Citi Global Consumer CMO Jennifer Breithaupt on Brands as Life Partners
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
On today's episode, Citi Global Consumer Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Breithaupt joins Adam Conner for a conversation on how the financial giant is striving to become a life partner to its customers.
Today, you'll learn:
Jen's thoughts on the importance of authenticity
How Citi holds 12,000 events a year for its customers
How to become a truly emotive brand
How to leverage employees as brand advocates
How to become a more authentic marketer
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Music: "Streetview" by Jahzzar is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike License (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Adam: Alright. Everybody. I'm here with Citi’s Jen Breithaupt. Jen, thanks so much for joining the show today. It's a pleasure to have you.
Jen: Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.
Adam: It's great to have you. We talk about Citi a lot. We think about Citi a lot in terms of audio, not necessarily in terms of podcast. It's more of the very broad presence you have in music generally. So I can't wait to talk about all of that as well as your general thoughts on authenticity, what you're doing with the “see her hear her” movement, lots of great stuff going on there. But I want a level set for the folks out there. I want to learn about a little bit about your journey to this point at Citi, hoping you could give us a little bit of clarity there.
Jen:Sure. So I've been at, um, Citi with um, for some time in various roles, um, specifically in the marketing organizations around the world. Um, and then in 2017 I assumed the role of the global consumer Chief Marketing Officer. Um, so I've had the opportunity to be at Citi and really experience a lot of different aspects of our business and how it runs on a daily basis around the world.
Adam: I'm sure quite the journey and uh, and quite the quite the responsibility as well. Um, and nowadays, uh, you're doing so many different things and we're going to focus a lot about music here cause that is certainly central to the brand and how you authentically connect with the masses and whether that's followers and fans of music, whether that's your own customers or consumers, I'm sure all, uh, of those types of groups are impacted. But I want to start again at a rather high level to get your general thoughts. Well, I mean to you using music in this way and as a brand, promoting yourself as, as an emotive brand and then being authentic as well. What is the importance of that? What's generally the importance of authenticity to Citi?
Jen: Yeah, so maybe I'll start there and then hopefully that I'll weave this story of where we are on our journey to be our emotive brand. So I think when I think of authenticity, um, authenticity in our marketing and communications has really never been more important. Um, it's more and more difficult as you know, to earn and keep consumers competence. Um, and that really requires us as marketers to market our brand in a way that feels relatable to consumers. And I guess in the environment and the world that consumers live in today, it's now inundated with messaging. Um, and fake news, I'm using air quotes there. Um, people are losing patience and they're tuning out on brands, um, who don't come across as authentic, authentic. Um, you see the demand by consumers to only do business with brands who said that shared values, they stand for something, they have purpose. I think consumers are really craving, um, understanding of what a brand values are and they're craving transparency. Um, so as a global company, uh, Citi, um, we have millions of customers across hundreds of countries and cities and we occupy a really unique position to advance important issues, have transparency and for stand for things that are, um, bigger than just the day to day of our products and services. So it's thinking about that. When I stepped into this role as um, the global consumer CMO in 2017, um, we took a step back as a brand and asked ourselves like, how do we want to be perceived in the world? Um, and quickly we determined that what was lacking in our story was really the emotional part of the brand financial services. It really does enable some of the most emotional moments in life. Like buying your first car, your first home, paying for college, weddings on and on. And we really wanted to bring that to life. So we came up with a line, ‘Welcome, what's next?”. And launched a new campaign and new energy around the consumer brand to inject emotion into the category of financial services. And really the idea around that line, “Welcome, what's next?” It's really to fire consumers to feel good and optimistic about what's next. Um, so that to me is where we started on, um, our journey to really be intentional about being authentic in everything we do, whether that's giving back, you know, standing by causes that support our mission to enable growth and progress taking a stand for issues you the know Citi has done that, um, quite a bit over the last several years. Um, and starting our mission at home to be an authentic brand really was, you know, building a best blood brand, being an authentic brand really started with our employee base. So if you look at over 200,000 employees that we have around the world, that brand love that energy really started at home to be an authentic brand. And then lastly, just being transparent and being very mindful of how we come across, how we communicate the products and services and experiences that we offer.
