Soul & Science
Soul & Science

Season 1, Episode · 6 months ago

S1 Episode 2: Foot Locker Global CMO Jed Berger | Future-Proofing Retail

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Foot Locker Global CMO Jed Berger joins Jason on the pod to discuss how omni retail is future-proofing Foot Locker.

Jed Berger currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Foot Locker family of brands in North America. During his nine-year tenure at Foot Locker, Jed also served as Vice President of Marketing for Foot Locker. Prior to joining Foot Locker, Jed’s professional experience has deep roots in youth culture. After co-founding Dime Magazine and building the agency 94x50, he moved on to serve as the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Modell’s Sporting Goods for two years. His marketing acumen has been acknowledged regularly throughout his career, including being named to SBG 40 Under 40 in 2011, and Footwear News 40 Under 40 in 2018.

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I always wondered if marketing lives in the heart or in the head. Should you trust your instinct or your integers? Often the answers both, but should you lead with one more than the other? So bring your heart and your head and join us in the conversation. This week. I am super excited because I'm joined by Jed Burger, chief marketing officer at foot locker. Jed currently serves as a chief marketing officer at foot locker family of brands in North America. He has been with foot locker for over nine years, which in the lifetime of a CMO, is like fifty years. He has seen so much, from the invention of Instagram, the adoption of influencer shop offy, pop ups, you name it. He has led the brand through all of these transformations. Prior to joining foot locker, Jed served as a svp of marketing from modell's for two years. His Marketing Acumen has been acknowledged regularly throughout his career, including being named a sports business journals forty under forty and footwear news forty under forty. So we're going to talk today a little bit about the evolution of Omni retail. Future proofing foot locker. That's the theme of the Soul in science show today. Sounds like the theme of my life and the theme of Your Life, which is good. Hello, Jed, and welcome to soul and science. Thank you, man. Thank you very much for having me. All right, I'll start off with question about advertising in general. Do you remember the first ad campaign that moved you, that inspired you to sort of be where you are today? Well, the first campaigns that I looked at, as it's a content versus advertising. We're Nike spots. So Nike Freestyle, where they simply took the idea of making the style and sounds of the game of hoops into music. I loved the fun police with Gary Payton and kg. I actually still often use the term fun police to poke fun at legal or risk management. Honestly, I loved a lot of the ESPN sports center old school spots and they were sort of simple and fun and funny and also got a point across, and actually we use those as inspiration to a lot of our creative work. At a pointed foot locker. And and then, I'd say on the softer side, I loved the Guinness Spot Featuring Wheelchair basketball and I'm a little biased there because it was done by my old creative team and friends of mine, but it but it was really special work. I'm generally not inspired by advertising for the sake of advertising. So show me a great show me a great product and tell me that that great story. So I think that for you know, I do think that for the most part, apple has done a really good job in recent times of sort of mixing the product pieces of what they're trying to tell with...

...the with their their brand and who they are, and I think they've done that into their creative pretty seamlessly and that's a hard transition to make. Yeah, that that sort of a lot of when you think of traditional advertising these days, it's selling product at the same time it's building brand and you sort of have to do figure out how to do both, which is which is like the left and right brain. You know, it's very it's very hard to do both of those at the same talk about it. I talked about it all the time. I talked about it all the time. You know, it's it is, it is, it is very hard and it's it's been a transition, I think, for marketers in general, to be honest with you to go from being brand marketers first to being, you know, I'd say, product marketers and making sure you're selling something first and then you're getting your brand point of view across at the same time. And there's people who think that's not doable. I am somebody who believes that you can do both. Is there a pair of sneakers that sparked your passion for being sort of an entrepreneur in this industry? Did something get you into the category, and do you remember what it was? Well, I loved sports before I loved sneakers, okay, and you know, I always wanted to work in sports and I feel incredibly lucky to have wiggled my way and found a career in it in some way, shape or form. Right, my love for sports transcends the game and into culture and and you know that has affected so many things, from style to sneakers to socioeconomic and race issues. So, you know, I would say that's sports brought me to culture and brought me to brought me to sneakers. Right, sports for a sneaker second. Yeah, focusing on this idea of future proofing your brand, how do you think about creatively and practically looking at the foot locker brand and then looking at the ever changing marketing landscape. I mean, I know that's like a million dollar question, but how how do you how do you keep that in your head to like keep track of that, because you're doing so many things. You got to keep these the retail engine going, you've got to do collaborations. I mean it's it's like it's a never ending you know, opportunities, but also things you have to keep in mind. Yeah, I think it's a two part question, to be honest, because I think there's navigating the marketing landscape and then there's evolving your business and brand. Yeah, and actually the way you talked about some of the ways you have to evolve your business and brand in my world with, you know, collaborations and utilizing utilizing people and Ip and licenses and different amazing creatives out there to not only bring energy into...

