Transcript Adapted from the Pros & Content Podcast

Anda Gansca:

Hi, my name is Anda Gansca, and this is Pros & Content. I'm the co-founder and CEO of Knotch, a digital content intelligence platform. I'm a massive data nerd, who's fallen in love with storytelling. So on the Pros & Content podcast, we will be featuring a series of really incredible leaders who believe in storytelling and who have different perspectives on the importance, measurement, scalability, and optimization of storytelling.

I am so happy and so honored to kick off our first episode of Pros & Content with this fireside chat I had with Kristin Lemkau, the Chief Marketing Officer of J.P. Morgan Chase. Kristin is more than a CMO. She's an incredible supporter for all of her team, for all of the entrepreneurs that are building interesting and relevant companies in this space, and she was one of our first customers and early supporters. It was really together with her and her team, especially Sandra Nudelman, who's the Chief Data Officer at J.P. Morgan Chase, that we built our platform together.

Anda Gansca:

So it's with great honor and great pride that I introduce this conversation as our first in the series of many interesting conversations for Pros & Content. We recorded this at Knotch's first annual Pros & Content Conference to an amazing crowd of marketers who are really receptive and engaged with the ideas and actions that Kristin puts into play on a daily basis. So without further ado, let's get to the very first episode of Pros & Content.

Anda Gansca:

Hi, everyone. Good morning. Thank you so much for being here. 

Before I jump into asking you a ton of questions about content, first I just wanted to thank you because you're honestly one of the most amazing supporters I know, not just of your team, you put everyone on a pedestal, but also of entrepreneurs that you love, and finally, of causes that you really believe in. I really have seen you see things before everyone else does. You've been one of our first customers, if not the very first. And you've helped us build the new products that we currently have. So thank you so much for being an incredible supporter and innovator and just an all-around amazing, badass woman.

Kristin Lemkau:

So this is going to be a total gush fest because I'm a huge, huge fan, obviously, of you, as a human being, and of Knotch. And you all, and she didn't tell me to say this, have been really important, I think, in forming the truth of our content performance and have evolved my thinking of what our strategy should be.

Anda Gansca:

Thank you, Kristin. So I want to start with a high-level question. We recently had a really fun meeting, and it sounded like a lot of the things you used to believe in when it comes to content have now been shifted, quite dramatically, to another state of the world. So I wanted to start by asking you ... I mean, it's a series of questions because I know you're going to answer all of them. So how do you think about defining content as a category internally? How do you best organize around it? And what have you found to be the most difficult thing about this entire content function?

Kristin Lemkau:

Yeah. So maybe I'll just tell you a little bit of our journey of how we've used content and some of the big mistakes that we've made, that we're now at a moment of shifting. I've been in this job now almost six years. Rob Norman and I were talking about it, I think I'm bending the curve of the average CMO lifecycle. I started out with the hypothesis that content should help build brand. Right? Content, as defined as storytelling that does not sell product specifically, should build brand or should sell product. And that there was a funnel that you could captivate somebody based on your content, and then pull them through, through acquisition that might be more effective than direct response.

Kristin Lemkau:

I'd say both of those things did not prove to be true in the way that I thought. On building brand, we did a lot of stuff. We really only had three franchises that were effective in terms of building brand and driving consideration. And I can go through each of those. One was a series that we did, all with partners by the way, called Kneading Dough, where we interviewed athletes about how to help them understand how to make the most of their money, because athletes are a group of people who come into a lot of money quickly and make a lot of mistakes. That had 45 million views and drove eight points of consideration over people who didn't see it.

Kristin Lemkau:

Then, we did a partnership with NowThis that was short-form content. And I think NowThis was just ahead of the curve of what content units should look like, that did drive engagement and consideration. And then we did an ad with Serena Williams, called This Mama, that I took a lot of heat from internally because people thought, "Well, we're not selling product." But we had an athlete, we had a moment. We had an insight around realistic motherhood, not sitcom motherhood or idealized motherhood, that seemed to capture cultural imagination. So those three things were effective.

Kristin Lemkau:

And then there was a whole lot of stuff that wasn't, which you helped me see. Because as a CMO, you get a lot of success theater, particularly on content. You get a lot of people who are justifying their wares. So I was seeing these numbers that weren't great. On the selling product, it just wasn't as effective as direct response. And part of it is that our direct response machine is so effective. Our consumer bank has an ROI of above three. Business banking, it's closer to an eight. When you say, "Here's $200 to open a checking account," and you target that audience well, it works. It's like free beer. So if you compare that against long-form content, it's not going to pull people through. So I think that was one lesson.

