By @SimonCocking

Interview with Kim Metcalf Kupres @KMetKup,   CMO of Johnson Controls @johnsoncontrols. Ever on the hunt for creativity & cool ideas – sales,marketing,innovation,leadership…

What makes a good / successful / awesome CMO on Twitter / social media?

Participating in social media starts with focusing on things you really care about and engaging with others who share those interests.  Then, it’s all about authenticity. I’m interested in a lot of things and am very eclectic about the topics and people I follow myself, so that gives me exposure to a lot of creativity and different styles as well.  As a commercial person, I always dislike a hard sell and automatically tune out when someone uses that approach.  Instead, I’m intrigued by interesting and unique content that catches my attention and makes me think.  Be a whole person, share your personality and unique perspective.  Only share things that you’d be interested in receiving from someone else yourself.

What led you into what you are now doing?

I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do a lot of things in my career, and as a result have a broad range of diverse experiences.  I’ve worked across the various sales and marketing disciplines with different companies and industries with each new role involving expanded responsibilities.  I joined Johnson Controls in 1994 with the Building Efficiency business and enjoyed working in our buildings business for about 12 years.  My last role with that division was VP, North America Sales & Marketing for our systems business.  In early 2007, I moved to Power Solutions which is JCI’s battery business.  I initially led the North America sales and marketing team, but also gained my first global role with responsibility to build our global commercial capabilities.

Over the next few years, my role there became increasingly global, and I also gained responsibility for strategy and government relations for that business.  In May 2013, executive management decided to create a Chief Marketing Officer position for the first time in the company’s history, and I was incredibly honored to be offered this role.  Today, I’m at 21 years with the company and two years into this assignment with a lot of great work still to do.  Johnson Controls is a great company with outstanding people, and I can’t think of anywhere I would have rather been.

How has the role of CMO changed over your time in the business?

For Johnson Controls the CMO position is a completely new role, so we’ve been able to define it to meet our current needs and future vision for the company.  We weren’t encumbered by any old definitions, but it’s pretty clear that our vision for the role is consistent with a lot of trends that I’m seeing in other companies.  First of all, there’s a huge difference in the role of the CMO in an industrial company today versus more traditional consumer products or services organizations. In industrial companies, we tend to be business people first with operating experience, a pragmatic approach and very tangible expectations around impact that directly supports business objectives.

My charter has three major dimensions:  1) drive profitable growth; 2) develop new ways of creating value for our customers and shareholders; and 3) protect and advance the Johnson Controls brand.  That translates into leadership responsibility for sales, marketing, product management, innovation, strategy, business transformation and communications across the company.  While the specifics vary by company, I’m finding that my peers in other companies are increasingly assuming similarly broad and heavily integrated roles.  There are a lot of drivers behind this, too many to detail here.  However, one easy example is technology and the way it enables (or forces) you to look at previously separated functions in a much more connected and interdependent way.

Storytelling for brands. What are the challenges in a crowded market? Can we have too many stories?

The biggest challenge in a ‘crowded market’ is differentiation. If your brand stands for the same things as many other brands, you can’t cut through the clutter. It’s also critical to tell an authentic story, one that’s true to your brand. At Johnson Controls, we have a great story to tell about the partnerships we have with our customers, the technical expertise we have with our products and overall how we’re making an impact on the world. Our greatest focus right now is on evolving our brand to reflect the truly multi-industrial nature of the company following significant portfolio changes and doing that consistently on a global basis with tangible stories that resonate with people.  If your stories are good ones, then there can never be too many of them.

What are your tips / strategies to get your brands heard when so much content is being created these days, in so many formats, by so many people?

Be real.  What do you want to accomplish?  What’s your objective?  What do you stand for?  Know those things and stay true to them.

  • Provoke thought and make connections.  Nobody wants to buy your stuff.  However, they do want to accomplish something.  Maybe an idea they get from you will help.
  • Leverage content across all channels, but modify to meet the different needs/wants of your target audiences.
  • Help your employees become great story tellers, and let them shine.

How much time does it take to stay on top of your social media digital footprint? Where else are you active as well as twitter?

I stay engaged with Twitter continuously, but I’m not a power user and it doesn’t take a lot of my time.  Of course, when my account was hacked a couple of weeks ago it was a different story – that day I spent four hours cleaning things up.  I’m on LinkedIn and pretty engaged with active direct messaging, but I don’t post a lot of general material there.  Facebook is just my close family and friends – I don’t believe anyone really wants to “friend” their boss.  I follow but don’t post on YouTube and Instagram.  And, in China I’m on WeChat but just to engage with employees there.

Do you have more followers on Twitter or LinkedIn? Does one brings you more value / engagement / business?

They’re both valuable, but I use them for different things.  I have more followers on Twitter, because my focus on LinkedIn is usually more about direct connections with people than publishing content.  On Twitter, I’m sharing content and insights into my experiences – often at industry events, customer events, plant visits, etc.  For example, I tweet from events that I’m privileged to attend like the World Economic Forum annual conference in Davos which are great opportunities to connect and share. I was just recently at the Aspen Ideas Festival and was able to connect with some great leaders in industries we serve through Twitter. I also love it when customers and employees reach out to me through these channels.  Even if they’re unhappy about something, it gives me a unique opportunities to hear from them and do something about it.

Top tips to companies trying to do well on social media?

  • Know your audience and which channels they prefer to use. Not every social media channel makes sense for a company. Define your target audience and give them the information they want, where they want it.
  • Define your brand story before you engage. Use this as a filter for content to drive a consistent story throughout the organization.
  • Be authentic. As a company you can’t pretend to be something you’re not. An example we use is “Day in the Life” videos that highlight employees and how they are impacting our customers.
  • Empower executives and employees. Some of the greatest, and most trusted, communication assets can be your own employees. Our executives tell their own stories (Our CEO Alex Molinaroli @amolinaroli is active on Twitter and is also a LinkedIn Influencer), and we’re empowering other employees to share socially.
  • Measure the impact. Measure and find ways to show how social media is impacting larger business objectives.

How big a part of their marketing strategy should social media be? (varying by sector too, or not?)

Social media is a core part of our marketing strategies – both at the company level and for our product brands within the business units.  It isn’t our only answer, but when used smartly in concert with other efforts it’s a powerful means to build the brand, drive engagement and create connections

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