Walgreens is reimagining its creative services team, focusing on performance storytelling. Led by Rego Marquiis, who joined the retailer as head of creative a little over a year ago, the team is a way to head into the future, finding modern and meaningful ways to connect with people using the latest technology, according to the company.
Marquiis tells Marketing Daily what the retailer has been up to and how it hopes to change moving toward Web 3.0.
Marketing Daily: Storytelling is a conundrum for brands. Companies need to sell things. Stories need to be interesting. There's not always an intersection. What's your litmus test for a story that will work?
Rego Marquiis: Of course, we're always thinking about things like size of baskets and revenue. But all our stories have to exchange value, whether that's education, information or inspiration. And it's all driven by data.
Every interaction we have with customers leaves a fingerprint, and that has to be extrapolated to connect story threads, so we can focus on what people want and need.
Marketing Daily: What are some examples?
Marquiis: COVID-19 provides an incredible aperture for that. We're in every community, and that gave us nuggets of insight, even as we stepped away from selling.
We've done a documentary series called "In Our Words." We interviewed the mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama for one segment. He's a good troublemaker, as they say, and spent his entire career fighting inequities in his community.
He spoke about the Tuskegee experiments. And even though many thought those syphilis experiments involved injecting participants -- which perpetuated fear about COVID-19 vaccinations -- the reverse was true. The government was withholding treatment.
It was super emotional to see this historic living figure address how his community is still affected by inequities in healthcare.
In another, we address vaccine hesitancy in rural Kansas.
It's been amazing to see how much in common all these communities have. People want to be healthy. They want to keep their families safe. It's the same values, just expressed differently.
I've worked in broadcast TV. I've worked on Super Bowl ads. I've done some exciting stuff. But this documentary series has been the highlight of my career.
Marketing Daily: What's your preferred form of content these days?
Marquiis: We're an omnichannel brand, so we're everywhere. But given my druthers, I like the chance to tell more of a story and give it some air, with emotions that light up the lower limbic system.
But our stories live in the performance marketing universe as well. And even tweets require some version of story in the human interaction. Length matters less than love. We're endeavoring to build this brand love scenario, so people realize we've been there for them for 120 years.
Marketing Daily: How?
Marquiis: Our ambition is to use stories to connect in smaller, non-advertising ways. You can tell a story in ads, and a lot of brands do that very well. We complement advertising. How do we add value in story around the advertising? Our vision is to create the most human brand ever.
Marketing Daily: Companies, as we know, are not people. How do you personify them?
Marquiis: At the back of each store behind the counter is a pharmacist -- that archetype is a generous citizen with a connection to their community. They are a companion in people's health journey.
Marketing Daily: You're a writer and have worked on sitcoms. How do you feel about humor in brand content?
Marquiis: We see it in moments when people are less than perfect, in a kind of "Oh crap, I forgot the wrapping paper" way. What we do and are is so important to people. Anytime we're glib or flip, it's a failure.
Marketing Daily: I'm told you have a writer's room. What else is special about the way your team works?
Marquiis: The team is 87 people, which is quite lean for a brand this size. So we operate in a very agile way. There's an ideation group, a social media team, and a film team.
Part of the creative story engine team is thinking about how to package stories. And we're talking about Web 3.0 and what it means for health and wellness. We've got a connections lab dedicated to finding new and novel ways to connect more deeply with customers.
That's sort of a nod to Google's moonshot program. We want them to spend 20% of their workweek thinking about how to create emotional experiences in this metaverse.
Marketing Daily: One struggle for many companies is that it can take ages to produce content, but conversations happen instantly. How fast can you work?
Marquiis: While we always have a team working to address conversations in real time, the rest of us work in two-week sprints. We might have a brief on Monday, a rough by Wednesday, and an advanced version by Friday, ready to go into production the following week.
We know we have to get better and faster and smarter at how we manufacture content.