Adam: Well that, that's all very interesting. I want to start, uh, I want to, I want to ask a few questions. I want to unpack that a little bit further. I want to start with the point of employees and the way that they promote the brand message. Of course, somebody who works for Citi is likely to be one of Citi’s most passionate, uh, fans, followers, champions, things like that. So how did that all start? I mean, and maybe we just go back a few years to the, to the start of your current tenure, um, how, how did you make sure that it was employees, uh, driving that first before perhaps moving it outward and maybe in terms of new innovations or new experiences, things like that?
Jen: We did that in a few ways, um, you know, there wasn't just one right solution to that um, that kind of challenge. I think what we did, um, right out of the gate is that we decided that when we were designing and co-creating what this looked like, how we were to show up in the world, what was the global consumer brand of Citi going to look like… we actually started with employees, we engaged a very, very large group or samples and employees from around the world to be part of the cocreation of what that looks like. We really did build it from the inside out. And I think, um, and I've always said this, I think building the best love brand starts at home. Um, if you have that many employees that feel it and live it and breathe it, um, and they become your biggest ambassadors, I think that's a really strong start. I think the second thing that we did is we did something that we had never done at Citi. Um, and shockingly, we had never done at Citi. We had always traditionally launched any big campaign that we had right into the marketplace. Instead of taking the time to then launch it first here for all of our employees to really see this, let it set in, um, and then just deploy it, um, you know, outside of our organization. And so we did that and it, and letting people feel it, see it, understand it, be proud of it, and um, kind of live it on a daily basis, um, was super important and it has helped create kind of the energy we have around, um, this new brand look that we have for the global consumer business. Um, and then I think the other thing that we did and we continued to do this is, um, when you live a brand on a daily basis like we do, um, it's really important to pulse that messaging. It can't be, um, a moment. It's really a movement. And so you have to continuously, um, inspire our employees and help them understand how our brand shows up in each and every aspect of whatever their role may be. So we created one example was we created this, um, internal Citi Inspires Speaker Series. And really what that was, is it allowed us to bring in thought leaders from around our organization, but also externally bring in some folks spanning everybody from Ariana Huffington, talking about, uh, you know, how to show up in the best way for yourself. How to put that oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on the others too Danny Myers, Jay Wright speaking to our employees about being part of a winning team and what their career path looks like. So doing things like that, creating content series internally, creating speaker series, creating different forums with employees to talk about welcoming at what's next for them as well as our customers was really a powerful way to have people understand the brand and then live it, feel it and show it what that looks like to their friends and family and customers that they interact with every day.
Adam: So it's a very robust portfolio of, uh, of tactics, of programs, of, of things that are happening everyday internally at Citi to mobilize, let's say, that mass of champions to turn out then to the world at large and to say, this is what Citi stands for, this is what we do. Um, and these are some of the experiences that we can bring to light. I'm curious about perhaps the other side or, or another side and that being the side of, uh, cardholders and customers, uh, of Citi. I happened to be one of them. I've, I'm having one of your co-brand cards and considering another and I like it very much too, it's my main, my main card. Um, and I know that there are so many things that you do for customers and, and generally and consumers to help them along in experiencing some of these things that Citi has to offer. And I think it's just mind boggling how, and I read this, I want you to check me if I don't have it, if I don't have it right, but I read that you hold nearly 12,000 events in a year for Citi consumers, which is just outrageous. I just, I want to know some of the ways and perhaps it's largely bucketed, cause we're not going to go on all 12,000, but some of the ways in which you are helping to create and foster these environments externally, uh, as well as internally for the brand and the message to be spread.
