The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.
Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
Understand your customers better by humanizing your marketing approach. This is what Cindy Deekitwong, the Global Head of Marketing, Incubator Business, at Henkel Adhesive Technologies believes. In this week’s episode of The Kula Ring, Cindy talks about how she and her team use a customer-first marketing approach, which she calls B4E – Business for Everyone.
Humanizing Your Manufacturing Marketing Strategy Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White. Joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing, sir? See, I’ve already messed up.
Carman Pirie: Yes. Now we’re going to have to edit.
Jeff White: Carman, how are you doing today?
Carman Pirie: All is well. All is well. Another exciting day here on The Kula Ring, and look, I’ve been looking forward to this episode for a little while.
Jeff White: We have.
Carman Pirie: You know, sometimes it just takes a little while to make the schedules connect.
Jeff White: Indeed.
Carman Pirie: And the anticipation grows. And so, I’ve really been looking forward to today’s show.
Jeff White: I know. I think we were ready to actually record it a few weeks ago when our internet went out.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. We should probably kind of rake our internet provider over the coals publicly now.
Jeff White: No.
Carman Pirie: That wouldn’t help.
Jeff White: It’s not really-
Carman Pirie: That’s not gonna fix anything.
Jeff White: No, no. It’s not. And they fixed it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Look, see? Who’s the positive one of the duo, ladies and gentlemen?
Jeff White: Indeed. But I am looking forward to our conversation today. Our guest has some very unique experience with a rather massive brand.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, look, without further ado, let’s kick it off.
Jeff White: Indeed. So, joining us today is Cindy Deekitwong. Cindy is the Global Head of Marketing for the Incubator Business at Henkel Adhesives. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Cindy.
Cindy Deekitwong: Hi, Jeff. Hi, Carman. Thank you for having me.
Jeff White: It’s wonderful to have you on the show.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s an absolute pleasure, Cindy. Look, I know… I’ve gotta admit, I did… Before meeting you, I had known of Henkel, but not… I guess I didn’t really have an appreciation for just how big the business is.
Jeff White: No. You knew not to use the red lock-
Cindy Deekitwong: That’s right.
Carman Pirie: Probably.
Jeff White: Going to need to be opened again.
Carman Pirie: Right, right. So, I guess, Cindy, why don’t we start with a bit of an introduction to you and how you kind of came to find Henkel or how they came to find you? And tell us a bit about the business, as well, if you would.
Cindy Deekitwong: Sure. So, let me start this way. Going back, when I grew up, you can tell by my accent, I’m Thai. I’m originally from Thailand. I moved here about 20 years ago. When I look back, I actually grew up in quite a moderate family in Thailand. It’s quite poor, actually. But when I really think it through, my parents lived paycheck by paycheck, and we might be very limited in terms of financial, but I always had that empowerment from my mom and dad. You know, treating people with respect, dignity, it’s about ‘dream big and hustle hard,’ right? And that is for me a core value that I keep with me until the journey today as a marketer, right?
I am a first generation, female engineer, believe it or not in my country, and that is not that easy, right? Having that career be a first generation of female engineering… Back then, the gender parity in the country, at that time, was still quite challenging for us to overcome. That’s why my passion is also helping younger generation professionals to really understand, embrace who you are as who you are, and strive to be a better self and not a better someone else. And have that recognition that it’s not just okay to be different, it actually can be a big advantage. And, with that quality of my let’s say growing up and the core value, it’s really helped me as a marketer. And I just celebrated 20 years with the company last week.
So, it’s been 20 years. Exciting.
Carman Pirie: Incredible.
Jeff White: Fantastic.
Cindy Deekitwong: With Henkel.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Congratulations.
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah. Thank you. And you know, put into the metric, I actually relocated in the past 20 years six times. Three countries. I changed seven roles, and of course I’m an accountable teammate, mentor, mentee, and it has been such a grateful journey. I travel and live around the world. And one thing, Jeff and Carman, I want to highlight, when you deal with a different country, they all have a different uniqueness. But one thing that we all have in common, especially when it’s coming to the customer, everybody’s trying to win. We all have that winning culture and for me, it’s so joyful… and grateful to be part of the journey where we help customer partners win one application at a time.
