Fail Fast and Pivot

Episode #022: Rochelle Hartigan, Leader of Brand and National Advertising for GE Lighting

Episode Information

This week’s episode is the second in a series of live interviews that we conducted while at MMA Impact.

Let’s talk failure. Most of us are programmed to hate failure and try to avoid it all costs especially when it comes to our work life. We want to avoid failing at our job and want to deliver results for our business. However, this runs counterintuitive to the type of mindset that is required for testing out new marketing channels or approaches. To truly test, we need to get extremely comfortable with failure because the very nature of testing means that we’re going to sometimes succeed and other times fail miserably. That’s why we can’t see a test that doesn't deliver the results we want as an actual failure, but a learning experience of what doesn’t work for our brand. The key is knowing when to pivot from something that isn’t working and when to scale a concept that does deliver results. In this episode of Mobile Matters, we talk to the Leader of Brand and National Advertising at GE Lighting, Rochelle Hartigan, about the value of a partner network, why it's OK to fail fast and pivot, and how you should handle shiny objects.

Stephanie's Strong Opinions

  1. Don't underestimate the importance of having a strong partner network. They can provide invaluable guidance about how you should be thinking about your brand, what technology you need to consider, and so much more.
  2. Failure is okay when you’re testing out new concepts. You shouldn’t expect everything to always work.
  3. Shiny objections are often both a distraction and a potential benefit. The secret is figuring out which one before investing a lot of time.

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Stephanie Cox (VP Marketing at Lumavate) : I'm Stephanie Cox in this is mobile matters.

This week's episode is the second inner series of live interviews that we conducted while at MMA impact. We had a great time networking with mobile marketing leaders of the event and had the opportunity to sit down with some of the attendees to talk about how they think about mobile strategy in their organization. What’s working in their business and where they think the future mobile is headed today. Today, I'm joined by Rochelle Hartigan. Rochelle is the leader of Brand and National advertising for GE lighting, responsible for branding creative content development, and National Consumer advertising. She advocates for well placed ads and promotions paired with exceptional storytelling to help consumers make the most of their product buying experience that serves to improve their daily lives. She's also previously worked for major brands such as Vitamix, Our Pets company, Jo-Ann Fabrics and more. In this episode Rachelle and I talked a lot about how her career in marketing evolved and then her major roles she’s playing at GE lighting today, the importance of being true to your brand while also pushing it forward, and why it is actually okay to fail. And make sure you stick around till the end where I’ll give my recap and top take aways so that you can not only think about mobile differently but implement it effectively! Welcome to the show, Rochelle.

So you have a really impressive background. Can you tell me how you got started in marketing?

Rochelle Hartigan (Marketing Director at GE): Sure, yes! So I actually started my career in retail, on the retail side of the business. So my first job out of college was with the Sherwin-Williams Company and I moved my way through a couple of retailers. A very small chain that at the time was called Sesame Street Stores was my next move, and then eventually into the corporate offices of JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores, if you know those. 

Stephanie Cox: Yes, I do.  

Rochelle Hartigan: Your mother probably dragged you there when you were a little kid and you sat among bolts of fabric and waited for her to be done shopping. 

Stephanie Cox: And now I do that to my children! 

Rochelle Hartigan: Yes, right?! Or you make scrapbooks and jewelry. Yes, so what I learned through that was that I had a really strong love for the retail environment and for the consumer marketplace. So when I felt like I had learned what I wanted to learn in retail, I moved out to the brand side of the business and I joined a small pet product company, which was a really interesting experience. And they were sort of learning their way into how to be more relevant in retail. So, it was a good bridge for me to take all the experience that I'd had from years of being behind the scenes and the retail side of the business into branding and then found my way to a couple bigger brands. So the first was Vitamix blenders, which was a really interesting journey to a brand that's become so iconic and so aspirational. And then GE came calling and I've been there for the past five years, and the chance to be part of such a big, important brand in the industry was very tempting. It's been very fun and a good journey. So that's sort of been my path. 

Stephanie Cox: I love that. So, tell me about what all of you do at GE. 

