Free Covid-19 Marketing Resources 

Marketing Post-Covid: Doshia Stewart, Vice President, Global Corporate Communications at Allegion

Transcript

Brian Erickson:
Thanks for joining the Cardwell Beach Marketing podcast. My name is Brian Erickson, Chief Strategy Officer and partner at Cardwell Beach. In this series, we’re interviewing senior marketers across industries to develop perspective on what marketing will look like in a post-COVID-19 world. Today’s guest is Doshia Stewart, Vice President of Global Corporate Communications at Allegion, a safety and security firm that operates brands, including Schlage, Von Duprin and Kryptonite. At Allegion, Doshia leads a team that spans brand strategy, PR, digital marketing, reputation management and employee and investor communications. Doshia is also one of the founders of the company’s corporate venture fund, where she leads marketing. Doshia, Thanks so much for joining us today.

Doshia Stewart:
Oh, thank you, Brian. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Brian Erickson:
Awesome. Weathering the storm, you recently wrote a piece for TechPoint where you talked about using a COVID lens to find business opportunities within many different industries. Can you tell us more about that COVID lens model? And can you give an example of the lens in practice?

Doshia Stewart:
Oh absolutely. Thanks so much for asking and for really highlighting the importance of rethinking everything. If you think back, it was February or March, depending on when the pandemic really impacted your area. But since that time, really everything about your life has been interrupted, whether it’s how your family studies, where you can eat, where you go to work, do you travel or not. And for months, every pattern that we had, pretty much, unless you were an essential worker, was broken. People, as they’re venturing out, it’s really natural that they are very conscious of every step along the way, every interaction that they have, they put a whole new lens on that. Think about maybe when you were learning to drive. You thought of every turn signal, every sign board that you saw and you were consciously competent at every point along the way. People are applying that lens now more than ever to every part at their life, especially if they venture outside.

Let me give you an example of that. You might even want to close your eyes for a second. Imagine that you’ve been working out of home for months and now you need to go to the office, there’s a meeting. You’re walking up to the office door, you pull out a card credential or you’re typing a security code into a keypad and suddenly you pause. Are they clean? Maybe the credential’s accepted but then now you’re suddenly aware of everything you have to touch to get in the door, as you go along your journey in the elevator and so forth. You stop by the cafe in the building, you just want to grab a simple coffee, but are there too many people in there? Which open desks should I pick out because I’m just doing a hot desk for the day. Is everything around me deep cleaned? And how do they know if something is clean enough?

People are asking all of those questions at every touch point along the way and that’s just your physical environment, but let’s rewind. Let’s close your eyes again and think about, you’re walking up to the door, you’re checking your email, an app is on your phone and in the background it’s working, it senses you and it unlocks the door automatically. You wave at a reader and the door swings open so you don’t have to touch a single thing. Then you walk toward that same cafe and the signboard tells you to wait five minutes and come back because it’s at the occupancy capacity for social distancing. What if a different app could send you a notification and say, “Go to desk number 315.” And that’s based on the social distance to other people, it’s based on when it was last cleaned, who used it last, when they used it and also who you’re working with and interacting with routinely.

There’s a sensor there and it’s tracking the patterns as people move through the building throughout the day. And it’s sending the facility manager a deep cleaning map so they know what the hot zones are. And then that same facility manager might get a report on hotspots of time of day, as well as which ones, where they might need to reschedule the open areas, the common kitchen area and so forth. This is all technology that was already out there. The technology underneath it, it already existed, but suddenly you have brands like Schlage, Von Duprin, Openpath, VergeSince, HqO, Robin Powered, suddenly they’re coming together and integrating and working in a bigger ecosystem. Having new use cases for the same technology they already had, but they’re applying a COVID lens so they understand what the users are questioning as they’re in that office space. Does that make sense?

Brian Erickson:
That totally makes sense. And what I like about that is it sounds really like a framework that any brand and any marketing team can use. Is that kind of how you’re crafting this?

Doshia Stewart:
Absolutely. If you’re the marketer in this, if you’re the product team, you have this opportunity to sit back and apply those principles you were already using in terms of personas, in terms of user experience, but you’re pausing to put a COVID lens on those best practices. And you’re really thinking through, what’s changed in workplaces? What’s changed in the way people flow and how they commute? For instance, our Kryptonite team in the bike lock area, they’re seeing bike sales are impacted because people are getting out suddenly. Well, what does that mean for the way they secure a bike? And which bikes they need to secure? What does it mean if you’re in the RV industry, how does your messaging change? And then if you’re maybe in work office furniture and suddenly people are in home offices. Does the scale of what you’re producing need to change? Does the messaging about ergonomics suddenly mean something different? That sort of thing. Everyone can take part in this and it’s just a framework to use a new lens and question everything.