Jen: Yeah, I mean, I think for us, um, two big, big areas of focus and interest, um, to us as the marketing organization, certainly when you look at the entire marketing flywheel, these are only two areas that for us, when we think about experiential and we think about purpose, um, those two areas rise to the top. I'll start with experiential because I think that's what your, um, you're definitely alluding to that with, um, our entertainment access platform, but you know, Citi as a global brand, you know, we have to constantly challenge ourselves to reach and connect with our customers, um, in a unique way, in a relevant way and innovative ways. Um, and really challenge ourselves on a daily basis to stay ahead of trends and stand out in a differentiated way. So experience allows us to do that for the experiential assets that we have built over the last decade have really allowed us in a very crowded space to stand out as a brand. Um, and then if you think about, um, just some of the, you know, purpose driven initiatives that we have as well, um, they play a big role as well in our kind of ongoing challenge we have to capture consumer attention and engagement. Um, so for us, when you think about experiential marketing, it's not just, you know, the ability to reach and connect with, um, you know, a broad range of consumers around the world. It's really, it allows us to reach and connect with them on a different level through their heart as well as their minds. So really connect them, both the rational and the emotional. Um, and at Citi we placed a pretty big bet on experiential when we launched our entertainment access platform, which is called Citi Entertainment over a decade ago. And really we have continued to evolve that program, um, to make sure that it's relevant and, um, that it resonates with our card members. And so for us, when you think about providing somebody who might already know you and hopefully likes your brand, hopefully loves your brand, um, with a once in a lifetime experience, that may be the moment that parents turns them into a brand fan in a lifetime ambassador. And, um, we did that by building out, um, a rather large entertainment access platform. And you know, I love quotes. Anybody who knows me knows that I love quotes and I love the whole quote that around experiential by Maya Angelou where people will forget what you said. People were, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. And I think that's at the heart of our entertainment program. And really the, the piece that keeps the team going when we're thinking about how do you generate this enormous pipeline of content over 12,000 events and experiences, um, this year, and again, we're, we are continuously building this platform. Um, this year we've increased the total number of events over the last year by 11%. So what that looks like, if you think about that platform um the city entertainment platform is, um, the 12,000 events is comprised of really everything you can think of in entertainment. So music and sports and culinary and theatrical and lifestyle and, um, it's a very robust platform that really does have, um, a little bit of something for everyone. I would say the biggest, um, component of it, or probably where we lean in the heaviest as a brand is around music. Um, and that's intentional. It is the universal language. Um, it really helps us speak to everybody around the world. Um, and I can't think of one other thing that does that. So for us, our music platform is quite significant. We will work with over 1,500, um, artists and bands this year alone. So, um, it's a rather large program.
Adam: It's an incredibly large program and one which I'm sure walks all different genres, something which anybody can find a link to a and find a, find a beat in their heart with, to, uh, to make Citi… I, you know, and I've read that Citi also aims to be that sort of life partner and, and, and, and obviously being in emotive brand and working through music, uh, is going to help a lot even subconsciously. With that. I want to move briefly from, and maybe not from, but within music and I want to stick with it, but particularly I want to talk a little bit about how Citi remains a values driven… purpose oriented in what it does. I know that you are at the forefront of this, “see her, hear her” movement. I'd love to know how that started. I'd love to know how it's developed over time and I'd love to know what's to come with it.