Rochelle Hartigan: Sure! So, I lead branding and advertising. So, we run very lean–I guess I'll say that. So the importance for us of having good partners out there in the industry is important. So, I lead our packaged development, the messaging around any products that we're either developing or currently have in the marketplace. And then on the advertising side of that, it's how we talk to our consumers about all our good technologies and products and how we engage them through the journey of the path to purchase from the very high level awareness all the way to that point when they're standing at the shelf and making a decision about what they're going to buy. So, that's my role in the company. 

Stephanie Cox: That's awesome! So, it's a lot of things. And I can see how your experience has really made you probably super exceptional at being able to do all of those things.

Rochelle Hartigan: It was good training for sure, and I think part of the reason my role has evolved into what it is, is that I have a lot of that background of understanding retailers, understanding the different aspects of going-to-market and taking products to consumers so it's prepared me well. Yes, so it's been fun.

Stephanie Cox: So you've seen a lot in your career you've had a variety of experience. So, how has marketing changed over the last 10-15 years that you've seen?  

Rochelle Hartigan: I think in a couple really important ways. One is just the way consumers come to find out about products. So, I think we used to rely both as consumers and as marketers, right, we relied a lot on just seeing advertisements. Media was sort of our way to become aware of some new product or some new solution for our lives. But that's changed quite a lot, too. There are influencers who are talking to us through things like social media and blogs that didn't exist before. And there are ways to catch a consumer right in the moment when they're going to make a purchase when they're standing in the aisle. And aside from what used to be just in-store signage, we can do that in various ways now through their phone and through other types of technologies that have really evolved. 

Stephanie Cox: So, with all of these changes that you've seen, what is the biggest challenge facing marketers today? 

Rochelle Hartigan: Yes, I think there are, again, a few.

Stephanie Cox: I wish there was just one, right? 

Rochelle Hartigan: I think they're getting messages from so many different places that it's becoming easy to ignore the messages we want them to hear so we have to really think and be thoughtful about how we reach a consumer, so that it can still be a meaningful engagement. So, I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges out there, you know, and certainly just competitors are able to talk in developing ways that they hadn't been able to before. So, you know small brands can be just as vocal as a big brand, right, and use many of the technologies that it has sort of leveled that playing field that we have to be innovative. “Big brand” is certainly a good advantage to have and it builds a lot of trust but it also means that we have to work hard to keep it and keep our shopper. 

Stephanie Cox: Well, it's interesting that you bring up smaller brands, because I think sometimes where they have a competitive advantage is their willingness to try anything. 

Rochelle Hartigan: Sure, yeah. 

Stephanie Cox: And be a little bit more bold, sometimes because they're still figuring out what their brand is, right? Whereas, when you're a trusted brand, you have consumer expectations. So you know, thinking about the brand voice which you probably think about all the time is so important. 

Rochelle Hartigan: Yeah I think that's an interesting point, too, and I think where we probably have challenged ourselves to push those boundaries in the ways that we reach out so that we don't think we just, we don't have to play it safe. We have to be true to our brand and true to our voice, as we say. But, we can be innovative in the ways that we reach out, too! We can think scrappy like a small startup would, you know? We have a lot of innovative and interesting products that fit into that environment so well. So, it makes sense that we play there too.

Stephanie Cox: Thinking about mobile strategy at GE, how do you figure out what to do?

Rochelle Hartigan: Yeah, that's a great question. So, I think one of the things that's important–mobile is a piece of everything else that we do, and so I think when we set out on a journey, like for launching a new product or we have a new initiative that we're supporting, and and we're reaching out to consumers for whatever that mission or strategy is, mobile becomes an important part of our mix. And it's just one of the ways that we have to reach out. So you know we can we can talk to shoppers in a variety of different ways, whether it's through influencers or it's through our own website or through print or through television–all of those are part of the process. And mobile has to be an important part of that consideration, so that we think about the power of what mobile marketing can do. So, whether it's reaching a person who's sitting in their home and surfing the web or looking at social media to someone who's standing in the aisle, mobile is really part of that experience and the entire journey of making a purchase. So we’re very conscious to consider all of the elements where mobile is in that journey. 