So, that is a short introduction from where I grew up, up to this point, and Carman, you talked about Henkel. Let me step back and give you Henkel at a glance. We are 144 years old. 20 billion Euro in the global consumer packaging good company. Still majority holder by the Henkel family. 52,000 employees in 56 countries. And of course, you talk about branding, the brand you love, use, and embrace every day, including laundry, home care, beauty care, and adhesive category, including All, Snapple, Purex, Persil, Dial, Right Guard, Loctite, and more. So, that’s quickly about Henkel.
Jeff White: So, it’s just a little company. Just a few brands.
Carman Pirie: That’s an incredible synopsis.
Jeff White: Well, and what a story, and I think the thing that I really take away from what you said about being a first-generation female engineer from Thailand, one of the first in your family to immigrate to the U.S., as well, I would imagine?
Cindy Deekitwong: No, my family’s still back in Thailand. I’m the only one here.
Jeff White: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, so I mean… and I think it’s interesting, too, because you’ve eventually migrated to a marketing role, but you started out as a chemical engineer.
Cindy Deekitwong: Yes.
Jeff White: And that’s a very unique path. What drove that? Was it just an opportunity within Henkel?
Cindy Deekitwong: Yes. So, I moved back from an international assignment in 2018 from Japan, right? Back then, Henkel offered me some opportunity by giving me a challenge and saying, “Cindy, we need some help in marketing. We have a new Incubator business within the company called Additive Manufacturing, 3D printing. Would you be willing to help us?” Less than one second, “Yes, go for it.” And that’s where I’m here in marketing.
And maybe let me explain a little bit of what’s marketing in Henkel, right? So, my group actually consists of a lot of customer touch points when it’s come to marketing. Media, digital marketing, promotion, omnichannel, product management, market customer activation, and marketing intelligence. So, that is a kind of broad scope when it comes to marketing in Henkel.
Carman Pirie: Really cool. Really cool. And I know, Cindy, that you’ve… and you touched on this in your overview. Kind of this notion of you said, “We all win,” or we all strive to win, and that’s… You know, you really, in that moment, it feels to me like you’re boiling it down into that kind of… really kind of scratching into what it is to be human there. And that notion of humanizing marketing. And I know that that’s been a focus of yours and you really draw a distinction between B2B and B2C and are really working to bring this kind of humanized approach into your work at Henkel in the Incubator. So, I guess can you tell us a bit about that? I believe you… B4E is what you call it?
Cindy Deekitwong: Yes. B4E. Business for everyone, right? And when you look at it from what my motivation was, when I joined Incubator 3D Printing in Henkel, right, you look at the industry. It’s not that old. 3D printing, it goes back like 40 years old, so there’s no such thing called rules and some legacy way of doing things. That’s why it’s such an industry that has a fast-paced dynamic. It’s all about Dan doing business with Cindy, Jeff does business with Carman. It’s a relationship type of business because it’s such an industry that it’s still early adoption. From technology, from application, from production standpoint. Therefore, when you look at as a marketer, how do you approach? How do you approach the market? How do you approach the customer? Is that B2B, business to business? B2C? It’s not, really. It’s all about a humanized way of marketing, right? Still under the digital platform that we do a lot of things, but you need to step back.
The missing part of this business and the success factor is about humanized personalization. It’s all about how we bring that element of the human relationship business, driving that relationship, and make that marketing campaign successful. That’s why for me, it’s kind of art and engineering at the same time, and that B4E, for me, it’s really a key core as a marketer. I really want to drive that next era of Incubator using the humanized marketing approach by B4E.
Carman Pirie: Help me understand a little bit more, I guess. I’m just wondering, is it the kind of thing when… that you just kind of hold up marketing decisions to that light and say, “Am I speaking like I’m talking to a business here or that I’m being robotic in some way?” And is that how you know that maybe you’re not reaching the B4E standard?