Kristin Lemkau:

The other lesson was, it just became an extension of campaigns as a lever to pull just because. So when the CMOs who work for me would see the campaign results, that see it rolled up, and that see that it performed and had hit their KPI, and what they wouldn't do is really drill down into the carbon footprint of carpet-bombing that happened to achieve that ROI, including long-form content, simply because we had people writing internally. This is a totally long-winded answer.

Anda Gansca:

No, no. No, no. Please. This is the reason you're here.

Kristin Lemkau:

I'll give you a completely ridiculous example: cash back credit card. Cash back credit card, it's really clear. The consumer is incredibly clear what that value proposition is. Every credit card company has one. Our cash back credit card ... Right? We have Kevin Hart as our spokesperson. We'd have a content strategy, simply because that was what we did in campaigns. We had long-form content. It didn't work. The overall campaign worked because Kevin Hart's great and the creative was strong. The content piece wasn't. So it was getting really disciplined about what it is ... And David said it before: what's the purpose? What's the audience? And how do you measure it on a micro basis, not just rolled up?

Anda Gansca:

And when you thought about these lessons and how you previously organized the team, how you are shifting that organization now... I remember when we first started talking, content was pretty decentralized, and then it became centralized. And now, I'm going to let you talk a bit about where you want to take it forward from an organizational standpoint.

Kristin Lemkau:

Yeah. I'm a hot mess on this topic, so I don't know why you have me.

Anda Gansca:

I think everyone is. That's why we're having this gathering and conversation.

Kristin Lemkau:

So we had it in different pockets. I came from a PR background. So I said, "Let's bring it all together. Let's form our own newsroom. Let's hire former news writers." Writers want to be around other writers. I initially had two. I had one for the Chase brand and one for the J.P. Morgan Chase brand, and then we brought it all together under one. And in part because we weren't aligned against a great strategy, it just didn't work. They did things that were great, and I mentioned three of them, but it wasn't, in aggregate, worth the calories burned on it.

Kristin Lemkau:

So now, we've really shifted to moving it aligned to people who are driving the business outcomes, and having it aligned to those business outcomes, instead of its own thing, shopping its own wares, and creating cash back credit card content because somebody asked them to do it. We're just hiring better writers to write better marketing copy and to have AI tools help us write better marketing copy. So that's under our Chief Brand Officer. They still write in marketing speak, and there's still too many adjectives. And just write like a human being.

Kristin Lemkau:

Then, we have SEO optimization strategy, particularly in our credit card business, where we get disintermediated by affiliates who have a really strong SEO strategy. And we're using agencies for that because we're not yet good at it.

Kristin Lemkau:

And then there's a third, which is really the big strategic pivot that we've made, which is, instead of throwing all this — carpet-bombing content out there for free and assuming people are going to convert, which they don't, isn't this a benefit of having a product with Chase? If our brand purpose is to help people make the most of their money, they should be getting content behind the paywall, not ahead of the paywall that'll convince them to do business with us. Behind the paywall. Almost like every other publisher is doing, producing premium content within our app to engage.

Kristin Lemkau:

So we have 65 million households. We have 50 million of them in our digital channels weekly. We have 35 million of them on there every day. They're checking their transactions. That's what they do. They're checking their balances. They're paying people. You all are banking customers, that's what you do. We're not giving them a reason to engage with that app, other than doing the transaction. So not only should I be competing with Cap One and Bank of America, I should be competing with Facebook on how they spend their time.

Kristin Lemkau:

So where can we make content? I'm not going to charge people for it. I'm going to make that part of the value proposition that drives consideration. And the more time they spend in that app, the more likely they are to acquire another product, and my cost per acquisition will be lower to do that.

Anda Gansca:

That's a really interesting idea, to compete with Facebook. It's very ambitious. How do you think about having good enough content to be able to capture that attention? Is it all going to be created internally? Are you going to have a set of partners that is going to syndicate some of their content? Are you going to have a bunch of creative agencies working on it? Or is it a combination of all things?

Kristin Lemkau:

Work in progress.

