Julie Roehm | Marketing + Strategy

Fearless in the face of marketing complexity

Huffington Post Article

I had the pleasure of speaking to Karthik Rajan at The Huffington Post recenly. Kartjrik understands the critical importance of storytelling and narratives, not just in business but also in life. Here is an excerpt:

When Julie talked about “mind seeds”, something in me clicked. I involuntarily nodded my head in affirmation. My own experience surfaced back.

Stories do something to all of us, they help us internalize the message at our own pace and we initiate the change on our own volition. There is no power more potent than the grace of self-realization – a delightful celebration of our own evolution at our own pace of comfort, seeded by the stories we hear. The feeling is priceless and everlasting. 
Julie’s own story illuminates us with glimpses of her ah ha feeling -action is fleeting, impact is lasting.The best testament to her ah ha is her own story – in her own words with her unwavering zest for life.


You can read the rest of the article here:

The Remarkable Rise, Fall and Rise Again Story of The Chief Storyteller

“Thanks Mom!” – Procter & Gamble Co.

“Yours is the reflection I wish to see when I look into the mirror”

When I saw P&G’s “Thank you moms” campaign and I realized that an artist does not become an artist only by years of practice he becomes one the day his mother praises his work as a child; an athlete does not excel at sport only because he works hard, but also because his mother was always there on the finish line with the belief that her child could do it ; a writer does not become a story teller only by painting the imagination with words, he becomes one the day his mother told him his first bedtime story. We learned to stand up after every fall because our mothers were there to pick us up.

That’s the near-universal story Procter & Gamble revealed to the world in 2010; all that we are or all that we’ll ever be is because of our mothers. Thank you moms, for picking us when we fell and for always telling us to be strong.

Thank You Mom” campaign was not the result of strategy or creativity but of opportunity.

In 2009 P&G learned that it could avail the chance of a sponsorship deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee for the 2010 Winter Games. Kirk Perry, then P&G’s top North American marketing executive and now a top Google sales executive commented that the team had to come up with an arresting idea over the weekend, they had to act fast because rival, Johnson and Johnson had caught all the sponsorship opportunities in the years before.

Common factor for a host of brands that ranges from Pampers diapers to and Olay skincare is Mothers. Moms were the primary consumer target thus the campaign was decided to be focused on mothers.   The company made the decision on that weekend, and in less than a year the program was being implemented.

Procter & Gamble thanks moms

Not thanked: Dads

Due to time shortage, P&G Global Brand Building Officer Marc Pritchard decided to put out a challenge for which Wieden & Kennedy returned with the winning ideas, thus signing a major assignment and handling the corporate brand’s first global effort behind “Thank You Mom” campaign during the Vancouver Winter Games.

This campaign became popular with its “Raising an Olympian” video series and “Best Job” short film.

Those videos became a series of award-winning ads in an unprecedented ever-growing program starting with an 18-brand effort P&G planned on a really short notice for 2010.

We found a lot of times that when people know a brand is from P&G they feel better about the brand. And when they know P&G has all these brands, they feel better about P&G.”- Mr.Pritchard

Impact of this speed dialed global campaign :

1)“Thank You Mom” added an incremental $500 million to P&G sales during the 2012 London Olympics

2) Won creative awards which included Gold Effie and the top 2013 Advertising Research Foundation Ogilvy Award for a research effort that used response to Wieden’s viral videos to help dictate rotation and weight of the TV advertising. P&G research has show that the campaign constantly built the company’s brand awareness and equity scores.

3)P&G and Wieden had the top four best-scoring ads for effectiveness from the 2014 games, with more than 25 million YouTube views between Feb. 7 and 10, 2014, it had quadrupled the number of the next six Olympic sponsors combined, including Visa and Samsung.

The Thanks Mom story did an elegant job of merging the Olympics, mothers (who buy lots of P&G products), and the umbrella brand that ties together their diverse products. The core of the campaign is the stories of the moms themselves, an elegant application of listening to customers and incorporating their stories in a B2C context.

DeBeers makes diamonds non-optional

“A Diamond is Forever

One of the more memorable slogans of twentieth century advertising, the statement which defined dreams: “A Diamond is Forever”.

De Beers started this campaign by presenting the idea that a diamond ring is a necessary luxury. Diamonds are not inherently especially rare or valuable by most measures. DeBeers used marketing and control over distribution to change diamonds into the ultimate expression of rare beauty and value.

N.W. Ayer created a situation where almost every person about to say their marriage vows would feel compelled to get a diamond engagement ring.

