Putting Passion Into Data to Bring Brands to Life
Natalie Bowman has a passion for bringing brands to life. After working as a brand and marketing manager for Land Rover and Nissan, and then spending nearly 10 years at Microsoft, she brought that passion to Neiman Marcus. Joining the upscale retailer as VP-media and advertising last year, she oversees paid and owned media channels, including traditional, digital and social marketing.
Social media is a particular passion at work and at home. She is an avid Instagrammer and can be found at @missbeaux on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Ms. Bowman is recognized as a Digital Trailblazer for her leadership of Neiman Marcus' powerful commitment to data, including using data applications such as lookalike targeting to capture more high-value customers. The Dallas-based retailer also is lauded for having a robust remarketing program for each of its brands and co-op partners.
Q: As a Digital Trailblazer, you're doing outstanding work to further digital marketing. When did you make the transition into digital?
Ms. Bowman: I really began to work more on digital when I was at Microsoft, when I was working on Bing and MSN. That is where I cut my teeth on digital and earned my chops. Now, including social and mobile, about 80% of my day-to-day work is digital. Because I oversee both, I can really focus on the interplay between traditional and digital marketing. What's clear to me is that silos don't work anymore. The customer doesn't consume media in silos.
Q: Tell us about a moment in your career that was pivotal and why it affected you so strongly.
Ms. Bowman: About four years ago, when I was on maternity leave with my first child, I was coming off several years of doing large ad campaigns for the Bing brand. Although we did on- and offline, the focus always was a 30-second spot—and everything spun off of that. At home, I was really finding a passion in social. The social director role opened up; I called my boss and said, "I can't make another 30-second TV spot." Some would say it was a brave thing to do because it wasn't the prestige thing to do, moving from the $200 million TV budget to the $2 million social budget. But I don't regret it at all. It gave me so much. It enabled me to land this job at Neiman Marcus.
Q: How important is harnessing the power of data for a business like yours? How are you and Neiman Marcus using data to find and connect with potential customers?
Ms. Bowman: Data is critical to every decision that we make. Neiman Marcus has a deep history of being a catalog and direct marketer, so we have that ROI culture ingrained. We don't make any decisions unless we can prove them out with data. From a customer standpoint, our goal is always to enhance the shopping experience. We want to deliver online something that is as close to the beauty of our in-store experience as we can. The data allows us to do that.
At Neiman Marcus, your sales associate knows you so well, she can predict how you will respond to new items and make recommendations for you. Our goal is to show the customer that Neiman Marcus online knows her as well as our offline associates do.
Q: You have worked on several luxury, high-end brands. Are there differences in reaching the likely consumers for those brands through digital channels?
Ms. Bowman: The audience has changed. When I worked at Land Rover, income was the No. 1 demographic to determine who you spoke to. You didn't bother to have a conversation unless they were at a certain income level. But with millennials, it's about their willingness to spend on a particular item—regardless of their income. They have very high expectations and value things that other generations might not have valued.
Q: Everyone is talking about the role programmatic buying has assumed in marketing. How do you view the role of programmatic buying in reaching the customers you need to reach?
Ms. Bowman: Programmatic has definitely simplified the process for us because it allows us to focus on who we want to reach without getting caught up in the details of how to reach them. And it has given us even more access to data, which we love.
Q: What parts of your marketing strategy keep you up at night?
Ms. Bowman: For me, it's how we find the right balance between brand advertising and performance marketing. With the access to data we have, it always leads you to optimize for ROI, but sometimes those are not the best channels to deliver the right brand experience.
Q: Aside from Neiman Marcus, of course, what's an online retailer you really like or have ordered from?
Ms. Bowman: An online experience that I use often and find perfect from end to end is Warby Parker [the online eyeglass retailer]. Their try-on-at-home system gives a lot of convenience, which as a busy mom I need. They feature whimsical quotes on their packaging, which is always fun. They do a great job engaging with their audience. I couldn't imagine buying glasses from anyone else; I must have 10 pairs of Warby Parker glasses now.
Q: What's your favorite new app or digital tool that you have been using in your work or personal life?
Ms. Bowman: My social team will laugh at this, but I have been trying hard to get into Snapchat. I have been making an effort to use it, and sometimes feel like an old person trying to do that. As a mom, I think the Endless Alphabet app offers a perfect combination of fun and learning. For my child it feels like a game, but my 4-year-old is very articulate and I think that kind of exposure has helped her grow.
Q: What do you do first thing in the morning?
Ms. Bowman: At home, I'm spending time with my kids, making breakfast and fixing lunch. When I get to work at the office or online, I go straight to work; I am not one of those who reads the news to start the day. But often I wake up in the middle of the night, and that's when I'll read The New York Times or Huff Post.
About the Sponsor
The Digital Trailblazers Series profiles some of the industry's most visionary digital executives—those pushing the boundaries in digital marketing. For more on this series, including intelligence and insights from Quantcast, visit the Digital Trailblazers Hub.
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