Stephanie Cox: How do we think about bringing them all together? So, right now people call it multi-channel, omni-channel–there's variety of words for it. But how do you think about making sure that you're communicating with consumers across every channel, but then also having some cohesion to what that message looks like with what the brand feels like? So it feels like one whole experience versus a fragment. 

Rochelle Hartigan:  Yes. I heard this recently that someone said that omni-channel is sort of becoming a term that that maybe we'll stop using in a few years, and it's about it's more about finding moments that matter to a consumer, no matter where they are. 

So, I sort of liked that approach. Rather than having a term, just think about the moments where we can engage with the shopper or with the consumer or whatever that initiative might be. So, I think it's an important part of what we do to keep our creative and we talked earlier a little bit about the importance of being true to our brand. So whether we're talking about the GE brand as a whole or some initiative like a campaign or a launch strategy, we really define upfront what that messaging and what our mission and our statements are going to be to the consumer. And, once we really define that, then we start to lay it into all the different ways that we're going to reach a shopper in their journey. I keep using the term “journey” but I'm going to keep using it [laughs]. So, we know that sometimes our initiative is really just to build awareness. If it's something that's brand new or a new technology to the marketplace–for example right now on the smart and connected home with our C by GE brand. So when we're launching and just building a brand and still getting the basic consumer to understand why smart or connected home might be a solution for them.

Stephanie Cox: And how it actually is a solution.

Rochelle Hartigan: Yes. Right. So some of it is not about talking about our product at all, but it's about how our product can integrate into this thing that can turn into this big intangible thing that can sort of change the way you live. And so when we start to message to that, it becomes how we define how we work in all of our channels of communication. So whether it's, again, our website or any of our media or any of our mobile outreach or even all the way down to the signs that we print in store, that has to be a unified and complete, cohesive message, so that the shopper and the consumer who's just trying to get their arms around what this even means continues to see the same message. 

Stephanie Cox: Well, especially since you mentioned in-store, a lot of times where I find myself doing it is when I'm trying to make a decision and I don't necessarily have a product that I'm 100 percent committed to buying yet. I'm almost doing my research kind of, like, in-store. The first thing I do is I pull out my phone and I try and figure out what is the internet going to tell me to do. 

Rochelle Hartigan: Yeah, right.

Stephanie Cox: So, how do you think about moments in the customer journey? Making sure that in that moment when Stephanie's at the store at Lowe's and I'm trying to figure out what to do, she's thinking about GE?

Rochelle Hartigan: Well, I think there are a few things. So, part of that can be the experiences that we build on our own. Our own channels, right? So whether that's our website and its mobile capabilities, we work hard and diligently with our retail partners to make sure that the experience on their site is also worthy of the product that we're trying and the message that we're trying to portray. So, we work with the tools that they offer us to either build out enhanced content to help to get our product into the hands of consumers early before it even launches so that you, standing in the store, can make a decision based on what other consumers have rated or done a review. So, again, a very important part of that mobile shopping experience.

So I think those are a couple that we really focus on that I think help to make the consumer understanding a little easier as they, as you go through that process and stand in front of that daunting aisle with feet and feet and feet of options. 

Stephanie Cox: So you mentioned influencers. Should I assume that you guys are actively using influencers in your marketing today? 

Rochelle Hartigan: Yes. Again depending on what our project is, we definitely look to influencers to be an important part of reaching consumers. We know that they have a valuable voice to a lot of people. So there are influencers with big reach, and there are influencers that we kind of turn to that are “micro-influencers”, and all are so important. They have different levels of ability to influence the decision of a consumer and even just to make them aware of something that's a solution. I think they also bring this great value in that they kind of do this show and share. So something that you see just sitting in a box is not nearly as meaningful as when you watch someone who has maybe installed it in their home or showing you how they live with it or sharing ways that it's created solutions for them. So, that that value is really important, especially when we're doing something new and different. 

Stephanie Cox: No, I completely agree. One of the things I love that you mentioned–micro-influencers. Because I think that's one thing that people overlook a lot. A lot of times they look at the ones that have the biggest following. But I think as a consumer, I look at the ones that are not as large because they're typically the ones that feel most authentic to me and relatable, and the ones that I pay the most attention to. 

