Overseeing marketing for a nationwide preschool franchise is anything but child’s play.
As vice president of marketing, advertising, and PR for The Goddard School, Paul Koulogeorge works with the corporate office and individual franchisees to reach the Millennial parent and school them on why the company is best for their children.
Koulogeorge has more than 20 years of experience working in brand management. Prior to Goddard, he spent nine years at financial services company DFC Global Corp., where he was responsible for a worldwide marketing team who represented 10 countries and created geographically targeted campaigns in eight languages.
Today, Koulogeorge takes that marketing education and applies it to the more than 440 schools in 35 states in the Goddard system. Read on to learn what that entails.
CMO.com: What intrigued you about working for The Goddard School?
Koulogeorge: What intrigued me actually has a lot to do with the consumer. What gets me excited about marketing is less the product that I’m marketing and more the consumer who I’m marketing to. The ability to market to Millennial moms, who are our core demographic, was very exciting for me. These individuals are on the cutting edge of technology, social media, and new forms of communication. The product we’re marketing couldn’t be more personal and a more nuanced decision, which is picking child care for your baby.
CMO.com: You’ve been at the company for about 18 months now. What was your core mission coming into the position?
Koulogeorge: I would say for us to get into the mindset of the Millennial mother and to position the way we organize our department and how we communicate our messages via that Millennial mom. We’ve gone back and taken a very deep dive to better understand our consumer. It has involved a lot of research--a pretty massive four-stage segmentation study and a deep understanding of truth points. What are the messages that Millennial moms find unique and motivating? In our product category, there’s over 100,000 different outlets where you can get child care in America. It’s a very fractured marketplace.
From a marketing execution [standpoint], we’ve evolved the marketing spending and gone much heavier on the digital and social front. [We’re] trying to get customized and localized, so you’re thinking about mommy bloggers--and there’s individual mommy bloggers in every market. So it’s less of a national TV commercial and everyone gets the same message. It’s going to, what’s the social presence suburb by suburb?
CMO.com: How do you effectively communicate the differentiators to the different communities and potential franchises?
Koulogeorge: That was a big part of our truth point research, which is understanding what messages we can deliver that are both unique and motivating. In doing this research, we looked at some of the messages we’ve been using over the years—taglines, headlines, claims that we’ve made. There were some things that we almost never said that came up on top as being unique and motivating. There were other things that we said all the time that fell to the bottom. So it’s a lot of realigning some of our messages.
[People] who owns the franchise live, breathe, and die Goddard in that community; they know all the moms and we hope are very involved in the community. We certainly have that expectation. They have the ability to take the messages coming from corporate and then tweak them where appropriate to fit their individual communities and certain concerns or issues.
CMO.com: Can you tell me more about your day-to-day responsibilities?
Koulogeorge: I’ve had a CMO title role for over a decade now. I always convey, when people ask me what I do, that I’m like the conductor. I’ve got an orchestra of talent, and in my case that’s 23 individuals, and I am leading that orchestra. I don’t have the skillset to play every instrument. I do have the skillset to lead the team, to motivate the team, to develop the strategy, and to make sure that they’re all following along with that. I’m really big-picture, and I’m guiding them.
CMO.com: You have a deep background in consumer goods. How does that experience play into what you do now?
Koulogeorge: My background has come full circle. My first job out of college was in the executive training department at May Department Stores. I did multiunit marketing. After getting my MBA at Northwestern, I went into classic packaged goods marketing for over a decade. I was at Kraft Foods as a brand manager, and then I went to Coca-Cola. That taught me the fundamentals of building a business and building a brand. At both Coke and Kraft, I was able to experience all the different aspects of the business and deal with all the other functional groups. It taught me how to grow a brand, how to build a business, and also really appreciate what everyone’s bringing to the table.
After that, I went back to multiunit marketing, first being the CMO at EB Games, which was a chain of 2,000 video game stores that later merged into GameStop, then at DFC Global Corp., which is a big financial service with 1,500 stores. I was applying the principles of brand management into a multiunit retail format. Goddard’s really the same thing. It’s 450 schools, so it’s multiunit.
CMO.com: You mentioned spending more on digital. Can you talk more about digital’s importance to getting your message across?
Koulogeorge: Electronic marketing is the majority of our focus right now. We have the ability with data analytics now to be able to pinpoint which creative message is the most effective, which tagline moves more business. You can scientifically pinpoint with great specificity the result of each dollar spent. Because of that, it’s kind of natural that we’re putting more and more emphasis on digital spend. Also, it so closely aligns with our consumer. We’re dealing with women who are 25 to 40. They are all over technology.
We have a mission that 10% of our market dollars are always being spent on new, untested technology. We’re looking at new apps. We’re looking at new websites. We’re looking at older websites that maybe are doing newer, clever things, and we’re constantly testing new technologies with the idea that some of it’s going to be a big waste of money. When you’re trying to be on the cutting edge, some things will fail miserably, but the hope is that we’re going to find some great success with some new ideas.
CMO.com: How do you use the data you’re collecting to make the best choices to help the company grow?
Koulogeorge: We look at everything through an ROI filter. Let me take a step back because the data first starts with the research. We do a lot of research in terms of: What do our consumers want? What motivates our consumer? [We conduct] both quantitative and qualitative research. Then we take which messages they say they like and test them through the various forms of advertising we have. We can then see what’s working, what’s not working, and what has the best results. So we’re constantly number-crunching. For the digital side of the spend, it’s pretty easy to get. It’s still always a little bit harder on the traditional side.
It’s easy to reach people who have already come in and toured, or who have already filled out information on the web, but you need some poor-performing ROI vehicles just to constantly keep that funnel filled. When I go and sit with my boss, the CEO, or our board, I’m showing them these are the various vehicles that we’re using to market Goddard. Some of the results are not as good as other ones, but we need a mix of tools to make sure we’re maximizing the number of consumers that are exposed to the brand and maximizing the people at each step of that funnel. So as it gets narrower and narrower, we’ve got a mixture of vehicles that we’re using. The data helps us kind of explain that story now.
CMO.com: What does it take to be a successful CMO in today’s world?
Koulogeorge: The key for me is never resting on your laurels. Never rest on what’s working. We’re always thinking five years ahead and looking at what’s going to be the app or the vehicle that people will be talking about. The world of marketing is not waiting for the tool to make it into the vernacular of the masses. You need to be ... understanding and testing it before the rest of the marketplace has. The day of Mad Men, where it was TV, print, radio, and maybe billboards and that’s all you had to do, has completely evolved and changed. Now there are hundreds of vehicles, and they come up very quickly, so you have a lot you have to keep up with. It’s becoming whoever is fastest, whoever’s smartest, whoever has the best science behind their department is the one that’s going to succeed.