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah. That’s a very good point, Carman. And the way I like to frame it, let’s look at it from this point of view, right? Humanized marketing does not necessarily come from the corporation or from the product. And I really need to thank Professor Clayton Christiansen for changing my life in the disruptive innovative class in Harvard University that really teaches the perspective of looking at it from job to be done, right? When you start humanizing a way of thinking in marketing, you look at it in the way of people, when they do things, what type of job that they need to get done. What caused the user, consumer, customer to buy the product, right? The product comes and goes. Technology comes and goes. But the pain point, the problem is always there for us to solve.
That’s why it’s a kind of combination when you look at it from the humanization of marketing, in conjunction with the way you look at marketing campaigns according to the pain point and job to be done from the user perspective. So, that’s how I kind of frame things together when it’s talk about humanized marketing.
Jeff White: I think what you’re talking about there is allowing… When you talk about the job to be done, as opposed to the product that’s getting created, or the products that are required to create the job to be done, it really is… It’s about ensuring that the people who are doing that work feel like they’re doing something meaningful, and that you’re connecting with them, and giving them something to kind of jump off from. I’m trying to remember if it was Mad Men. You know, we don’t sell 3/8 drill bits. We sell 3/8 holes.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Jeff White: It’s about the-
Carman Pirie: You’re not allowed to quote Mad Men on marketing podcasts.
Jeff White: No, I suppose it’s true. But I really do like that. Thinking about the… Because there’s a lot of empathy in trying to think about, “Well, what are they going to do with this?” And how are they going to use it? And how’s it going to help them improve their day to day?
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And I guess… I mean, I think a lot of people maybe think of things through the business problem to be solved? And not that there isn’t overlap with what’s the human problem that’s getting solved in that moment, but there… Seems to me that as you think about it, you can see instances where those could be different. Or when thinking about it through what is the human problem that’s being solved versus the business problem may allow us to think about it in a way that just… I don’t know. Maybe connect a little bit more deeper into why someone would be motivated to purchase, motivated to enter into a relationship with the company, what have you.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: As opposed to the business problem to be solved can just sound sometimes like it’s… That can just be, again, very cold. But at the end of the day, there’s a person trying to solve that business problem. And they encounter real, human challenges in trying to do it.
Jeff White: Of course. Yeah. And I mean, you’re also on the Incubator side of the Henkel business, and I think it would be worth…Because I think there’s something very empathetic about the idea of an incubator within a large corporation in and of itself. How does that kind of help you bring the B4E approach to life? The fact that you’re within an Incubation environment?
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah. So, with a marketing approach based on the job to be done, I actually conducted a recent interview, because one thing I want to highlight on the job to be done is not something you can just sit down and say, “Hey, this is a pain point. This is a job to be done.” We can not just sit and imagine what’s happening. You need to go out there. You need to go interview consumers, users, and understand and observe their life. My recent interview with a print technician in 3D printing, let me share the story, because we are at the time launching a very fast printing product, easy to clean product, right? And we’re about to launch the campaign focusing on the product.
I did the interview for the print technician, and I asked him, “When you get the printer, what does your life look like?” They say the most important thing for them is that they want to get the job done. When they do the calibration of the printer, it takes about four or five times to print, and do some calibration, and do the settings. They want to finish the job within one day. They want to come in at 8:00 AM, finish at 5:00 PM, and I’m puzzled. This has nothing to do with my product. So, I stay patient. All right, tell me a little bit more. “You know, Cindy, when you do the printing, it’s so nasty to change the gloves all the time, right?” Because of the 3D printing resin, sometimes it gets sticky. “That would be so good to have a product that is lower viscosity, easy to clean, so my life gets easier. I don’t have to wear some plastic gloves.”
I’m like, “Getting interesting.” “You know, when we finish the calibration, if I can leave work, go have dinner with my girlfriend, and I can design some cool part and leave it printing overnight. So, the print speed for me, it’s quite important, Cindy, so that when I finish the job, I do the cool design. It prints overnight. In the morning, I get the cool parts.” I’m like, “Aha. All right.” The key word for me is that you can finish your work within one day. The speed. “Easy to clean. Lower viscosity on the product. And help your life within the day so that you can have more opportunities to do design iteration.” With that interview, you can see this is a job to be done the way I promote my product. I have nothing to do with product lock types A, B, C, D, E that have fantastic properties. I’m saying, “It helps you get the job done within one day. It introduced a product that’s easy to clean and high speed so that you can have a next day delivery.”
