Apr 5, 2024
29 min
Episode 64

TOP CMO: Carolyn Dawkins, David Yurman- 'Artistry in Branding'

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  00:00

Brands that Chase trends and get a lot of success but it's really hard to sustain relevance is really understanding what your brand stands for and what the consumers desirability is.

Ben Kaplan  00:10

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies, and most disruptive startups hematoxylin.

Ben Kaplan  00:25

This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. Today I'm speaking with Carolyn Dawkins, CMO at David Yurman, a popular luxury jewelry brand with a distinctive and iconic style. Before joining David Yurman. Carolyn served as the Global Chief Marketing Officer at clinic, where she honed her skills in consumer engagement and data analytics. Carolyn's journey also includes impactful marketing roles at consumer giants like L'Oreal GSK, and even a stint in the food industry, with Kellogg in Australia. So how does a jewelry brand like David Yurman balance consistency with creativity, especially with a product focused marketing orientation? And what role do influencers play in the modern marketing mix? Let's find out with Carolyn Dawkins. Carolyn, a brand like David Yurman. It's known for on trend jewelry that a lot of people get excited about how do you mark it or think about marketing, coolness, trendiness, but in a way that can endure in a way that isn't just the latest fad? Yeah,

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  01:34

I think I think a few things, I think the brands that we've seen the most success have been able to balance this idea of consistency and creativity, consumers buying into brands that are consistent, something that they can trust in, and something that is enduring. So that one of the things that is always really important for me and my teams is to really spend time decoding the brand. What's the brand positioning? What is it that it stands for? What are the key pillars that really communicate what it stands for? So consumers can see it in a very tangible way? And what's the tone of voice? How do we turn off and talk to those in a really authentic way, and really creating and understanding that red thread, because that is the backbone that then allows you to create, so once you understand that framework, you can create within that framework, and have so much success. I think one of the beautiful things about David Yurman, that is so unique versus our competitive set is that we're a brand that was built out of this creative project between two exceptional artists. So they came together, you know, inspired by each other and inspired by the design. And so this really strong backbone of artistry, and high quality craftsmanship is something that is enjoyed throughout the brand. So as you think about where we continue to evolve, and where we continue to bring in freshness, it's in that creative space, it's very much around creativity. So we think about, you know, how do we set up the next creative space for, you know, today's consumers? Or how do we encourage the next generation of creators, and you'll see us continue to push more into this space, particularly as we get into, you know, more towards the back half of this year and into 24. I think one of the other things that's really interesting too, and I think we're starting to see a bit of an evolution away is, I think there's a bit of a splinter between trends and relevance. And I think you're right, like brands that Chase trends, you can get a lot of success, you know, for two particular periods. But it's really hard to sustain. And I think this idea of relevancy is really understanding what your brand stands for, and what the consumers desirability is, and we spend a lot of time we think about these two kind of concentric circles, what do I stand for? What's my consumer looking for, and it's kind of that where it meets in the middle, is how you really build relevance. And I think that matters, too, when you have no beautifully, you know, heritage built luxury brands, because you want something that's enduring as a consumer,

Ben Kaplan  03:51

interesting to think about, because you often, at least on this podcast, you get people coming in, if they're gonna divide a framework to think about marketing, some will come in and say, Okay, here's the brand side. And here's the performance marketing side. That's one way to look at it. What you're talking about this idea of consistency, and creativity is sort of like what is in our core, what is in our wheelhouse, and then what do we have license to experiment with? Still consistent with that? So we can do some things, but we're still related to that. So take us through what is David Yurman? What is that consistency? If you look at a piece of jewelry, and it has a distinctive look, I've shopped David Yurman before so I'm familiar personally, but what are those kind of core pillars that give it consistency that can make it endure? You

