Key Takeaways from the Media Insights Breakfast for Digital Marketers

Last week 24 Seven had the pleasure of attending the She Runs It Media Insights Breakfast alongside MouthMedia Network during Ad Week. We couldn’t have asked for a more impressive panel of key players in marketing and media including, HBO, Glossier, Belvedere Vodka, IBM, and Prudential Financial.

The event kicked off with a quote from Sheryl Sandberg: “In the future, there won’t be female leaders, there will just be leaders” which was the perfect introduction for panelists, Sabrina Calouri (HBO’s SVP of Digital Media and Marketing), Alexandra Weiss (Glossier’s SVP of Marketing), Jasmin Allen (Belvedere Vodka’s Brand Director and Head of Consumer Marketing and Engagement), Colin McConnell (Prudential Financial’s SVP and Cheif Brand Officer), and Maria Winans (IBM’s Chief Marketing Officer) who explored the topic of Brand Love: How Brands are Making Emotional Connections.

The constantly evolving state of digital marketing and technology makes it difficult for brand campaigns to reach their target audience without getting drowned out by the abundant noise of current and emerging competitor. The ability for brands to make emotional connections is, therefore, more important than ever today.


Today one of the challenges keeping marketers up at night is how to convert “brand love” into active and measurable engagement. And then determining what type of engagement matters most.

The panelists explored a number of ways to measure engagement including working with a third party agency, utilizing various analytics tools and developing custom reporting. Maria Winans said IBM focuses on their “network score”. IBM promotes engagement from within and works their way out by “driving interesting action inside the company” and maintaining strong relationships with their customers. The ultimate benchmark is if their customers are recommending their offerings to others.

On the other hand, Alexandra Weiss is more concerned with the engagement rates of consumers using Instagram as their primary platform. She asks, “How much engagement are you actually generating?” in terms of growth and general brand awareness on Instagram. She also noted the success of email campaigns, responses to surveys, and NPS score to determine actual brand love.

Sabrina Calouri claims measuring engagement is an “imperfect science” due to the abundance of information and data out there today. HBO looks to their experts by specialty to determine successful engagement across touchpoints, for example, Calouri defers to their Social Media Manager and Community Manager to examine behavior on social and so on.

Emotional connection

Facts tell stories sell. When panelists were asked how they saw customers connect with their brand in an emotional way, the answers had a common theme, honest connections with the audience. Colin McConnell said that it’s relatively easy for his brand (Prudential) to connect with their audience on an emotional level when it comes to their Life Insurance product since it triggers feelings of grief and mourning. In one of Prudential’s campaigns, they sought out people who had lost a loved one and paired them with local artists to tell their story in an artistic way. This became one of their most successful campaigns.

On the opposite end of the emotion spectrum, HBO was able to connect with its audience in a light-hearted way by bringing together Game of Thrones fans with a “digital roast of the most hated character (Joffrey).” Calouri recalls how consumers were able to connect emotionally through their shared hatred of Joffrey.

Glossier’s ‘Body Hero’ campaign is another prime example of a brand’s ability to connect emotionally with it’s consumer. Weiss said the team chose to launch their line of body products with a campaign focused on the entire female body as opposed to highlighting only the face (which had been successful for past makeup launches). The campaign featured different women’s body types (plus size, pregnant, athletic, etc.) in an honest and real way (no retouching). The emotional impact of the campaign was evident in the social engagement of Glossier’s following, “Body Hero” became their most reposted piece of content. The message instilled confidence in their customers.

Brand messaging

One of the biggest takeaways from the Media Insights Breakfast was how brand messaging has been impacted by social media. Insights from analytics tools and direct feedback from consumers (more accessible than ever before) are influencing brands in new ways.

Weiss’ perspective was quite unique since Glossier is still very much a start-up. Glossier launched on Instagram, with an impressive 1.5 million unique views a month, before they even launched any actual products. Since then Instagram has been a huge influencer of the brand’s voice. Weiss says C2C (consumer to consumer) is Glossier’s most powerful form of marketing so it’s important for the brand to remain approachable and engaging. Glossier’s brand message “comes from its soul which started on social media.”

According to Calouri, HBO first made the mistake of outsourcing too much of their brand voice to agencies and have since brought things in-house. “HBO made an effort to say that it’s their internal teams, in the building, on the ground (on social media) that know the voice best.” Her advice was “not to let an agency dictate the voice of your brand. It really needs to come from the people that are leading that brand and loving it!” Winans agreed and said IBM “learned a lot about social from outsourcing to agencies and have since created a team in-house, keeping it in the moment.

McConnell said they also manage brand messaging internally to “keep it anchored in an authentic voice” saying they have to fight against the archetype that suggests that financial services don’t naturally connect with people. They try to bring the brand voice down to the “everyman” for the message to resonate with and relate to its customer.


Overall the She Runs It event was a reminder for digital marketers that at the end of the day if you want your brand to be shown love, you have to show love to your customers through authentic engagement, emotional connections, and a strong brand message.

Catch the full discussion on the Content is Your Business Podcast.

Written by: Brittany Johnston

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