How does that sound to you? When you listen from this angle?
Jeff White: Well, I would like to get one.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I’m curious. Where do I sign? Would I press hard?
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: That was a great illustration of the approach. Thank you for that. I think it really helped bring it to life, really.
Jeff White: There’s no question that it humanized….When you’re talking about how it enables you to live a better… Have a better work-life balance, and less stress, and less mess, all of those things are positives in terms of making somebody’s life better.
Carman Pirie: Absolutely. Absolutely.
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Carman Pirie: My goodness. That was such a great kind of overview of that approach and thinking and the nice practical kind of synopsis of it. I don’t even know where to go from here now, Jeff.
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah. The funny thing is, finally, we sent a coupon. We said, “The first time using this, you get the barbecue coupon discount.” I even know that all the print technicians love barbecue. Because it’s easy. A lot of nice beer. This is a thing where when you start going there and do the interview, my marketing becomes completely different. Who would imagine you send a coupon for the barbecue place discount for this type of product? But it gives such a huge open up, like now it’s all about you printing something, you get some information campaign from Loctite, in the way that it’s just mean to you. It’s mean to you, Jeff. It’s mean to you, Dan. It just gives you that sense of human touch. Big time.
Jeff White: Yeah. Shows that you truly understand who you’re selling to. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: That’s lovely. I’m curious. There’s a few points in our lead up to the show that I was hoping we might be able to cover, Cindy. What was your guidance around this notion in your work in marketing, and particularly associated with the Incubator, and your thinking around the pace of pivot and how you need to think about that in relation to the business or sector that you’re in? Can you help me understand your thinking and guidance?
Cindy Deekitwong: Sure. There’s two key takeaways when it comes to the pace of pivot. As a marketer, Jeff, Carman, one thing I want to share, this one favorite quote that I share with the team all the time. If everything seems under control, then you are not moving fast enough. Let me repeat. If things are under control, you’re not moving fast enough. Especially life in Incubator, right? And that indicates the pace of your pivot, is that according to your industry, your user, your consumer, if you feel comfortable with what you do, then you’re behind your competition.
Carman Pirie: Does that… Do you find that in some way either… I’m wondering if it helps you take bigger risks and I’m wondering if that attitude helps you sell the notion of taking bigger risks to the folks that you report to.
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah. Talking about risk, in my life in Incubator, it’s just every day. Yeah. The one constant in life as a startup company is change, so that’s a level of risk and also reward, right? That we deal with in Incubator business. For the Incubator, one thing I really want to share, especially when you look at additive manufacturing, which is in the early adopter from the technology production standpoint, if you define your success based on just top line growth, first year return of investment, guess what? You might get zero. That’s a risk you take. You talk about risk.
But what I like to encourage, especially coming from a marketing standpoint, right, you need to be able to really drive so called proof point, small success, you can call it leading indicator beyond just the sales, right? The repeating orders, how many new customers, new samples, lead generation? How many applications can you get validated, right? That’s all the leading indication beyond just the number from the financial. Which is important, but the key point here is that you cannot depend on just one factor to drive your success. And you need to look beyond just the first-year return of investment. You need to look long term. Because that’s all incubators do, right? Associate risk over time and also prove points over time.
Carman Pirie: I appreciate that the Incubator business is fairly unique, but then at the same time I’m like, “This is the reality for every manufacturing marketer,” in that there are a number of initiatives underway. Some of them have a more guaranteed ROI than others. Some of them have been tried before. Some of them haven’t.
Jeff White: Some of them are big bets. Some of them are just refinements.
Carman Pirie: Right, right. And I don’t know, I think that really, really resonates with me, Cindy, this notion that you’re quite right looking at leading indicators, yes, but then even when you say like applications, use cases that are validated as a leading indicator. There’s a nice gift in that because I think marketers should broaden their definition of success across their portfolio of initiatives.
Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. I think so. It does lead me to wonder, having a philosophy that you’re not going to see results necessarily in year one, or it’s not going to have the payoff in year one that it might in year two, three, or five, how do you formulate KPIs and metrics when you’re having that level of trust that it’s going to go somewhere after that first year? Do you set goals for yourself within the first 12 months and then expand on those for future years? Or is it kind of let’s see how this goes and then we’ll begin to establish some proper KPIs once we’ve seen how it performs?
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah. That’s a very good question, Jeff, and in reality, we’re here to grow the business, so I think the financial element of how we measure our success has to be there, right? But as a marketer, it’s the soft fact that you add on and really help boost up the morale and the quick win and the small success within the team, and that is what we do as a marketer where yes, there’s a certain… We use this term a lot, proof point, right? The proof point that we can bring can be a number of let’s say validated case study, validated industrial use part, using our product, but the key here is that that proof point, it might not bring anything on the year one, but it has to be scalable. You need to bring so called the right opportunity, where we have that early adopter who validated, qualified that application, and we use it as a proximity to start scaling. Find a similar user customer that has the same application. And that has to be scalable so that in year two and year three, you start seeing a growth, so that you can have that projected growth over time. Not just prove points on the paper.
Jeff White: Right, so those early indications, those early proof points are really the things you’re going to build upon and use to craft-
Carman Pirie: Well, yeah, and that’s a great yardstick, right? It’s like yeah, we can have leading indicators, but the leading indicators that are acceptable are the ones that are scalable.
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: So, leading indicators of traffic to the website may not really-
Jeff White: May not be enough.
Carman Pirie: May not pass muster. You know, it could, depending-
Jeff White: Depending on the business.
Carman Pirie: But probably the number of new social media followers doesn’t pass muster when you think about it that way.
Jeff White: Likes on posts.
Carman Pirie: Right, right, right. Yeah. Which is… I think when marketers think of leading indicators, sometimes they might think they can get away with that.
Jeff White: Yeah. Not necessarily.
Cindy Deekitwong: Yeah. One fun fact around leading indicators, in the marketing team we also use a lot of KOL, key opinion leader, influencer, and ask them more than marketing. We talk about this all the time. WNY, right? Women, youth, and netizens. That’s a key AOL, key influencer for us to really drive forward from the social media perspective.
Jeff White: I haven’t heard those before.
Cindy Deekitwong: Netizen. The internet citizen.
Jeff White: Well, no, but used in that combination. I remember… Yeah, date myself. Early copy of Internet Magazine around 1996… Something in Wired.
Carman Pirie: I’d be curious, Cindy. I mean, I know that you’ve had a very, very impressive career at Henkel and have touched a number of parts of that organization, and have blazed some trails along the way, so I’d like to use the last little bit of our time together today just to maybe get your career advice for those people maybe that are more on the front end of their first years as a manufacturing marketer. What advice would you give them?
Cindy Deekitwong: This is a very, very good point. Things that I really want to inspire, hopefully, and encourage as a marketer to think about. Be authentic. Be yourself. Understand who you are, meaning understand your brand. Understand your business. Understand your customer. Understand your competitor. And be authentic, real you, representing your brand. Leverage that branding story to connect it to your user, your end customer, and use that to drive the messaging. Use that to really connect, and drive, and retain that customer relationship. Because in the end, as a marketer, without having a great relationship with your user out there, you can’t go anywhere in your career. So, that would be my last advice as a marketer.
Carman Pirie: Really interesting.
Jeff White: Yeah. That’s wonderful.
Carman Pirie: Cindy, I’ve really enjoyed having you on the show today. It’s been a pleasure and thank you for bearing with us with our internet difficulties and whatnot and getting this show together.
Jeff White: And we’re better netizens now.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, indeed. Indeed.
Cindy Deekitwong: Netizen. That’s right.
Jeff White: Wonderful. Thanks for joining us on the show, Cindy.
Cindy Deekitwong: Thank you so much for having me. Looking forward to next time.
Jeff White: Indeed.
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