National Geographic: A Wealth of Experiences
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National Geographic: A Wealth of Experiences

Jill Cress, CMO-EVP, National Geographic Partners

Evolution of the Role of Marketing Leader

My career has always been focused on one aspect: to advocate the voice of the consumers. Starting off in sales at MasterCard, the major goal was to think out of the box to potentially add value to partners we were collaborating with. Brainstorming on consumer-inspired ideas was still a crucial part of the role. This involved moving beyond a demographic understanding of the consumer’s true identities and sketching out personas of them from a psychographic stand-point pertaining to their psychological attributes. As the CMO of National Geographic, my involvement further included packaging those insights to on-field workers and partners. Despite the differences, a deep-rooted human understanding is still of utmost priority.

Lessons Learnt from the Experience

The most exciting lesson learnt was reverberated by the brilliance of the ‘Priceless’ campaign. Despite being with the sales team at the time, their take on addressing deep human insight was palpable. The valuable insight from this experience pertained to the significance of visions involved in building a brand. Priceless focused on preference of experiences over things, which for a payment company—that generates income solely off of the purchase of things—is intrepid. This bold movement resonated with the consumers globally. Their tagline, “Some things that money cannot buy” was a major turning point when it came to connecting with consumers on a personal level. It was first launched 20 years ago and MasterCard was among the first brands to talk about the power of experience.

At National Geographic, there is a natural evolution from experiences to explorations based on the belief that there is an explorer in each one of us. This insight is being honed over, considering consumer trends are leaning toward this tendency. For instance, many consumers are buying smaller apartments and cheaper cars so that they can invest in exploring the world and experiencing different cultures.

Leveraging Experience for the Current Role

Understanding the importance of the brand was an integral part of my learning experience at MasterCard. A major part of the experience had to do with Priceless: understanding how significant the brand’s role was in consumers’ lives and its evolution. In the media space, consumers vote not only with their wallets, but with their time. Consequently, it is essential to think from their perspective and understand how they would choose particular content that matters most to them. The major motivation here at National Geographic is the unrivalled sense of purpose. We make an effort to help consumers understand the world on a deeper level by helping them invest in exploration.

Current Marketing Strategies

Staying focused on aspects that are inherently tied to the brand is vital; one such example is photography. Our vivid community of photographers is known as ‘Your Shot,’ which aims at an audience of aspirant photographers. Apart from incubating their photography skills, we put forward a unique interactive access, called the Photo Walks. This is a platform wherein professional tips may be attained by qualified photographers. Additionally, large-scale events are hosted to bring together like-minded communities that are curious about exploring the world and tasting different cultures.

Uniting Like-Minded People

A recent Gartner statistic shows that 33 percent of the average marketing budget is spent on technology. At National Geographic, we are experiencing relatable shifts of focus, considering the range of touch-points we have with our consumers. The National Geographic brand reaches over 750 million consumers globally on a monthly basis by means of our television channel alone. Furthermore, it is the most followed brand on social media, with a monthly reach of over 300 million consumers. While focusing on the holistic consumer experience, National Geographic stresses on nurturing the relationship with each individual that connects with us on social media. Instagram, for instance is where we get the majority of our engagement, particularly with a younger audience. Consumers that like our pioneering photographs help us build a relationship with them by providing us a lead toward their particular interests. This gives us the opportunity to reach out to them with additional editorial content covering topics they are engrossed in. While this may seem like a daunting challenge, the employees at National Geographic stay profoundly invested in this very purpose.

Work Culture at National Geographic

There is a buzzing energy and a purpose at National Geographic partners. As a leader, harnessing that energy is my responsibility. Above all, National Geographic is a brand in transformation. Constantly trying new things, reinventing, and reinvigorating the brand is our priority. Further, I constantly strive to instill the assurance of being there for my employees and believe highly in celebrating milestones and success in any form.

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