Brian Erickson:
In a way, it sounds like marketers’ jobs are to find out how our products can best fit into people’s lives and the whole world has kind of shifted its perspective a couple of degrees to the left. We just need to see things from kind of from a new viewpoint. Is that kind of how this, you see this coming to life?

Doshia Stewart:
It is. And if you’re a marketer or if you’re in communications, there has never been a better time for you to add value because you’re probably sensing very early, you’re working closely with your customer care team. You’re working close with the product team. You’re this critical linchpin to bring everyone together and to flag, let’s really step back and think about the user experience from a different lens. And that will add value and you are more critical than ever.

Brian Erickson:
How is a COVID lens model different from the way a traditional company might go after new business?

Doshia Stewart:
Beyond what I just talked about on insights and messaging, user experience, friction points, et cetera, certainly that’s already there as established. But then secondly, think about what do you have that can be repurposed to get to market very quickly. People have very urgent, emergent needs and they need them addressed yesterday in a pandemic situation. That needs to happen. The other thing you need to think about is your customer care experience. Maybe they had to go off premise, in terms of what they could be doing proactively to reach out, maybe through new digital channels. Are people interacting with media differently? Are they finding new channels to get information? You need to be there so you’re going to need to look ahead just a little bit about the channels you need. And then within your building itself or your virtual team now, how are you going to break down those silos? Who haven’t you worked closely with?

Then suddenly you need to have new partnerships to move really quickly. You’ve got to figure out how do you shorten that review process? Because you just don’t have time to spend six months getting something to market. You may also be competing with a whole new group of digital-first companies. This is a chance for you to think about acting and behaving like a digital-first company. And you might have to, as they’re doing, pivot your value proposition to maybe abandon a course that relies on a physical interaction with someone and you’re going to have to pivot to a whole new virtual way of working and interacting with your customers, your channel partners. For a lot of our salespeople, they’re used to one-on-one, face-to-face relationships and maybe they resisted things like your digital tools. They might’ve resisted having virtual sales calls with customers. Suddenly it was a necessity.

And honestly, I don’t think it’s a stop gap. I think a lot of our interactions and the way we win business through relationships is going to maybe permanently shift, not all of them, but you need to be very savvy and comfortable in those virtual digital relationships. And then you’ve got to think about your cybersecurity and how intuitive your solutions are. Digital isn’t a stop gap for some of those customer solutions, it’s going to be the primary way that a lot want to interact with you. Delivery services, pickup, et cetera, if you’re a storefront, so you’ve got to think about not just a Band-aid to get you through a pandemic, you’ve got to be equipped to deliver the experience that they expect at the quality that they expect and that they might be able to get somewhere else. Those are the ways that maybe things are going to change quite a bit.

Brian Erickson:
Obviously you’re operating in the safety and security industry. I would be curious, how would you see this framework applying across industries and maybe at companies of different sizes? Of course, you’re on the larger end of the spectrum, but is this something that you would think that smaller brands could benefit from as well?

Doshia Stewart:
Yeah, in fact, I think some of the smaller brands are very well equipped to pivot very quickly and to recognize what’s needed. As you mentioned at the beginning of the program, we have a corporate venture fund and so we’re investing in startup businesses, scaling businesses that are relatively small and growing. And what we’ve found is many of them have been able very quickly to pivot, to sharpen their value proposition, if nothing else because they had to. They didn’t have huge cash reserves to fall back on. And so sometimes I think the smaller companies are better equipped to change very quickly and to understand that their environment and their customer needs are changing because they have to even more so than some of the big brands and traditional brands.

Brian Erickson:
I guess applying this lens to Allegion’s business for a moment, it seems that, in a post-COVID world, there might be a little bit less separation between physical and digital security and our health, in terms of our safety on that front. For example, as you talked about earlier, as we’re just speaking now and also in your article, using an electronic door sensor can help us track how many people have been in a space and therefore how safe that space is from a health standpoint. How do you think this trend will continue to play out in the coming years?

