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Head of Marketing–Americas, LEGO Systems
Amy Pascal is a proven digital marketer with decades of experience in helping top agencies and client marketers meet the demands of marketing in a digital age. Currently, she is the Head of Marketing for the Americas for LEGO Systems Inc., where she spearheads all areas of marketing—including brand marketing, public relations, events, digital, retail/shopper marketing, and some search and e-commerce marketing—in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Previously, she was the Head of Digital Marketing Strategy for Johnson & Johnson North America, where she worked with brand marketers to develop integrated content marketing plans and led pilot programs such as the YouTube Brand Partner Program with brands such as Clean & Clear, Neutrogena and Johnson’s. Earlier, Pascal was integral in the design and implementation of Johnson & Johnson Consumer’s first global Digital Center of Excellence.
Please provide some information about your background and how it has prepared you for your role with LEGO Systems, Inc.
I currently serve as Head of Marketing for the Americas at LEGO Group, where I oversee all areas of marketing, including brand marketing, public relations, events, digital, retail/shopper marketing, and some search and e-commerce marketing in the U.S., Canada and Latin America.
I began my career in the digital space and then made my way to consulting and the agency side before moving on to consumer goods and manufacturing, focusing on helping to launch and shape digital-first companies that supported clients and brands across a number of categories, such as L'Oréal, Nike, Johnson & Johnson and Verizon. I was always very excited about the idea of getting closer to a transformative business model and re-engineering the marketing organization to be more digitally oriented. With that experience, I am now able to help shape products a year or more out in terms of the development process across the Americas.
How are global e-commerce communities transforming and shaping the industry today?
The interesting thing is that 15 years ago, there were a couple of e-commerce sites and content sites, but they really weren’t even on the radar at that point because they were just so small. Everything that was happening on the web from a marketing standpoint was around reaching and engaging with consumers. Until sites like Facebook and Google really started to gain traction, e-commerce sites like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba were just humming along in the background. Marketers and publishing sites were more attracted to social and search while the big publishing sites were building their capabilities, and that's how they were rounding out their offerings for consumers. What's most interesting to me now is that companies like Amazon and eBay have been investing heavily in content, and we're at a place now where they're on par with any of the top publishing sites in terms of reach, so they're not only able to deliver commerce, but they're also able to deliver content to massive audiences. Most marketers didn't have their eye on e-commerce, and in many organizations, e-commerce or the duties associated with it didn’t even sit within marketing; they still sat within sales. However, that's what is so interesting about Amazon and eBay—they're commerce platforms and retail platforms, but they're also content platforms.
How are you taking advantage of those content opportunities?
At the LEGO Group, we utilize Amazon to build awareness starting at the time of launch for our marketing campaigns. We also recognize that content opportunities cannot be conquered by marketing alone. This has to be done in collaboration with sales and must be supported at the senior-most level of the company. In the consumer goods and FMCG industry, 98 percent of sales come from traditional big-box retailers, who never paid attention to this growing opportunity within e-commerce. Within the last two years, a dramatic shift has begun due to the closing of hundreds of traditional retail stores. I don't think there are any more retailers nowadays that can exist with a traditional retail-only distribution model. We are now seeing that the traditional distribution model serves one role as part of a larger omni-channel objective, so we have to be able to take advantage of that.
In terms of sales, how much goes through traditional brick-and-mortar stores versus e-commerce platforms? Do you anticipate that changing in the coming years as e-commerce becomes more relevant?
We have certain products that cater to different audience segments that have a higher consumer sales percentage than others, just like any other consumer goods company would. Products with higher price points do really well in e-commerce, which I would expect is similar for other manufacturers as well.
At the LEGO Group, we’re making the strategic decision to build upon our digital shelf experiences not only to optimize sales within these e-commerce channels, but also because nine out of 10 consumers that go to Amazon convert back to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. We’re thinking about customer segmentation models and how we define different roles for different customers. The role of big-box retailers is also dramatically changing. We anticipate continual partnerships with them as this landscape continues to dramatically change.
What specific benefits have you found within global commerce communities that have helped you find unique ways of reaching and engaging potential or current customers?
