Leadership Huddle With Harry Arnett, Callaway Golf

It’s time for the fourth installment of Leadership Huddle, a series on the blog where leaders in sport and beyond offer perspective on digital today. Some of the guests work directly in digital while others are leaders outside of the space (but get the work and advocate for it).

This installment of the Leadership Huddle features Harry Arnett, the CMO at Callaway Golf. Arnett has been at Callaway for more than six years. In his role his serves as the SVP of Marketing for Callaway Golf and the President of Ogio. Before arriving at Callaway, Arnett worked at TaylorMade – adidas Golf and Russell Athletic.

Arnett is a true advocate for the digital space. He has built a culture where digital and content is priority, ideas flow freely and brand fandom is encouraged. If you follow Callaway Golf on social, that probably comes as no surprise. They’re innovative, engaging and one of the best follows in sports. Below is the Q&A. I hope you enjoy the perspective and insights.

It’s evident that Callaway has invested heavily in digital, content & innovation as core to its business. What was the catalyst for going “all in”?

Ultimately, we want to be wherever the consumer is and obviously with so much technology being available for connectivity, we felt that being dedicated to feeding peoples’ needs to curate their brand experiences was the right way to go. That meant behaving more like a media entity with daily engagement and round the clock content than it did functioning like a traditional OEM or consumer products brand.

I’ve seen social be attributed as part of the formula for success of Callaway’s Growth. Clearly, you all have a mature approach to digital. What are the keys to building a strong strategy that maps back to business?

The key is to not treat social in a silo or separate from the brand, but instead, as an integral and vital part of consumer engagement. We put social engagement as a starting point for all of our brand activities, even leading with it.

We view availability and accessibility to our brand as a way to directly interact with our fans rather than relying solely on traditional media. We let what was happening in real time via social media inform the rest of our brand and marketing activities. It gave us a freshness and currency that has created a noticeable and needed energy for our brand.

A lot of organizations struggle with the fact that organic social/content does not always have a direct tie to revenue. What role do you think organic social and content play in the business? And, how can teams think more strategically about its value?

We want to be top of mind for consumers at all times, not just when they are further down the purchase funnel. So constantly engaging via social media is a major part of that strategy so that people look at us more than just a transactional or only think of us occasionally.

In our context, that means getting golfers specifically to be thinking of Callaway as a valuable partner in their entire golf experience, Monday through Sunday, not just on the weekends when they are playing or on an even more infrequent basis. From that standpoint, strategically, thinking broadly about how your brand might fit into a larger frame of reference for a current user or a potential user can carve out interesting opportunities that maybe don’t have as much competition. In our case, that was definitely a white space in our competitive landscape.

You seem to be an extremely engaged CMO, even actively participating in live shows, podcasts, etc. Why is it important for you to be so engaged at this level?

We think it’s important for consumers to appreciate that these are real people working on our brands, making our products, teaching them the game, and working around the clock to deliver a unique experience for them. I love that interaction with people who like our brand and our company. It’s really important for me personally to know that my job is truly to be of service to them.

Many social and digital teams report into leadership who is not as engaged (and have never done the work). For teams whose leadership is not as engaged, what advice do you have on educating and getting buy-in?

Find a way to let the leadership be a part of it. That can be as simple as reviewing all the activities within the function on a regular basis or even allowing them to be integrated with the content. Understand that a lot of what happens in social media is an abstraction to people who traditionally work in very concrete terms. So,  making abstractions concrete is really important.

An example of that would be to not necessarily talk about brand impressions, but more about the audience you’re reaching and the engagement that audience has with your ad messaging. In this sense, ad messaging is your social media executions.

What have you learned about setting digital/content teams up for success?

First thing, be fanatical about the type of environment you want to create. Ultimately, for social to be effective, you have to have an organization that welcomes the freewheeling and ever-changing dynamics within the social sphere. And not only to embrace it but to actually thrive creatively within it.

You have to let people have the freedom to experiment with the brand executions. And of course, to do that, everyone who touches the platforms and the end consumer has to know and love the brand more than anyone.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for digital in organizations today? And, how can teams work to offset these challenges?

It’s dealing with the relationships the brand has with consumers in an environment where the rate of change in digital is entirely too fast to try to predict. And, it all unfolds transparently because of the interconnectivity of all the stakeholders.

Finally, what excites you most about the future of digital and business?

It’s a playing field where creativity is rewarded much more than getting it perfect. So personally, it’s awesome to wake up every day and be around the most creative people doing work they love. That’s a nice place for a brand to be.

A big thank you to Harry Arnett for his time and perspective. Connect with him: LinkedIn and Twitter. And, be sure to follow the Callaway Golf across digital for some great inspiration.

If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure to read the others from this series: Eric SanInocencio, Graham Neff and Brendan Hannan.

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