...the sneaker or sneaker franchise, but also sneakers are essentially a form of art, right, so, and certainly social currency. I do think evolving your business and brand comes first. You mentioned it before, but we aren't just foot locker, where portfolio company. We have different brands and businesses and different stages, catering to different consumers and solving different problems. So there isn't a one size fits all. You do need people who understand the current and day strategy to that brand. Absolutely. I always think of food locker as an old brand that sort of could have been left in the dust. Somehow the brand always seems fresh and modern, like it survives decade to decade and it always feels relevant and fresh and modern. Is there one or two examples you can tell us of things you did that you were like, that thing is exactly what I thought it could be, and it Crut and it kind of change. It uplifted the brand. There was a moment where I think we had the best creative in the world. We had famous spot after famous spot where we were barely having to spend any media dollars and whether that was all is right in the world, which was a week of greatness commercial where Tyson Gaate, holy field as ear bag and bread far vnew it was time to walk away, and we had spot after spot that broke the Internet. We would literally credited with Pacho and May, whether with the Packo May, with our fight happening. That's incredible and we advice that we viral hit after hit and it really changed the conversation about foot locker. But Times Change, and so did partnering with Rock The vote and opening our stores and sites for voter registration. So did committing two hundred million dollars over five years to education, economic development of black community and and making the industry look a bit, little bit more like our consumer. So did investing in goat. That was a huge conversation changer, or launching an incubator to really invest in in upandcoming culture more than we had previously. So again, I talked all the time, but I am proud of the company for having the Self Awareness to realize that you have to do different things in different chapters and I think that we've had moments, breakthrough moments, in each one of those chapters that have really propelled us into the next generation to stay relevant. I think those examples are so memorable and they stand out and I was like, Oh, yeah, I know what you're talking about. You know that they're big breakthrough culture. You know putting a den in culture does so much for your brand love and value. Well, you know, and what I would add to that is that...

...you have to keep you have to keep going because noe, because everybody's memories incredibly short. True, so the fact that that you who are in the business remember some of this is great, but I could talk to a whole lot of people who don't remember any of that. But at the time there was plenty of people are like that's amazing, that's that look like, look at what they're doing. But if you don't keep going, if you don't keep innovating with really smart ideas that are actually meaningful, then then you're going to you're going to fall backwards. Right. I know you're working on a lot of new things now. Is there anything you can talk about or tell the audience that you're is coming up that you're super pumped on? I'm excited about a lot of things. I think one of the things that I'm really excited that we've been working on is a lot more of controlled brand creation, specifically mostly in the apparel space, but I even think that that will change as well. But but you know, we launched, we've launched the nine of our own brands or controlled brands. Some of those are more traditional what you would call private label, and some of those are connected to really important pieces of culture. So it's funny. I'm wearing you break can see it, but I'm wearing them more than more than a vote sweatshirt. But we but with East Bayand Champs, we brought those two we brought those two brands closer together. They really they cater to the athlete, East Bay from a former side and chants from a life styles, lifestyle perspective. And we partnered with uninterrupted and we launched the line more than an athlete, aimed at high school athletes and where they can wait, so where they where. It's everything from compression on field compression to, you know, cool hoodies to eventually mouthguards, receiver gloves. That's say, more than an athlete and that line has been absolutely smoking because it resonates so so well. We launched a line with don see and just on called all city, and that has been that's that sort of celebrates the meaning of basketball, to what it's meant to to the city and to grow and to grow into growing up and and and true to dawn and Chicago. That line is is we've created from scratch. Has Been Killing. We partnered with Melanie a Sani, who is an in incredible creative mind on her own women's line called me and melody, Asni and, and it's doing fantastic. We relaunched East Bay as a property and then all in the in the middle of that, also launched a actual strong east to pay performance brand, selling compressed, a lot of compression and great, great materials, and it's been doing fantastic. We launched a women's line that goes across all of our different properties called cozy and athletsier line. That has been doing...