It’s an ingenious marketing technique. Ayer built his company from ground up with just a vision. He knew how to make an inexpensive object a psychological need and then manipulated the corresponding factors in his favor.

In the 20th century there were only 10% engagement rings which supported a diamond. Diamonds did not used to be such unattainable “stone of dreams”. They were relatively inexpensive, difficult to mine hence had little market supply resulting in low demand.

What Ayer did was he first monopolized the price of diamonds by buying coal mines during the time of economic turmoil, and maintained their supply in market. Then the important factor was of getting an ad agency. Since the country was already under the threat of war so Ayer looked for the country or countries where it was possible to sell his vision of the diamonds. Once he had found his target market he hired ad agency to help make the product a necessity in the minds of people. Thus emerged the slogan “Diamonds are forever”

Through advertising and maintaining the demand and supply of diamonds in his chosen market he built the ‘DeBeers diamonds’ which increased the sales of diamonds by 55% from 1938 to 1941 in the US.

Today a wedding is considered incomplete without a diamond ring!

Thoughts on Dove’s Brand Story

Old Dove Ad - Julie Roehm

“Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities.”

-Marshall McLuhan

‘Elegance’, ‘Grace’ and ‘simplicity’ are the words used to explain beauty. But what does those words truly signify? When a woman believes in herself she’s able to conduct with grace and that grace gives elegance to personality. But how can a woman come to believe in herself? She’s able to believe in herself when she ‘admires’ all that she is. She ‘recognizes’ what she is and when she finds similar qualities in others she does not pity the other woman that “Oh she’s like me!” but is rather proud that “we belong to the same tribe”. When her simplicity is her treasure. Simplicity gives conviction, that conviction adds grace to conduct, that grace gives elegance to personality and together they all create beauty.

Dove found out this secret recipe for beauty and so in 2004 they made it their mission to make sure that women love what they are. Beauty isn’t just smooth fair skin. Beauty is a 60 year old carrying a characteristic glow on face despite the wrinkles. Beauty is making heads turn with your features despite the dark complexion. Beauty comes with loving yourself not others. If you are healthy than you are not ‘fat’, you are adorably chubby. It you are short than you are not a dwarf but you are the one who could do justice to high heels.

That’s the story Dove wrote with its “Real Beauty” campaign. In order to revive the brand, Dove’s PR firm Eldeman conducted a survey among more than 3000 women from 10 different countries and they discovered that only two to four percent of women thought that they were beautiful. This created a wonderful opportunity for executives to use the stories of their customers themselves – something I have discussed extensively. They had to find a way through which they could make women believe in themselves, which will make women rely on one product for a healthy skin rather than following one brand after another for their ambiguous promises. The only way to do that was to make them believe that beauty is approachable because “Beauty is You”

For 11 years, since the beginning of this campaign in 2004, Dove has aimed to celebrate natural physical differences held by all women and to encourage them to be confident, comfortable and happy with themselves. According to the records sales increased to $4 billion to date from $2.5 billion in the opening year of the campaign. This campaign also swept away a handful of ad awards for not just its innovative idea but also for its devotion to the cause.

This worldwide campaign included advertisements (real curves), videos (Evolution, Onslaught, Sketches), workshops, sleepover events, publication of a book and the production of a short film (Selfie) . Unilever emphasized on the overall project of ‘evolution of people’s common beliefs’ and widen perspectives of females and males alike of all ages.

We can’t just be getting people stirred up; awareness and conversation isn’t enough.  We actually have to do something to change what’s happening. We’re going to try to change a generation. You have to wait until they grow up to see what happens.” – Sharon McLeod, vice president Unilever

“Real Beauty” campaign have successfully increased the sales of Dove, entitled many awards to the brand and have helped increase women’s confidence. Harvard psychologist, Nancy Etcoff, researched and discovered that more women today describe beauty on a wider variety of qualities outside of just looks.


Google’s Sidewalk Labs Expands into Out of Home

Google recently announced the creation of a urban-focused business unit named Sidewalk Labs.  The news as reported in Bloomberg framed the move as part of Google’s ongoing quest to wire as much of the population as possible in order to serve ads on their devices and provide cloud services.

Sidewalk Labs’ first major move has been to acquire two companies – Control Group and Titan – aimed at providing free fast Wi-Fi to New York City. They will be merged into a new entity named LinkNYC aiming to rollout in NYC in the Fall of 2015. The strategy is to reinvent the phone booth and up the quality of out of home digital advertising in cities.

