SBJ/February 25-March 3, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Paul Alexander, SVP, communications, Liberty Mutual

Paul Alexander has a reputation for big-picture marketing ideas. The former Campbell Soup advertising executive landed at Liberty Mutual in 2008, and last year he spearheaded that company’s effort to land its biggest sports sponsorship: a four-year deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee. Since then, Alexander (senior vice president, communications) has spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to use the Olympic rights effectively. The company recently devoted an entire day to the Olympics, bringing past Olympians in to meet staff.

Photo: MATT STONE

The difference between actual behavior and expressed behavior is the marketing Holy Grail.



The Olympic impact:
They told me about [the impact it has on employees], but you really see it up close and personal. The enthusiasm, the joy, the kid-like excitement people have in meeting Olympians. You know it intellectually, but we had six athletes with us last week — people just loved meeting them.

Olympics vs. NFL sponsorship: Working with the USOC is a lot more transparent. The mutual dependency is that much more authentic. The majority of our dollars we provide goes to athletes, and their training is different from contributing to the NFL, which helped build our brand [at Campbell’s], but the majority of dollars goes to the National Football League.

Most interesting trend in marketing: Demystifying social. What’s really working in terms of building the business? Everyone believes it’s critical to brand-building and business-building, but I still don’t see many examples of sustainability and brands using it to build business and make money over time. It still feels a lot like hype over promise.

From soup to insurance: At Campbell’s, marketing was about category management; your biggest competitor was often inside the building. You’re trying to build red-and-white relative to Chunky soup, or Pepperidge Farm’s cookies versus Goldfish. With Liberty, it’s one master brand with different variations. Working at a mutual company, we’ve been able to make decisions faster. It would have taken twice as long to do this Olympic deal at Campbell’s because it’s a public company.

On neuroscience and marketing: That’s a very interesting part of marketing right now. The fascinating piece for me now is: Do marketers understand the role of emotion versus logic? What really drives people to change behavior? Does neuroscience or anthropology or sociology give us any tools that help us? You tell me you buy insurance because of the price, but if I look at the logic, you buy insurance because Uncle Joe’s salesman always gives great advice.

Three Olympic memories: I remember Brian Boitano winning in Calgary. I remember the 4x100-meter USA relay team dropping the baton in Beijing. I think back to Sugar Ray Leonard winning gold in boxing. There are just so many.

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