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  04:30

know, brand? Yeah, for sure. I think we spoke a lot about creativity. And I think, you know, a lot of brands we've you know, we've worked on a lot of brands, we've experienced a lot of brands, we often have to go really deep to mine for the stories around what makes this brand stand out. I think that was one of the most exciting things about coming to David Yurman is that the story is there. It's these two exceptional artists that came together and their creativity fueled a brand and it has continued to feel a brand you know, for for 50 or more years. So I think you can see the artist stray in the design that makes it read classic, yet unique. And it's this really unique balance of the two, you know, it's differentiated, but it has so much, you know, so many classic tendencies, which make it endure. I think one of the second things behind the brand is in a luxury space, we stand out as being this idea of American relaxed luxury. And that's pretty rare in today's world. And I think the the backbone of our American relaxed luxury is the spirit of innovation. And that's so American, it's in how the product is designed. There's so much innovation in the design is innovation in terms of our breakthrough campaigns. If you think all the way back to Kate Moss, if you think about we were the first mover or one of the first movers in the men's luxury jewelry category, we also have so much innovation in terms of the materials that we select, and we craft fine jewelry out of highly innovative materials. I think that's a really unique tenant of the brand. I think we also have some recognizable design philosophies that really set us apart. I think cable is one of those, particularly for our for our women's collection, I think one of the other tenants to in a world where we are looking for things that have a little bit more, you know, insurance, that the things that we can believe in. This is a brand that's been led by generations of the human family. And you can see that in their commitment to the product commitment to the design and the creativity. But it also infuses the brand's commitment to philanthropy, kids in the family a deeply invested in that space.

Ben Kaplan  06:32

And how do you think then about core categories that you're in versus emerging categories? I mean, you've been I think, with the brand since the beginning of this year, you come from kind of a long history in the cosmetic space, when you were onboarding yourself. And you were thinking about what are our kind of like core areas, you know, where the puck is now the people we're trying to reach in the way we're trying to reach them? And also, I guess, a sports metaphor where the puck is going, where we're trying to go to new categories? How do you think about that, in terms of who you're trying to reach? There's

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  07:03

a number of different ways that we look at it, I think the first part is it starts with the consumer. And I think one of the exciting things about our brand is we have such rich first party data. So we've been able to mine our customer data to truly understand these really unique segments of how they interact with jewelry, and how they interact with our brand, how they interact seasonally how to interact with different metals, different forms, etc. So our base of our understanding of our consumers really rich. So we know how to personalize and talk to those consumers. I think one of the things that we're doing a lot of as well as we're using external data to understand where consumers are moving towards. And I think in in jewelry, yeah, there'll be some flex between the different segments. But it's very different to based on consumer psychographic segments for some consumers, you know, some segments will matter more than others at any given time. So in theory, a lot of the segments matter at the same weight, it's just a matter to different customers. So that's where you'll see more personalization of campaigns coming through, you talked a little bit before about syncing and splitting between brand and performance. And I think we really think about it as as one full cycle for consumer. And we think about the agility, a lot of the the brand building and the long term building, it is happening at the brand end of the funnel, the top of the funnel, and then really building that relevance. That's that mid tier I like those are built out a little bit further out in advance, they're probably a little bit less agile. But it's the bottom of the funnel that's really kind of tying those two pieces together, that you'll see much more agility from our business. And that's where if things are moving in search, or things are shifting in social, you'll see that bottom end of the funnel moves with so much agility based on what consumers are navigating towards

Tom Cain  08:44

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Ben Kaplan  09:44

A lot of CMOs from different verticals in different spaces. Listen to this podcast and might not think how you do in terms of collections, spring collection, fall collection seasons, for a CMO who doesn't normally I mean they might have dry have periods where they might have top sales season, but they don't think of this notion of collections that comes from the sort of the Fashion Luxury space. And I can see here, you know, spring 2023 collection, you've partnered with Scarlett Johansson, it's sculpted cable pieces that maybe speak to your core, how do you think about marketing in terms of these seasonal elements and specifically groupings collections that might be useful for other CMOs to think about?

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  10:24

I think for us, we are product first, in that regard. So what you're referencing is exceptional collections that we know have really exceptional appeal to certain consumers. So you're talking about sculptor cable, which is one of our beautiful premier collections, and something that we believe strongly and we will, at times bring forward a campaign that reflects that collection, based on the season, but then we'll also put in during campaigns behind it that are also timeless. So it's something that's unique about the brand, we have a balance of both seasonal campaigns, and enduring campaigns. And you'll see they're based on different consumers. Because once again, based on our behavioral data, we can see how certain consumers navigate towards our brand at different moments.

Ben Kaplan  11:17

Because if I was going to paraphrase, you have different product campaigns that are out there. But a seasonal campaign might be like the spotlight, the highlighter pen, the circle around what you really want to focus on, that has a very specific target customer, is that correct?