Anda Gansca:

Work in progress.

Kristin Lemkau:

Right? As I said, we have not been historically good at it. It's the reason I moved it under our communications team, because those people know how to write. They deal with journalists all the time. They understand what captures audience imagination. They understand what good content is. I would love to be able to do it in-house. But I also think there could be an interesting model where the media partner potentially has access to our audience, instead of the other way around.

Anda Gansca:

That's an interesting idea. One of the questions that I didn't ask you as we were prepping, but it's one that I'm actually curious about, when you think about the performance marketing angle and paying someone $200 to sign up, what if someone else pays them $250? How do you think about creating that differentiation?

Kristin Lemkau:

That's the secret sauce. How do you pay the right amount to get the right customer, who will stay and it's not hot money, without overpaying them or paying the wrong customer. And it's why actually our direct response is so strong, because we have a team that is epically awesome at that. That it's hard to compete with just brand stuff. We do it. We have to do it. We know brand drives the ability to not have to pay the customer that much because they have an affinity for the brand.

Anda Gansca:

We know that you work with Droga, that they're an incredible creative agency. You work with Vayner. You worked with a few different agencies over the course of the last few years. I think you've talked a little bit about how you think about building an internal function versus external. Can you speak a little bit to what makes sense to you from both, maybe, a strategy standpoint, whether it's SEO or performance marketing, or a creative standpoint? What makes sense to have internally versus externally?

Kristin Lemkau:

I think the high velocity content, or functions that require direct access to our data, because we have a ton of it, should be done in-house. We don't do it all in-house. We're not always great at it, but increasingly more and more media buying, where we can do it more effectively -- I don't want to do it for the sake of doing it -- and we can actually optimize the data, I think should be done in-house. And I think that's true of content. I don't think agencies get inspired by high-volume, or velocity, of content and the production value of it. And I've fought with my boss on this. I always believe that you need really truly genius, great, creative out-of-house. That's my perspective. Because I think you need somebody who can push your thinking, who is more connected to culture, who sees what other brands are doing, who isn't just going to say, "Yes, Jamie." You have to get the right partner to do that, but we feel really lucky to have David as part of our team.

Anda Gansca:

So I wanted to ask you a little bit about your journey getting here. You said you have six years on this job. You said you're pushing the average tenure of the CMO. You're really recognized as one of the top minds and voices in the industry. And in the realm of speaking to those in the audience who are looking up at you and thinking, "Okay, maybe one day I can aim to be in a similar position," tell us a bit about your journey. What are the things that you've found to be the most difficult? What are the things that you've found have really pushed you forward?

Kristin Lemkau:

Yeah. The one thing, and I gave a speech on this last week that you saw, grow your company. That is your job. I think David said, which I took issue with, "Marketing is a cost center instead of a revenue center." That's your job. Your job is to grow revenue. And I think sometimes CMOs, particularly if they get too captivated by brand and there's a lot of conferences and keynotes and awards... And you can get CMO-itis really, really quickly if you don't grow your company. That's what earns you the right to do everything else and go on yachts at Cannes — I do that too — but you have to grow your company. And I think people lose sight of it, and you have to be really deep in the details of what's happening.

Kristin Lemkau:

And then, for me, the biggest learning curve was getting just much stronger technically. I didn't come up as a traditionally trained marketer. In some ways, that was an advantage. I came up as a PR person. I knew our business really, really well. But the biggest lesson learned was, I had to deeply understand my tech stack on one page. And you've helped me with this. I've been a relentless advocate of this because most CMOs don't know. It's kind of 1-800-AGENCY. And when you talk to the really good ones... You get sold snake oil by every martech thing and even some of the big tech providers, in part because they know most CMOs don't know.

Kristin Lemkau:

And you have to really understand on one page how these different things fit together, what works, what doesn't, what's going to be decommissioned. Because if the next frontier is optimizing your data to drive sales, you can't do that without the operational framework to do it. If you want to get more efficient with your marketing spend, you need to action the data. So that was just a big learning, and ongoing learning for me.

Anda Gansca:

When you think about the folks that you really respect as content leaders or storytellers, what are some of the traits that you admire? How has that changed over the course of the last few years?