Doshia Stewart:
About a year and a half ago, Allegion, without a pandemic, was recognizing the importance of this blurring of the lines between physical security and electronics. And for us, electronics can make more mechanical, physical security, even stronger and the data that you could get can make the value proposition even deeper. When we talk about our vision for what Allegion represents, it’s not a hardware company, rather we see that our role is to provide seamless access and a safer world. Those two pairings of the health and safety, as well as physical security, have never been more important. If you think about it for us, we’re looking out ahead and looking at how people are flowing through their spaces, how assets are flowing throughout a space and while the data can inform and predict what’s needed, when it’s needed, what are those patterns and how could facility managers or those who are using a space be able to leverage the benefit of all that data to make the facility safer and to predict what they’re going to need when they’re going to need it?

In my scenario just a moment ago, I talked about a facility manager and the fact that they could get a map and understand the flow of people throughout a space. They could look at what peak times were for when a particular area was going to be at an occupancy level or you might need extra people in a building to support those who are there. The ability for sensors, for the security aspects like door locks, exit devices, et cetera, to have rich information, to be able to predict that something’s going to need maintenance three months ahead of time, six months ahead of time, those are all ways that technology and that blurring of physical and electronics can come together.

Brian Erickson:
It’s interesting, you talk about data and obviously data and privacy concerns are something that’s at the forefront of marketers’ minds these days, with the increase in digital security also come greater demands for privacy and proper use of data. How do you see marketing efforts evolving over the next few years to address those concerns specifically?

Doshia Stewart:
Yeah. What we’re seeing and a step we’re already taking is just like we talk about maybe the three pillars of a particular platform that a solution that we’re giving to our customers, we’re also describing what the platforms are of our data security, our cybersecurity and how we treat privacy and data in general. We’re seeing that as integrated and a core part of what our customers expect from us and need from us as marketers. To be able to describe the pillars that are underlying the solutions that we’re bringing them.

Brian Erickson:
That’s super important and main focus for folks right now. A core tenet of Allegion is innovation obviously and you innovate for the future and you never know quite what the future holds. How has COVID shaped your thinking and approach to R and D, rapid prototyping, production and other factors needed to quickly take a product to market in events that might mirror this situation? Of course, we don’t know what exactly they are going to look like. Having a framework for nimbleness is something that we’ve seen as an increased focus for people. What are you doing to further that specifically?

Doshia Stewart:
I think a lot of the foundations that our executive team and our innovation teams and engineering have, the journey we’ve been on, have put us in a good position to be able to bring teams together, look at what we already have that could come out to market very quickly in a pressing situation like a pandemic. However, at the same time we also are looking at future proofing in general and the ways that our engineering teams are looking at platforming in general, so that we can move more quickly, so that we can gain better efficiency instead of doing it one time for one particular market, how can we quickly scale and spread things at a global basis? Or be able to iterate and make small changes that could flow across the whole portfolio as needed?

The other thing that I’ve seen happen both here as well as certainly at other companies, is looking at, can we take small bets and pilot things and learn and develop and scale some capabilities rather than immediately going to a 10-year project and a huge investment, are there small bets that we can take, learn from those, iterate constantly and get better and then be able to move very quickly when the right use case comes up for those?

Brian Erickson:
A 10-year plan certainly has value in some regards, but as we’ve seen, your 10-year plan or your two-week plan can have a wrench thrown in them pretty quickly these days.

Doshia Stewart:
Brian, the other thing that is important is what are those partnerships outside of your walls? How are you in our case, of course we’re investing, but we’re also partnering with smaller companies, with large companies, with those who own platforms like Google and Apple, et cetera. How are you investing outside your walls and building those now so that you can be ready to move very quickly and collaborate quickly?

Brian Erickson:
That’s an interesting segue into looking more horizontally across different industries. And Allegion also provides safety and security products specifically for the healthcare industry, which has been a focus during all of this. And you’ve worked in the healthcare industry previous to your role at Allegion here. What has COVID revealed about the new challenges that this market is facing currently and might face in the future?

Doshia Stewart:
As I think about patient care and it was really interesting to see how during the pandemic, there were this push-pull between outpatient needs and those maybe who had chronic conditions or more longer-term conditions or even cancer treatments. And some of that had to be put on hold because of the facility itself needed to adapt and needed to think through protocols. That push-pull between inpatient needs, special situations like a pandemic that hopefully you won’t experience all the time. But when that came up, how are we using our space and how are we going to need to be able to very quickly throw something up like a new wing, new treatment wing based on the urgent emerging needs? And yet, is there a way that we don’t have to put patient care and the outpatient care on hold at the same time? I think that’s one of the things that our healthcare markets are going to be thinking through and really taking some of the learnings from this time to see how they might need to be very fluid and flexible, maybe even in building design, in ways that they utilize their spaces.

