We interviewed Tanuja Singeetham, Vice President of Digital Marketing for Behr Corporation, and discussed how she leverages consumer insights and advanced technology, including artificial intelligence, to connect emotionally with Behr paint consumers and help them find their perfect color.
Rosenthal: Tell us a little bit about yourself, work history, and your current focus at Behr.
Singeetham: I am currently the Vice president of Digital Marketing at Behr, and I’ve been here for the past four years. My areas of responsibility include our website, social media, mobile applications and I lead our e-commerce business on HomeDepot.com. When it comes to digital advertising, I run all the search engine marketing efforts and work with our advertising team all of the display ads and campaigns.
Prior to coming to Behr, I spent 21 years at Nestle USA in Glendale, California. I actually started back in the day when, believe it or not, there was no email at Nestle! 21 years ago, when I got into digital, I launched one of the first websites for Nestle ever back in 1998; it was called FriskyPet.com and was one of the first content-focused portals for CPG, at a time when most brands were creating brand-focused websites. It was very early for its time and is something more common today in the CPG category.
Rosenthal: What is one digital initiative you’re proud of that you’ve worked on at Behr, and/or what about your job are you passionate about?
Singeetham: Coming to Behr was a huge opportunity! The organization had good foundational pieces: it had a website, an app and both have large audiences. Part of my decision to come here, was that there was an opportunity to advance the organization in digital. At the time, we had very little social media presence, and we weren’t really investing money in it. We also had very little search or digital advertising, since we were mainly focused on traditional advertising, such as TV and print. A very small percent of the budget went to digital channels. Part of my goal when I started was to increase the knowledge and expertise internally and provide more guidance on how we could accelerate in the digital space.
The great thing about this category is that if you raise the conversation to something higher than what’s in the can, to instead focus on color and design, you have a very rich territory. Remember when you were a kid and you met another kid, one of the first questions you would ask was “what’s your favorite color?”. Also, many people’s first big decision about a space is when they’re a kid and their parent says, “What color do you want paint your room?” So coming into this category, I understood there are real emotional connections for consumers, and I wanted to bring that to Behr’s digital ecosystem.
With all the efforts we’ve made over the past four years, I am proud to say we have become leaders in social media for our category, grown our website traffic and engagement significantly, experienced triple-digit growth in ecommerce and have created a culture of data-driven decision making across all our online efforts.
Rosenthal: Can you share something about your upcoming digital initiatives at Behr? and/or what are the technologies that you’re most excited about over the next 2-3 years?
Singeetham: We conducted a research project to better understand paint in relationship to category adjacencies and overall home improvement projects.Through that research we learned the importance of feelings and emotions in the decision to take on a paint project. Additionally we know through data that it takes consumers, in general, over a hundred days to narrow down to a color choice. Most of the time when people don’t buy the paint or move forward with the project, it is because they can’t make a decision on the color. It can be an overwhelming analysis process because there are just too many choices.
To help consumers on their color-decision journey, we launched a few things that have really been about applying technology to an insight based on real human behavior and individual consumer inputs. The first initiative, “Color Discovery” is a tool that allows consumers to go in and start with their project, and then pick what feeling they’re trying to achieve for their space. So now instead of “here’s a whole catalog of over 3000 colors and pick one” instead we say, “here’s a curated, personalized recommendation based on what they’re trying to do.” In fact we found that people who use this tool are much more likely to take a sample, than the average site visitor. It’s the best of what individual consumer data combined with advanced technology can do to deliver personalized recommendations.
Second, we launched a tool on our site called “Pins to Palettes,” which leverages a key touchpoint along the inspiration part of the consumer journey, Pinterest. Consumers go to our site and log in to their Pinterest account, and then select up to six pins across multiple boards related to their project. Using our patented technology, we scan the images and are able to give them a coordinating color palette across the various items personalized for them.
In both cases we make it easy for consumers to try on the recommended colors virtually with our Paint Your Place tool, share colors and photos via email or social network, and make it easy to buy a sample at Home Depot so they can get started on their project.
Rosenthal: Messaging delivers on the promise of personalization. How does personalization change the way you think about the lifecycle of the consumer? In the near future, what does messaging look like between a customer and a brand?
Singeetham: As we move forward, we’re thinking about some of the other big things that have shifted in the world. One major one is the “concierge movement”. It’s only continuing to grow. First, we launched live chat color recommendations. People can go onto our site and actually talk to customer care reps and get advice and links back. We’ve seen very positive scores on our consumer satisfaction. It’s up there with the highest of the industry.
So, then we took it into the whole idea of giving recommendations in our color clinics. We work with influencers and our internal color experts and we launch events where we go inside of the social world and allow consumers to ask their questions right on the on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and then we’re able to give them immediate assistance. We have a command center of people to provide specific color recommendations based on whatever the consumer is looking for.
Rosenthal: Unlike social media, which is one to many, messaging is one-to-one marketing at scale. When you think about the promise of the messaging space, why are you excited about this space?
Singeetham: Trying to move personalization beyond live chat can be challenging to scale, as consumers are online 24/7/365 days a year. That’s why our chatbot exploration is an amazing opportunity!
We have so many learnings on the types of questions consumers are asking and know they are looking for answers. We’re doing significant exploration on natural language processing and have a great opportunity to find ways that we can leverage that and provide 24 hour service in this recommendations area. That is one of the things that we are exploring with Snaps, and we are working also with a couple of other AI providers in other areas of artificial intelligence.
Rosenthal: Is Behr looking at Artificial Intelligence or machine learning elsewhere in their business?
Singeetham: We currently working with IBM Watson, as well as Google and their cloud team, on various projects where they are analyzing data. We use this data to identify clusters and gain insights to be smarter and more effective with our marketing communications. For example, we may see that people in the Northeast tend to go for grays or neutral living rooms. So instead of just doing generic display ads and banners, we could customize images to be more relevant to an audience and be more meaningful with our outgoing messages. It allows us to deliver personalization at scale, which is what this category and the marketing industry as a whole, is headed toward.