Kristin Lemkau:

I mean, the best are obviously Nike, Gatorade. They know their audience so well. They, I think, have permission to push the envelope on storytelling and content creation. I envy what they're creating, what they're doing. I mean, Gatorade is in a highly challenged category. Right? They're selling sugar water. And people are choosing it because they've got this positioning of the everyday athlete, and you need electrolytes to rehydrate. They're really true to that mission. So I think they do a great job. 

Kristin Lemkau:

It’s harder… and Marriott's a good example. They're a travel company. You are probably expected to provide content. I think people really need to ask themselves, because remember five, six years ago, content marketing was all the rage. Does your brand need to produce it, and for what purpose? We believe we need to produce content that helps people make the most of their money. And that may be newsletter-y type content. It may just be an insight of, "Hey, people like you spend X on coffee. Do you want to move the excess into savings?" That's content also. Machine learning-based content of constantly not getting distracted by things you hear at conferences that you're supposed to be doing.

Kristin Lemkau:

I mean, I had a team offsite with my whole team last week. 18 of us sat in a room for two days. It wasn't the typical offsite of outside speakers and flipping decks and presentation. There were six problems, content was one of them, that we just had to thrash through. And the big outcome was, we have to do less stuff. We're producing a lot of stuff. We're having people push things around. We have compliance people approving stuff. We have to produce less stuff and drive better outcomes.

Anda Gansca:

So there's different sides of the business. There's different business units, different offerings. And what you're saying about the larger industry as a whole, which is that different companies have different purposes and ways of measuring the outcome and, as such, different ways to use content. I'm curious, are there different business units or verticals inside of J.P. Morgan Chase where it makes more sense to create content versus others that are more performance driven?

Kristin Lemkau:

That's exactly right. So I think our consumer bank should be producing content around financial health, again, behind the paywall. Maybe we expose some of it for free as a way to pull people through, but I'm not, as you know, totally convinced that works. I think a cash back card, probably not. Travel and dining card, yes, but I don't want to hire travel writers to go to Bali and do stuff. There's plenty of people who are really good at that. That's a great example of where we should have a partnership. And then there's, of course, SEO optimization-driven content, which I think we're all doing and getting better and better at it.

Anda Gansca:

So do you think it's about the consideration of a product, how long it takes you to make a decision, and the longer it takes you, the more content you have to make as a marketer?

Kristin Lemkau:

Or it's driving engagement with that product, at least in our case. So take the Sapphire Reserve card, which is on the back of my phone. There's a lot of benefits in that card that people don't know. Everybody loves travel content. Is the content a way to engage them in a piece of content they like to remind them of a benefit they have? And can you do that in an artful way that gets them to actually use, love, and recommend the product?

Anda Gansca:

So it's about essentially the education around new opportunities to deepen that relationship with the customer?

Kristin Lemkau:

Right. But I think, again, measurement is really important because our own channels and our digital channels are our biggest store. We have a lot of people fighting for shelf space in that store. And if we're going to put content on there ... And you have to constantly cull what's in there because people don't want too much stuff in the app. It just confuses them. If that content is there, I have to understand deeply how it is performing against a straight-up "You know you're pre-approved for a mortgage. Click here." And that's hopefully where you and others can help us do that.

Anda Gansca:

And you've also managed to build an amazing data team. We've always been super impressed with the caliber and the DNA that you have. How did you think about hiring and building a team around it?

Kristin Lemkau:

That was a journey also. I started hiring a Head of Analytics, who's awesome. You know her, Sandra. And then we realized quickly that that had to be data and analytics together. Those aren't two different things. And she was able to create a data environment, which marketing could operate off of, which we previously didn't have. Like most people, we had data stored all over East Wobegon. We had to bring it into one data lake. Then, we had to democratize that data lake to make it available to our partners in risk and finance and compliance.

Kristin Lemkau:

And then, as a result, she now runs data and analytics for the entire company, reporting to me. It could report lots of places. It could report to finance. It could report to strategy. But because it came up in marketing and was built in marketing and the journey came through marketing, she continues with me. And she's a utility for the bank.

Anda Gansca:

And it probably makes it a lot easier to connect what you're doing to the rest of the business outcomes and the rest of the company as well.

Kristin Lemkau:

Exactly. And therein led to the journey with technology because it's like, "Awesome, we have all of this data in a lake." You couldn't operationalize it. The legacy systems and infrastructure and CRM, or lack of CRM, couldn't do anything with it to create a meaningfully personalized experience to the customer. Forget marketing. Just knowing who you are and where you are in your life and what kind of conversation a banker should be having with you. We didn't know that.

