PRO Awards Judges Panel Shares Promotional Marketing Expertise

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

Calling all promo experts: The window to enter the world’s largest and most prestigious program recognizing excellence in promotional marketing—the Chief Marketer PRO Awards—is closing fast.

It’s time to gain some well-deserved recognition, friends, so we ask: Why not turn the challenges of the past few years into hardware for your trophy shelf? Why not get rewarded for your killer comeback strategies of 2021? Why not get your hard-earned wins in front of the most impressive group of brand-side judges we’ve ever recruited?

Regarding that expertise… We asked a few of our judges this week to share their top promotional strategies, which brands they think are killing it in the marketplace, where they find inspiration, and more. Check out their insights below—and get those entries in before our late deadline this Tuesday.

Chief Marketer: What brand—aside from your own—is doing promotional marketing programs that stand out in the marketplace?

Ryan Pitylak, CMO, ZenBusiness: Shopify stands out as a company doing a promotional marketing program that leverages product led growth techniques. They offer a 14-day free trial, which has no credit card requirement. This makes it incredibly easy for anyone to try their platform and figure out whether it’s a right fit before committing.

Angela Burgin Logan, Senior Manager, Multicultural Strategy, Disney Parks, Experience and Products: What The Walt Disney Company is doing to tell and share multicultural stories along with welcoming consumers of all backgrounds to experience unparalleled attractions and experiences is definitely a marketplace standout. Outside of my own company, Proctor & Gamble is certainly continuing its trend of pioneering inclusivity in ways that break through, such as with its Widen The Screen initiative.

Erin Levzow, VP of Marketing Technology, Del Taco Restaurants: I always like Starbucks, partly because I’m addicted, but also because their gamification engages and teaches me more than I ever cared to know about sustainability and coffee.

Denise Vitola, VP, Brand Integration PR, Social and Influencer for Consumer Health, Bayer: I love the fast food category and how bold they go with their ideas. I’ve been a big fan of Burger King for a long time. Their banter on social media with Wendy’s is thumb-stopping content. It gets consumers not only talking, but engaging. I think Inspire Brands is doing some really cool stuff with collabs like the Dunkin partnership with Charli. Taco Bell also nailed it with their Mexican pizza and Dolly Parton campaign. 

CM: What is the most exciting trend in promotional marketing today, and why?

Ryan Pitylak: I continue to think the most exciting promotional marketing campaigns lean heavily on product-led growth, meaning that they get people into their ecosystem with virtually no commitment. The best-executed programs give away enough value in their free version to meaningfully hook a prospective future paying customer. By figuring out which aspects of the platform engagement are correlated with making a purchase, the brand can build a sticky relationship with the customer at below-market prices.

Angela Burgin Logan: There are trends that are hard not to be excited by, such as the exploration of the metaverse. However, the emphasis on wellness is the most exciting to me. All brands are eager to court consumers or creators, but we must think of the actual person who is at the center of all that we do, catering to their wellness with our offerings—from helping them escape into new worlds with our stories, providing an opportunity to be delighted with memorable experiences, filling them with wonder with our attractions, and more. All of these efforts can boost wellness, which is sought-after and much-needed today.

Denise Vitola: Hands-down, influencer marketing. The opportunities with influencers are endless. Don’t think of them as sole product promoters on their own social channels, but how can you use them, their likeness and content across the entire marketing mix. Influencers are relatable celebs that can be used in commercials, digital content, in-store and as collaborators. It is a much more cost effective way to reach consumers verses traditional tactics like commercials.

CM: Where do you find your inspiration for your marketing campaigns?

Ryan Pitylak: At ZenBusiness, we look up to companies who have done a great job building their own brands. Building a brand requires commitment and fortitude while you weather the upfront costs of investing in people, creative and media. What you’re looking for is a brand idea that will propel your brand into a position well ahead of your competitors, creating salience so people remember you when they’re ready to purchase.

Angela Burgin Logan: I think creativity begets creativity, so I try to surround myself with it. The first place I find inspiration from is actual consumers and watching their creativity and storytelling unfold on social media. I enjoy learning about how other brands are approaching their marketing challenges, and reading top industry content platforms such as Chief Marketer always brings me inspiration.

Erin Levzow: Literally everywhere, but most inspiration comes when my brain is at ease, meaning not overworking. When I’m sleeping, watching a movie, out for a drink or getting a massage. When you let your brain rest you would be surprised what ideas and innovation can creep in.

Anne Marie Gianutsos, CMO of Drone Racing League: As the sport from the future, the Drone Racing League draws inspiration from what’s to come. We listen to our fans! We reach a global audience of young tech-setters who are early adopters, love discovering new forms of entertainment and care deeply about innovation.

Our marketing campaigns put their passions at the forefront and make DRL a meaningful part of emerging technology movements including Web3, blockchain and the metaverse. For example, our upcoming Fly-to-Own drone racing game with Playground Labs will enable players to race drones on Algorand’s blockchain and compete for cryptocurrency. Anyone interested in helping us name the game and create new features can jump into our Discord.

Denise Vitola: All around me. I listen, I learn and apply. The world is full of great ideas. Pop culture is rich with creative concepts. Talking to people and understanding them better. All these things put together can really give you the inspiration you need to build best in class ideas. Why? Because the things around us and the happenings in our lives are what means the most. If we can bring that together with our brands, that is where consumers are going to stand up and pay the most attention.

CM: What would you like to share with other marketers aspiring to reach the next career level? 

Ryan Pitylak: Think in big bets. I don’t think you’re going to make a big dent in the marketing world if you play it safe and small. Some ideas are going to be incredibly risky, but if you make enough big bets you’re bound to have some outsized wins. It’s the outsized wins that add up to differentiated results. An investment in your brand is an example of an outsized bet.

Angela Burgin Logan: Marketing is about the art of persuasion. One must persuade yourself that your dreams and ideas are achievable and unstoppable. Take your strong belief and marry it with a relentless pursuit of what inspires you. Network across and up with leaders in the marketing world and don’t be afraid to share (market) our work and your hopes to continue escalating in your career.

Erin Levzow: Not to give up. You will be successful as long as you don’t give up. And the word “no” just means not right now or that you need to find another way. It really is about perseverance.

Anne Marie Gianutsos: Marketers have an incredible opportunity to shape culture and make a lasting brand impact that goes beyond metric-achievement. I encourage anyone looking to advance in their marketing careers to identify ways that their roles can be transformative, not just for their business but for communities as well. At DRL, we want to make STEM education more accessible and fun through the thrill of drone racing. Our DRL Academy program teaches students about robotics, engineering and physics through our high-speed, tech-driven sport, and inspires the next generation of innovators, scientists and technologists around the globe.

Denise Vitola: Give less [you know what]. Be yourself and only yourself. If you can be your authentic self in your job, you will excel quickly and successfully. I’ve spent too much time making sure I looked a certain way and said things a certain way. When I let go of that, I was my best self for me and for the company I work for.

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