A big brand name is no longer a differentiator. In fact, according to the Customers 2020 study, neither is price or product. While those factors may naturally drive more awareness or familiarity, they no longer drive trust and credibility or dependably convert consumers to buyers and advocates. Actually, if you think of it, big legacy brands might have even larger hurdles to overcome in achieving the cross-functional alignment and agreeance it takes to transform customer journeys and craft personalized, valuable experiences at every touchpoint.
There’s really only one way huge companies – like Johnson & Johnson – can be innovative in a fast-changing marketplace. They must learn how to pair data and analytics with design and creativity to cultivate authentic strategies that place the humans they serve at their core. Even if that means spending money to create experiences that have no guaranteed ROI.
To learn more about how Johnson & Johnson is thinking about and approaching customer experience, we talked to Matthew Fantazier, Senior Brand Manager for Johnson & Johnson’s Baby businesses, including Aveeno Baby and Desitin. As you’ll learn during the conversation, hosted by our very own Founder and CEO Jeffrey Pruitt, Matthew is passionate about bringing together insights, data, and technology to connect authentically with today’s consumers.
Prior to his current role, Matthew led digital strategy and media at J&J’s OTC business for Digestive Health, Cough Cold Flu and Eye Care. He has also worked on brands such as ZYRTEC®, SUDAFED®, and BENGAY®. Through his experiences and first-hand interactions with evolving customer experiences, Matthew shares his unique insights and perspective as it pertains to the future of CX.
Q&A with Johnson & Johnson Senior Brand Manager Matt Fantazier
Jeff Pruitt: We’d love to hear a little bit about both your personal and professional story. I saw that you interned at Deloitte at the beginning of your career and then took a job as an analyst. So, you’ve always been very tied to brand strategy.
Matt Frantazier: I’ve been at J&J (Johnson & Johnson) for about 14 and a half years now, but I did start out as an accountant way back when. I studied accounting, got my CPA, and spent about seven years in finance at J&J, actually. I made the switch to marketing about eight years ago. And that’s definitely been a hallmark of my experience – combining the data and analytics side with creativity. That’s the exciting thing about what I get to do for work now: Combining those two things – data/analytics and creativity – to connect with consumers.
JP: That’s great. I actually am, too, a CPA and studied accounting. I don’t know why I actually got into it, but I love [working] more on the marketing and branding side. We’ll get into how data and brand connect, but first, how do you believe marketing strategies have been forced to change for big legacy brands like Johnson & Johnson during COVID?
MF: Well, you know, I think the evolution really changed before COVID and… this has been talked about a lot, but the last 10 months or so just accelerated a lot of things that had been advancing maybe at a medium [or] slow pace, but the need to change has been right in our faces. I think one of the biggest evolutions is brands and companies thinking about moving away from advertising and retail and [instead, thinking about] enabling access. How do we enable access to consumers and how do we foster discovery versus just advertising? I think that’s one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in what we’re thinking about [at Johnson & Johnson]. COVID forced consumers to adopt all sorts of new habits and behaviors. More research is happening online [and on] social media. Consumers are becoming accustomed to different shopping experiences and we have to be there.
There’s just countless specific things that have changed from a commerce perspective: E-commerce media habits, [and] consumer demands for brands to stand for something. There’s so much that has changed in the last 10 months. I think brands are just being pushed to change as fast as the world around them is changing. And we can’t wait for perfection. I think that’s the biggest challenge right now: So much has changed so fast that we have to try. You know, we’re in uncomfortable territory of not knowing – doing new things, operating differently – but we have to try to learn and adapt.
JP: Yeah. So, when you think about that and you’re pushing out different work streams or different approaches to drive an experience through your brand with your customer, how are you looking at that in conjunction with data, analytics, and creativity and design?
MF: The intersection of data and creativity – I think it’s just so much more prominent now. And it’s one of the bigger challenges we’re facing right now: Unlocking this data. There’s so much, and as more commerce and media consumption and interaction – on websites or wherever – happens online, there’s a data trail there. But, “What do we do with it?” is really the next big question. You can have all the data in the world, but if you don’t know what it means, – if you don’t understand what to do differently, or if it’s good or it’s bad – it’s sort of meaningless. So, you know, we seemingly know more about consumers as digital media matures and data becomes more robust, but you have to have that feedback loop to consistently learn and adapt…
One of the challenges there is that it can’t [just] be a machine.
At the end of the day, we’re talking to humans… They may be online and buying things online, but you still have to make that personal connection. I think that’s where the tension point really lies. Algorithms don’t make purchases. People do. So, the data can be incredibly powerful in understanding what’s working, what’s resonating, but you still need to grab attention and make a human connection there. The data is allowing us to try more things and push further, but I think it can be used as an enabler because you can quickly figure out [if] something is working or not, versus feeling trapped in [the mindset of] “We’re going to do what we know because it’s safe.” We can do unsafe things because of data – it’s unsafe from a performance standpoint – but it’s making that connection and creating that loop. That is really the biggest challenge, right now.
JP: So, getting more specific, what kind of data do you look at? And how does that influence, for example, design – how you test design and get it out into the real world?