Anda Gansca:

I have a bunch of different questions. I want to take that to a next step. So as you've thought about building this tech stack internally, obviously you work with independent partners. You announced a couple of different partnerships on this front from a technology standpoint. How have you thought about your dependency on some of the really big companies? Are you aiming to build a more independent tech stack? Is it all about you owning the data and bringing more things internally? Or are you okay to collaborate with strategic tech partners?

Kristin Lemkau:

Yeah. I mean, it's an ongoing discussion because you don't want to build a hyper-dependency on one company or another. We've been burned with things like that before. But if you take, say, Salesforce, which I think most people are using, we can't build that internally the way they have. So it's an off-the-shelf licensing deal, like everybody has with them, where I think it's probably low-risk. If they go bankrupt, we go bankrupt. And they're a great company, and there are great people running it. You do have to be careful who you align with. And we've been burned before, and we've been burned before by really big companies. But it's a constant discussion of, what's your resiliency plan, among a number of different scenarios.

Anda Gansca:

So I wanted to ask you a little bit about something that's been very, very buzzword-y lately. And we didn't talk about this in advance, but I'm sure you're going to have an amazing answer. I remember I was in Cannes this year, and almost everywhere I turned, I heard brand purpose. And I know that you typically have a very strong opinion on the buzzwords of the moment. So I'm just curious. I know that you're a very opinionated individual. I know that the brand ... Well, in an amazing way. I think all of us should be. I know that the brand stands for a lot of different things, but how do you tie that brand purpose into what you do? And how do you use that word even?

Kristin Lemkau:

It's a great question. So our brand purpose, we're really clear. It's helped people make the most of their money so they can make the most of their life. And we interpret that to be, we're sort of the friend in the know that's here to help you, but we respect it's your decision. We think it's differentiated because, at least in the banking category, there's a lot of parental, naggy, patronizing stuff, like "If you just saved, you dumb ass, everything would be okay." And people know it's not that easy. So we think of that as not just the North Star for how all of our creatives should be executed. Right? Respectfully and not patronizing.

Kristin Lemkau:

We have a whole brand and a page, that I'm sure everybody has, and a voice in all of it. But how does that embed in our products? How do the products actually help people make the most of their money when, in many cases, they're built around making money if you make a mistake? So how do you then make it easier for the customer not to trigger that mistake within the product? And that will drive more engagement and more love for the brand.

Kristin Lemkau:

So I think it is super buzzy. I think when you're in Cannes and somebody's had six rosés, ask them what they mean by brand purpose. You'll get all over the map. But I go back to, “it should be used to grow your company.” That's your job. And if it's not and it's just something that you get to say on panels, it's not helpful.

Anda Gansca:

So it has to be connected to the business. It has to be connected to the product.

Kristin Lemkau:

And it has to be unique. Right?

Anda Gansca:

And it has to be unique.

Kristin Lemkau:

Make the most of your money that can't be Google's.

Anda Gansca:

Right. Right. And it makes sense why you would have that as a brand purpose. Something that I'm really curious about is, the majority of the buzzwords I feel like always come from the CPG category. And I'm always trying to reconcile, for myself, how do you connect brand purpose to a product that's relatively low consideration, or to sugar water? Right? So I'm curious, as a marketer, do you think that that's where you use more content, because you're trying to build a story around it?

Kristin Lemkau:

Exactly. You're trying to drive consideration for something that's ultimately commoditized. Right? Our example of that is cash back. It's the same value proposition across all the cards. How do you drive consideration for your card over somebody else's? So I do think it's a challenge for CPG companies if you're selling toothpaste or detergent, where effectively all the ingredients are the same and you're trying to drive differentiation. You want people ... The famous Simon Sinek quote, "People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do what you do," which I think is right.

Kristin Lemkau:

It's a little harder for highly commoditized products. I think the CPG company bigger challenge is distribution. We have distribution. We have stores. We have digital channels. I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how to optimize that distribution and pay less to media companies or affiliates or search engines. But for them, they're disintermediated, and that's what I'd be spending time trying to solve.