And then if you think about working in a healthcare environment, what are all the things that you’re touching on a given day? If you’re touching an input screen for patient records, is there a way that you could use voice technology to be able to do that without touching a screen? One of the investments we made was Pindrop, which is a voice technology company. And when I was doing the background work as we were getting into that investment, I was looking out there and some of the forefront leaders of innovation in voice were some healthcare companies, including hospitals like Boston Children’s, and they had an innovation wing, they had a group that invested in really leading edge things, not just in voice, although they were forefront of that. Some of our healthcare companies are doing really interesting things that, again, you’re learning now, you never know when you’re going to need to pull that out for a new use case. That experimentation and piloting and learning outside your walls is really interesting for healthcare right now.

Brian Erickson:
I think that’s definitely true in healthcare, is you’re working on things that you don’t exactly know the use case for at the time, that’s kind of become more of a macro trend. How do you think marketing as a whole will change in a post-COVID-19 world? And what piece of advice would you give to marketers who are working in your industry and in others as to how they should adapt to that?

Doshia Stewart:
The first thing I’d say is digital first. If you don’t feel that you’re building your campaigns, that you’re building your ecosystem for marketing assets and for the way they’re delivered all the way into the end user, if you’re not adapting those for digital platforms and virtual platforms, it’s time to rethink that and to think about the sales enablement cycle and the sales support. How are we equipping our sales force to be equipped for success in the market?

Second thing is faster. We’re not going to have the luxury of developing a campaign and have as long of a tail to get things to market, either from a product or a campaign cycle. The expectations have just ramped up by a factor of 10X. And those silos that you may have had within your marketing organization, this is a great time to step back and say, “What are the silos that we have? What have we learned? How are we able to flex our talent?”

And crisis communications is part of what I have and talking with my peers a lot, we’re able to leverage talent from their brands and marketers to put on this really intense moment and leverage the talent in a very fluid, flexible way. Same thing if you have a core product launch, how can you leverage talent back and forth to help them learn and develop, but also to help your organization be able to flex quickly? And then of course, data, what data are you using? Are you using it to make decisions? Are you using it to iterate quickly and to understand what the communication needs are of your customers? If I put that in a nutshell, digital first, very fast to market, fewer silos and really making the most of that data.

Brian Erickson:
That’s awesome. Taking that nutshell and applying it to the personal level, as we potentially approach record-breaking unemployment, many marketers are going to find themselves in transition and looking for jobs. What skills are most important relative to those marketing priorities for individuals to emphasize as they get their resumes out there and try to remain competitive in the job search?

Doshia Stewart:
The first thing is I always appreciate curious thinkers and people who are observing the world around them and making commentary on them. Just like I wrote this blog for TechPoint. It wasn’t necessarily part of my day job and the marketing per se of our products, but it was a way of absorbing and sharing information and building relationships. How are you as a marketer building your own brand as a thought leader and taking all your strategic skills and really bringing them to bear on what’s going on around you? Establishing yourself well beyond and well before you ever need it would be my first piece of advice.

The second piece is comfort with technology. If you’re not comfortable with communications tech, MarTech, this is the time to if nothing else, get on LinkedIn learning and bone up at least to be conversant with technology, social media, digital platforms and digital optimization of marketing. Look at those soft skills. How are you collaborating? And what storytelling could you do on the way that you collaborate across functions? How do you break down barriers to bring things to market quicker? Can you quantify the impact that you’ve had in terms of reaching across silos and making an impact on the business?

And then finally, just a couple things is, are you able to demonstrate that you have this ability to take a leap from a germ of an idea and very quickly make it a reality? People who can do that are very valued in the marketplace. And then finally, if you’re not already experimenting and piloting things, getting ahead of a curve so that you have a tangible product marketing concept that you can get to market very quickly, this is the time to pilot and experiment and try new things.

Brian Erickson:
That’s awesome. Some great career advice in the midst of a pandemic and always, I think. Doshia, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.

Doshia Stewart:
Hey Brian, it was a real pleasure. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Hope the audience uses this COVID lens and thinks about what does it mean for customers? How can you support them and support the business? It’s never been a better time to be a marketer or in communications.

Brian Erickson:
Well, I love that positivity. Please make sure to check out Doshia Stewart, VP of corporate communications at Allegion on LinkedIn. This is Brian Erickson with Cardwell Beach. Thanks again for listening and please make sure to check back for more senior marketers sharing their perspectives on what marketing will look like in a post-COVID-19 world.

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