Adams builds up role of marketing to keep Home Depot growing

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it was on a Thursday that Home Depot ad agency Richards Group presented three possible TV spots to tout the first big-box distribution of three tractor brands-Club Cadet, John Deere and Toro.

Stumped on the best spot to run with, Senior VP-Marketing Roger Adams posed the idea of inviting consumers to vote for their favorite. By Saturday, the ads were online, and by midnight Sunday, nearly 450,000 customers had voted.

"He's by-the-book but with a 'What if?' mentality," said Diane Fannon, a principal at Richards.

That "What if?" spirit should serve Mr. Adams well as he seeks to find new avenues of growth for the home-improvement chain, especially after the executive and his employer get past the uncertainty in Home Depot's top marketing ranks.

Mr. Adams, 49, was hired by former Home Depot Chief Marketing Officer John Costello in February 2005. When Mr. Costello left in August 2005, Tom Taylor was named exec VP-merchandising and marketing. Just 11 months later, Mr. Taylor announced his plan to leave the company.

Despite reporting to two different bosses in his 18 months at the retailer, Mr. Adams keeps his focus on the evolving role of marketing at Home Depot. He's worked to create a full partnership with merchandising, to the point that there are now "joint decisions between merchandising and marketing."

That's no small thing for a historically merchant-driv-en culture that for its first 25 years was largely focused on opening new stores and entering new markets.

"Now, it's how do you drive organic growth or same-store sales in this large company that's the 14th- largest in America?" he said. "Finding growth strategies for the next 25 years I would define as my mission."

It won't take 25 years, however, for the challenge to hit home, as the retailer is saddled with its own past success and expansion. New-store openings are slowing down, and growth now means expanding private-label offerings and creating new product categories, such as automotive.

"This is an exciting place to be in, and some other retailers are following our lead," Mr. Adams said. "Wal-Mart is bringing in consumer-package-goods marketers to sort out their next growth strategy."

Mr. Adams joined Home Depot after nine years as executive director-advertising, marketing and customer relationship management at General Motors Corp. The father of two began his career at PepsiCo, working in Frito-Lay and beverage marketing.

the challenge

Although it's an unlikely pedigree for a retail marketer, experience in the package- goods space might be just what Home Depot needs right now. The challenge there is much the same-creating growth for an already ubiquitous brand-but on a much larger scale.

With Mr. Taylor on his way out, Mr. Adams becomes the de facto marketing chief at Home Depot; he continues to oversee a $533 million marketing budget. But he doesn't plan to throw his hat in the ring to succeed Mr. Taylor.

"The company has to decide how to fill that position," Mr. Adams said. "Taylor's position has five different functions reporting to it-merchandising, marketing, logistic, procurement and global sourcing."

Mr. Adams' real role at Home Depot goes beyond collecting another job title. Brian Kelly, exec VP-retail marketing at Initiative Media, Home Depot's media agency, said Mr. Adams' "MO is to be a change agent. ... He's brought a new level of thinking about accountability. He's not about doing things the old way. Roger is very much a consumer-centric marketer."

Roger Adams

Home Depot

What's your favorite home improvement TV show? Home improvement is a family sport. I watch with my wife. I'm still a fan of [TLC's] "Trading Spaces."

Are you a handyman around the house?

I'm a real novice of a handyman. Time doesn't allow me to be a real handyman.

What are your hobbies? Running, tennis, wine collecting.
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