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  11:33

I think our focus is truly it is more on these enduring campaigns. And you'll see more of that coming through from us, there are seasonal moments that are more like these little exclamation marks that really reflect news because we know some categories, some consumers in our brand, are really driven by what's new, what's new, because our brand is so steeped in creativity and bringing forward beautifully creative collections. And so we have a really strong selection of consumers who curate our brand, who have a collection of their own, that has been curated throughout brands, launches, which is exceptional and super unique. There are other consumers who are really driven by telling me that this is an engineering product, show me how long you've been invested in this product. Show me how long you've been invested in the design. Tell me about how you know how classic this is. So you can see that's where the big campaigns are coming together because they're talking to different sensibilities. And I think that's, that's the beauty, we can see multiple different segments of our consumers. And that's why we have different campaigns

Ben Kaplan  12:39

to then for your enduring campaigns. Who is the target consumer on in terms of just demographics? Who do you focus

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  12:45

on in our engineering campaigns, generally, they have a much broader target, because we can see that they touch a broader selection of consumers. And that is why we invest in those engineering campaigns. So they will generally touch all of our segments in those campaigns.

Ben Kaplan  13:02

Are you trying to appeal in the enduring campaign to 40? Something or 50? Something woman? Or are you trying to go to a 20 or 30? Something? Well, I'm just trying to get a general sense. Yeah, I

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  13:14

think the beauty of our brand is that those campaigns actually connect with a broad selection of consumers. I think one of the things that we know as marketers, is that you can have talent that can skew towards a younger consumer and be just as effective at picking up a 4050 plus year old consumer, because we know this is where, you know, the macro kind of trends are happening. But our brand is very unique in terms of the breadth of customer base that we have. You

Ben Kaplan  13:42

said the seasonal campaigns are more focused. So in this case, the fact that you kind of chose Scarlett Johansson for this, it's focused on sculpted cable, who is the target for that just so we can get an understanding sculpted cable

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  13:53

is definitely targeted more towards a consumer who is very committed to having a classic, enduring collection. And what we've seen in recent years is that's really transcended demographics. In theory, we know right, it does skew towards a certain age group, based on their ability to purchase products based on household income. But the appeal is consistently polling very, very broad, which is very unique in terms of what's happening in the luxury space, we're finding that a product that is just as appealing to a 50 plus year old consumer is just as appealing to a consumer coming into the category 1820, etc. So that is why you can see that there are certain initiatives that focus on the breath. And then there are certain initiatives that focus on the consumer who does have that purchasing power?

Ben Kaplan  14:43

And how do you think that about if it's celebrity partnerships, if it's influencers, how does that impact what you do? I mean, I'm on the spring campaign. I mean, of course, he's Scarlett Johansson. I think I see Shawn Mendes, the singer there as well. And then I don't know how do you think about those kind of celebrity influencers. And then I don't know what types of other influencers you use as well to communicate your message.

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  15:05

So I think, you know, different influencers and different partners do different things across the funnel. And I think what we found with, you know, our tier one influences are our top partners like a Scarlett Johansson or Shawn Mendes, they're exceptional, creating breakthrough creative, we've really found that, you know, we spend, you know, a significant portion of our media through digital and some through, you know, more static mediums day because of how recognized they are to their base to to the fan base that, you know, really, really find them appealing, there is a stopping power, which is fantastic in advertising, because obviously, then the consumer will lean in and spend a little bit more time with the content, which is right at the top of the funnel. What we find though, as we start to move through the funnel is different talent does a better job at mid funnel. And then lower funnel. Mid funnel is where we find content creators are performing obviously much better, they're able to really translate elements of the product to the consumer who's hungry for more information, what's the design intention behind it? How do I style it? How do I wear it, seasonally, etc. So they really do a great job of shifting some of the considerations and some of more of the familiarity around the product. And then you've got other influences who are great in terms of really kind of shifting the needle in terms of adding to bag and shifting through to conversion. So that's why we think we think full funnel because they're all doing something different. And then spreading that together is what makes the campaign

Ben Kaplan  16:34

and how important is the influencer channel now for you versus traditional media advertising versus more like digital performance marketing? How important is it in your overall marketing mix? A

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  16:46

couple of things, a couple of ways to think about that is, you know, throughout COVID, we know we saw big shifts in terms of how consumers behave and interact on media platforms. And I think what we found is socials become a full funnel platform unto itself, right? Like that's where consumers are predominantly going to discover new brands or new products. It's where consumers are going to learn more about known brands or known products. And it has really become this enormous shopping mall, it is really shifting the needle in terms of driving conversions. So we think a lot about that, that has definitely shifted the way we build our campaigns and the way we build our partnerships. And if you think about what is consistently working on these platforms, particularly tick tock, and to an extent on on Instagram, and you know, even across to YouTube shorts, the creator is highly valuable in terms of driving engagement content. And I think you're seeing it's happening on handle. And it's happening off handle as well. So there's kind of this new game happening. And so that is really important. I think the second part of the question is really about thinking once again, for your customer segments, the interest, some consumers were certain advertising mediums and certain advertising type assets will still outperform, but there are other consumers that they'll need a mix of that, and then they'll need a mix of influences. And I think it's really about, you know, surrounding the consumer with a number of different messages that are all cohesive and connected, but they have a slightly different flavor to move that consumer either closer towards the brand, or close to towards a purchase. And I think we know, you know, in traditional advertising the consumer needed around, you know, seven times exposure to an asset. And I think it's different now they probably still need that amount of exposure, potentially even more, that each message almost has to move them on. And I think it's very hard to understand where they're at in the funnel. So they all have to be thoughtfully working together. Because it may all be happening on one laser platform to