MF: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things is that it’s not just one data source. It’s important to not get too myopic and focus on [something like] short term ROI, is a good example. It’s paying the bills. It’s keeping the lights on. That’s important, without a doubt, short-term ROI matters. I would lose my job if I ignored it. But it’s one data point. So, brand awareness or different equity metrics – those are important for long term health assessments to understand [if] what you’re doing [is] driving relevance with your consumer. Is it something that they like? Do people agree with what [you] stand for? You need both. You need to know: Is what you’re doing selling products? Is what you’re doing getting people to respond positively? It’s that mix. You need to understand all of it, which can be hard. It’s easy to anchor on the one good metric and declare a success, but we do need to take a broad approach to it.
JP: All too often, we’ll focus as marketers on the bottom of the funnel because it’s the most trackable, but at the same time, as you look at the upper- or mid-funnel, you are now able to track some brand awareness. And it’s important to make sure that you do measure it, but it shouldn’t get the same level of ROI expectation that you do at the bottom of the funnel.
MF: Yeah, it’s a different job to be done. You need all of it. I think it’s easy to [say], “My job is to sell product,” but really, it’s to create awareness, drive consideration, and sell product. You need to do all [of] that stuff.
JP: So, taking this to the experience you’re driving for your customer: How does Johnson & Johnson measure customer experience, both digitally and in store? What are the key components of understanding that experience and ensuring that it’s seamless – that it’s one of value – and that you’re educating the customer correctly?
MF: It’s really taking a look at the entire journey. There are so many touch points [within] consumer journeys today. And, I think when you look at it, the consumer journey being very non-linear is a reality that we’re dealing with.
So, customer experience [or] consumer experience takes a lot of shapes and forms… I’m thinking about what they need. What are the consumer’s current needs and expectations? You know, in my business, I talk to new parents a lot and they’re very information hungry. So, providing them with knowledge, information, education – about ingredients, or what our products do; how to give your child their first bath, [for example] – that’s relevant. They need that, that’s a lower purchasing barrier. But it may be tips, if it’s a more complex product. If you’re in a category that [doesn’t naturally provide an] intuitive process, or it takes some skill to use your product, you’re going to have to provide support. We see a lot of good examples from hardware stores – they do DIY videos on YouTube. That’s super important. If you don’t know how to install a toilet, you’re not going to go buy one. So, they need that – as far as the consumer journey and experience goes. It’s really [about] putting the consumer at the center, which is a little bit of a trite thing to say, but I think it’s true. First thing’s first.
JP: Implementing these strategies is really, really difficult for a lot of brands internally. When brands have a customer acquisition group, a brand group, and a customer experience group – the reality is that it’s still the same customer, they’re just entering your brand through different touch points and avenues. Your experience is resonating, you’re working on the acquisition, but then when you bring them in, it’s still that customer that you’re driving the experience to. Sometimes this journey spans across multiple teams and stakeholders. How do you manage integrating all the good data that you get around the experience – like you mentioned, talking to actual mothers and parents – and then, embed that through a multitude of strategies that provides a seamless experience to the customer?
MF: We talk a lot about how consumers don’t actually know if they’re getting an ad from me, or from a retailer, or whomever. They see an ad for Johnson’s, and 99% of the time they just see, “Oh, it’s a baby shampoo,” or whatever. But in reality, to your point, there [are] so many parts of the ecosystem at play. It could be an ad or an experience that’s managed by a retailer partner; it can be managed by me, PR, an influencer. It’s so important to be coordinated and to have that partnership. We put a lot of effort into that discussion and alignment upfront: What are our objectives? How are we achieving these together? What is our one communications plan to make sure we’re not operating in silos? From a creative perspective, [that] it’s not different messages; From a data perspective, that we’re talking to the right people, and retargeting the right people, and bringing it all around and feeding insights to one another. It’s all the same consumer. We just trick ourselves into thinking it’s different, but it’s not.
JP: Right. Different stakeholders and sometimes different measurements, which drive different initiatives, but trying to align all those is, I think, where Nirvana sits both internally and [for] companies like ours: Trying to find that alignment for the customer sitting in the center.
MF: Yes, for sure.
JP: So, from a digital first strategy perspective, J&J is a huge legacy company with over 200 companies inside it. How do you drive that overall digital-first strategy as an organization?
MF: Yeah, we think about, again, putting the consumer at the center and thinking about, well, first, where are they actually spending their time? What are their actual behaviors in the real world [and where do] we want to interact with them? And digital-first, I think, can be misconstrued as digital only, or digital media, but there’s also a performance mindset that is important within a digital-first mindset of data collection, iteration, optimization, that also needs to be fed into this. But, from a consumer journey perspective, what are those moments along their journey where we can deliver a transformational brand-building experience? Where does it matter? Where is it really high stakes? And put our time and effort there to really make a difference. And, you know, it could be communications, it could be commerce technology, it could be an app experience, whatever. But really, digital-first doesn’t mean anything unless the consumers are there – it’s [zeroing into] a behavior of: They’re working from home, or they like to shop on their phone, or watch how-to videos before they buy something. So, putting ourselves in their shoes and then leveraging digital technology e-commerce to really enable those kinds of brand-building experiences.