Anda Gansca:

One of the even more interesting industries to me that I've recently started thinking about is entertainment and how essentially every single time there's a new title, they have to build a new audience. And it's all ephemeral. But you, on the other hand, have these 50 million people that are essentially a captive audience. You already have them. You have first-party data about them. So all you have to do is understand how to best target them with the right message.

Kristin Lemkau:

Yeah. And the challenge there is, we could lean whole hog into trying to become the next Facebook. And if we prevent the customer from doing the thing they came to do, we will have lost them. So getting the balance right of what do we have permission to do, and where we're starting is with the data, is being able to make recommendations of "You spent this week, compared to that week," "People like you spend this. Your budget is that. What do you want to do with the excess?" And make it insight-based and helpful to where we are trying to help them make the most of their money, instead of just put stuff in there that may or may not be helpful.

Anda Gansca:

So let's transition for a second into the "Kristin Gives Career Advice" section of the conversation because-

Kristin Lemkau:

Is everyone still with me or? I haven't looked over here yet. They're awake. Okay.

Anda Gansca:

You've given me some of the best advice too, both as a founder, as a leader, as a woman. And I'm curious, as you've thought about building your career, how have you managed to get marketing at the decision-making table? And what were the steps that you took to get there?

Kristin Lemkau:

We were at the table, which helps. I think we've earned our right to be more relevant at the table by being very, very performance-driven. You just don't want to be relegated to the brand ghetto. I'm a big believer in brand. It's a huge part of what we deliver. We've driven our brand consideration up 20 points since I've been in this job. I'm really proud of it. But if that isn't actually driving improved ROI with less money over time, you lose your right to be at the table. And having the data and analytics piece helps. Having a deep understanding of technology helps. I highly recommend that.

Kristin Lemkau:

And then having a sense of culture, because the more senior you get, the more you're going to realize the people you work for aren't that connected to culture, and they aren't that connected to people's lives. You have to be a bit of the source of truth on what we call the HiPPOs, the Highly Paid Personal Opinion. And some of that you can get with data, and some of that you can get with market insight. You've got to be the voice of the customer as well. And the spread between your boss and the person you serve gets wider.

Anda Gansca:

What would you say to those, I'm sure there's a bunch in the audience, who don't have a seat at the table currently? How do you fight for that seat? I ask just because I get to meet a lot of marketers who don't currently have the honor of being invited to the table to begin with. So how do you get there?

Kristin Lemkau:

When I first got this job, I had lunch with Jeff Jones, who is now the CEO of H&R Block. But he was the CMO of Target at the time. I was going on a listening tour of all CMOs I respected, just because I didn't really know what I was doing honestly. He gave me great advice. He said, "When you feel resistance, teach." By the way, maybe Buddha said it first. It's good advice in general with children and spouses. I would find, because I am opinionated, I'd get stuck on "Why don't they get it? They don't get it, and this is amazing." Backing up and realizing I'm 100% accountable for why they don't get it. 100% accountable. So how do I actually bring them along and help them understand the value of this? And where can I make my point and back it up with data? Where do I just have a point of view and just because? But pick your spots on that. You can't be the person who comes in there and wants to do a ‘This Mama’ ad every five minutes, or you'll be out of a job.

Kristin Lemkau:

And then the other thing I say to people is, have a big life outside of your job. This wasn't the question you asked, but have a big life outside your job. That doesn't necessarily mean having a family. You're going to have a big life up until you have a family. If you have a family, awesome. Spend time with them. Make them make you remember who you are. I'm the least important person in my house. Make sure you know who you are when it's all over because these jobs are really intoxicating. You get invited to do a lot of things. I'm here. People paid money, that's great. Remember who you are when it's all over.

Kristin Lemkau:

Just make sure you stay balanced with it all. Balance is a bad word, but I've become intrigued almost with this idea of a corporate athlete. I've been in the job six years. I've been at the company 21. I may want to work another 10 years. And with the intensity of this job, that requires extreme discipline around my physical health, my mental health, training myself to show up calm, which I work on a lot. Because if I show up and I'm not calm, I'm throwing off everyone in the room. And that will allow me to keep going, which I want to keep going. If I retire when I'm 60, and I live until I'm 90, that's 30 years of nothing to do. I want to keep rolling, and this is a great gig.

Anda Gansca:

I'm sure you would find things to do, for what it's worth.

Kristin Lemkau:

30 years. That's longer than I've been working.