Ben Kaplan  18:47

get some broader context. I mean, as I mentioned, you started it looks like in traditional CPG but then really how have worked in cosmetics. And you were six years at L'Oreal rose, the Vice President of Marketing for Maybelline New York, what do you take from a brand like Maybelline New York or like L'Oreal, the parent company that you're able to use now in the marketing you do for David Yurman

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  19:08

I mean, everything I think you take everything from from every brand. I've been so lucky to work across so many exceptional brands and when worked with so many, you know, phenomenal leaders and teams and I've been, you know, blessed to have that experience. Listen, L'Oreal is a brilliant organization with such a slew of amazing brands. And I think it is very consumer centric. I think understanding the consumer at L'Oreal is key, but also innovation is critical. That is a business that moves fast. It is a business that takes calculated Dad's home where the consumer will move. And it's everything from products to marketing activations to bet on digital. You know, it was the organization that made me so inspired and hungry to better understand the digital landscape. It's why I ultimately you went to Google, I think it's, it gives you so much push to really understand and evolve the expertise. I think, you know, I was reading an article this morning in Fast Company. And it was saying that CMOs have the most challenging experience of all at this point, because there's so many different hats that they need to where now it's it just continues to broaden. And I think we've read this same article or same headline, you know, 20, or 30 times over. And I think it's amazing to keep building that skill set, because that is going to be the truth, we are going to continue to evolve and marketing and consumers continue to evolve. And so that's kind of the thinking that I bring to David Yurman today. And I think what's beautiful about David Yurman is they are already committed to agility. They're already committed to transformation. And there's so much of that that's about to hit the market. Now. That's really exciting.

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Ben Kaplan  21:20

You mentioned for years at Google Global Director at Grand lab, it sounds like the purpose of that was just your embrace and learning and exploring all things digital. Is that correct? During your time there? What do you take from that experience that you use now?

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  21:35

Yeah, I think, you know, that was a really deliberate choice. So Google was opening up what was called Brand lab. And it was very much around saying to the top 200 brands that had JB PS with Google, give us your brand challenge. And we'll solve your brand challenge whilst also ensuring that you better understand how to use our platforms, whether it was search, whether it was YouTube, and threading it all together. So you know, you'd be working with, you know, Mercedes Benz one day to p&g The next two GSK, the next etc, they would give you a really critical challenge. So our team had we had brilliant insights leads we had, you know, data analysts, data scientists, we had media strategists, creative strategist, measurement strategist. And then we had product experts, a Google product experts in our team. And so we would have, you know, four weeks to solve this challenge and kind of take it back to the C suite. And some of their, you know, senior leads are endless. And this is the strategic framework around how to solve the challenge. And here's how to bring it to life throughout our platforms. And it was a really successful team and ended up expanding across the globe. So you know, New York, San Francisco, London to by Harris, I'm leaving a lot out Sao Paulo, Tokyo. So it was a great experience of decoding the digital platforms, my first time building out a data science, my data analytics team that was able to mine Google's data, which is amazing, all the while, like really, really learning that space.

Ben Kaplan  23:07

After a brief stint in pharmaceutical marketing, it looks like then your final stop before where you are now at Estee Lauder. Specifically, you are global chief marketing officer for the Clinique brand after L'Oreal experience, what did you kind of take from Estee Lauder that you now use as well,

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  23:22

I think the clinic experience was really unique as well in the fact that it is such a tenured brand, and has so much reach equity. That kind of coming back to your first question needed to be constantly evolved to pick up that next generation of consumers. I think that space was competitive. When I worked at Lauryn Hill, it was hyper competitive by the time I got to, to Laura. And I think that the volume of brands but now setting, setting the category, the hyper fragmentation of the category, and of the consumer meant that the marketing needed to be just so much more sophisticated. And it was this really unique balance of decoding the equity, because it was a brand that had had so much heritage and had so many unique individuals touch that heritage, but picking that off in terms of what really mattered, but then finding the right spaces to play and provocated and almost shock the consumer to reengage with the brand. And I think you could see, you know, a number of different initiatives that myself and the team lead. You know, it ended up having, you know, its strongest sales here. It was named, you know, number one brand in the US in 22. So, approved, that method works, but very exciting. And the brands still got, obviously, you know, a long way to go to finish that journey.

