Beleaguered yet carefree site hopes to move from an email-based daily deals platform to a searchable deals database ideal for desktop, mobile browsing
Every job has its upsides and downsides, but Groupon CMO Rich Williams has dealt with some serious extremes overseeing the online-deals site's brand.
While the company has maintained a strong image with customers, it's done so amid a run of negative press, which included a disastrous Super Bowl ad in 2011, floundering financial performance, the ouster of its founder-CEO Andrew Mason and the rocky relationship with its most important business partners, the small businesses offering its deals.
Since shares closed up 31% the day of its highly publicized IPO in November 2011, little has gone right for what Forbes once called "the fastest-growing company ever." Groupon stock has fallen from its initial $20 offering to about $7 a share in the middle of last week. Mr. Mason was fired in February, and Groupon has yet to hire a successor.
With that, Mr. Williams, who joined just after the Super Bowl gaffe and before the IPO in the summer of 2011, has been tasked with maintaining leaderless Groupon's carefree image while proving that the company cares about pleasing shareholders -- something critics say Mr. Mason was not particularly adept at.
Playfulness is embedded into the company's culture, according to Mr. Williams. Directly outside his office is a jungle-gym workspace with fake fallen trees and cubby holes. Groupon also keeps a team of comedy writers on staff to ensure no one encounters dull copy when considering a deal for a Turkish bath house or an Italian meal.
But there's serious business at hand for Mr. Williams and his team, including the company's pivot from email-based daily deals platform to searchable deals database ideal for desktop and mobile browsing. He's also trying to help diversify the company's revenue streams by pushing Groupon Goods, the company's lower-margin product business.