Q&A with Jonathan Paul, Bloomingdale’s

As retail marketers around the world are wrapping up back-to-school and setting their focus on holiday, I managed to sit down with Jonathan Paul, Operating Vice President for Paid and Social Media at Bloomingdale’s, where he talked about rethinking online and offline marketing strategies and the investments in human capital and process he’s making to stay ahead of changing consumer behaviors.

What’s the biggest challenge facing retail marketers today?

I think that retail is fighting to articulate its relevance to the millennials and younger generations. There are strong signals indicating that consumer behavior is shifting; this is creating a real need to rethink both online and offline marketing strategies.

What other consumer and technology trends are impacting how you think about marketing for Bloomingdale’s?

Social, mobile and local are all key trends for us. Local in our case means our brick and mortar stores, which creates an omni-channel media challenge. Bloomingdale’s is reinventing the retail experience for our customers to really inspire them and activate them in a way that feels fresh, new, and relevant to break through the clutter. Whether it is traditional media or digital media, we aim to connect with our audiences in relevant ways. That involves sophistication in terms of getting our messages down to the local level, tapping into influencers and UGC.

As the Operating Vice President for Paid and Social Media, how do you describe your role?

I’m on the hook for leading our media and publishing strategies, including planning, execution and measurement. That spans everything from traditional media plays like newspaper, out of home, and radio, to performance media on digital.  All of those things have different levels of measurability and different KPIs so it keeps me engaged but also necessitates staying informed across a really broad spectrum of media.

The speed of innovation happening in the digital space right now is just unbelievable. It’s such an exciting time to be in media and roll with the change within this industry. It’s all about adaptability and staying informed and having the right resources in order to be nimble.

Fundamentally, human capital comes first.  It’s about having the right team in place, and having the right processes in place. Everything else kind of flows from that.

Can you talk a little bit about your process?

Working in such a fast-paced medium like social media, it’s really important that we are reacting as quickly as we possibly can 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In social we need to be virtually instantaneous in terms of how quick, responsive, and nimble we act.

The primary objective for me is to focus on process, staffing and structure to support the demands of our media strategies.

Bloomingdale’s has a long and rich history, so there are a lot of well understood, well-refined processes here.  Social media and digital paid media, brand marketing, and content marketing are all areas that can feel very new and require a lot of cross functional team building to really make it happen.

It takes a village.  People from various teams — from fashion directors in different areas like women’s, men’s, home, etc., to our merchant organization, coordinators, the content team, models, the paid media team, to strategists — they all play a part in our process and strategy.

It’s key to have communication and dialogue across teams to build empathy for what everyone else is doing; not just in my team but across the organization. It requires transparency to have that dialogue.

What have you done to encourage collaboration within that cross-functional organization?

In some ways I feel like the process and the tools that we have are as valuable as the actual strategic output. Rallying people around a common, integrated strategy is my number one responsibility and goal in this job.  To set the vision and energize people around it to really ensure that we’re executing against it.

The development and collaboration around an integrated strategy is now happening between organic and paid social virtually every day. Those are two departments that a year ago didn’t even know each other’s names. So building that has been a big win.

How are these changes in the market affecting you and your fellow marketers?

The nice thing about digital media today is that it brings more visibility to the output.  We can all see what each other are doing.  Seeing so much great work inspires me.  It helps as we work to keep inspiring our community, our customers, and our audiences.  Let’s all keep doing great work!