And then, as I mentioned, what have we learned from that, and how do we get better? That performance mindset, I think, to me, that’s what digital-first actually means, which is a lot, and pretty complex. But it’s not, “We’re going to run Facebook ads, and now we’re more digital-first.” That’s objectively not true. A lot of brands do that, and they’re totally not, but it’s a mindset shift, really.
JP: And it’s also a mindset shift to really understand that, even upfront, when you’re identifying your strategies, data can be utilized to understand deeper sentiment and intent from the persona. And also being able to look at engagement metrics, engagement features, and overall demand that does drive both your online and offline strategy through that journey. I think that’s missed a lot.
MF: Yeah, it’s getting back to that feedback loop. We don’t want media plans to live in silos. We don’t want insights living in silos, either. So, if you run a programmatic campaign and find out that “Claim X” drives twice as much conversion – it would be pretty good to know as you’re developing other communications or strategies that, “Hey, this is a behavior-changing message. This matters. Let’s think about that. Let’s iterate on this a little bit…” And that’s what we strive for. That’s, I think, Nirvana for me: Getting to that place, but to the extent [in which] you can use it as a research tool. I think that’s one of the less leveraged aspects of digital media right now, and why you’re seeing more and more CPGs getting [into] DTC commerce. I can’t imagine that a lot of these companies are making any money on having a DTC website, selling snacks or soda, but the data they’re getting from it is invaluable. And that’s why they’re doing it.
JP: Right. 2020-2021 has been a really interesting year. And COVID in many ways, like you said at the beginning of the [interview], drove the need to really understand the customer experience. If you were to define the experience that you want with your customer, as you continue to go into 2021, what does that relationship look like for J&J?
MF: I think at a very high level, that relationship is one that is meaningful and relevant. That we are listening to what our consumers need and expect, and we’re delivering on that expectation. [It came into] real focus in the last year with brands: [the need] to think about how they adapt their communications in the face of COVID, and the face of social unrest and racial inequality, and all these different things. There’s a lot on consumers’ minds. It’s not just a product. It could be what’s happening at home or – [for example] – having to homeschool a child for the year, which is a huge challenge, as a lot of us know, right now. But really finding ways to resonate with them on that personal level. We’re a relevant brand, we’re meaningful, and we deliver against those expectations.
For us, a lot of new parents are coming into the category [during] a very challenging time. Right now, being an expecting parent is incredibly challenging, which is why last year we launched our #InItTogether program, which is a partnership with Meredith [in which] we created all sorts of different content and videos around what questions to ask your doctor before you go to the hospital; what to expect when you’re giving birth; can your partner be in the delivery room with you. All these sorts of questions we know were rattling around in parents’ minds. There was no tie to sales there, that was purely equity, but we knew we couldn’t talk about shampoos and lotions without addressing this enormous stressor that is happening in the lives of millions of people, right now. We had to talk about this. If our mission is to make sure babies have the healthiest start to life, how do we not address a global health pandemic? That’s crazy.
So, I think it’s thinking about that and knowing that we have to be relevant and, if we can continue to do that – if we can continue to make connections, meaningful connections with modern consumers – we’ll be okay. But it’s being agile enough to adapt with the needs and what’s happening in the world around us.
JP: It’s really made prominent and propelled customer experience forward, faster than I think a lot of people would have expected and the authentic, transparent, empathetic approach to really understanding where people are in their day and their mindset. It’s different for everybody, but being able to – I don’t like the word “market,” as much as I like the [practice of being] able to connect with them with your offering, which is an offering of support, in many respects. So one last question for you. How do you define innovation for both the business that you’re in, and for J&J?
MF: I think it is finding what consumers actually want and need, and delivering on it. That could be product innovation to meet emerging needs. We see that across industries in response to the at-home economy now. People’s lives have dramatically changed in the last year. So, there’s new physical needs.
We’re also seeing a communications evolution and innovation. So, it could be: What are the needs of consumers, or what are their new questions? What are they wrestling with now? Like the example I gave with parenting information and around COVID. But, I think, regardless, again, it needs to be meaningful. And innovation can’t just be a fresh coat of paint. You can do that, that can work, but ideally it’s evolving with changing needs. If we’ve seen anything in the last year, we’ve seen that needs are changing really rapidly, and the brands and the companies that can continue to evolve and keep pace with what people are looking for, that’s the magic combination. It can be tough. Product innovation obviously takes time. For us, everything we do is backed in science and research. So, we can’t just quickly [get] new products out the door in a couple of weeks, but taking those insights and really thinking about: What are new parents or new consumers looking for? Are they looking for germ-killing characteristics in a wash, right now? Okay. Let’s think about that. How do we deliver on that? But it could also mean information, like the last example, too.
JP: Yeah. Well, Matt, from your background – from the very beginning to all the work that you’ve done at J&J – very, very insightful and great to have you on for the Innovator Series. So, I really appreciate your time and look forward to connecting again, soon.