NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Few marketers can say they got their start on the factory floor. But that's exactly where Liz Cahill, VP-marketing and communications for Lee, began her education, back in 1989.
"I've had a 20-year career of being given permission to check out people's bums," joked Ms. Cahill, 46 -- though her husband and partner of nearly two decades, Matt, wasn't wearing Lee when they met. Now, it's "all Lee jeans all the time" for Matt and son Brock, a sophomore at the University of Kansas and an aspiring marketer, she said.
Learning how Lee's products are made was an incredible foundation for future roles in forecasting, sales, brand management and marketing. Ms. Cahill first moved into a marketing role, as director-advertising and PR, in 2000. In 2005, she was promoted to her current role.
"I didn't realize how lucky I was, but it's been very, very helpful," she said. "Our manufacturing and product team know that I understand their roles."
Three years ago, Ms. Cahill set out to refresh Lee's marketing and communications strategy, launching its first overarching brand campaign in eight years. At the same time, she began employing mix modeling to improve the brand's return on investment on all marketing activities.
For example, an analysis of TV advertising led the brand to focus its efforts around the fall season, when sales of denim spike. It also rebalanced its buy across dayparts, as well as cable and network channels. Lee works with media-buying agency Mediaedge:cia, New York.
In total, Lee's marketing ROI has more than doubled in the past three years.
"[Mix modeling] gives you some guard rails. But there's some logic that needs to be applied," she said. "What I want to do is make every dollar work as effectively and efficiently as possible. Especially in this market, people can take their eye off the ball and just focus on cheap media, but that's not effective."
Joe Dzialo, president of Lee, said the work Ms. Cahill has done in revamping Lee's media and marketing programs has now been shared across VF Corp., Lee's parent company.
"What separates her from her peer group is that she goes to school in studying every penny we spend and drives incredible ROI," Mr. Dzialo said. "We've had really strong success in growing our business, and marketing has played a big role in that."
Kathy Collins, VP-marketing at H&R Block and former VP-marketing at Lee, said that Ms. Cahill has a way of making the dollars work hard.
"It's a fairly traditional brand with a fairly traditional approach to media," said Ms. Collins. "She's pushed everybody out of their comfort zone, and that's not always easy."