August 24, 2009

Gliebers Dresses: CMO Candidate #2

We're here today to have a discussion with CMO Candidate #2, Maria Garcia, Online Marketing Executive at

Glenn Glieber (Owner): "... this Twitter campaign to Save Gertie is out of control. Who the heck paid for the airplane to fly over the building for an hour yesterday with a 'Save Gertie' banner trailing from the tail section? Now we're being mocked in the SmartBrief on Social Media publication. Many of you didn't think I read that thing, but I'm a hip CEO. Roger set me up a bunch of alerts and subscribed me to all of the leading trade journals, so I can follow the madness. And this is madness. Pepper, you're in charge of marketing, if Candi cannot fix this via social media, then please issue a press release or something that tells our side of the story."

Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchandising Officer): "Kevin, is that you?"

Kevin: "Yup, it's me!"

Candi Layton (HR and Chief Customer Officer): "We're about to continue a great Gliebers Dresses tradition, the group interview! Today, our candidate is Maria Garcia. She's the Online Marketing Executive at, an online pureplay that focuses on personalized products. Let's start the discussion."

Meredith Thompson: "How do you forecast demand for personalized products?"

Maria Garcia: "We're never trying to forecast how many t-shirts will have the phrase 'Have a Blast!' on them. We do a reasonable job of knowing how many t-shirts we'll sell by size and color."

Lois Gladstone: "You don't have a catalog to drive sales. So ... how do you drive sales?"

Maria Garcia: "Honestly, we have a vibrant online community that sells for us. You only get access to our discounts and promotions by being part of our community, and you only become part of the community by being invited by a friend, sort of like the way that Gilt operates, an indirect discount competitor of yours. This creates a level of exclusivity that is hard to match."

Meredith Thompson: "But how do you communicate the message without a catalog?"

Pepper Morgan (Interim CMO): "Let me ask the question in a different way. If you had the advantage of having a catalog, like we do here at Gliebers Dresses, how would that change how you would communicate with customers?

Maria Garcia: "In many ways, I think the catalog represents a different shopping environment, and a different customer. If I were lucky enough to be hired here, I'd look to keep the audience that likes to shop with catalogs, and I'd look to build a whole new audience using the community-based tools I've developed at I'd even consider creating a spin-off brand, similar merchandise, but different website, different brand identity, different level of community building, you know?"

Roger Morgan (IT and Operations): "Maria, can you describe the ingredients that comprise a hot dog?"

Maria Garcia: "What kind of question is that?"

Kevin: "I have a question for Maria. How do you measure the lifetime value of a customer who brings other customers into the community? In other words, you cannot be part of the community without being invited by a friend. So how do you measure the incremental value of community members who invite many friends?"

Maria Garcia: "Our database links all invites to the original community member. We allocate lifetime value on the basis of invites. We know that each invite is worth $70 of lifetime value. Before beginning this program, individuals who participated in our promotional program were worth $30 of lifetime value. So we know that each invite is worth an incremental $40 of lifetime value. Roger, would you be able to set up an environment like that here, so that if we implemented an invite-based community program, we could measure long-term value?"

Roger Morgan: "Sure, we'd just have to put that project on the book of work, and prioritize it as appropriate. Now Maria, I have a question for you. Which state was admitted to the Union first ... Wyoming, or New Mexico?"

Maria Garcia: "What kind of question is that?"

Kevin: "What type of tools do you use to analyze customer behavior?"

Maria Garcia: "We have an in-house customer database, and we feed database attributes from Google Analytics to our in-house customer database, called 'Cheyenne'. We do ad-hoc analyses with 'R', SQL, and Microsoft Access."

Roger Morgan: "How did you arrive at that toolset?"

Maria Garcia: "We purposely go with inexpensive, open-source solutions. Our merchandising systems are all written with open-source software, and are fully integrated with the customer database."

Roger Morgan: "Must be nice to build things from scratch, as opposed to having to integrate new solutions with old platforms."

Candi Layton: "You don't have a lot of catalog experience. How would you compensate for that lack of experience?

Maria Garcia: "I'd lean on Meredith, to be honest. Based on our discussion earlier today, she knows everything. I think the two of us could bring out the best in traditional techniques and new thinking."

Pepper Morgan: If Glenn asked you to forecast the change in performance of a catalog that was 116 pages, and now will be 124 pages, how would you do that?"

Maria Garcia: "I'd ask Meredith! Seriously, she would know of some sort of short-cut that I could use."