Rochelle Hartigan:  And sometimes they're the ones who have a specific point of view, too. So they may not be necessarily appealing to the masses so to speak, right? If they have a really specific thought or hobby or lifestyle that's really relatable to someone that we're trying to reach and that's so important.

Stephanie Cox: I completely agree. So when you're doing all of your marketing and you're thinking about the brand overall, how do you manage effectiveness? How do you know what's working and what's not working? 

Rochelle Hartigan: So we test and try a lot. I laugh a little when I think about that some of our agency partners that we work with. Our tactics and our strategy and our outreach changes quite a lot and what works, we repeat. What doesn't, we pivot and do something different. We look at, of course, the standard KPIs, right? We want to measure who we're reaching, if we're able to get engagement with the right consumer. We've looked for four ways that we can deliver customer messaging to the right shopper. So we all sat down this journey with, there are different consumers who want the same kind of products so we can reach them with a message that makes sense to them and do that effectively and know we're hitting the right demographic with the right kind of message so that it's not one consistent piece of creative that's reaching every potential buyer, every potential shopper for us. That's an important way for us to reach out as well. 

Stephanie Cox: So, thinking about technology, channels, I think one of the things that marketers struggle a little bit with is that there's so many shiny objects. There's always a new shiny object. And how do you figure out what you test and innovate with, what's worth that time. And also what is a distraction? Because we can easily as a marketer be overwhelmed by the number of options and distracted by the wrong things and not focusing on the things that are evolving–innovative things that are really going to drive the business.

Rochelle Hartigan: Yeah that's a great question. And there are so many different things, too. Part of that, and I'll just be really transparent when I say this, part of it is having good partners, who are really experts in vetting out some of those things and sharing, you know, here's what we saw in another brand be successful in and you know so. So some of it is that. We do test a lot. So, I like a shiny object! You know, sometimes there's value in trying something out even you have a little bit of doubt. And if we can try it on a small scale and then if it works, then roll it out. If it doesn't, then it was still a great investment because we learned so much. So, I don't shy away from all shiny objects. But we also evaluate where they are in our mix. So we know we have, you know again, depending on the strategy, like right now we're really talking about the connected home and our C by GE brand. And a lot of our mission is just to get the consumer to understand what it means and how they can change their lifestyle by just adopting a certain type of product into their into their world. And so when our initiative is about education and awareness we look at a very different set of tactics than when our mission is really focused on just feet in the aisle and boxes in carts, you know. So, I think as long as something fits our mix then it's worthy of evaluating and considering and possibly testing and trying. 

Stephanie Cox: So, how do you think about failure from a marketing perspective? So, you test something and typically when you test something, you have high aspirations and goals. And, I think one of the things that I've seen that vision especially digital marketers struggle with is: not everything works. As we look at some things that work for one brand, we do for us and then we're like, “but they're like me and that was an epic failure”. 

Rochelle Hartigan: Yeah, that's right!

Stephanie Cox: So how do you get comfortable with that in an organization where metrics driven and ROI is so important? How do you balance testing and innovation with driving results at the same time?

Rochelle Hartigan: Yeah, I think that going with the mindset that it's okay that there are going to be some things that fail. We know that not every tactic that’s new and a new shiny object is going to be successful, right? There are going to be some that just don't deliver what we thought they would. And that's OK. I think it certainly hurts my heart when it was a part of my budget that I could have put into something else, but the risk was, what if it turned out great? And sometimes and quite often, it really does. 

So it's worth the risk to put a little bit of time, to put a little bit of investment, a little bit of effort and energy into something new that could turn into something really good. So it hurts a lot, but it's worth it. It's sort of a good hurt and you learn fast and then pivot. I think that's a GE tenant–fail fast and pivot. It was something that they said to us many years ago when I first started. I remember that one, which was, it's good there's this environment where we go out and learn and test and try things because you don't know what you might succeed in but if you know it's not working stop and turn around pretty quickly. Just don't linger. 