The announcement makes it clear that OOH advertising will be a key part of the business model. This  again from Bloomberg:

Come September, tall, thin pillars with digital tablet interfaces and large ads slapped on the sides will begin to replace New York’s derelict pay phone booths. In addition to offering free wireless Internet access to anyone in a 150-foot radius, they will include amenities like free phone charging, phone calling, Internet browsing, and access to local services and information. Through Titan’s advertising network, Link could bring $500 million in ad revenue to the city over the next 12 years, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. Sidewalk Labs declined to disclose its share of the revenue.

Sidewalk is targeting issues of modern cities such as pollution, energy, traffic, communications, and cost of living. “It was formed to look at the confluence of the physical and digital world to solve urban problems,” Chief Executive Officer Dan Doctoroff said. He wouldn’t say which cities he has in mind for the Wi-Fi push but predicted the technology will go global. “There are certainly places that it’s immediately replicable,” he said, adding that the idea is to “use technology not to make cities all the same, but enhance what makes them unique and individual.”

These types of Wi-Fi  hotspot / phone booth hybrids (to be named ‘Links) have already been deployed in other countries successfully. Google and NYC see a win-win in the ability to monetize the thousands of increasingly derelict and unused phone booths that litter NYC sidewalks.

The ability to serve digital advertising on the outsides of the structure generates a cash flow that benefits both parties. The ad revenue generated for the city is projected to be $50M over the next 12 years.

How long will be be before you can buy a display ad impression for the corner of Layfayette and Houston via AdWords? Or that targeted display ads flash on phone booths as you walk buy, along with  coupons on your Google Now app?

This is a second lease on life for the venerable and endangered phone booth.

In a nod to the nostalgia value, three traditional booths will be preserved on the Upper West Side. Unfortunately, the Links are  standalone pillars and do not have doors, so Superman will not be changing in them anytime soon.

A “Storyteller’s” Story

I love my new job and I love my new title. I am the “Chief Storyteller” for SAP. My official title is SVP Marketing, Customer Central, SAP, “Chief Storyteller”, but the Chief Storyteller part is what I find the most fun. I can’t take credit for the name as that was given to me by one of our co-CEO’s. But the point in his mind, I think, was that B-to-B companies have great stories to tell, especially SAP, and in this digital age where information is overwhelming, breaking through the clutter and differentiating are essential and often overly complicated with the latest social, viral or digital gadget. And what better way to do that then to simply tell the stories of how a company, in this case SAP, helps its customers and its customer’s customer help their business run better and improve people’s lives?


Lest this article start to sound too much like a sales pitch for SAP, let me share with you more about the journey, the challenges and even a few tips, some borrowed, for making a difference in a new company, a new industry, and a new position.


First, my background is based in marketing for largely B-to-C companies; big B-to-C companies. However, the last five years of my career, I was the founder of my own company where I served as a marketing strategy consultant to 50+ clients, many of which were B-to-B. That experience served me well in that I was able to not only grow my network and make a living but I was able to work in industries, departments and companies that were as small as start-ups and as large as Fortune 50 companies that provided me with tools and knowledge that I hope will serve me well as I work to craft a new organization inside of the larger marketing organization at SAP…sort of like a start-up in the middle of a well-established organization.


The team I lead is called Customer Central and we have been established, or have begun getting ourselves established, since January of this year when I started with the company. Our job is to help to humanize the SAP brand by sharing some of the amazing stories that our customer’s tell us about how our technology helps them Run Better and helps their customer’s live better lives. Using my B-to-C background to tell stories, in a humanistic fashion, and to share these stories in and outside of the company to change perceptions, generate interest, and of course help sell technology are the key objectives. The company itself is full of bright people who are passionate and very entrepreneurial so, culturally speaking, I feel right at home.


Still, I have been dubbed a change agent for most of my career and while I resisted the moniker for a long time, I now know that there is value in that notion but it comes with baggage as well. For clarity, Barron’s Business Dictionary defines a “Change Agent” as “a person whose presence or thought processes cause a change from the traditional way of handling or thinking about a problem.” The department and role for which I was hired fit that bill pretty well. Humanizing the brand through storytelling is not the traditional method or process that most companies employ – though to be fair, SAP has been doing this in some form or another for a long time. And if one really thinks about it, advertising and other forms of marketing are just stories of a different color, right?


To illustrate my point, I am including an infographic (a favorite storytelling method of mine) about the History of Content. http://blog.junta42.com/2012/02/history-content-marketing-infographic/ You can see from this fun graphic that storytelling has been the basis of all marketing for thousands of years. My great-grandmother used to set time aside every afternoon to watch her “stories” on TV. So, the notion is certainly not new but the establishment of a department dedicated to this single notion is.


Why me?


