, Washington, D.C., a merit she shared with Dannel Malloy, former Governor of Connecticut.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After 15 years of creative agency leadership roles, including Managing Director of a shop geared specifically at changing culture, I was frustrated by the ongoing pressure from clients to deliver value for less and less each year. It was clear to me that the agency model was broken. I took a break from the grind of 20-hour days as a sport, and decided to look into areas of marketing where the model didn’t have to remain broken, or at least where the cycle of “do more for less” had a chance of not depleting entire economies. This realization and pivot landed me at Digital Remedy, a culture designed entirely to produce value for clients, and one that remains untethered by “the cycle” because clients like results, don’t mind paying for success, and happily engage with white glove service.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

“The most interesting” is a tough thing to pin down: A blind celebrity seeking visual approval of a Super Bowl Spot. Having Billy Bean as a client during the “Moneyball” days (pre-blockbuster movie with Brad Pitt). Meeting politicians (yes, John Boehner does cry in person, too), philanthropists (Melinda Gates is lovely), movie stars, athletes (working with Kobe will forever be a banner moment for me), attending award shows (they are all boring in person), Olympic Games (Vancouver was a blast), and festivals (Sundance is still my favorite) all over the world, launching the only West Coast based airline with the Virgin America team and meeting Sir Richard Branson, a fellow dyslexic… Interesting is tough. Personally: After years of experience building some of the biggest brands, my shift to digital media has provided me a lens of performance I never considered as vital to a brand’s short- and long-term success. The evolution of data, and the ease in which marketers can now access, visualize, and draw insights from it, has shifted my perception of massive “brand budgets.” Maybe effective budgets that work toward greater ROI and ROAS rather than simply awareness or affinity can be equally sexy?

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Without mistakes I’d be nowhere today…. But, how about this: a massive sales meeting, for a top Fortune 100 organization, in Las Vegas, about ten thousand attendees. I work for the agency that is about to debut a billion-dollar ad campaign in partnership with the CMO. At the time, I was a lowly minion on the team, but clearly impressed the bosses enough to be there. In my head, I was a big shot. So big that I freely and opening spoke disparagingly of our lead client, specifically their poor attitude. Well, that lead client (the CMO) was standing right behind me, watching me as I spoke. Tough lesson in “shut your mouth and do the work” and “my opinion of people has no bearing on the work.” But a lesson nonetheless. Luckily she forgave me, and we remain friendly today. But the red-faced heart attack in the moment was one to knock me out for a while.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I feel like we are always working on fun, exciting projects at Digital Remedy, and most of them are designed to help people. I’m so passionate about the work that we are doing to help my agency friends have an easier time accessing the digital media landscape and watching them add value to their clients without burdening their own bottom lines: AdReady+ project has really been a silver lining to this otherwise not-so-fun 2020. So often scrappy agency shops have been forced to compete with the massive holding company’s scale/volume that they are left in the dust when it comes to major funding plays. This will no longer be the case for agencies who deploy AdReady+, as they are getting access to the Digital Remedy volume and scale, the same real-time analytics our teams use, and 20 years of data to create hard-working media plans for their clients. It’s so good that it almost makes me want to go back to the agency side, almost. 🙂

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Burnout is 100% a thing, even for people, like me, that have always wanted to be in advertising, or marketing, or creative services. We aren’t saving lives, but the pressure sure feels greater than necessary at times. My best advice: first, fall in love with your own brand of success. Then find people you love working with and who are also driven by that brand of success. At the end of the day, you won’t always succeed, but you’ll be surrounded by colleagues you call friends. That’s priceless.

