As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jill Canetta.
Jill is the Chief Data Officer of Experian Marketing Services, a business devoted to helping brands have more meaningful interactions with consumers. The Data Office is responsible for ensuring Experian maintains the privacy of consumers through appropriate, responsible use of its data while driving insights from the data to help solve for our clients marketing challenges including identifying the right prospects, creating personalized messaging, and measuring effectiveness of their efforts. Jill focuses on the Marketing Business’s overall Data Strategy, including Data Governance, Acquisition, Management, Analytics as well as Risk and Compliance. Prior to her current role, Jill held a Global Strategy role at Experian, leading global initiatives around Digital Credit Marketing, Use of Alternative Data and Advanced Analytics as well as helped launch Experian’s Public Sector Vertical. Jill has been with Experian 13 years.
Prior to Experian, Jill held various positions within the Financial Industry (Bank One, MasterCard, and Bank of America) where she worked to expand Card Programs domestically and globally.
Jill started her career practicing law in Arizona and is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband and their two children.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a career that spanned multiple different industries — opening myself up to different experiences and challenges. It’s certainly made me more well-rounded in my approach to business. I started my career practicing law and worked as an associate attorney in Arizona for just over two years before transitioning to the financial industry. Over the next six years, I held different positions — primarily sales and global business development — at Bank of America, MasterCard and Bank One. These experiences paved the way for the past 13 years that I’ve spent at Experian.
I joined Experian as a vice president of strategic sales, working with some of the company’s largest strategic clients. Since then, I’ve held roles across different functions, including product marketing, operations and global corporate strategy — always trying to broaden my skills and stay challenged. Over the years, I’ve become fascinated with data — alternative data and newer digital data assets — and how powerful the combination of data and analytics can be to help our clients and consumers. In my current role as Chief Data Officer for Experian’s Marketing Services group, I get to identify and test new data assets to help our clients better identify and communicate with consumers to make sure their messages are personalized, timely and resonate with their target markets.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I probably have more than I would like to admit, but I firmly believe that we learn the most from our mistakes, so I try to keep that in mind. One that immediately comes to mind is when I accidentally wrote on a client’s white board with permanent ink. To this day, I triple check before using a marker on a white board, but it is one sure way of getting a client to remember you.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Although I can’t give you a book title, I think the thing that helped my career the most was taking chances on opportunities when they presented themselves. Most seemed to come along at the worst time; where the timing made it more challenging, stressful or inconvenient, but had I not jumped on those opportunities, my career would not have taken the path it did. It was the opportunities that I took risk and stretched myself, where I learned and grew the most.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
At Experian, we believe at the heart of every marketing strategy is the consumer. People are bombarded with marketing messages every day; and brands need to cut through the noise and communicate relevant messages that address their customer’s most pressing needs — at any given moment. With that in mind, we’re committed to helping brands leverage data to better identify and understand consumers, reach them across their preferred media channels, deliver messages that resonate, and measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
The guiding light for me and my team at Experian is to help our clients put consumers at the heart of every marketing campaign. People want to believe that the brands they do business with have their best interests in mind and understand them. The first part of that equation is helping our brands understand their consumers and their behaviors, attitudes, and interests. The second part of that equation is delivering relevant messages and communicating them at the right time via their preferred channels for a very personalized experience.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
It is still hard to believe how much the world has changed in such a short period of time, and how it has impacted the lives of so many people. Although our lives have drastically changed over the last several months, I feel my family and I have been extremely fortunate. We are still healthy, we can work from the comfort of our own home and our children are old enough to be a bit more independent during the day. That’s not to say we don’t have our challenges. Like other families, having everyone at home at one time has been challenging. My husband and I play musical chairs with our office space and each of us have made an appearance in each other’s video conference calls — accidently, of course. My dog has picked up a howling habit that usually happens when I am on important calls and my kids are way over the recommended time limits for watching TV/playing video games. Finding time for physical fitness and taking a break to have lunch together has helped. Also, I’ve found that when working from home you have to find the balance between work and life — it’s easy to work 12-hour days, but you need to find time for you and your family. Forcing yourself to log off and recoup can be difficult, but has been extremely important for our family and our piece of mind.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Experian employees across the company have been working safely from home over the past few months and have done a great job. That said there’s been an adjustment period — especially for those with young children. As leaders, we need to be sympathetic to the situations our colleagues are experiencing. The solution for our business has included a number of different ways to stay engaged with our team members, including frequent videos from senior leadership sharing critical messages about the business; weekly conference calls to check in; coffee chats with smaller groups — where we get learn how folks are really doing, spending their time and what issues they may be having.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Back in April, we instituted a survey to gauge consumer sentiment during COVID-19. The survey explores sentiment across four industries, including automotive, healthcare, financial services and retail, as well as media consumption behaviors. And you are right, there is definitely a heightened sense of concern around things like finances, being able to afford healthcare or even have access to necessities like food. We saw a positive trajectory for overall sentiment as business restrictions began to lift, but it has since leveled off with the number of cases beginning to spike again. The uncertainty is likely contributing to the anxiousness the country is feeling right now.
