The CMO Interview

On a Quest to Build 'Brands That Matter'

Newell Rubbermaid's Woehrle Plumbs Opportunity in Touting Benefits of Its Products

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- Newell Rubbermaid Senior VP-Chief Marketing Officer Ted Woehrle admits it wasn't always easy going from a world of big budgets at his alma mater, Procter & Gamble Co., to a world of smaller brands with smaller budgets at Newell Rubbermaid in 2007.

Newell Rubbermaid Senior VP-Chief Marketing Officer Ted Woehrle
Newell Rubbermaid Senior VP-Chief Marketing Officer Ted Woehrle
Fortunately, he had strong guidance and support from a man he used to work for at P&G, Newell President-CEO Mark Ketchum. Mr. Ketchum already had started the company on a path to cut costs while increasing marketing spend. And while it may never have Procteresque budgets, Newell has tripled its advertising and promotion spending as a share of sales to 6% (around $34 million, less than P&G typically spends on Charmin).

Mr. Woehrle, 49, who in past years at P&G started the Tremor teen buzz-marketing program and worked under Mr. Ketchum developing products that ultimately would become Glad Press 'n Seal wrap and ForceFlex trash bags, set out to reinvent marketing at his new company.

Nearly three years in, Mr. Woehrle discusses how he's beaten the two-year CMO curse, how he's helped build a marketing culture at a product-focused company and why he's willing to wait for social-media programs to develop organically without big-budget pushes.

Ad Age: You've already beaten the two-year curse for CMOs. How?

Mr. Woehrle: When you read the research on why people don't make it to the two-year mark, typically there's a lack of alignment with the CEO's agenda or the overall business agenda. I don't have that. I've got the good fortune of being highly aligned with our overall company vision, which is to build brands that matter. That's a term that Mark Ketchum coined from day one.

Ad Age: What have you done since you came to Newell Rubbermaid?

Mr. Woehrle: I started when I came on board, as you would expect, getting oriented to the businesses and how we did marketing and brand building. Newell Rubbermaid is made up of 13 global business units, and each one was going to market in slightly different ways. We didn't have a Newell Rubbermaid way of branding. So, probably in the first six months I worked with my team in the business units to create [what] we call our brand-building blueprint for what best-in-class marketing looks like, [including] insights and brand positioning, innovation, pricing, marketing planning and financial management.

We then [assessed] each business unit on where it stood. We chose priority areas to invest our time, and we started developing training programs. Every year we renew that process of assessing ourselves, building on a plan for growth and working against that plan.

Ad Age: Was it more of a technology-driven or product-driven company than a marketing company?

Mr. Woehrle: Yes. We were more product-focused than brand-focused. We had very good products, but we had an opportunity to make sure consumers knew about that by doing more in the area of brand building and communicating our benefits.

Ad Age: What are examples you see now of a brand-building approach taking hold?

Mr. Woehrle: One is with our Goody brand of women's hair accessories and styling tools. They did an excellent job of restaging the brand with packaging that looks more like a beauty brand, with product descriptors and displays of the actual products on the shelf that allow you to interact with them more and understand the benefits more. We are also launching a new ad campaign building on that. Another story is Sharpie. It's got loyalists and fanatics, but in the past couple years we've increased our investment in marketing to let people understand the possibilities of how you can express yourself with Sharpie. We have a television campaign. We've done a lot with social media. We have a wonderful blog as well as a website,, where fanatics can gather and share the artwork and decoration they've done with Sharpie markers.

Ad Age: How do you evaluate your brands from an ROI standpoint?

Mr. Woehrle: Unlike fast-moving consumer goods, we do not have a lot of syndicated media sources we can access. So we take a mix of the syndicated data we can buy, industry reports, our own point-of-sale and category movement that our retail partners provide us, and put all that together to do our best to understand the benefits that our marketing efforts have driven. Sometimes we're able to isolate a controlled market or a controlled set of retailers. Sometimes we do attitudinal research to understand how the intent to purchase is increased. We don't have a perfect or really clean model of ROI. So we've adopted an approach of taking the best information we can get, putting a bunch of smart people in a room that have different points of view and doing our best to evaluate what works, what didn't and how we can improve it. The management mindset here now is not on cutting spending. So if a program doesn't work exactly the way we wanted, we spend critical thinking time on how we can make it better next year and make improvements rather than just cutting it.

Ad Age: Companywide, what does marketing spending look like?

1. As CMO, align with other C-suite managers and business-unit leaders.

2. Start with a blueprint of what you want to achieve when developing a marketing culture largely from scratch.

3. Packaging, in-store presentation and low-cost social-media efforts all can play major roles in brand building.

4. Achieving reach with social media tools organically takes time, but can beat the expense of advertising.

5. Lacking sales data to measure ROI, apply the best minds you have to analyzing the best data you can find.

Mr. Woehrle: We use a term called "brand building" that includes advertising, promotions, market research and product development (not counting trade promotion deducted from net sales). Our current spending is a little over 6% [of sales]. When I joined it was a little over 4%.

Under our logo is a tagline, "brands that matter." When Mark became the CEO four years ago, he added that statement, and he actually trademarked it. We use it as a railing cry here. That mind shift is helping to drive increased investment over time. Long term, an appropriate level would be around 8%, and we've still got a ways to go.

Ad Age: What do you need to do to allow yourselves to do that?

Mr. Woehrle: It is hard. The building blocks are pretty simple though. One is to grow top-line sales through innovation and marketing and brand building. We are doing a better job with innovation to bring out products that have a higher gross margin.

Ad Age:What trends do you see in the media you're using?

Mr. Woehrle: When I came here, we didn't have a marketing model that was broken because our marketing efforts were relatively modest. But as we've increased our spending, we've been doing a lot in nontraditional or emerging media. With Calphalon cookware we do a lot of work on winning at the point of sale. Sharpie actually has more traditional marketing, but we also have a significant presence in emerging media, a lot of digital.

Ad Age:Digital media creates opportunities for smaller brands with smaller budgets to do things they never could before, particularly in video. Do you see that as a plus for Newell Rubbermaid's brands?

Mr. Woehrle: Yes, I really do. The one area that I'm interested in doing, but we're being patient about, is increasing the reach of some of the emerging and social media. Our approach has been to do it relatively organically. We've got reasonable growth rates, but we're still talking about blogs, and they may only get 30,000 to 40,000 visits a month. That's not the kind of reach I'm used to and would like to see, but we're letting it grow organically and it seems to be working.

If I wanted to move that number to the hundreds of thousands, I could build a campaign to recruit people, but I'm concerned that if I did that the engagement level wouldn't be high.

Ad Age: So what keeps you up at night?

Mr. Woehrle: I feel our pace of change is very strong, but I do worry that perhaps we're not going fast enough to achieve our objective.

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