Creating campaigns that resonate with a brand’s target audience is a crucial strategy for many marketing professionals. But what is the best approach when navigating brand transformations? Creative Storytelling will always be the most effective way to communicate your brand narrative–especially as it evolves. In this latest Marketer 411 discussion, Beth Hagey, VP of Marketing at Victoria’s Secret, and Matt Stein, Head of Brand & Creative Strategy at Philo, discuss the role of creative storytelling in deepening a brand’s relationships with its consumers.
Q: Tell us about your brand’s journey.
Beth Hagey (Victoria’s Secret):
Victoria’s Secret is in the middle of a brand transformation. Our brand has considerable awareness, so our opportunity is in reshaping what we’ve been traditionally known for as we continue to evolve. Our customers, community, and culture continually change the rules on us, so it’s on us to adapt and anticipate the cultural changes ahead.
We have some brand milestones that speak to this transformation, such as our recent ‘The Victoria’s Secret World Tour’ campaign, which launched on Amazon Prime in September, and the continued evolution of our PINK product line.
We must reflect on our brand’s role as a responsible member of the community around us and showing up in new and meaningful ways. It’s an ongoing process with much more to come.
Matt Stein (Philo TV):
Philo operates within the highly competitive entertainment industry, where there have been significant shifts over the last several years. When Philo launched, it was a streaming platform for college campuses. In 2017, we introduced a customer-facing product. We deliberately took our time to establish a clear brand identity that understood the space, audience, and role we’d play in customers’ lives. We recognized our role as a content conduit, so we prioritized creating a rock-solid product with an exceptional user experience and customer service.
Since our launch, we’ve executed several brand campaigns and focused on the white space in the streaming industry. Unlike our competitors, we’ve leaned into humanizing our brand as an independent, small, and scrappy company, created by people who love television with a mission to enhance the way people watch TV. We stay close to our roots, striving to lower the wall between our audience and our product.
Q: How are you thinking about and telling your brand story through Creative?
With brand storytelling, a comprehensive approach is most effective. We launched ‘Adaptive’ this week, a new line designed for those seeking an easier on/off closure compared to traditional closures on our intimate products. It’s a compelling example of customer-centric storytelling, from product inception to design to collaboration with focus groups and third-party partnerships. We’re proud to be serving our community and showing up for that need.
Our messaging, which includes testimonials and thoughtful casting, was crafted with the customer in mind. This 360-degree perspective provides a powerful story and execution and involves extensive cross-functional collaboration. This campaign is a prime example of how a consumer insight can be integrated into our go-to-market strategy to better serve our community.
We embrace that we’re not a large telecom company and emphasize the real people behind the product. In a recent campaign featuring Philo employees, we lean into the idea that although we make a great TV product, we’re not great TV stars. It’s a reminder to consumers that we’re not a faceless brand; there are real people behind it. From a brand storytelling perspective, we’re able to deepen the relationship with our consumers.
I oversee the creative for both the performance and brand teams, as their needs are different. We always start by clarifying where we’re heading, who we are, what story we’re telling, and what we’re trying to accomplish.
Q: What does it mean to be “customer first”?
One of my favorite activities at Philo is what we call “ride-alongs.” New employees sit with our support team, field calls from consumers, and engage with them directly. It’s important to hear from consumers–in their own words–about how they are experiencing the product.
One message I stress to my team is the need to step outside of their worldview to make the best creative for the audience. We all have our own perspectives, but the better we understand our consumers, the better we can craft a message that speaks to them.
Our equivalent to Philo’s “ride-along” is our store associates. They have a wealth of knowledge from interacting directly with the consumers and often reveal insights we never anticipated but seem obvious in retrospect.
Additionally, social listening is a valuable tool. How are we refining our tools to understand what our communities are telling us? Beyond this, we must move beyond “customer first” to “human first.” It extends beyond our specific customers; it’s recognizing our shared humanity. We have a dedicated team who focuses on this aspect, and they play a critical role in grounding us.
Q: What are you doing to stand out in the marketplace?
When thinking about risk, we ask ourselves, “at what point is it riskier to continue with the status quo? How can we shift and reframe our perspective?”
Take our ‘World Tour’ documentary—the mere act of having a vision and taking a chance allows us to be part of the conversation and cultural zeitgeist. It’s better to have a vision, take a risk, and see it through than to revert to what’s comfortable.
In the early years we were risk-averse with our creative approach. At a certain point our CEO expressed a desire to take bolder creative risks. I agreed but emphasized this required more support and a larger investment in our brand. It wasn’t worth embarking on something big without the necessary commitment and resources. So, we shifted our approach and launched daring campaigns that made a larger statement. We also dipped our toes in original content. This shift in marketing strategy has produced promising results.
Q: What tactics and channels have been the most successful in shifting perception?
The social media space is crucial. We’re continually exploring how to show up on platforms like TikTok in innovative ways that also consider the native approach to that channel. Regarding the ‘World Tour’ campaign, while we did have a presence in other exciting ways, such as a feature in Vogue, we particularly focused on Instagram and TikTok. We successfully maximized our presence and engagement on those channels, which present a vast amount of opportunity for growth and engagement.
The medium absolutely influences the message. Different platforms often call for different approaches. Similar to our influencer strategy, we’ve created a few shows where we collaborate with individuals who have a substantial following. They’re able to advocate for our brand in their own voice to their own audience. This approach allows us to reach new consumers with messages that are more convincing, as they’re not directly from us.
Q: How do you measure and evaluate new strategies?
It depends on the strategy. When considering social media, we look at clicks, likes, engagement, sentiment. More broadly, we do a quarterly “health check” of the brand to consider where we are in our overall brand strategy. It can be tempting to look for overnight results, so doing these evaluations quarterly and annually allows us to take a step back.
Q: How do you approach budget?
Budget is a hot topic at Philo. We work to understand creative fatigue and to find the right formula for how often we need new campaigns. Efficiency with our dollars is crucial and guides our spending decisions. We take a comprehensive approach to our creative, running significant campaigns once or twice annually, then repurposing the assets in various ways to extend the campaign’s life.
We like to ask how we can make our dollars work harder for us. We shift away from conventional approaches and instead focus on specific areas where we can cut through the noise and become disruptors. This ties back to taking risks. If we can make our dollars work more efficiently in one area, it may free up resources to double down in another.
Meet the Experts
Beth Hagey, VP of Marketing at Victoria’s Secret: Beth is an experienced marketer with a passion for retail strategy and innovation to drive brand relevancy. Her expertise includes content storytelling across channels. She is focused on delivering a cohesive, impactful, and elevated omni experience to her customers. Beth is a team leader who prioritizes work to align with business objectives & drive results. Her passions for diversity, equity & inclusion, sustainable retail practices, and customer intimacy are seen in her work.
Matt Stein, Head of Brand & Creative Strategy at Philo: Matt is a seasoned brand and creative strategist focusing on growing media and entertainment businesses in both the linear and streaming space. He has extensive experience developing, producing, and programming content, spearheading both targeted and large-scale multi-platform marketing campaigns, leading rebrands, and achieving scale through audience growth. His superpower is a deep understanding of the consumer experience formed through a combination of data-driven insights and a passion for understanding what makes people tick.
The Marketer 411 virtual events are hosted by Jennie Stark, the VP of the MTM Program at 24 Seven. These events are designed for Marketing Managers to bring value, direction, and inspiration to their teams from insightful conversations with top marketing leaders. Each 411 contains insights on different disciplines, such as what brands are focused on, leading teams, measuring success, and more.
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