5 Mantras for the Modern Marketer From Walgreens’ Global CMO

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—Within 8 minutes of ordering Neosporin and Band-Aids, a consumer in Virginia had those items in hand, delivered by drone from a nearby Walgreens to his home. Your move, Amazon.

It was no stunt—drone delivery is part of a pilot project the drug store chain launched this fall aimed at “redefining convenience,” said Vineet Mehra, global CMO of the retailer’s parent company, Walgreens Boots Alliance.

It’s also an example of Mehra’s mantras for the modern marketer, which he shared at Adweek’s annual Brandweek summit during a conversation with Nadine Dietz, host of the CMO Moves podcast:

  1. Unify the C-suite behind the most important “C,” the customer.
  2. Be your company’s growth hacker.
  3. Connect purpose and commerce.
  4. Make everything personal.
  5. Cultivate unicorns.

Drone delivery is a way for Walgreens to lean into new tech and create new business models, he said. The brand, with $10 billion in annual sales, is the first retailer to use the FAA-cleared technology from Google parent company Alphabet’s Wing division.

“It could be a single mom who needs ibuprofen for a sick child and can’t leave the house,” Mehra said. “That’s a real problem we can solve.”

Walgreens is taking an increasingly personalized approach to its consumers, with Mehra coining the term “phygital” for blending physical and digital experiences to help make that happen.

Case in point is the retailer’s Feel More Like You program for cancer patients that ranges from online educational content, targeted ads and apps with medication and appointment reminders, to empathy training for 12,000 pharmacists. The brand also started offering in-store beauty treatments via 3,000 specially trained consultants.

The effort touched on every team within the company, from online, social and merchandise to loyalty, human resources and store operations.

“There’s an ecosystem we can weave together that’s multi-divisional, multi-skillset,” he said. “Marketing became the connector.”

The moves, along with an emotional ad campaign starring oncology patients and survivors under the “Battle Beautifully” tagline, come as the retail and healthcare worlds go through seismic changes. 

Competitor CVS acquired insurance giant Aetna, aiming for a bigger share of the wellness market, and Amazon has been laying the groundwork for a significant push into insurance plans, online pharmacies and Alexa-based healthcare.

Walgreens, meanwhile, has started offering in-store primary care at some locations, with Jenny Craig weight-loss clinics on the horizon.

The company also just announced a new CMO, Patrick McLean, earlier this week, who comes from a finance background at TD Bank and Capital One.

“It’s exciting to join Walgreens at this pivotal moment when modern marketing can serve as an architect of end-to-end customer journeys and experiences,” McLean said in a statement.

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