I, like many, have been reading a great deal about the much storied Steve Jobs. Fast Company published an article called “An HR Lesson From Steve Jobs: If You Want Change Agents, Hire Pirates” written by Peter Sander. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665840/an-hr-lesson-from-steve-jobs-if-you-want-change-agents-hire-pirates Here is a small excerpt from the article:


“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.” This quote, made back in the days of the original Mac development team, says a lot about how Steve viewed people and selected them for teams. It also speaks to the kind of team and team behavior he admired. To build a team, all organizations seek the best and the brightest people, particularly for their innovation and new product development organizations–that’s not what’s in question here. By seeking out the pirates, Steve took the idea a big step further.


Why pirates?


A pirate can function without a bureaucracy. Pirates support one another and support their leader in the accomplishment of a goal. A pirate can stay creative and on task in a difficult or hostile environment. A pirate can act independently and take intelligent risks, but always within the scope of the greater vision and the needs of the greater team.


Pirates are more likely to embrace change and challenge convention… So Steve’s message was: if you’re bright, but you prefer the size and structure and traditions of the navy, go join IBM. If you’re bright and think different and are willing to go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team, become a pirate.


So, I’d like to think I am a pirate of sorts and that the executives of SAP are, like Steve, interested in the best and the brightest but more than that, I have to believe that they want to hire those people that can “see the greater vision and the needs of the greater team”, that are willing to “go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team…” Because in today’s world, conventional thinking only gets you so far. It is the intelligent risks that pay big dividends. But creating this and still integrating with other “pirates” and other perhaps more traditional organizations are crucial to success in a giant company. Failure to do so can likely result in the sinking of the pirate ship.


So while I have some tips of my own on how to navigate the waters with your pirate ship, I stumbled upon a great article entitled, “9 Tips for Change Agents” by Nicholas Morgan. I really liked the point-of-view but I was equally as amazed by the fact that it was written in 1996, which just goes to show you that some truths last.


The article was about Chris Turner who had been engaged at XBS to be a change agent. Here are her tips:

  1. Be open to data at the start. “Even if you think you know what you’re doing, chances are you don’t know what you could be doing. Open up your mind to as much new thinking as you can absorb. You may find different and better ideas than the ones your organization started with.”
  2. Network like crazy. “There is a network of people who are thinking about learning organizations. I’ve found you can get in touch with them easily. People say to me, `I can’t believe you talked with so-and-so! How’d you do it?’ The answer is, I called him.”
  3. Document your own learning. “People in the organization need to see documentation for their own comfort. The smartest thing I did was to create a matrix of ideas from leading thinkers. I documented two categories of thinking — the elements of a learning organization, and the pitfalls to avoid.”
  4. Take senior management along. Turner’s own education included benchmarking trips to Saturn, Texas Instruments, Motorola, General Electric, and other companies known for their innovative approaches to learning. “Some of the people in the senior group were very skeptical,” Turner says. “It helped to take them on these benchmarking trips to show them other companies that were actually doing some of the same learning practices.”
  5. No fear! “You’ve got to be fearless and not worry about keeping your job.”
  6. Be a learning person yourself. “Change agents have to be in love with learning and constantly learning new things themselves. Then they find new ways to communicate those things to the organization as a whole.”
  7. Laugh when it hurts. “This can be very discouraging work. You need a good sense of humor. It also helps if you’ve got a mantra you can say to yourself when things aren’t going too well.”
  8. Know the business before you try to change anything. “I don’t think you can do this work if you’re just a theorist. I’ve been a sales rep, I’ve been in a marketing job where I worked with the operations side. So when I go about the work of creating a change strategy, I already have an understanding of the people in our organization and what they do.”
  9. Finish what you start. “I made a list of change projects we’d started and never finished in the past. We called it ‘the black hole.’ I determined early on I didn’t want to be part of a second-rate movie.”


I highlighted my favorites above but would offer a bit more on just a couple of them.


Network Like Crazy. In this digital age, it has never been easier to connect. The challenge is in connecting authentically. So my advice is to use the digital mediums and the good old-fashioned telephone to connect with people that you feel that you could learn from but also with whom you have something to offer. It could be a POV, a connection or just a person to brainstorm or bounce ideas off of. This has served me well so far as I have had meetings with no fewer than 50 key people inside and outside of SAP. I’ve taken those opportunities to be as spongy about information gathering as I can be but more importantly I tried to use the time to share the mission of our spunky little team and to offer our help wherever possible.


