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CMO Hugh Dineen Ensures Experience Underpins MetLife’s Transformation

After 31 years of teaming with Snoopy and the Peanuts gang in its marketing, MetLife has transformed its message to emphasize the company’s importance for the workforce. That effort has included a new logo, tagline, and branding campaign. Hugh Dineen, MetLife’s senior VP and first U.S. CMO, was part of the team that led this effort.

The marketing vet, who joined the company at the tail end of 2015, previously served as global VP for brand marketing and global head of beauty at Avon, spent 16 years in marketing for Johnson & Johnson, and began his career at Procter & Gamble in customer-interfacing roles and sales leadership.

At MetLife, Dineen’s responsibilities include leading a marketing team of 160, guiding marketing strategies for the U.S. business, and shaping and executing the brand’s domestic marketing strategy.

Dineen recently spoke with CMO.com about the changes going on at MetLife.

CMO.com: What led you down the career path of marketing?
Dineen: I would say that I’ve always been a student of behavior and motivation, wanting to get under what makes people tick. I truly see marketing as the science of actively motivating behavior. For me, it was just a great fit, a very logical fit, for me to have this as a career. I’m one of those people who gets out of bed every day pretty energized to do what I do.

CMO.com: You became MetLife’s first-ever CMO in the U.S. What intrigued you about the position?
It was surprising to me to have a business that had some $50 billion in revenue and we really hadn’t looked at having one voice of the brand for the U.S. For me, that was an exciting opportunity to come in and become the consumer and customer evangelist. What excited me about the opportunity was really to transform marketing at MetLife. Marketing is now going to be a key driver of the future, among many other drivers at MetLife, which is very different from how marketing had been viewed in the past.

CMO.com: How have you transformed the company’s approach to marketing?
I spent a lot of my time engaging senior MetLife leaders in new approaches to thinking about the business: new ideas, new thinking, and really teaching a lot of our current marketing organization. I’m in the midst of a very significant organizational change within marketing to ensure that we’re set up to succeed in the future. We just deployed our new structure at the beginning of this year, which is a clear break from the past, to create a much more customer-centric organization with a true brand marketing strategy and experience focus, while building deeper and real marketing expertise within the organization. It’s really been a fun and engaging process. A lot of what I do is evangelize customer and consumer insights and lead the transformation of our capabilities and our approach to marketing in the U.S.

CMO.com: What was the mindset around MetLife’s recent rebranding?
At the start, it was really about having a very deep dive into what our customers and our consumers have to say. The rebranding was a global initiative that had a large stake in the U.S. as well, where we actually went out to more than 55,000 customers to get a clear sense of what they thought about us, what they thought about the industry, and where the unmet needs were. What we really found universally are the people were very overwhelmed by the amount of change in their lives. They were looking for a partner to help them navigate those changes. There really wasn’t someone in the category who was taking that role.

This extensive research led us to a new purpose and promise for the business to be that trusted partner and help our customers navigate those changes. With that came a new visual identity for the brand, which is really a new brand platform, a new tagline of navigating life together, and ultimately new advertising, bringing forward a new idea for us with the “We Are for the Workforce” campaign.

CMO.com: Talk a little bit about the specific elements of how you’re getting the campaign out there?
I’m not sure if you’ve actually seen the first depiction of it in the TV ad, but it’s going to be executed across the full marketing mix. We continue to see TV spending. We’re also going to see a lot of outreach online taking on a number of different forms. We also will be launching our thought leadership program that will involve further demonstrating our expertise through some of the unique partnerships that we will begin to unveil over the next year.

Our new logo serves as the cornerstone of the company’s new visual identity and is meant to represent its commitment to customers. The logo shows two shapes and colors—the iconic MetLife blue and the newly chosen green—merging together to form an “M” for MetLife.

CMO.com: It had been more than 30 years since a brand change like this. Why was now the time?
As MetLife is transforming to become a simpler, more nimble company, it is moving away from a traditional product-development model to one driven by customer insights. The brand is evolving to follow suit.

We’re really at the start of a transformation for MetLife overall. This change goes beyond the whole marketing function. We’re transforming our business across the board. One of the key pieces has been very public in our separating the U.S. retail business, and that’s really part of a broader look at our corporate strategy and how we’re going to continue to be a highly successful company in the future. Core to doing that—and I would say critical, really—is our ability to actively leverage customer insights and activate them in the marketplace. I would say up until now, we’ve been very successful in pushing product. That’s been a great model for us. Getting to the future, we know that won’t deliver the same results that we’ve had in the past. So it becomes both a big opportunity and a burning platform for us to balance this notion of creating demand for what we believe are outstanding products that have a very noble purpose within the world and certainly within the U.S.

CMO.com: How are you using social media and the company’s digital presence to tell this message?
Social media is incredibly important. Even as you look at the notion behind our value proposition that we’re launching with “We Are for the Workforce,” the core of the insight behind that notion was this combination of expertise and advocacy. [It’s] having this notion of bringing our unique sense of expertise to the forefront but then helping to see that you can stand up for us and really know who we are. In order for us to deliver on advocacy, we have to be experts at social media. We have to be expert both at listening and also responding to customers’ needs. That’s something that for us is going to be an ongoing, big idea as we continue to move forward.

It’s ultimately going to even evolve the experience of how our customers relate to and transact with us as we move forward. This whole emerging world of the “almost-Amazonation” of everything, how consumers buy, is just so different than it has been in the past. I’d say that our industry has been relatively sleepy, and we have a real need to be at the forefront of delivering stronger interactions socially than we have in the past.

CMO.com: You mentioned the new visuals and new logo. How are incorporating that in the marketing message? Is it in advertisements? Is it across your social media? Is it pretty much everywhere you look now?
The fast answer is yes. Our objective is to get it everywhere, and it continues to roll out in each of our major technology platforms, externally and internally. It’s not part of all of our advertising. We were transitioning the millions of touch points that we have with our customers and our consumers. So, as I know you’re well-aware, we would love for these things to be a light switch, but they are a journey. As we continue to open up systems and make the evolution. it’s a multiyear process. We’ve actually made significant progress in a short period of time if you look across all or most of our digital medians. We’re already there. It’s a lot of our other systems that continue to evolve, and they’ll all be there shortly.

CMO.com: How are you using analytics to measure all the data that’s coming in about everything that’s happening so you know whether things are working?
Part of the marketing organization that we’re building has a new focus on what we call marketing science, which is our unique approach to market research and analytics. Analytics is the starting point and the end point of everything we do. As we start to see the evolution of modern marketing, the ongoing emergence of digital being our mainstay, the ability to customize messaging to the end user, the ability to generate leads through geolocation via mobile—at the core of all of those in delivering the ROI that we’ll need will be simply outstanding analytics behind the scenes.

CMO.com: What does the year ahead look like for MetLife’s marketing efforts?
This year is about transformation. It’s about building the capabilities internally for us to have a full-functioning marketing organization while we continue to deliver on the goals of the business. It’s having quick wins within the business that demonstrate the significant value that marketing can add while we build the capabilities for the future. My day is filled making sure that we’re doing both. A lot of that is instilling a clear sense and almost a mandate around insights first within the organization. I sit on all the senior leadership boards for the U.S. A lot of my role is making sure that all of our innovation starts with a customer so that we begin to pave the way for this in our future. I see the next year being a balance of improving what we do today while we dramatically improve the capabilities for what we can deliver in 2018 and beyond.

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