Anda Gansca:

I love this idea of "If you feel resistance, teach," because I think it makes you become humble. It puts the onus on you to explain to the rest of the world why you stand where you stand. I think a lot of what I see, especially in the younger generation, is a sense of... I don't want to call it entitlement, but a little bit, where you have an opinion and you defend it as if it's your right to do it. And you don't realize that there's another perspective that you have to cross the chasm to really teach. I think you can see that across the country. You can see that across our industry and so on. So I love that.

Kristin Lemkau:

Yeah. I call it extreme conviction. People with extreme conviction on everything are dangerous, and you can see them within a company. It does become a derailer. There's a time to have extreme conviction on matters of integrity, 100%. But you can't have extreme conviction about this decision engine versus that decision engine. You have to have a real honest discussion about it and invite different perspectives. I find the older a leader gets, the more they have realized that. That helps, by the way, in your life relationships as well.

Anda Gansca:

I love this. Career and Life Advice with Kristin.

Kristin Lemkau:

There are some parallels.

Anda Gansca:

Oh, I know. I know. I know. So I have two more questions. One is a followup to this: when you think about training your leadership team, and even potentially mediating conversations where there are two different opinions across a table around your leadership team, how do you create that forum for conversation to arrive at a decision efficiently without bruising anyone's ego, etc. etc.?

Kristin Lemkau:

Yeah. It's hard. Talented people can be complicated people. I had one forum that we call ‘The Festivus Meeting.’ Does anybody remember Seinfeld, where Festivus was the holiday where everybody would air their grievances? So we would come into the meeting, and I said, "Here are the rules. This is ‘The Festivus Meeting.’ Everybody airs their grievances. And then the only other rule is, nobody can have a meeting after the meeting. I don't want an email. I don't want a backchannel. I don't want a 'Well, I was afraid to say this.' We're going to lay it all on the table." We've had them with wine. That helps.

Anda Gansca:

Do you force them to do shots before?

Kristin Lemkau:

No. I just bring in the wine. It's optional. They drink it. But the value of that is, one of them, I started at 4:00, and I'm like, "We don't leave until we're done." And that's an incentive. And then sometimes you just have to mitigate different conflicts with people. If it's really bad, I'll actually sometimes do it on a Saturday. That sounds weird. But when there's the office and the email and you're time bound, as opposed to just I get two people on the phone. And I shut up, and I let them work through it.

Kristin Lemkau:

But it's hard, because even our culture, my boss is really outspoken, I'm outspoken. At our hearts, we're still very conflict averse. It's a big place, and you've got to be able to execute, but you have to be able to bring stakeholders along. As big as my job is, if I don't have this CEO on board and the head of tech and the head of digital, I'm not going to get my thing done. And I can't control that. So that breeds a certain amount of... Compromise isn't the right word. But collaboration, that ultimately flies in the face of you sticking your finger in somebody's eye if they're going sideways.

Anda Gansca:

I was just going to ask how many of the decisions that get made are your decisions versus the team's decisions.

Kristin Lemkau:

Or partnership collective decisions. They're all informed by the team. That's another thing that I learned, actually when I was up at West Point for a leadership class, is when you're in a meeting, be really, really clear about who the decision maker is. That's actually forced a lot of function out of dysfunction, which is when we're in a meeting and we're deciding something, I'm like, "Okay, who's the decision maker?" They're like "Uh." I'm like, "Is it me or is it you?" Or "Is it you but I have veto power?" And I say this, by the way, with legal, compliance, risk, audit. I'm like, "Can you veto me, or are you just informing me that if I do this I'll go to jail or if I do this we'll get sued or whatever and then I get to make the decision of whether or not I'm going to accept that risk?"

Kristin Lemkau:

Because for a while, they’ll throw a haymaker, and you're like, "Well, we can't do that." And then I'm mad, as opposed to telling me why. They're looking out for the customer. They're not just blockers. And that really, really helped. Or if I let somebody know, like, "You're just informing the decision. Leanne, who runs brand, is making the decision. I can overrule her. And Lee will throw a red flag at a piece of copy if it means that we're going to get sued. Is everyone clear?" And then that actually helps for a better conversation because you can get stuck in the HiPPO brigade. Right? Of like, "I think this and I think that. The casting's bad." Who the hell are you? Let's figure out. You've got an opinion. You should state it, but somebody has to decide.”