Stephanie Cox: I think that's so important because one of the things to me that I get most excited about, from a marketing perspective when I've just come with technology and digital in general, is you can fail fast and you can test stuff and you can learn. And I think back to where I started my career 15 years ago, when we were so heavily focused on print and TV, I had to get it, like, perfect or it existed for like months or whatever that run was or that buy was. It was very hard to not be a perfectionist about it. And now, I'm not saying I'm not a perfectionist, because I kind of still am, if we're being honest. But, I think the difference is, is you can test out, I tell them, the crazy ideas or the innovative things and push you a little bit and have the ability to say, OK is this working? Is it not working? If it's not working, what should I do next? Is it a bad idea? Is it a bad channel? Is it that shiny object or do I need to think about it differently?

Rochelle Hartigan: That's a great point too! And, just the transition of all the types of media that we have to use has made that a little bit easier to fail, right? So, if you were putting all your all your budget into that Super Bowl ad, it was 30 seconds and it was millions invested right? Well, you know you're spreading this across different digital technologies. And you can pull the plug really at any time if it's not working. I mean, the lead times are much, much shorter and the flow of data is fast.

Stephanie Cox: I always tell people, it's so different now because I can spin up ads on Google in an hour. I could run them for a couple hours and then, if they're not working I can take them down. And it's just it's a different world.

Rochelle Hartigan: And you can get instant feedback. You know, you can do studies and surveys and there are all sorts of little tools to learn quickly. 

Stephanie Cox: So if you had a crystal ball, and you had to think about what the future of what mobile looks like and the future of marketing, in general over the next 5-10 years, what do you think we are headed for?

Rochelle Hartigan: Yeah, that's a tricky one. I think, I want to say that we have to be aware of the power of these voice assistants in people's lives. So, we talk daily to Alexa and to Google and to Siri and there's going to be something there that they start talking back to us in some way, or they make decisions for us because they become that intuitive to our lifestyle. So, I'll be interested to see what happens with the voice assistant, I think that's one. I think mobile devices are also evolving, too, so from from our phone, which everyone is still, you know, it's pretty much glued to our hands. In this moment, I happen to not have mine but it's right there and it was this thing where I'm looking at your wrist in front of me, which has an Apple Watch, right? So that's a new kind of mobile experience and not new anymore really, but I’m curious to know what's coming next that way, and how we'll be able to leverage those technologies to reach the consumer.

But I think in general, if I had to put my one stake in the ground for my crystal ball prediction it would be that it's going to be much more intuitive than it is. We’re still in a world where we're delivering messages and consumers respond. And I suspect that there will come a time where we're able to influence and make decisions, and those technologies will do that because they know the consumer that they're supporting so well. 

Stephanie Cox: That would be an ideal state!

I love talking to other brilliant marketers hearing their perspectives and really being able to share all the information with all of my listeners, but it's an even greater personal highlight when I get the opportunity to talk to other female marketing leaders that are truly dominating their industry and Rochelle is definitely one of those types of marketers. I could honestly talk to her for hours if she had the time. Now, let’s get to my favorite part of the show where we take the education and apply it to your business?

There are so many great insights to my conversation with Rochelle that can really transform how you think about mobile marketing. Let's dive into my top three takeaways. First, we can't underestimate the importance of having strong partner relationships. This means both technology partners and agency or freelance partners. I know there can  be an ongoing internal battle and I've been in this situation where whether or not you have the resources in house or do you contract those out with a partner? I know there are times where we've all faced this, myself included, and there are times where I've chosen to bring the resource in house and they're also just as many times where I've chose instead to partner with someone. And part of that decision is based on budget if we're being honest, what I'm trying to accomplish, and so forth. But I think one aspect that sometimes we forget in that conversation that we might have internally with ourselves is the value that partners can bring us from their outside perspective and I'm not just talking about creative ideas for our brands because they're not just so close to it that sometimes they can see the bigger picture. I'm talking about the trends that they can expose us to. They know what's happening in the industry. They know what other brands are doing. What's working? What's not working. The latest tech and so forth and there isn't really a dollar value can put on that type of information and guidance. So it's often overlooked by us when thinking about what value a partner can provide. It can be especially valuable when youre at a larger organization and you're laying the marketing team. Because sometimes it's a really hard to keep a pulse on what other startups in your industry are doing and if your partners that you have currently aren't bringing this type of information on a regular basis, then it's time to seriously evaluate who you're working with. Your partner should be continually challenging you to expand your horizon. Push your brand forward in a really productive way. If they're not it's seriously time to say thank you next. 