One of the things the dashboard showed was consumers’ media consumption was incredibly high during the first weeks of the pandemic and continues to be high overall. While Baby Boomers were the most likely to increase their cable TV usage, it is very high across all generations and many have been consuming more than just entertainment, but more news in general while they stay at home. Some health experts have mentioned limiting our exposure to pandemic-related programming, as it can feel a bit overwhelming. I also think, with such uncertainty in our current environment, the best thing we can do is to maintain some sense of normalcy — although I understand that can be difficult with stay-at-home orders and business restrictions. But if we can stick to a daily routine, one that is close to pre-COVID life — continuing to wake up at a certain time, working out, putting breaks in the beginning and end of our days (to replicate that beginning and end of our work day when we are in the office) and carving out time for your family and well-being, it can help us manage through the next few months. The more I’ve been able to maintain a routine, the easier I’ve found it to adjust.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
There are many opportunities post COVID, they are just different than what they were four months ago. While consumers are pulling back on spending due to lost jobs, health concerns and uncertainty with their financial futures, many still have needs based on our “new normal.” Finding those new ways to connect with consumers will continue to be critical — curbside pick-up; home workouts; grocery delivery, and online health care and education.
Based on the data from our consumer sentiment survey, there certainly are areas that I suspect will continue to be areas of opportunity for brands. For example, we have seen online shopping soar during the pandemic, but continue to do so even with lockdown restrictions beginning to ease in some areas. As recently as July 1, 55% of respondents appear to be buying more online than in the past — and the percentage is much higher in urban regions. With some counties and states reinstating business restrictions, this could be a trend the continues to increase in the coming weeks and months. And although, discretionary spending is down in general, some age demographics are showing increases. For instance, 31% of Generation X respondents are spending more on books, video games and music than in the past. Everyone’s situation is unique, which is why it’s important for businesses to understand how consumers are reacting to the pandemic — and that it can vary be age demographic and region. Generalizing the entire county does not work; a one-size-fits-all approach does not exist.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
The long-term impact of the pandemic is largely unknown, but we anticipate there are things that will be changed forever. For example, COVID has expedited the normal pace of ecommerce. We are seeing a larger percentage of consumers buy online than in the past and we anticipate that may be a trend that stays. Although their initial reasons for shopping online was based on necessity, consumers are now seeing it as convenient. This could suggest that American buying online could be permanent post-COVID-19. Many of us are also becoming more accustomed to telehealth options. We anticipate these changes will persist to a certain extent post COVID for the convenience.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
The situation for many Americans will be fluid for the months to come, and businesses need to flexible and adjust marketing strategies. The more we can help businesses understand how consumer behaviors are shifting, we can help them determine which consumers to target, how to reach them, and deliver messages that resonate. To that end, we have been focusing on projects to helps businesses assist those that may have been most impacted by the pandemic. And as for our organization, we continue to be focused on the wellness and safety of our employees, as well as finding ways to serve our clients.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Beyond adhering to local, state and federal guidelines, businesses need to meet this head on and adjust to the change as we know some of the changes are here to stay. Find those unique ways to help consumers navigate through the pandemic. Understand how their patterns and needs have changed; what is now most important to them and how to make life easier for them which could be an easier shopping experiences; at home delivery/curb-side pick-up; moving to a more D2C relationship; etc. The more businesses can create that connection and a rapport with consumers, the better positioned they will be to develop a relationship that lasts beyond the pandemic.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorites is a quote by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” That quote is always good to remember as we decide whether or not to take on new challenges. As they say…Bet on yourself. Always.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can follow the work of Experian’s Marketing Services group on our Marketing Forward blog, which can be found here or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.