Deirdre Findlay is the global CMO and Chief Revenue at Conde Nast, where she oversees all consumer marketing efforts and is focused on driving consumer revenue, brand development, audience insights and growth, digital strategy, and increasing subscriptions and memberships. She was previously the CMO at Stitch Fix. In this Masterclass Recap, she shares how she carved out a new role at Conde Nast, the key questions to hone in on when growing audiences and revenue streams and how to ensure leadership buy-in.
How was it to go from Stitch Fix—we know they’ve IPO’d, but still that kind of nimble startup environment to a legacy media company like Conde Nast?
I think it is important to realize that everyone wants to put Stitch Fix into this startup bucket, but when I joined, they already had over 4000 employees and did 1.2 billion in revenue that first year I was there. This year, they're on track to do over 2 billion in revenue, so not really a startup. When I think about the distinction, it's more of a distinction as a disrupter and Stitch Fix is very much a disruptive brand. Conde Nast is a private company with roughly 6000 employees globally, 37 brands and titles in 32 plus markets, published in 26 languages. It's just a different journey. But some of the basic principles remain the same. Stitch Fix is a strong brand, but a brand that requires explanation.
When you think about Conde Nast, especially a brand like Vogue that's been around for over 100 years, and other storied brands like GQ, The New Yorker, Wired and Vanity Fair, how do you take these storied brands and continue to drive relevance with an audience in a new way? Going beyond the legacy of the print business and thinking about an increasing digital landscape. The transition for me was to apply the same fundamentals that I would apply anywhere else, to make sure that you understand the business really well.
We're investing in the consumer revenue streams of today, and also building the consumer revenue streams of tomorrow. The framework we have is around optimizing, innovating and incubating.
Conde Nast is certainly a lot more complex and nuanced than Stitch Fix was when I joined—given the number of brands, given a number of markets and that we were in the middle of this major reinvention as a company. Roger Lynch joined two years ago, as the first ever global CEO of Conde Nast. We're still in the midst of defining what it means to be a global company— understanding the business and the complexity, then leaning into understanding the consumer, which is more complicated because you have all of these brands and different audiences.
Once you've done all of that, it's thinking about where the white space is. Where's the opportunity, and what's the strategic framework that I want to put in place to drive the business and make an impact in a meaningful way? After doing that, you have to socialize that framework and make sure that you have buy-in at the strategic level amongst leadership. Then you kind of push the visions throughout the organization both within my team and in all of the teams we partner with, from editorial, especially editorial as one of our key strategic partners - to others. Then you have to execute and execute flawlessly, and make sure you get some big wins at the beginning, so you can start to show momentum and progress while working towards some of the harder bigger initiatives that are going to drive meaningful step change growth for the company. That’s, in a nutshell, how I approached it.
When you think about CMO role, there is a framework of what a CMO means. Yet at Conde Nast you crafted something that you thought the organization needed. What would be a key difference between your current role and the traditional CMO role?
At Stitch Fix, 100% of my job was a traditional CMO role. At Conde Nast, it's about 30% of my job, the other 70% is more of a president of consumer revenue type role. I spend 70% of my time leaning into audience development. I have an amazing audience development team that helps us understand who the audience is that we have today, who are the audiences that we want to have in the future and how do we build towards that?
I also have an amazing commerce team that's really leaning into how we can monetize the significant trust that we have with our consumers. This is not from a sales and ad revenue perspective, this is our editors endorsing products they believe in on a daily basis. How do we make sure that 1) we're capturing some value from that expertise, so that everything from affiliate commerce - ensuring that we are linking to the right products we're promoting, to 2) more of a drop-ship model where we're providing a vehicle to link our audience to brands that fulfill, and get their products in the hands of our consumers, to 3) more of a kind of branded merchandise experience. Those are three lanes within commerce that have been big drivers.
For us, subscriptions are obvious, both the print, which is the expected, but also digital subscriptions. One of the newer scenarios we're leaning into is memberships. How do you capitalize on the amazing relationships we have in our audience and turn that into unique propositions that are more complex. What's exciting to me is this perfect bridge between marketing and business. I'm a business person first, I just happened to major in marketing to solve business problems. This is a role that's really enabled me to do that in a fun and exciting way.
How do you look at segmenting audiences? What are the psychographics or demographics that you're leaning into? Then how are you thinking about what is missing?
Given the direct relationship we have with our audience, we have some good insights. Our team looks at this specifically for each br