Next, raise your hand if you absolutely loved hearing Rochelle talk about the how failure is okay and the importance of learning to fail fast and pivot. I know I absolutely did. So many of us are so focused on driving results that we almost become terrified about not delivering results for every single thing that we do. I like to call it the perfectionist syndrome and I've suffered from it in the past. We're all driven by hitting targets and wanting to deliver perfection that we sometimes prevent ourselves from challenging the status quo and trying new things. And this might mean that you think more like a star up. Even when you're a Fortune 500 or Fortune 100 organization. So you're going to need to get comfortable with knowing that everything you do is not going to always succeed and that's okay. It's okay everyone because you're still going to learn something from it that's going to influence you and something else that you do in your marketing efforts. It's going to be rare when you don't actually learn something valuable for a failure no matter how small that failure is. Now, I know some of you are probably thinking there's absolutely no way I can get my boss on board with accepting failure. That's a lost cause. I get it trust me, but you have to have the freedom to test and learn which sometimes means you're going to see phenomenal results that you can scale and other times you're going to fail miserably. And I get that some organizations talk about testing but when they talk about testing, it's really like can I change the shop now button from green to red and will that drive to increase conversions? That's testing, yes. But that's not testing new innovative approaches. So in order to get your boss and really your entire organization, cause that's really the linchpin of all of this, comfortable with testing new and innovative ideas you've got to set expectations clearly from the very beginning. And the best way to do that is to allocate a portion of your budget and resources to innovation. As Scott Brinker said a couple podcast episodes before, you should be allocating approximately 15 to 20% of your budget towards innovation. And once you've done that you need to tell everyone and I mean everyone that you don't expect these tests to drive bottom-line impacts. My husband likes to say “this is setting a bar of low expectations” and he's right. It also goes against most of what us marketers are used to doing. But it's what makes a clear difference from the beginning. Because if you make it clear that you're not expecting these tests to add a meaningful impact on results and instead you're using them to truly learn. That's going to change the perception of how people view it. And that means that you're going to be able to get people clearly from the beginning, not to expect phenomenal results. So if something does fail quickly it becomes okay. Now it's also super super important that you are not afraid to walk away and sometimes that means quickly from a test that’s not working out. And I know there's a balance between have I given it enough time to really know if it doesn't work vs. it's definitely been enough time and it's not working. I know that can be hard to figure out sometimes but once you feel like you've had enough time to test something and it's not working, turn it off. Don't keep waiting. 

Finally, let's talk about my favorite topic. Shiny objects. We all know them, we've all been distracted by them. But how do we know when we're supposed to pay attention to them and when they're nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan. Because let's be honest. If we try every single shiny object out there, we will never get our day job done and it's going to be frustrating. And this is an area where partners, like I said earlier, can really help play a role because they might have the ability to vet some of these shiny objects that you hear about. But if you don't have that type of resource then it's really on your shoulders. So let's talk for a second how to best determine if you should chase a shining object. For starters, there should be no chasing. So let's not chase shiny objects, Instead let's think objectively about each opportunity that comes to us. And that could be a creative idea or technology that might work for us. How quickly can you implement a test without creating any major disruptions to your business and this includes ideas or tech that you may not think right away would be a good fit. And to be clear, I'm not saying that you should try everything out there that's crazy. But if you keep hearing from other people, “hey this Channel or this concept is working for us” and you don't think it's going to work great for your brand, but you don't have data to support it, what's the harm in testing it just to see? Especially if it's not that big of a lift. 

Now, here's my mobile marketing challenge for the week. Name one idea or technology that you've heard about but haven't had a chance to try it yet. Got it. Great. Now I want you to implement a small test with it next week. I'm not talking about some sort of strategic initiative. I'm talking about a small test. Let’s startup style people and let's see what happens. You might be surprised by the results and worst case you might actually learn something.

I’m Stephanie Cox and you've been listening to mobile matters. If you haven't yet be sure to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. Until then be sure to visit and subscribe to get more access to thought leaders best practices in all things mobile.

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