Speaking with a unified voice across various media and communications channels can be challenging at any company, but it includes an extra layer of complexity at Hy-Vee, where store directors have more autonomy than typical supermarket store managers.
“Any marketer or custodian of a brand will tell you that brand inconsistency can be the kiss of death,” said Donna Tweeten, Hy-Vee’s SVP and chief marketing officer. “If not death, it can certainly cause severe trauma or severe brand erosion. The words ‘decentralized structure’ and ‘brand consistency’ don’t usually play well together.”
Store directors and marketing coordinators at Hy-Vee have the freedom to create their own local promotions, but Tweeten works to keep the messaging as consistent as possible to represent the brand in a unified way.
“I’d be lying if I told you that our autonomy at store level does not present me and my team some challenges, because it does, and on a daily basis,” said Tweeten. “But I truly feel that type of decentralized structure, that autonomous culture, is what makes us better merchandisers and marketers, and ultimately, I think, a successful retailer.”
On the rare occasions when local promotions veer slightly off message, Tweeten leverages those incidents as opportunities for teaching moments — for both the local store director or marketing coordinator, and for herself.
“Whether it’s an ad, or an outdoor board or a TV spot, or even a Facebook post, we come to an understanding about the ‘whys,’” she said. “The bottom line is that the system works.
“Would it make my life easier if everyone was on the same page 24/7, with no promotions done in market? Yes, absolutely. But for Hy-Vee and more importantly for our customers, it would not be in their best interest to not have that local flavor. So in the end I yield to that. It’s a great point of difference for us.”
Matt Nannen, VP of advertising and marketing, said communication is key when it comes to developing marketing plans across the store director network. The company works closely with its store directors and marketing coordinators, who help implement campaigns in individual geographic areas.
Hy-Vee’s marketing department meets weekly with a panel of store directors who serve for a year at a time, “acting as a think tank or a sounding board for us, to talk through processes and ideas related to marketing and advertising,” said Nannen.
Jon Wendel, EVP and chief merchandising officer, who held the CMO role before Tweeten, said the success and talents of Tweeten and her team make it easier for the store director network to support the corporate marketing initiatives espoused by her department.
“They have so much confidence in Donna and her team, that they just automatically believe,” he said. “When you have such a high success rate from the marketing and promotions that she puts together, they really just want to join right in.”
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