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Tony Palmer

Chief Marketing Officer, Kimberly-Clark Corp.

By Published on .

Big package-goods marketers have talked about shifting to new media for years. But none has done it so extensively as Kimberly-Clark Corp., marketer of such seemingly unglamorous brands as Huggies diapers, Kleenex facial tissue and Scott paper products, which has moved a quarter of its spending into nontraditional media.
  • Created innovative approaches on a budget

  • Gets pulled into all sorts of meetings by other managers

Leading that charge is K-C's first chief marketing officer, Tony Palmer, recruited from Kellogg Co. in late 2006. He found a lot of good things already going on, he says, but saw a need to communicate them more broadly.

Perhaps more surprisingly, a lot of the marketing innovations he touts come from the business-to-business parts of a $17 billion company dominated by big-budget consumer brands. He cites InteguSeal, a product for fighting infections from surgical incisions, championed in a rather gory how-to video from a surgeon for his peers. Wypall, a shop-towel brand, got into Nascar by backing crew chiefs, who also use the disposable cleaning cloths.

"You don't have big budgets, so you find innovative approaches," Mr. Palmer says.

Still new on the job, the 47-year-old Australian is trying hard to avoid the pitfalls that can lead to short tenures for CMOs.

"I don't want this to be about me," he says, noting that most of the media innovations started before he arrived.

And it's not all about alternative media, of course. Mr. Palmer recalls his first project in his first marketing job at Mars: reposition-ing M&Ms. The largely TV-focused campaign boosted sales 25%.

"I call it the marketing epiphany," Mr. Palmer says. "You try to explain it to your boss, coming up with everything but the advertising, and finally come to the realization that this stuff works."

Line-management experience at Coca-Cola Co., Mars and Kellogg was part of what drew K-C Chairman-CEO Tom Falk to hire Mr. Palmer. "I wanted somebody who'd sat on the other side of the desk," Mr. Falk says, "so he would understand the trade-offs."

One sign Mr. Palmer is off to a strong start, Mr. Falk says, is that he keeps getting yanked into more meetings by other managers. "He's having to prioritize which projects are right for him," he says.

Before turning to consulting, marketing and general management, Mr. Palmer tried his hand as an Australian-rules football player, fast-talking livestock auctioneer, owner-operator of a hot-dog stand and miner in the Australian outback.
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