Jen: Sure. So, um, you know, when I spoke about, um, two areas of that whole flywheel experiential on purpose being to areas of significant focus for Citi, um, and for my team in particular, I think for us, when we think about, um, how powerful having purpose driven marketing is, um, not just, you know, in creating preference among consumers, but it also does a lot of, um, for our engagement with employees. And certainly when you think about attracting new talent to the organization, um, it is significant. People ask, they ask in interviews, what do you stand for? And so when we think about purpose driven and experiential, um, they really don't stand alone. They often work together. Um, and Citi’s overall mission and it has been for years is enabling growth and progress in the world. And we're constantly looking for opportunities to make a difference. Um, so with, when we were thinking about, um, at Citi, what we lean into, um, and what are the issues that we have, um, or issues that we can stand out and support, um, whether that's gender equality or childhood hunger, sustainability or others. You know, we are supporting a lot of things, but really the key is to, for us around purpose is just back issues and platforms where we can have an authentic position as a brand. We can tie in with those issues. We can create a voice. Um, and we always lean in only when we can sustain support over the long-term. So, um, for us, and this is really, really important, um, and if the conversation we have all, all the time is brand purpose really to be successful to us, can't be done. It can't be a moment. It has to be a movement. Um, so it has to be something where the brand and an organization you can stand, you can stand up for it and you can create impact in change. So about a year, um, a year ago we joined, um, the ANA’s um, movement around “see her” and really, as you know, that's really about the fair portrayal of women and girls in advertising and media. So we launched that, we joined up and said that's a very important initiative for us. And, um, based on the success of that and what we were seeing as we be able to transform the way we were telling stories for our brand around the world and where we were placing our media. Um, and we saw the energy and we saw the positive growth and engagement from consumers, um, globally, we said there's gotta be something more that we could do. And we took a look and said, where do we have a strong enough position where we can create an authentic, um, platform to support an issue? And so we looked at our music platform and the scale of that instead, um, we have this rather large, um, music platform and we know from years of experience that, um, there's a significant amount of inequality. Um, and quite frankly, women are just missing from the music industry. And that can be everything from a musician to a songwriter to an engineer. It's just women weren't seeing that it was possible to have those, um, careers. And so we said, well, why don't we as an extension of seeker help the ANA to build out and launch, “see her, hear her”? And so we did on International Women's Day this year, we put a stake in the ground and helped in partnership with the ANA and launch, see her, hear her. And really that was to shine a light on, um, the inequality in the music industry and to create, um, an initiative that would encourage other brands. So we made a commitment to dream, um, and help them bring in a significant amount of brands that would then create tactics and initiatives and platforms and places for women to see the possibilities, but also to play a bigger role in the music industry. So it's been a, um, we launched on International Women's Day on NBC where we took over an hour of that show and really, um, highlighted it by having our, uh, our first ambassador to the program, Marin Morris, um, there, um, performing, but also mentoring a young lady from Las Vegas that was a sound engineer, but also a songwriter. And then we had a whole bunch of other women that were up and coming females in different parts of the music industry that we, um, called out for all talent in the US and we had a significant number of people sending videos of why they wanted to be in this program. And we brought them to The Today Show and gave them each, um, some money to kick off and kind of kickstart their own careers. So it's, it's an ongoing platform and we have other artists now involved and um, we're going to continue on this movement to get many, many brands involved in, um, helping to cure, uh, this issue in the music industry. And I think a long-winded answer, but I think it's really, really important as a marketer because if you think about storytelling, music is such an important part of the stories that we as marketers and brands, um, tell each and every day.
Adam: Well, of course it is. And I've seen this, uh, movement in terms of broadly, you know, increasing the proportion of women representation in industry and leadership all over the place. I mean, specifically in music, I'm a Baltimore native and uh, what we're, what they're doing in the city, especially around the partnership with the Baltimore Orioles is they have a concert series and all summer it's exclusively female country artists and they are promoting like local female artists. Um, and it's very popular from what I take it. I don't make it, you know, every week, but this is becoming much, much more pervasive. And it's interesting to know too, that you are powering, uh, empowering these women to do this through the avenues that you have and, or you've mentioned The Today Show. Uh, you mentioned, you know, funding the journey in a way, and you also mentioned some content that came in, you know, from people who wanted to be part of that path. I'm curious about content broadly and that that's the root of my next question here because I'm sure from the thousands of events that you hold across your experiential portfolio all the way down to the most grassroots people just getting started in their careers, I'm imagining there's millions and millions of pieces of the brand which are being produced. I'm curious about some of the ways in which [inaudible] that's a wonderful way to do it. They must have some nice things to say. How does Citi funnel that back into the community?
