I talked with Andrew Sherrard about his path to marketing and how T-Mobile's marketing team keeps up with innovative digital strategies and tools.

How do you keep up with new technologies and trends?

There's always something new happening, a new technology or way to reach customers. So, one, stay grounded in good principles of marketing. Focus on the customer and their needs. Two, really apply the principles of great positioning and be clear about the real benefit. Highlight something that will be relevant and meaningful for that person in that moment.

There's no doubt agility is important to us, but if you apply the principles and keep consistent with the brand, you can absolutely still have communications that ring true even when you're moving quickly.

Can you speak to how you view positioning T-Mobile in the industry and balancing that with some very large competitors?

We believe our positioning is really simple - we're here to change wireless for good. To change it permanently and for the better. We're going to listen to the customer and solve pain points that have been problematic for years - making it free to stream, making it easy to get out of contracts, getting rid of outrageous roaming fees. Our strategy is listen to the customer and be the advocate for the customer, and be on their side in this giant industry that provides one of the most important parts of their lives.

How do you have that core competency be a part of everything you do?

For the past year we've established a vision about where we want to go, and we want to be famous for marketing in the age of the empowered consumer. Our CEO [John Legere] epitomizes this, he's got over two million Twitter followers and engages with them. We've got to have agility as a core component, be constantly listening from all channels. We're lucky to have an incredible array of ways to hear from customers. And then it's acting all the time. Acting every day on what we learn, watching what happens, and adjusting it based on how consumers react to it. When I started at Clorox, a classic packaged goods brand marketer, we spent 80% of our time on planning. Today at T-Mobile, we spend 80% of our time optimizing the campaign and making adjustments based on that feedback. If you're going to be here you've got to have passion for the customer and the brand.

What are the biggest challenges you see that brands face in the industry?

It's one of the of the most advertised industries in the country. These four brands are in the top advertisers across all industries. So, what it means is finding ways to be relevant and ways as an industry to talk to people when they want to be talked to and with the right messaging. It's about targeting and timing. It's finding the right ways to know when they're looking and give them good, valuable information. And finding ways to build engagement and loyalty over time by communicating effectively with the base.

What's something that really excites you moving forward?

When you think about our culture, it's that we have a vision people can believe in. That gets people passionate and excited; our customers, employees, and marketing team. That is a touchstone, that people find the mission powerful.

We do a lot of experimentation; we take risks and try new things. I am excited about experimenting and learning where we can be the best in a couple areas. One is the continued emergence of new ways to engage customers. We're doing a ton of Twitter with Periscope - that is a cool way to get direct feedback from customers. It's a pillar of our social campaigns, and you can tackle everything from a new product launch, to an issue on social, to what's happening competitively. We're also excited to do much better targeting, really understanding how people are deciding to come to T-Mobile. Targeting and attribution are places we're investing a lot into so we can understand what's working and what's not, and double down on what's working.

How did you get into marketing?

I got into marketing when I was on active duty for four years and got out and was looking at jobs. When you come out as a junior military officer, you are simultaneously qualified for all jobs and no jobs. You're a great leader and can handle a group of people, but you also don't know anything about business and technical areas. Any place looking for a leader, though, you can make an impact.

I really was drawn to marketing because it was this one place in the corporate world where you could touch everything, and I thought that was a cool opportunity and fit for me. I could try a lot of different things. Thirteen years ago I came here. I've done every job in marketing and loved it. There's never a dull day. I am constantly challenged and have to really think through how to attack them and be a good leader. Those skills came from West Point and the Army.

Was there anything that surprised you about marketing?

As I look back, I am surprised by how varied its been. I've had so many different experiences at T-Mobile, from running our integrated marketing team to being CMO now. It's amazing how much you can learn when you're willing to listen.

Andrew Sherrard is the CMO of T-Mobile. There, he leads a team to eliminate customer pain points and end outdated industry practices. He is a marketing leader with more than 20 years of experience.

Published on: Mar 8, 2016
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