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Exclusive: Marketing Pro Craig Greiwe On How The Biggest Personalities, Media Houses Like Lionsgate Can Grow During The Pandemic

Exclusive: Marketing Pro Craig Greiwe On How The Biggest Personalities, Media Houses Like Lionsgate Can Grow During The Pandemic

The pandemic devastated the global economy, forcing businesses and content providers to rethink their marketing and communications strategies.

In unpacking how the biggest personalities and organizations like Lionsgate, DreamWorks, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc (NYSE: AMC), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB), and others are capitalizing on pandemic disruptions and scaling reach, Benzinga chatted with Craig Greiwe, the chief strategy officer at Los Angeles-based marketing and communications agency Rogers & Cowan PMK, a division of Interpublic Group of Companies Inc (NYSE: IPG).

About Greiwe: Twenty years after working in the mailroom at Warner Brothers, Greiwe leads strategy at one of the biggest creative marketing and communications agencies. His road to driving strategy for some of the biggest brands in Hollywood wasn’t straightforward.

After a stint in law school, Greiwe consulted in diplomacy, entertainment and business.

Very early on Greiwe discovered he could restructure relationships in a way that would allow marketing initiatives to accomplish their objectives more effectively.

“Too many people were coming into a room and saying, 'here’s the message I have to send, as opposed to what message are the people in the room ready to receive, whether that room is the proverbial mass consumer base, a Fortune 10 or 20 company, another diplomat, or donor.”

In the simplest way, Greiwe built a career based on strategy development and execution, helping find and engage consumers for almost any product.

With this approach, he’s won clients dozens of Oscar nominations and wins, including the late Kobe Bryant. He debuted the first brand-funded content at the Cannes Film Festival, and built Rogers & Cowan/PMK’s Strategy & Transformation practice.

Consumer Relationships: Too often, brands get caught up in the ones and zeroes.

Instead of making the numbers work, marketing initiatives ought to start with the consumer, Greiwe said — a reverse consulting model that’s built on strong relationships.

When Greiwe launched original programming at DirecTV, he said the service provider, though having successfully sold television packages, wasn’t equipped to handle marketing innovation.

“Marketing content wasn’t in their wheelhouse,” he said. “Coming aboard, we had to find a way to marry the institutional expertise that exists there about the work that they have been doing, and their consumer base.”

Greiwe attributes his success to being the bridge that frames messages into structures that audiences are ready to receive.

In the case of DirecTV, the message was — at the outset— satellites and television.

In pushing DirecTV's original programming, Greiwe said he looked to understand how the audience was going to perceive messaging about the initiative.

“It wasn’t like now where everybody is used to seeing original programming from everybody. Back then, it was innovative and different,” he said. “It was understanding the mentality, being able to bridge that translation gap.”

Products Aren’t Enough: Consumers are looking beyond transactional relationships, Greiwe told Benzinga. 

“They are not just interested in buying a piece of gum anymore,” he said. “Consumers want to know who the gum company is, and why they’re buying from them.”

In the new age of marketing, Greiwe said relationships and engagement are equally important as products.

Yet brands must be careful not to misrepresent themselves.

“Sometimes you lean too far,” he said. “You’re still selling gum; you’re not a lifestyle company. It’s just not what consumers are asking for.”

Instead, consumers want to engage with businesses that are clear on what they stand for, he said.

For brands, it's about moving beyond the transactional relationship to a holistic understanding and exchange between a consumer and their products.

“If I don’t believe, as a consumer, that you have an authentic reason to be making this product and selling it to me, you’re going to find a whole lot of backlash. It doesn’t mean you have to have the most amazing celebrity endorsement, or a viral TikTok campaign. You need to have a real reason that people believe and engage in why you’re here, and what you’re bringing to the market, with what messaging.”

'The Biggest Risk Is Not Doing Anything At All': Engagement is half of the formula, Greiwe said: too often brands use engagement as a replacement or indicator of consumption.

“There’s no e-commerce exit from the TikTok ecosystem. Having a viral TikTok doesn’t mean you’re going to have anything other than awareness,” Greiwe said. “That engagement could lead to consumption, but not necessarily.”

Instead, using online digital tools and offline measurement programs like surveys, brands have to understand the conversation and get specific about their target audience.

“Aim for your audience and where they live their lives. When you service them, make sure that whatever you’re doing on social is actually going to build a bridge to your offering.”

Once brands target their audience, he said they must be receptive to risk, Greiwe said — taking bold, calculated risks to bring more value to relationships.

“Companies are naturally averse to risk, and investors like stability. We need to change what we view as risk — I would call this reframing the risk-horizon. The biggest risk is not doing anything at all.”

To reframe the risk-horizon, brands ought to brainstorm and script out their futures, he said.

“It doesn’t mean the risk is just throwing yourself into the wind. It means being very calculated about understanding who your audience is, and what is the most risk you can take without disturbing your consumer relationship, while also generating and innovating.”

Greiwe worked with the Girl Scouts of the USA to create a wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary media company — CircleAround — that generates revenue for Girl Scouts growth programs.

“It is designed to appeal not to girls, but to adult women — grown-up Girl Scouts who still share the values and ethos of the organization.”

When Girl Scouts grow up, they continue living their lives based on the organization’s values, he said. 

“Even if they weren’t Girl Scouts, it is part and parcel with the American fabric of who we are,” Greiwe said. “That required an appetite for innovation, and bold decision making that was also calculated to resonate with their audience.”

Marketing After The Pandemic: As the world returns to normal, and consumers are convinced that health and safety precautions have been accounted for, brands will have to hone in on engagement beyond the recovery.

“The question is: how do you build a long-term relationship that takes the proper initiative to meet consumers as they are coming back out into the world?” Greiwe said. 

The initial desire to consume will subside, Greiwe said.

In a discussion on his work for Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Verizon Communications Inc (NYSE: VZ), which appeared before the United Nations Climate Action Summit, Greiwe suggests brands must figure out how to stay at top-of-mind for consumption patterns and engagement.

His one piece of advice: innovate and build relationships that will matter in five years.

“A lot of people are going to be focused on meeting immediate needs that are incredibly important coming out of COVID-19. The question is, how do you meet those needs and plan for the future?”

To engage with Greiwe, check out his portfolio, Twitter and Instagram.


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