Lois Gladstone (Chief Financial Officer): We don't have a lot of money for marketing at Gliebers Dresses. How would you make every penny count in your marketing efforts?

Maria Garcia: "We don't have much money at Outside of a bit of paid search, almost all of our marketing is community-based marketing, it's basically free marketing."

Glenn Glieber: "I love free marketing!"

Maria Garcia: "And honestly, we'd love the free publicity you are getting over the Save Gertie campaign. Why would you ever want to stop that? Let the drama play out for another week or two, and then actually Save Gertie, send her someplace to 'retire' --- heck, have your Twitter audience decide where Gertie is saved. That should be worth a ton of PR."

Roger Morgan: "I think we want to eat Gertie, right Glenn?"

Meredith Thompson: "At our core, we're a cataloger. I haven't heard you say anything that suggests you believe in the future of cataloging. As Chief Marketing Officer, how would you grow our catalog business?"

Maria Garcia: "I don't think you should hire me if you want to grow a catalog business. You should hire me if you want to grow your dress business. Last time I checked, your business was named 'Gliebers Dresses', not 'Gliebers Catalog', right? It is my opinion that catalog marketers are obsessed with the catalog marketing channel. Why aren't catalogers obsessed with the merchandise? I've spent a lot of time researching the catalog industry, and I must admit, I'm baffled. While online brands have grown like weeds in the last decade, the catalog industry seems mesmerized by vendorspeak, the non-stop messaging that suggests that there's no better marriage in marketing history than a 128 page catalog with 120 pages of dead trees that the customer couldn't care less about, coupled with a website that acts as a glorified order form. And then you read about who it is that puts out these messages, and it is companies like ResponseShop. You guys work with ResponseShop, right? Well of course ResponseShop is going to volunteer messages like this, because it is in their financial best interest to do so. Tell me why the catalog industry hasn't revolted against this type of information campaign, because this information campaign sure failed to launch catalogers into the 10% EBT stratosphere, right?"

Glenn Glieber: "Well, we have to get Maria on a plane, so we'll have to stop this stimulating discussion right here. Pepper, I'm feeling a little bit uncomfortable with our page counts for the March 2010 catalog. Could you work up a quick scenario where we add, say, eight pages, and then see what that does to the bottom line? Thanks!"


  1. Anonymous10:21 PM

    Excellent segue in the series--outsiders looking in, almost like free consultants.
    In any event, each interviewee has provoked food for thought. I think this one's crucial mistake is making the challenge "don't hire me if..."--pretty much leads to interviewers dismissing them. Also she failed Roger's test which unfortunately dooms her. Ouch.
    But judging on content over form, she still falters--nothing wrong with hitting it off with merchandising officer, but contending you would lean on them to do your job suggests lack of experience. She also leans heavily on an IT department that seems lightyears ahead of Roger's budget--open source means high programmer costs, not "free".
    Finally she is dead in the water as she fails to realize or make any attempt to work within Glenn's catalog focus, which you stress again at end of meeting. I realize you killed a catalog division at Nordstroms,Kevin, but if you were to interview with 7th Avenue or Miles Kimball, would that be something you would advocate in the interview? Even if the option were viable for this company, I don't think it should be advocated until you have sustainable alternative in place. Nordstroms had the retails stores, but I don't think Gliebers has that nor a strong website.
    On the plus side, Maria does point out the spin potential from Gertie---sounds like someone read "Buzz Marketing"---wait, where's now?

  2. Anonymous8:09 AM

    Actually, "don't hire me if" can work for confident people looking to impress a potential employer that they are going to be leaders and change agents.

    But...not to speak for Kevin...but the point I take here is how your social network-built business marketer might have something to offer but is completely incompatible with an old-line cataloger's culture and would struggle mightily with their current business model.

    Ms. Garcia's final soliloquy is a great message for anyone in a business tied to a deliver method -- whether it's a cataloger, newspaper company or e-commerce business: focus on the product and the customer, and the most effective, compelling and profitable way to put one in the hands of the other.

  3. As always, it doesn't matter what I'm writing or what I'm thinking ... what matters is how you interpret the information.

    In the case of this candidate, you ask yourself what the value is of a candidate that comes from a totally different business model? What is the tradeoff between not being able to do the day-to-day job that the previous individual (Sarah Wheldon) could do in her sleep, and being able to add a new dimension to the position?

    What ultimately matters is what you think of that tradeoff.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Sameness: Tell Me Which Companies Are Selling The Products Here

You want to see a completely tepid, bland, homogenized shopping experience? Yes! Ok! Tell me the brands that are represented here. Good luck...