Northwestern Mutual’s Aditi Gokhale: ‘ I’m not a big believer in outsourcing everything to agencies’

Aditi Javeri Gokhale, the CMO of Northwestern Mutual, crafted her own job description as the first-ever CMO of the company and overhaul Northwestern Mutual’s brand awareness and practices. On this episode, she discusses her plan of action and where the “quiet brand” is switching into action.

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The department of marketing is fairly new at Northwestern Mutual. We’re known to be a quiet company. It was strategic. The marketing department was a support function. Our CEO felt that marketing needed to be part of the strategy in customer experience. Part of my vision is to evolve marketing from being a support function to a strategic asset and a growth driver for the company. It meant that you have to prove your ROI through data. The access to it is easy now from 10 years ago. It’s not about branding and advertising. So we’ve pivoted to brand awareness and activation. We’re looking at our entire funnel to see that we’re getting a return on investments and meeting our customers through the right channels.

We look at the entire funnel, from awareness to consideration and activation. We have KPIs across each stage of the funnel. We track at the customer journey end to end, from when someone looks at an ad to the time a connection is made and then a sale. That data allows you a lot more transparency on what’s working and attributing your spend accordingly.

It’s not about having data for sake of data. It’s about insights. What are we going to do using these insights? There isn’t one company connecting with women. We thought it was a gap and an opportunity. There is high correlation between financial planning and starting a family. Women think about financial planning differently from men. Women are anxious. There is a fear of judgement. There is a lot of jargon. But they make 51 percent of financial decisions in a household. So we decided to connect with women in a more meaningful way. That’s what led to creating ads for women and a social space for them.

We are in early stages in terms of digital marketing. We’re still doing the foundational work. The hypothesis is that between seeing an article to making a purchase is a long process. People are in the market, ready to talk to advisors when connected the right way. But that’s not the case. Figuring out the market and segmenting it based on what stage of cycle you’re in is what we’ve started doing now. You’re able to shorten the interaction with the consumer through that.

I want to have a hybrid approach to agencies. I’m not a big believer in outsourcing everything to agencies. From an efficiency perspective, it’s not smart to build an in-house agency either. I have always had a critical in-house team that are subject matter experts. We work with agencies based on the projects. What I expect from agencies is out-of-the-box ideas but I’m not going to outsource my core competency to an agency.

When I think about media spending, that’s when data comes in. I define how I want to see my media spend and the metrics I want to see. Historically, [the agencies] have. I take control of that with my team and get down to the definition of what a KPI is and how it will be measured and then have an alignment with agencies. The planning is in-house and the execution is left to agencies.

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