Oh, and read as much as you can, as often as you can. Staying “up” in all things industry is vital to successful campaign outcomes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

If I had to pick one person, it would be my role model and biggest cheerleader: my mom. She has championed every moment of my career journey, challenging me to think about things in different ways, celebrating my successes and failures, and pushing me when I didn’t have any push left. There are no words to thank her for her time, love, efforts, and most importantly the example she set for me. But there are two other people who are integral in my success: 1) Casey Jones, my former boss and longtime mentor who very early on believed there was something special about me — giving me the confidence to take risks, and put my ideas/voice out on the table. In my earliest days working on the Oracle Business for Grey San Francisco (pre-WPP acquisition), Casey had enough faith and confidence in me to bring me into the room with Larry (Ellison) and Safra (Catz) to discuss global brand strategy in advance of the PeopleSoft merger. Allowing me to attend this meeting provided me with insights into “the big leagues”, which would have ordinarily taken me decades to learn. It also taught me the importance of poise, patience, and partnership.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a true dyslexic — pinned by the headmistress of my private school in fourth grade as someone who would never work a cashier at a fast food counter — it has been my mission to ensure a positive story about the power of a dyslexic brain, and give a “feel good” story to an otherwise very scary moment for many children and their families when a learning difference is identified. The human brain is a fascinating and complex computer; impressionable and malleable, requiring unique programming to optimally function. Celebrating unique minds has afforded me the ability to create world class teams, be an empathetic leader bringing people along on the journey to success, and afford clients the use of my “computer” to benefit their brand and bottom line.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

User experience is the number one shift and comes in a few ways: Where some primary brick and mortar outfits have relied on beautiful in-store displays, experiences, and events — the shift to digital requires a level of visual stimulation that bucks product catalogue scroll pages. Simple areas of improvement can be seen on experiences, from local grocery store’s enhancing their photography of products, and creating more “fanciful” descriptions to their offerings to big box retailers creating digital immersions to better understand products in an effort to replicate a consumers (in)ability to touch, feel, and hear products and offerings. 2) Stronger, smarter use of CRM has afforded smart retailers the ability to pull users down the funnel faster by cutting out the uncertainty of foot traffic. This means better retargeting strategies for paid buys, leveraging that data to inform email communications and unique offer generation. 3) Connection/partnership to a delivery app. In a real-time society, having something in a few hours is priceless, and now what consumers demand. Much like they could “run to the store” pre-COVID, consumers now crave that same speed; retailers have adopted the food delivery culture with varying degrees of success, connected to the user experience they offer within the delivery app platform, and product availability.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

The “mall” is very much still in play. On the coasts and specifically in major metropolitan areas, we have a bit of PTSD from this pandemic, but in most places in the country, community congregation for church services, shopping, and events hasn’t slowed/ceased at the same rate. The shelter-in-place and quarantine orders have instead highlighted and possibly over exaggerated what I called “culture of laziness” in August 2019. Amazon Prime has conditioned consumers to expect lightning fast delivery and created a significant benchmark for e-commerce shipping. While Amazon Prime is at an advantage given the company’s full control of the entire distribution chain, delivery services like Instacart and Postmates still in many ways rely on the physical infrastructure and B&M locations to succeed. Many retailers have opted into pick-up reservations, delivery services, and even appointment-based shopping to compete in the current economic climate. While the focus may currently be on digital offerings, physical retail locations will still play a role in the consumer journey to some degree.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Data. Data. Data. Collect, clean, analyze, visualize, and study it. Then draw insights, formulate strategies, and execute them — and then do it again. Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco have done an exceptional job of this, and continue to optimize their entire offering as a result of the data: from product creation, promotions, sales, distribution to communications, media buys, online offering v. in store, and re-courses as needed. If you are a retailer, and you’re not familiar with your CRM, your consumer buying habits, and how marketing plays into it all — start getting familiar today, it will be your life line.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Don’t play price wars with less-worthy quality offerings. Instead, invest in your brand, and create subscription models that garner surprise-and-delight moments for your customers and further exemplify why they chose you — your brand, your product, your service — over the less expensive, faster option.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Years ago, my husband and I made the decision when we had our first child that we would not post him/her on social media, no one we know has since gotten on board with that movement. And, as much as I love seeing the details of every baby I’ve never met play out on my phone every night… I worry so much about the data being collected as part of this behavior, and what it means for the future of a generation. SO my movement would be to protect our children better from what we do not know, or yet understand. We put them in car seats, make them wear helmets, and teach them not to open the door to strangers; and yet we invite thousands of people into their little world’s every day via social media, with no regard for the potential outcome.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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