...great and we launched a brand, a foot locker called locker, I'll C Kr. That has surprised all of us about how well it's doing. So so that has really you know it. That has been it's been really fun and energizing for everybody to be a part of that piece of the equation. Instead of just selling everybody else's things, it's part of the creation of the brand, creation of the product. I think that's been a really exciting piece for me and for everybody. I love those more than an athlete. Those names are so strong. Yeah, I think that's like so critical when you're launching a homegrown brand. Is that that brand naming? How you determine which ones are like e commerce versus they're going to be online plus retail. Like do you is there a formula for that, or do you how do you figure that out? You know I said there's no formula for that, but I do think that the industry is interesting because I think we all, we all as a world, thought that online was so was so great because of endless aisle, because there wasn't a physical stock room that that limited how much you you could store. The truth of the the truth of consumer behavior, is not that. Actually, the browsing is much more likely in a store and the the going right to an item that you know you want, it has built in demand is much more likely online, right and even if you're going into a store thinking you are buying one thing, once you get into a store wherever, you're surrounded by an our case, passion project, passion products. So so, you know, I think we were, I'd say we'll probably ninety percent of our stuff is Omni but I would say there are places where where you can it's much easier to aggregate demand for something that might be a little bit more niche, but it's awesome. A collaboration that is niche and awesome. It's it's a little bit easier to do that from an online perspective than guess which fifty stores at a three thousand are going to have to band. Yeah, yeah, so there are times. There are times we're just online and then maybe some pinnacle locations may make them make the most sense. And I'd say that, you know, I'd say that idea of you know, I'm I try not to use too much marketing. He's but the idea of the actual consumer journey being not exactly being what we thought it was going to be a long time ago and being more of the browsing store and having more options in store and going directly to the product that you knew you wanted online does have to change the way you merchandise, think allocate the...

...whole market, whole thing. Yeah, really, when I hear you say it makes sense, and it it. I mean as one consumer, it mirrors the way I think about buying products, you know, buying sneakers and clothes a peril like that's really how do you do it, and I have never, ever, never thought about it that way. But it's exactly how you you purchase and when you go in store for something, you come out with something else. So we purred your CEO, Dick Johnson, fosters an environment of a bit of creative freedom. How do you push a what's next idea when it might not be that easy to measure and and get that Green, green let? So first of all I would say this. Dick Johnson is an incredible person. He's just a great human and he and he's foster that environment for lockers are really really high value organization. He he trusts his team and he makes sure that I mean his entire team, like entire team, and he tells you all the time the amount. Dick always his. He is sort of a catchphrase that he oh, you know where. He always says keep doing great things to everybody and in ten years here there's been very few times that someone has just said flat out no. Maybe they've challenged me and others, maybe they've pushed me, meam maybe they tweaked things, but rarely has someone shut something down completely. So I think that's something that Dick has created within the culture of the organization. I think you have to go into an idea. It has I do believe that it has to be read rooted and in some sort of problem that you're trying to solve. I think what I'm picking up from you is your you have a balance of because you're you're not the VP of marketing for foot locker. You're looking at the big picture right. You're looking at everything together. You have to balance like quarter to quarter results with we got to be relevant in five years. Also, like you have toute up to look at your budget and balance driving those numbers. But also may see that as I see that as my role. Yeah, I see that as a big part of my role. I you know, we're a public company and I understand that we have, for to share responsibilities to a lot of people and and and those are and there are short term versions of that and there are long term versions of that, and so so I you know, I tried to set up the team and the narrative and the organization and everything, internally and externally to balance short term growth with long term growth. So I have two more questions. I could talk to you for two more hours, but I know you don't have the time. When you think about I'm always thinking about soul and science and that is...