Anda Gansca:

By the way, I'm listening to you talk about the power dynamics in a room and who gets to make a decision, and I realize that if there was some system for companies who meet with J.P. Morgan Chase or Bank of America or Walmart, to walk into a meeting and say, "Okay. Cool. Who's the decision maker, guys?"

Kristin Lemkau:

Try it today in every meeting that you're in and see if they know. 

Anda Gansca:

Are you sure?

Kristin Lemkau:

It's a really good discipline. 

Anda Gansca:

Maybe we piss them off if we ask them right off the bat. 

Kristin Lemkau:

No, they love it.

Anda Gansca:

But this is the question we ask each other after the meeting, “who was the decision maker in the room?” Because we don't know.

Kristin Lemkau:

But what's the biggest soul-crushing thing of any job? It's too many meetings, and it's bad meetings, and it's meetings that aren't well-run, and it's meetings without a purpose, and it's meetings you don't even know why you're in and somebody wants you there because they can say you were there. If you really get focused on the purpose of the meeting, your job satisfaction's going way up, and by the way, you get to have more of a big life outside of work.

Anda Gansca:

I'm going to start asking questions like that. Okay. So final question for you. We briefly talked about how, on average, large organizations are architected to kill new ideas because everyone's overwhelmed, because it's easier not to do something than to do something, especially if it's new and it's disrupting the way you're currently doing stuff. So how have you managed to stay on top of innovation, both as an individual, as a CMO, as well as a collection of marketers?

Kristin Lemkau:

Yep. And that's hard because I've gotten caught up in the "We should do this, and we should do that," because I heard it somewhere. What I did recently was, I hired a Head of Innovation, but I don't call him that because that sounds like the first thing to happen next time there's a budget cut, is those people go.

Anda Gansca:

By the way, startups hate talking to innovation leaders.

Kristin Lemkau:

I know. I call it something else. I don't even remember what I call it. And there are eight people. They're all individual contributors. And my purpose of it was, I needed a place for the ideas to go that were coming up, either from employees or from customer feedback or from the highly paid personal opinions. Because if I gave them to somebody who was already maxed out in their job, Head of Brand, Head of Performance Marketing, Head of Sports and Entertainment, they'd die. And they'd die not because they weren't good ideas. They'd die because that person was so maxed out, they would find a reason not to do it just because they couldn't handle one more thing to do. And I'd just accept why it was a no.

Kristin Lemkau:

Instead, what Rich does and the team is, they cycle through them in a really disciplined way. They use research. They use insights. They do direct customer testing. And if it's a bad idea, they kill it, even if it was Jamie's [Dimon]. And then they work through of, then what's the next round, and what's the next round. So we have much more discipline on things. It also prevents you from throwing a ton of money at something that there is no problem to solve. There's no pain point for the customer. Somebody just thought it was great. But I think the tyranny of the urgent is a dangerous thing for companies, without a place for ideas to blossom that's also disciplined.

Anda Gansca:

Thank you so much Kristin. That was an awesome conversation.

Kristin Lemkau:

Thank you.

Anda Gansca:

Thank you.

Anda Gansca: So that was my conversation with the amazing Kristin Lemkau, the CMO of J.P. Morgan Chase. What I loved about that conversation is that we managed to span so many different topics in a very short period of time. We went from content to career advice to life advice. And what I really loved about the conversation was that we started really high-level with content and then went very deep. We basically said content has to be as good as performance marketing, if not better, in order for it to prove its value to the organization. But then we also started talking about how to drive deeper engagement with your current customers. You could think about putting content behind a paywall, maybe even in the product that your customers are using every day.

Anda Gansca:

When it comes to career and life advice, I loved two of the points that Kristin makes. The first one, "When you feel resistance, teach." Especially when it comes to sharing the importance and value of content across the rest of the organization, I think this point really resonates because a lot of people inside of the organization still need to be educated on the importance and value and even the challenges of content. And then the second point that I really loved was this idea of just stopping bad meetings, making sure that every meeting starts with an agenda and that we are as efficient and as productive in those meetings as we possibly can.

I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. And for any feedback that you have, please email me at anda@prosandcontent.co. I would love to hear from you, especially if you'd like to nominate other speakers for us to feature. And if you want to hear more amazing content about the pros and cons of making content or being a better storyteller in today's world, please head to prosandcontent.co for more episodes.

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