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Oct 13, 2004
Interview

Best Buy's Chief Marketing Officer Michael Linton Discusses What He Looks for in Marketing Hires

SUMMARY: Want to work for Best Buy? Turns out they prefer marketing exec candidates with a variety of experiences -- outside of just plain vanilla retail. After all, Linton himself came from P&G and the insurance industry. Learn more about the man and his marketing philosophy here:
“Deodorant, bleach, and toilet paper.”

In his words, those are the basic consumer goods that eventually propelled Michael Linton to his current position Chief Marketing Officer at Best Buy.

After getting his MBA from Duke 20 years ago, Linton worked his way up the ladder at Procter & Gamble. He started a brand assistant, and became a brand manager for such household names as Safeguard deodorant. “They train you well.” Top two lessons Linton learned at P&G:

o A brand must stand for a consistent benefit to a targeted market.

o Each ostensibly discrete activity in the corporate organization must lead to added brand value.

Later, Linton served as Marketing Manager, and then General Manager for Progressive Insurance. Top two lessons at Progressive -- the power of pricing, distribution and merchandising; and, the necessity of marketers to interact with colleagues from these three disciplines.

When hiring marketers at Best Buy, Linton looks for people with a similar variety of experience. “In retail, marketing is not the be all and end all. I must deal with cross-functional groups. That’s why I need well-rounded people on my team.”

In particular, he seeks three key qualities:

1. Can they grow past their current job? 2. Are they a good fit within Best Buy’s entrepreneurial culture? 3. Do they possess good people skills that enable them to connect with colleagues in multiple departments?

How does all this play out every day at Best Buy?

“Retail is a balance between today and tomorrow,” he says. “You gotta keep moving stuff through your business. You can’t have an off month. There’s a balance between a short-term focus – give customers what they want today – and building the competencies for tomorrow. You can’t succeed in retail without a great merchandising and operating function.”

Case in point: Best Buy created an exclusive deal with the Rolling Stones to sell a DVD called “Four Flicks” featuring concert and documentary footage.

Priced at $29.99, it went platinum almost immediately andwent on to become the biggest selling music DVD in history.

Why? The power of joining the two brands -- the Stones and Best Buy -- made it possible “achieve sales results that neither party could have achieved separately."

“With that Rolling Stones DVD, we had to get a lot of product to the shelves, right away,” Linton says. “We had to re-do the stores, feature the DVD in inserts and TV ads, and run inventory on this product for months in advance. We put it on our web site. Now, that’s more than marketing. It was an integration of several company functions -– marketing, advertising, merchandising, communications, supply chain management, and retail operations.”

Now Linton's team are poised to begin marketing a similar DVD deal with Elton John in November 2004. The results should be tremendous.

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