Jen: No, it's so true. I mean, if you see, just even looking at the rise of, um, user generated content, um, and then you layer on top of it, this whole, you know, see her, hear her platform, um, which fits in a category of which is supported by a ton of user generated content. Um, just music overall happens to be one of the, as you know, leading places of where content contents created. And I think about when you think about content for fans by fans, um, that's, it's, it's such a critical space and it's so important for this initiative. You were just, um, a few weeks back, always back at Lollapalooza, um, where we've had a partnership for several years and this year we spent, um, our entire time there as a brand, creating more content, um, and having people from both sides of the story. So having artists and having managers and having people in the industry talk about, you know, what the challenges are then, but also making commitments, um, of things they can do to help. So I think as you know, when I think about just the, the rise of user generated content and you know, as marketers, if it's done well, um, we can really leverage fans or consumers to do our advertising for us. And uh, you know, even just using unpaid contributors or customers or fans to share those pictures, the blog between on and on and on, you can go on for days. Um, I think it's a really important part of content marketing and for us, our overall brand strategy. Um, and what we see in, you know, not unique to us, obviously. Um, UGC allows us to reach our target audiences at little to no cost. And the feeling that the creators [inaudible] about our brand, they feel helpful. They feel part of a community. It creates this unbiased view of our products and services. So, you know, we encourage any user generated content. We emphasize community, we try to create platforms where they can share and be part of those conversations. And you know, I think for us as a brand, and you know, this, the, the stats are staggering. 82% of Americans say that they seek recommendations from friends or family when they're making purchase decisions. So it's important for us to have those voices out there and talking about Citi, talking about the experiences we have, talking about the products we have, but also talking about what we stand for. So the purpose that we have. Um, so it's been incredibly, the energy that we've seen around the see he, he her initiative in general. Um, from a content standpoint it's been mind blowing actually.
Adam: Yeah, it, it, uh, that's great too to know and just to know that and not only that you're aware that it exists, obviously, how can you not be, but that you are encouraging it. And then, um, and some ways I'm sure taking advantage of it and using it as great. It's on that note because there's so much positivity happening there that I have to imagine there are some sort of competitive advantage for Citi in this way. Not only when it comes to your penetration into that industry and the emotions that it draws, but also when you talk about authenticity and a bit about transparency in the light of what's going on in the financial industry, specifically with consumer banks in the late 2010s… we see scandals happening almost too regularly now with regard to a unethical practices and uh, breaches of security and information. How is Citi using it to sort of guide the conversation about what a consumer should think of when they think first of Citi?
Jen: Well, I think, you know, some of the parts, so it's not just around see her, hear her, it’s around all the other things that, um, Citi is really doing. Um, you know, to stand out and, you know, I'm not saying I think financial services category, there's others doing things as well and we're all trying to, you know, give back to take stands to, you know, be transparent. And I think, you know, when you think about the work that we do with see her, hear her, when you look at some of the things that we're doing around sustainability and ending extreme poverty and, um, we have, uh, we have a responsibility and I think that we all understand that. Um, and we all need to lean in, um, and, and be a part of these things and show up in an authentic way. Um, and you know, again, I think Citi as a global organization, we stand in a really unique place, um, to advance important issues and stand for things and change that conversation that you're talking about. Um, and I think we've done a really nice job and I think it's at the kind of the DNA of the organization right now that people want to feel proud, they want to talk about these things that we stand for, um, talk about things other than our products and services, talk about how we collectively, um, as a large organization with a global footprint can really, um, make significant change. Um, so that's what I get excited about on a daily basis.
Adam: Well, and I'm sure it's, it's there is a, there's a multifaceted approach to, to, to driving that conversation into being what, what is the first impression when Citi comes to mind. And, um, I'm sure there's so many different things that are happening, uh, much too many to detail in its fullest on the show here. But it's good to know that that's definitely top of mind too. And um, of course when I refer to those are the things, the good thing is that when the first thing that comes to my mind I, when it comes to Citi is this very integration of music and being emotive and uh, you know, happily these other sorts of, uh, less savory stories are occurring with other players in the space, which I'm sure is not unnoticed by Citi. I want to ask next and uh, we're, we're getting towards the, the end of the interview here. I'm going to ask a couple of more broader questions. Are some related to advice and some related to just generally where you think Citi is at the moment in terms of authenticity? That's very broad, but I'll specify a bit. So here on the show we basically define authenticity for a brand as their ability to mobilize the masses. And uh, basically we've talked about through this whole interview, creating and fostering environments through which these experiences can be told, capturing all of that and then funneling it back into the community to create a virtuous cycle of, uh, of moments of share-ability, of positive, of positive feeling. And I'm curious because Citi’s done so much here, if I were to put Citi or if you were to put Citi, let's say on a scale, alright, let's call it an authenticity score from zero to 10 or maybe do a zero to a hundred. If you feel more comfortable doing that, where zero is, you're not doing any of this at all, which I can imagine is not going to be part of your answer and a 10 or a hundred is a, we're, we're knocking it out of the park. We're doing absolutely everything that we can be doing with acknowledging that there's some room for growth. Where would you put Citi right now on that sort of authenticity scale?
