CMO Impact
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CMO Club Spotlight: Michael Parness of Outward Hound

Averi Melcher
April 07, 2016

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This week, we’re turning the spotlight onto Michael Parness, CMO of Outward Hound.

Michael Parness, CMO of Outward Hound

Michael Parness, CMO of Outward Hound

1. What was your first (or favorite job) that you had? 

My second job stands out: I was working as a Toy Inventor in Chicago. We designed and built prototypes, tested them with consumers then showed them to all the different companies to license (before all the M&A in toy industry). It was fun because I could focus on one thing every day – not be in meetings, travel and deal with all the usual day to day business things.

2. Your target audience (dogs and the humans who love them) seems to love showing off their pups on social media. What’s your brand strategy for creating content that your customers love and that fans engage with online? How does this result in high-quality UGC?

Our goal launching Outward Hound last year was to create an authentic lifestyle brand through positioning, story, personality and purpose that the consumers could bring to life. They became the brand advocates living our values with our products and their pets.

We want to capture, convince and convert – always connecting on both emotional and rational levels with sincere and consistent messaging. It’s not about how many likes or followers we get, but their engagement with the brand, in a meaningful way that is driving sustainable sales, profit growth and CLV (customer lifetime value). Our products are created with all this in mind from the concept stage, right through commercialization. We want to make owning a dog even better – always delivering on our promise to “Raise The Woof.”

The UGC created with our products tells an authentic story in shareable ways. That, in turn, builds awareness, traffic and engagement – yielding measurable results: In one year, our direct site average order value is up 83%, site traffic is up 71% and email opt-ins are up over 500%.

3. Outward Hound does a great job of maintaining a cohesive brand across all platforms – what is one of the underlying core principles you use to create and curate this strong identity? Do you have a specific example of a “branding win” for your team?

Creating a cohesive brand experience is always top of mind for us. We co-create assets (content, video, images, etc) that we use across all digital and print platforms to maintain consistency for both visuals and all written copy. Everything needs to go through an approval process. We are constantly looking at trending things across all media – keywords, links, tags  – that will keep us relevant in rankings and aligns with our audience psychographics – not just demographics. Whether that’s search, blog, product page, post, etc., it doesn’t matter. Maintaining the brand voice is key.

A major branding win was getting Outward Hound launched at Petco last year and getting our ‘pawsome’ new Feeding Mats in Petsmart – the first time ever that our brand was stocked in store!

4. What characteristics do you value most when hiring new marketing talent for your brand?

First, we identify the work that needs to be done and how it will be measured. Then, we create roles we are looking for with flexibility throughout the recruiting process in order to create a winning team of complimentary talent that will achieve our strategic initiatives.

We look for passion and ask situational questions to understand their cross functional team work, problem solving ability, creativity, 360 leadership/influence and SMM acumen. After an initial phone call and/or video screens, every candidate must complete a project relevant to the role they’re being considered for – which helps assess how they would do in actual position. We then do both panel and individual interviews to identify best cultural and performance fit.

5. What marketing trend or technology are you most looking forward to implementing in 2016? 

We are doing some A/B testing now with Neuromarketing on our website and FB ads, in addition to furthering integrating synergistic email marketing, experiential and data analytic efforts.

6. Name one CMO or Head of Marketing who impresses you today and tell us why.

When Buzzfeed hired their first CMO last year – Frank Cooper from Pepsi (who was there since 2003 and at AOL before that) – it reinforced the idea that the role of a CMO is changing to be a combination of many disciplines. We live in an over-saturated, sound bite world and Buzzfeed is killing it in social. They are definitely one we can keep an eye on and will IPO at some point.

7. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote?

From Dr. Wayne Dyer, may he rest in peace:

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.”

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