Commentary

The New Left/Right Brain CMO


Yogi Jashnani, CMO, Advance Auto Parts, admitted the obvious. If you own a 2010 Toyota Camry, you only care about the year/make model that you need when you enter an Advance Auto Parts store. "And," he continued, "if I don't carry that part, I don't have the sale. There is no second conversation." After he became CMO in 2017, he went to the inventory department to make sure it is stocking every part of every car model. That's a lot of parts.

But, as he said, "the role of marketing is about getting the right parts in the right place and to use this as a promise."

Foot traffic, of course, drives the most revenue so heavy investments in technology and AI make higher revenue possible. "I need to know that your car is going to need brakes in the next two or three months," said Jashnani. "Marketing is there to support my consumer need."

"Our mix of dollars in search has gone up dramatically. Organic, paid and website search. We are starting with consumer truth, and a shift in our media mix. People are looking for car advice. We ask, how do we insert ourselves in those conversations without it feeling like an ad. Social has become a big part of our media mix. 

"We were in an either/or situation. Through testing, we are finding it's that mix of both that works. Just because broadcast media is difficult to measure doesn't mean it doesnt' have value. 

Jashnani used the example of someone who is changing their own oil. "They can get the exact same product from us, our competitors, and online. Brand affinity makes a difference. That's where we spend our dollars. Pandora streaming, terrestrial and local radio. The mix becomes effective."

Within the organization, everything has to be incremental attribution. There is a lot of cultural change. "You have organization inertia to move from TV and radio after 30 years." When you match marketing KPIs to business KPIs, it's easier to change behavior and habits.

Currently, Advance Auto Parts is revamping its loyalty program, allowing it to tie all customer touchpoints from instore to online behavior. "Loyalty is the platform that stitches touchpoints together. We ask ourselves, what is the lifetime value of someone we recruited into a loyalty program. Our current program was not as sophisticated on data and meaningful. We are using AI to make each touchpoint is impactful, to predict the customer's next need."

When he started as CMO at the company, it was a print and radio shop. "We had a lot of expertise on that. We retained these people and retrained other members to have expertise in other channels." However, he did bring in experts on loyalty and targeting data. "I've been on a hiring binge for a year and a half. I can't hire fast enough."

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