Kathy Button Bell. VP-CMO, Emerson

Published on .

Title: VP-CMO
Company: Emerson
Years in current job: 10
Quote: "Although we are in a difficult economic period, it is a great time to be able to move ahead competitively with our advertising,"

Kathy Button Bell, who has served as CMO of engineering company Emerson for 10 years, says breaking through the clutter becomes even more difficult in tough economic times.

"The audience is harder to impress," she said. "People are hyper-sensitive about the value you are putting out there. So when you are cutting costs and being frugal with your money, your creative has to be better than usual."

Bell and her team took a chance this year and launched a new campaign called "It's Never Been Done Before," which had a media budget of $10.6 million for the first three months. "It was a risky approach," she said. "It is very iconic and metaphoric with images and hot music."

The campaign, developed by DDB Chicago, includes TV, radio, print, online and outdoor. It features computer-generated images (such as a wood chip, a block of ice and a piece of coal) with messages about how Emerson is helping provide more efficient heating, cooling and power systems.

To make the most out of its marketing dollars, the company repurposed the TV commercials into online videos and shorter videos that are playing on airport dioramas. "Airport media is proving successful for us," Bell said. "It tends to keep your visibility high with a broader group of people. During tough economic times, it is reassuring and uplifting to have visibility in all the major airports in the world."

The ads drive users to various microsites, where they can get the full story about Emerson solutions. For example, at, users can learn how the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is using Emerson garbage disposals to convert food waste into electricity.

Another challenge for Bell this year was expanding the company's global Web presence. "Emerson has had 680 independent Web sites, and we're trying to move that into a single presence," she said.

Last year, Emerson relaunched its U.S. site, and now it is rolling out versions of the site in different global regions. "We've had to do some very big architecting and road-mapping. It has been the most challenging thing since the brand work," Bell said. "In times like this, during a recession, it is a great time to go inside and figure out how to build things going forward."

This year, Emerson has also begun experimenting with social media.

"We are starting with specific businesses," Bell said, pointing to Emerson engineers tweeting about climate technologies and a process management expert starting a blog.

"The thing that makes them really successful is the individual who is running them. It takes a certain type of dedicated person with a journalistic interest," she said. "Then we can pull the information back into the organization so we can learn from it."

Bell said now is a good time for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

"It is a quieter landscape," she said. "We took a risk this year with our creative development, and we believe it was a terrific idea to make our voice louder when the spending isn't quite as high and the noise isn't as high."

—Kate Maddox

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