Jen: You know, okay, I'll go with the one through 10 and I'll say we're probably a seven or eight. Um, I'd like to say we were a 10, but I always think there's opportunity. Um, and I, I think the things that we've been doing, um, you know, are, are terrific, but I, I want us to, you know, continuously challenge ourselves and find new opportunities. And you know, I think we, we, we have an opportunity with the things that we are leaning into, um, and using kind of a combination of data and creativity to create the right content delivered to the right customer across the right channel at the right time. And I think there's opportunity there to shine a bigger light on some of the things that we have. Here her, see her is one of them, um, the work that we do and no kid hungry. Um, there's, we, I think that we have a little more room for improvement. I, I, that's what excites me. If we were so far, if we were a 10, that'd be amazing. But it would also be like, okay, we're good. I, I think we have to continue to push ourselves and think differently. Um, we don't have a choice in this environment to be anything but authentic. Um, and that's, you know, I think that's a really neat place to be as a marketer and that's what gets me excited.
Adam: Well, it's always good to know that you know where you stand and where there's always room to grow and that there's so many things going on that are pushing that score up. I want to ask finally for some advice. And that's because the audience of this show is largely marketers and students of the craft. And they love hearing advice from these top CMOs of these hugely global and well-recognized brands of maybe how to get from that zero to that eight and maybe even how to strive from the eight to the 10 but broadly advice on how to become a more authentic marketer, when values to stand behind, what principles to carry day to day to ensure that you are getting your brand, whether you're a sole proprietor or a, a part of a large organization like Citi to a future state in which you are being more authentic in front of your consumers, your donors, your followers, whoever it may be. So I'm curious on that advice from you.
Jen: I think it, um, the advice I would give is really, um, to remember and remind yourself on a daily basis as marketers to market our brand in a way that feels relatable to consumers. And I know that’s kind of a broad answer, but you know, some of the challenges and opportunities we have as marketers is really staying aware of and, um, staying in pace with all these trends and channels and, you know, we're always looking at ways to attract and connect with and how to market audiences. Um, I think when you think about being authentic, you just wanna make sure you don't just do that to do that, to reach those people and connect with them that you show up in the right way. Um, and again, I think that, you know, the demand by consumers to only do business with brands who, you know, kind of possess these shared values and stand for something and have purpose and their cravings value from, um, brands and transparency. Um, I think that, you know, again, I think it comes back to core principles and you just have to stand by those. I think, um, you know, if I had to name four things, and I think I said it earlier, it's really to be authentic. If, you know, showing up with transparency is one of them. Um, it's taking a stand on things. Um, giving back, so getting by causes and supporting your mission. Um, and then really just trying to push really hard on being, having contextual relevance in your marketing. So only the easy to blanket market things to people, but you know, again, delivering that, creating first of all the right content, right messaging and things that you stand for, but then delivering it to the right customer across the right channel where it's not intrusive, where it happens at the right time. I think transparency's a sum of all of those things.
Adam: Well, it's great advice to have great advice to hold and for folks, hope you enjoyed that great advice to hear. Um, it's been wonderful learning about everything Citi has on deck right now and all the values that they hold. Excited to see what is coming up, um, for now. Fantastic insight on all of the above and I can't thank you enough for joining the show. Uh, and Jen, I'm so excited for what's yet to come. Appreciate you joining Authentic Influence today.
Jen: Thanks Adam.