E-commerce sites offer an understanding of the consumer that we don't traditionally have from big-box retailers or traditional market research. As a result, we can understand more about how people shop our brands and the frequency with which they do so. We’re able to offer more immersive, complete content and commerce experiences through theatrical launches, where we have a theatrical and play theme associated with a movie that is coming out, which is very helpful in converting shoppers more quickly than within the traditional space. On platforms like Amazon, we are able to reach someone that is further up the marketing funnel. For example, they might have been searching for boys' toys, and we're able to respond with an immersive content experience to help them become more informed and interested. We've already learned to be more audience-focused and human-focused in terms of how we plan and buy our search as opposed to being product-focused first. I am pleased to say we're having a lot of success with that approach.
How would you rate the relevance of the data that these global commerce platforms can provide for you? Is there data that would be helpful for you that you do not yet have?
We have our own e-commerce site, which contains a lot of rich, deep data. We would love to gain better access and understanding of data from our partners, but ultimately, data for the sake of having data isn’t a good thing if we can't make informed insights from it. We are moving more toward predictive analytics as it would allow us to really take the manual work out of mining the data and trying to understand what it means when it's constantly flowing in real time.
From a marketing strategy perspective, what are the areas of the customer journey where you are most strongly focused? What data is most helpful to you?
We are on a path to better understanding our consumers. Spending time with children is very helpful for us because it validates a lot of what we see in the numbers. Children’s preferences and behaviors are always changing, and there has been a lot of growth within the toy category in the last couple of years that has really challenged us to improve. The LEGO brick has been around for so long that we haven't had to innovate as much. We are now focusing more on how we build on that foundation to go even further and really make a deeper connection with children. For example, when it comes to boys—our core audience—we've recently launched a YouTube show called Rebrickulous. Instead of being product-first, the focus is on entertaining kids with influencers, and it has been quite successful just within the first few months of launching. We also recently launched the first kid-safe social platform for kids called LEGO Life, where they can play games and have social functionality to really engage with other kids in a safe social environment while having an immersive experience.
When it comes to data, understanding consumer behaviors and mindsets is really core to what we do as marketers—understanding what makes people tick, what they love from us, what they want more of from us, how we can better serve our consumers, etc. I encourage my team to look at any data from Amazon, our business reporting tools or our more traditional marketing research and question what behavior is behind those insights and how we can better serve the consumer.
It is my core responsibility to take a more standard marketing organization and make it digital-first, really embedding a digital core within the marketing organization from a different expertise standpoint. The goal is that, in one to two years from now, we'll have a fully integrated marketing organization that knows digital just as well as traditional.
When it comes to direct online sales, working through major global e-commerce online platforms and also working with your brick-and-mortar retailers, where do you see the primary advantages from each of those areas?
With brick and mortar, it's a branded experience that exists in the virtual space and in stores such as Walmart or Target. The lines are so blurred within the brand experience. Are shoppers purchasing online and then picking up in store, or are they having an in-store experience? It's often hard to say. When it comes to supporting these retailers, we have so much rich content beyond the product. We have events within stores around our product experience, and we have all of these retail marketing assets that we can use because we have event marketing in addition to our own LEGO brand retail experiences. Manufacturers who don't have their own brand retail experience likely don't have the ability to offer what we offer, but we get a lot out of that because it takes the product out of the box and creates a more immersive, experiential type of engagement with the consumer that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to have.
When it comes to our brand retail stores, we have the opportunity to tell the brand's story in our own voice and tone, and we get to control that. It offers many benefits to us, and the same goes for our website. Our web experience really caters to our high-affinity LEGO advocates who have been with the brand throughout their whole lives, from childhood to adulthood. With a broader audience reach, we're able to do a lot of special things between the website and the brand retail store experience for those high-affinity customers while being able to offer unique and distinct products exclusively to them that we don't offer to the general market, some of which are based on their preferences and have higher price points.
We’re also able to own our experiences with immersive events on a regular basis, and we do that as more of a pop-up experience for events like Comic-Con. And finally, for sites like Amazon, it's about search content and commerce. We're able to do these things at quite a large scale and in a very different way that we can't accomplish anywhere else or at a traditional brick-and-mortar store. We have a massive audience, as well as trends and learnings from the activity there, so we're able to get in and out with more time-bound product releases, higher price points and different types of products.