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CMO Close-Up with Thomas Henning

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In December, Thomas Henning was named director of corporate marketing at Eastman Chemical Co., a marketer of chemicals, plastics and fibers used by other manufacturing companies. In an interview with CMO Close-Up, Henning discussed how Eastman is connecting with product designers and manufacturers to drive innovation in the industry and, in particular, in bringing together different companies in the design and packaging industry that are often rivals to collaborate on ideas for new materials and design concepts. CMO Close-Up: What are your current job responsibilities? Henning: I'm responsible for marketing communications, our marketing insight-to-strategy organization and our marketing operations group. And these are three groups that really, if you think about them from a marketing communications standpoint, provide connectivity between Eastman and our customers. Our marketing insight-to-strategy group delivers insights that are actionable, that we can use to drive growth. Our marketing operations group develops metrics and tracking systems with respect to our marketing operations plans. CMO Close-Up: What are your top marketing priorities this year? Henning: Our No. 1 priority is to establish better, stronger connections between Eastman and our customers in the markets we serve. By having those better connections, we can develop more insights that drive innovation, which leads to growth for our organization. CMO Close-Up: What are some of the ways you are driving innovation? Henning: One initiative is the Eastman Innovation Lab, which is designed to help Eastman connect with the design community in a way we've never done before. The Innovation Lab got started in 2002. Its first project was the Collective Vision eyewear project with [design consulting agency] Ideo, looking at different types of visual eyewear from a materials and design standpoint. If you think about traditional materials companies and design firms, they operate very independently of one another. This was the first time in our company where we saw these two worlds really collide and collaborate with each other. CMO Close-Up: What are you trying to accomplish with your latest Innovation Lab project targeting the product design community? Henning: At the end of the day, it's all about how we develop innovative products to better connect with brand owners and designers in the marketplace to drive innovation and economic growth. That's one of the things we continue to try to do with the design community. I think there is always some skepticism when you bring rival companies together, especially when you are developing new products. But once materials companies understand what the product designers are trying to do, we see them beginning to work together more collaboratively, developing innovative solutions to meet some of the designers' needs. The Innovation Lab serves as the hub; it's really a new model for innovation. CMO Close-Up: How do you measure the success of your marketing programs? Henning: We measure success ultimately by the amount of value we create for our organization—profitable value driving the growth of our business. It's about gaining better insights and connecting with our customers better so we can drive design innovation and sustainability strategies. CMO Close-Up: Which media do you plan to use this year in your marketing efforts? Henning: If you think about traditional print media, digital media and social media, it's not about selecting one particular type to achieve our marketing goal. We look at our audiences and try to consider the different approaches and the channels to reach them, and we choose the media accordingly. We will use a combination of different media this year, including print. CMO Close-Up: Will you be shifting more of your spending to digital this year? Henning: Obviously as the world grows more and more digital, Eastman will look at ways in which we can participate best in those markets. We have a very active website, and a Facebook page and Twitter account. We are still trying to develop and understand social media and how to leverage it. I think for many b-to-b companies that supply materials like we do, we're challenged as to exactly how we play in that space. It is evolving. We will learn more and know more in the near future. CMO Close-Up: Are there any other new marketing technologies you're looking at? Henning: There are a lot of online videos we're using to tell stories in the design community. We'll continue to leverage those types of opportunities with online videos and case studies to drive growth for our business.
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