I’ve learned that networking will serve you well for years to come, especially when done authentically. If you go into the business of networking expecting some sort of personal benefit in the short term, you will be disappointed. Networking is like the stock market. Don’t do it unless you plan to be in it for the long haul. Networking is the business of relationships and this is never more important than when you are a change agent and/or when you start a new job. Business is people and relationships reign supreme, even in a digital age. Take the time to meet people, build trust, give more than you get, I promise it will benefit you in the long run.


Have No Fear! And Laugh When It Hurts. I wrote a blog for iMedia on the topic of fear last year and it was one of my favorites. In fact, I give speeches based on the topic. http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2011/01/19/make-fear-your-friend/ I will share just the “tip” portion of this blog again because they are relevant.


  1. Embrace Fear
    2. Calculated risks are the rocket fuel of our society
    3. Eat your fear. It tastes good and will make you stronger.
    4. “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” -Albert Einstein
    5. If you don’t first believe in yourself, don’t expect anyone else to believe in you, either.
    6. The only voice you have to listen to without fail is the one inside.
    7. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. (I actually own a USMC shirt with this statement)
    8. Living a public life is more dangerous than staying private, but much, much more rewarding. – Bloggers – this includes you!
    9. If you’re not getting “Laermered” every once in a while, perhaps you’re not reaching your full potential.


Taking a new job is scary under any circumstances but it’s also exhilarating. My onboarding process has really forced me to embrace that which I preached above. I have embraced the fear of entering, as a change agent, into an industry that was largely foreign to me. Embracing your fear or like point 3 says, “Eat your fear” is something I try to do every day so that I can take calculated risks to help me stay sharp and engaged, help the company and help my team. The only reason I think I have been able to do this consistently here and over the past several years is by believing in myself and knowing that there are at least a few good and important people whose opinions matter that believe in me too.


Change agents, by their very nature will always be targets for criticism and will more than likely continue to put themselves “out there” which places them at even greater risk so, one’s belief in oneself can never waver. Tips 8 and 9 above can stop you in your tracks if you let them, particularly when you are an outsider and new to a company. You must know that there are and will forever be “haters” in this world; people who use their resources to tear people down and see and proclaim only the worst in order to somehow make themselves feel better. But being a part of a strong community, where you can be immersed in a culture that feels natural, and where all are laser-focused on delivering innovation and wanting to truly make the world Run Better is nothing short of amazing and will drown the haters out. Fortunately, I have found such a community in SAP and have felt huge support internally and try to return the favor by listening, learning and trying to give back…quickly!


Quickly adding value is essential in today’s world and that has been true for me as well. If there is one area where I can say I truly feel the pressure it is in helping to make a difference, whether with my team or in support of others, right now! It may be that it is part of how I am wired it may also be that my experience has taught me that the shine can wear off pretty quickly and the best way to get past that is with “quick wins”. This is never truer than in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial company. The mantra, “what have you done for me lately” rings true. But for pirates, that are truly passionate about what they do, this is as comfortable as breathing in and out.


The next chapter in my own story has just begun and like most good stories, I wake eager to turn the page.


Mother’s Day at Jean Georges

Roehm Family at Jean Georges

Mother’s day is a great excuse to eat a delicious brunch with the people I care about. My handsome family was even rewarded by the staff with a free chocolate for being the “best dressed family”.  It has been said that unless people are complimenting you on how you are dressed on a regular basis you may want to dress better. So I guess my family is doing OK in that regard

And free chocolate is even better than a compliment:


best dressed award chocolate



Chocolate – it’s makes good days into better days. Thanks to the staff at JG for a great meal!

I have recently started to gather my various videos, interviews, and campaigns I have worked on into on place, with the intention of publishing it on both my personal web site as well as YouTube. While this project is still underway, you can see the beginnings of it live on the Julie Roehm YouTube Channel.

It’s not all business over there, as I included some fun stuff from our family adventures, including a recent trip to Panama.



A trip to middle earth

Going through my photos today I came across this gem. Mountain, water, waterfalls, snow, blue sky, grass. It’s the ultimate landscape photo!
Can you guess where it was taken? There are not too many places on the planet that look like this. Let me know in the comments below.

Boost funnel conversion with monkeys

On my recent visit to the DGPI – the Demand Generation Primate Institute in Salinas, CA  –  I was shown some fascinating proprietary research.

It turns out that monkeys – and to a lesser extent gorillas , lemurs, lorises, and galagos – have a strong positive effect on intra-funnel B2B conversion rates. The DGPI study  showed that each new monkey present in marketing collateral boosts MQL to SQL conversion +.49% in absolute terms. The marginal boost from each new monkey declines to nil  after the 4th monkey. The so-called ‘monkey effect’ is strongest when the monkeys are coupled with a strong call to action.

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