...sort of underpins the way my mind works. And when we think about soul, we're thinking about, you know, an identity, a powerful identity, what your purpose is, what you stand for. In science is like a providing results and it's business data. You know, how do you kind of think about those two things together? A separate so I think about them together. So much of what we do is subjective, period, and everyone has an opinion and you and, like I said, you can't mention it. You can't measure everything, and even when you can, people are going to challenge the heck out of it. So, you know, one one of the ways that I constantly measure myself, and I think I've grown into this, is am I still trusting myself, my instincts, my gut right? And am I still confident and credible enough to say the hard thing in a meeting and make the hard decision to not care about optics and just do the right thing for the business and in the right way, with humility and with values? And I and and if that, if all that is true, I'm doing. You know I'm doing. I'm doing and we're doing okay, and you have to be willing to be wrong. We're going to we're going to make mistakes. The where you were, where where you get in trouble is when you start doubting yourself and when you start listening to everybody's got an opinion. So it's some point you have to take in all of those opinions and make a confident decision and and trust yourself and you know if you're wrong, you say I was wrong and you move on, but you can't then second guess yourself with the next decision or your toast. You know, we talked a lot about head and heart and Jed talks about gout. I love that. It's like that feeling which you know, if you can tap into that feeling, you know when something's right or wrong. That's a very, very valuable asset that you have. All right, last question. It's a little personal, it's a little soulful. We're not going to talk about full locker for the last question. We're going to talk about Jed. Is there an inspiring person, past president, alive, dead, whose shoes you would want to walk in for a day, that you always, you know, felt that that connection to in your life? So I have a I have a little boy who is nine. He has down syndrome and he's autistic and he he yeah, he actually had and he's gotten so much better ironically an issue with shoes and socks, just with the sensory pieces. But he's gotten so much better. Actually, it's funny. I always tell Chris Davis from newmounce he only wears new ounds and, by the way, most kids with down synder only wear new bounce. It's just the way they've made their shoes and the way the kids were down to feed are. But anyway, yeah,...

...but he is this, he is this ou, he's this silly goofy and like lit and like he is absurdly full of love. Like you've go to my instagram page, you literally find like just the biggest smile and laugh and he and like the biggest love bug in the world. But his verbal communication is is limited. So, you know, I always wonder what's going through that brain and what and how he sees the world. So I you know, I would love to I would love to see the world through his eyes for a minute and sort of, you know, bounce around the day like he does in his shoes and his new balances. Oh I got's amazing best answer ever. What's his name? Jonah's Joan Nus is literally like the light of mine and everybody's who I can't wait, just like I can't wait to go look look at him up pictures of post today family. Yeah, that's the best answer, I think, wellever, how I'll do my question anymore. They won't be better than that answer. Oh, thank you man. Well, jet, thank you for being with us on soul and sides. It's been enlightening, really moving and I'm sure the listeners are going to learn a loft to do so. Thanks. Thanks so much for the conversation. I loved it. That was a great episode on the evolution of Omni retail and how Jed Burger and his team at footlocker are future proofing their business. The thing that also got me very emotional and choked up was the fact that Jed Burger and named his son his hero. Thanks so much for listening to soul in science and we'll see you next week. So in sciences, a mechanism podcast produced by the amazing Frank Risco, Ryan Tillotson, Tyler Nielsen, Emma Swanson and Sophie Morone. The theme music by Kyle Man. I'm your host, Jason Harris.

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