• October 13, 2010
  • By Juan Martinez, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Geico Named DMA's Marketer of the Year

SAN FRANCISCO — "Looking to the future" has been a recurring theme of the DMA2010 Conference & Exhibition, convening here this week, but at the start of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) event's second day, the spotlight turned instead toward past successes. As part of Day Two's opening session, the DMA announced that insurance provider Geico had earned the organization's 2010 Marketer of the Year Award.

[Editors' Note: Editorial Assistant Juan Martinez's blog coverage of rockstar Bret Michaels' appearance at #DMA2010 can be found here; his additional DMA2010 coverage can be found here and here.]

Lawrence M. Kimmel, the DMA's chief executive officer (CEO), presented the award — given annually to a company or an individual for outstanding achievements in multichannel direct marketing — to Anne Bodnar, Geico's manager of database marketing.

"I'm honored to accept this on behalf of Geico," Bodnar told the crowd. "Geico has taken a lot of strategic risks and we've been fortunate enough to see them succeed."

"Geico's roots are as a direct-marketing company," the DMA said, in a statement released prior to the event, "and that tradition continues in their advertising today. Skillfully using a wide variety of humorous icons and media including print, television, digital, mobile, and radio, each communication is designed to build ‘sales overnight, brand over time.' By fusing brand with entertainment and melding traditional and direct marketing to appeal to all demographics, Geico has enjoyed continued success."   

[Editors' Note: The DMA's full press release can be found here.]

The keynote session continued after the award announcement, with an address by Jacques Levy, global chairman and CEO of cosmetics retailer Sephora (referred to in the subhead of the presentation as "Global E-Commerce Titan Sephora").

Delivering the presentation, "Success Has Many Fragrances," in a thick French accent, Levy described Sephora's ascent from a single retail store in France to a global brand with 1,500 stores in 25 countries.

Any successful brand, Levy argued, must have values at its core — and Sephora was no exception. Levy described the four core values at the heart of the company's success as follows:

  • Excellence;
  • Freedom;
  • Boldness; and
  • Emotion.

Levy told the crowd that differentiation is the reason Sephora and its marketing campaigns have been successful, and he cited the company's distinctive visuals as an example. Even from a distance, Levy argued, consumers are able to easily recognize the strong black-and-white columns and color palette found in each of the retail chain's locations.

Another differentiator, Levy said, is Sephora's range of offerings, and its often-exclusive, often-limited distribution of certain brands and products. The company has served as an incubator for small brands, and has worked with established prestige brands to develop exclusive products.

Innovation is another key differentiator, Levy told attendees, adding that Sephora has a well-developed and hard-earned sense of how to introduce new products to its customers. "We've spoken to them millions of times," he said, "so we have the data."

Sephora's services are a fourth area of differentiation, according to Levy. Sephora offers nail bars, brow bars, make-up bars, etc. — each of which helps develop the in-store experience.

"Ladies should come to the store and come back with friends," Levy said. "I've invested millions on mirrors in the store to test products, to really experience our stores in the nicest way."

Sephora's management style, Levy said, is based on four principles:

  • client satisfaction and pleasure,
  • the encouragement of new initiatives,
  • rapidity over perfectionism, and
  • the welcoming of change as opportunity.

"Once you have [established your own differentiators] then you can communicate and advertise," Levy advised. "We do all [types of] advertising. Our press campaigns are edgy...[but] the stores are also very good communication vehicles. Our windows communicate the tone and attitude of our advertising."

As important as it may be for a brand to stand out from the crowd, Levy said, one aspect of Sephora's operations goes beyond mere differentiation: Regardless of the offering, he said, product quality is a "non-negotiable" factor. "We don't issue one product without testing with customers and labs against the leader of the market."

Levy summed up Sephora's reach by describing an experience he had with two American women while waiting online at a Sephora branch in China.

"I asked the women what they thought of the store and one of the women said it felt like home," Levy said, smiling. "We've done our job as a global brand when a French store in central China makes an American woman feel at home."

The Digital Marketing Association describes DMA2010 as a three-day conference covering all marketing channels — from traditional to digital. The conference positions data and direct marketing as the underpinnings of any effort to enhance the user experience and maximize return on investment. The preconference events began on Saturday, Oct. 9, with official content beginning Monday, Oct. 11.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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