Ben Kaplan  24:38

That brings us to our final question, which is when I look at your career, and there's kind of maybe a couple leaps that you had one from started in the CPG space, then you kind of leap into more of the cosmetic space. The second one, you sort of embrace digital, you go to Google and you learn all things there. And then third, you sort of come back to the cosmetic space but then sort of extended into more related related industries like luxury and jewelry, David Yurman. Given all of that, what is your advice for others who are future CMOs? Maybe they're five years away, maybe there's something else. And you had this sort of kind of distinct moments. I don't know if those were strategic and planned and you had it mapped out since your college days or you were serendipitously looking for opportunities and expanding your horizons. What is your advice given your career trajectory for others?

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  25:23

Yeah, I think one of the key things I'm focused on is just being a constant learner. I think we will continue to need new skill skill sets. I mean, obviously, you know, one minute, we're all obsessed with Metaverse next minutes, it's AI, like, we don't know what's to come. So you have to be constantly learning. And so whether that is, you know, being a voracious consumer of as much information as you possibly can, or if it is about really going in and deeply building out skill sets, that you know, will be important, I think making those decisions and making those leaves at the right point is super important is super important, because I think it gives you the skill set. And that's the toolkit that you'll constantly go back to. And it'll obviously make you a better leader for your teams. I think diversity of experience is amazing, have different leaders be exposed to different leaders, different thinking different strategic frameworks, different cultures, you know, I've worked in a number of different countries throughout my career, a number of different organizational cultures, I think it's, it's great to be able to, you know, see so many of those and to be able to flex and be fluid throughout those, I think, identifying them through those cultures, what it is that you want to bring forward? How do you want to build your leadership brand is very key. And I think one of the key things that I would take forward, as well as, because you've seen throughout that experience, really use all of those adjacent categories to help frame up new brand problems, or new brand opportunities, or new brand solutions. You know, my team will tell you, I'm constantly tapping back into challenges that we had on Clinique, or Maybelline or, you know, it doesn't matter, you know, all the way back to, you know, when I was on p&g, or different things that I saw for different brands at Google, being able to tap into adjacent worlds to identify like us problems, or like us opportunities or like a Solutions has also helped create so much innovation, because oftentimes, the solutions, they're not actually in your category, or the inspiration or the creativity, it's not inside your own category, it's in adjacent categories. And when we've kind of thought like that, that's when we've been able to shoot

Ben Kaplan  27:28

the needle. And also some of it to, to to piggyback on what you're saying, it's like all of us are experienced collectors, where it's collecting experiences. But if we can collect more diverse experiences, and this is where it's a little bit funny, given what's on trend. Now in terms of generative AI, a way to think about generative AI is just it's pattern recognition from a lot of collected experience. That's what the technology does. And if we can do that in our own lives, in our own careers, collect a lot of experience and recognize patterns out then you're in that meeting and you're facing a challenge or problem. You're like, Wait, at Clinique, there was this wait at Kellogg's, which you did earlier in your career, there was this and you're able to pull from a richer data set of your own experience, much in the same way that technology tools do. So now? Yeah,

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  28:13

no, I love that idea of looking for patterns. You're right. And I think you know, that's an another piece on use a lot off when you are presented with a problem. It's really about how do you curate the right amount of information? And how do you start to, I talk a lot about triangulating the data. So it's a data source is never an insight. It's about how you start to whether it's stalking the data, you know, if we're kind of being that sophisticated, or it really is just triangulating different data sources to kind of get to hey, here are some of the key Aha, so it was sitting behind this. You're right, like constantly looking for patterns. It's also what helps us see what's coming, right? Like we kind of look for the little threads like what's the what's the oil on the rag that there's enough to sniff out? And how do you start to testing to that for sure.

Ben Kaplan  29:00

Carolyn Dawkins, CMO at David Yurman and I know you've had an interesting career and a lot of spaces and interesting to chat with you and best wishes for continued success.

Carolyn Dawkins - David Yurman  29:10

Makes sense. Thank you so much for having me today. Ben. It was it was great to spend some time with your really appreciate it.

Tom Cain  29:20

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