Build-a-Bear Workshop Links Tech and Marketing to Build a Better Brand

Three Questions With Toymaker Marketer and Ad Age CMO Strategy Summit Speaker Teresa Kroll

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You may not expect it from a cuddly toymaker, but technology and marketing are inextricably linked at Build-A-Bear Workshop. Chief marketer Teresa Kroll and Chief Information Officer Dave Finnegan have forged a partnership that 's evident in everything from the company's most recent e-commerce redesign to a new store concept coming this fall. Because its customers are interacting both with real-world stores and extensions online, there was no choice but to link marketing and IT.

Teresa Kroll
Teresa Kroll
Ad Age : How do you foster a good relationship with Mr. Finnegan, and how do your teams work together?

Teresa Kroll: Our teams look at how we can work smarter and best respond to the changing business climate by sharing metrics and strategies. Leadership sets an example for our teams to work closely, and they embrace opportunities. 

Our hiring process also reflects the integration of the marketing and technology departments. Someone interviewing for a marketing role will be reviewed and mutually agreed upon by both Dave and I because compatibility between our teams is so inherent to the day-to-day work of our teams and the success of the company.

Ad Age : How has your CIO made you a smarter marketer?

Ms. Kroll: Dave once [told] me, "Tell us what you need, and let's collaborate to find out how to get there." This really resonated with me. Occasionally, marketing would go to IT with grand ideas but run into technology implementation challenges. Dave acknowledges this dichotomy.

With Dave's partnership, we are able to dream up new and innovative ways to respond to our customers' needs, such as the recent update to our e-commerce site.

Ad Age : We've reported marketing and IT tag-team on reviews. Do both teams work with the agency selected? In your experience, are agencies today equipped to work with CIOs?

Ms. Kroll: Dave and I work together to hire both internal teams and agencies. When selecting an agency, we go through a similar process as we do when we select employees for our teams, because we feel it is important for agencies to have the same qualities as our internal team.

For our purposes, it is also important for agencies to be fluent in both marketing and technology to the point where they can work with both teams. Due to the interactivity of the in-store Build-A-Bear Workshop experience with our virtual presence, marketing and technology will always be closely tied at Build-A-Bear.

For information on Ad Age 's CMO Strategy Summit, click here.
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