Bob Thacker

Senior VP-Marketing and Advertising, OfficeMax

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Deep in the throes of a post-merger turnaround, office-supply marketer OfficeMax easily could have drawn comparisons to TV's fictional paper-supply company, Dunder-Mifflin of "The Office" fame. Luckily, OfficeMax had Bob Thacker.
BOB THACKER
WHY HE WAS CHOSEN:
  • Has mastered the scrappy-challenger role

  • "Elf Yourself" a major hit with customers


Since joining the No. 3 office supplier in 2005, the senior VP-marketing and advertising has crafted a sense of fun around the brand with a media philosophy he used previously to portray Target's cheap-chic.

What resulted was a series of campaigns that got people not only talking but also shopping at OfficeMax. For its crucial back-to-school season, Mr. Thacker's team created a "Punk'd"-style prank show called "Schooled." Aided by parents, teachers and teen pop star Jesse McCartney, OfficeMax fooled a class of eighth-graders into believing they had to pass difficult oral and written exams to proceed to high school. The entire process, including the big reveal and a concert by Mr. McCartney, was turned into an OfficeMax-produced TV special that aired on ABC Family.

With a PR budget of a "few hundred thousand dollars," Mr. Thacker's team spawned the chain's biggest back-to-school season.

Other inspired programs included a holiday interactive campaign called"Elf Yourself," which drew 4 million hours worth of customer visits to elfyourself.com in five weeks. OfficeMax also sponsored an effort to create the world's largest rubber-band ball as part of the unveiling of a new store format.

"Everything we do has to have a news element to it or we don't think we're getting our money's worth," Mr. Thacker says. "We're continually using new media, but it has to have talk value and public-relations elements. It's about generating buzz."

The marketing strategy has helped the company's turnaround with low-single-digit sales and margin gains quarter by quarter.

"Bob is like a lightning rod in many ways," says Ryan Vero, exec VP-chief merchandising officer for the marketer. "He energizes people to do great things that they maybe didn't think they could do."

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW:
As a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Mr. Thacker was so short on cash that he couldn't afford food and was given a $50 scholarship to help cover his costs. "I also was so broke, once when my car ran out of gas, I had to abandon it on the side of the road for a week. This was when gas cost 29 per gallon."
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