Celebrating the innovators, risk-takers and change agents that are building the products of the future within large organizations.

Q&A with Jennifer Campbell

Canada Post is a 250-year-old monolith that aims to move at the speed of a startup. Jennifer Campbell has applied her intrapreneurial mindset to help the organization reimagine how it makes money, leading its marketing, direct mail, and personal delivery products and services. Canada Post is now the number one parcel-delivery service in Canada, and they’ve recently started earning a reputation as an innovator. How are they doing it? This installment taps into Jennifer’s ten-year career at the organization, and her lessons learned “thinking inside the box” to bring direct mail and deliveries into the 21st century.

What does intrapreneurship mean to you? How would you define it?

An intrapreneur is an entrepreneur – either a person or a small team – working within the confines, and with the benefits, of a large organization. Ultimately they play a powerful role in impacting the entire organization and beyond, within certain parameters, and with the benefits of support structures. Success means you have to get creative within those confines. At Canada Post, we’re 250-year-old monolith that aims to think more like a startup. So the principles of intrapreneurship are definitely important in our organization.  I also strive to lead my team with that perspective: what can we do that is new, that is different, that will move us forward? My job is to inspire the team, and remove obstacles along the way.

Tell me about your day job: How do you do what you do? What motivates you to keep moving forward?

I just revised my role, actually. For the last couple years, I’ve been leading our B2B marketing efforts for mid and large companies, to support all of our parcels delivery products and services, and our direct mail offerings, both through multi-channel marketing programs, and extensive support for our Sales teams.

We’re now the number one parcel-delivery company in Canada. Over 70% of all B2C parcels are delivered by Canada Post. This has come with significant effort and coordination both internally and with our industry partners, to support e-commerce in Canada. It continues to be very inspiring to work with pure plays, and multichannel merchants, and see them grow and evolve. As Canadians grow to embrace e-commerce, the playing field continues to morph. It is great to be a part of that.

I have spent the last 2 years leading multiple efforts to re-frame direct mail in the minds and hearts of marketers. The outcome of the research, insights and efforts is now known as Smartmail Marketing™. This isn’t a product play, but indeed, a positioning, and a reminder of the power of physical in the marketing mix. So, we need to educate an entire industry. In getting there, we have worked with  Publicis, our advertising agency giving us an edge on strategy and positioning, and of course, creation of our multi-channel marketing initiatives.

About 9 years ago, my team created an intrapreneurship event – Think Inside the Box – to educate, inspire, and ultimately drive action in the direct marketing industry. It was a huge success: What started as a handful of customers in one of our meeting rooms has become a sell-out event. Last fall, we hit over 700 RSVPs when we only had room for 500. In response, we created similar customer forums across the country, which have been very well-received.

I also lead our presence at trade shows. It’s very important for us that we properly represent all our products and services. There’s nothing I like better than people saying, ‘wow, I wouldn’t think that about Canada Post,’ and consider us in a new light in terms of what we can do for their business.

In terms of what motivates me, it’s education. I feel strongly that Canada Post is an influencer in the marketplace. So, how do we get the amazing research we have into the minds and hands of the next generation of marketers, and how can we integrate that with formal education settings, associations, and agencies? Because management and I agree that this is a key priority, but with so much to do, it never made it past the corner of my desk, we created a new role and focus for me – Influencer Marketing, one I’m really excited about. It’s that ability to evolve my focus, and identify and grow new areas of opportunity that keeps me excited about my job. I would say that’s intrapreneurship at its finest.

Describe the most interesting project you’ve worked on, recently. What happened? What were the results of your work?

Reframing direct mail and introducing Smartmail Marketing has definitely been the highlight. Direct mail has been a powerful marketing channel for decades; however, over the last 6-8 years, as digital and social have taken hold, we’ve watched marketers lose focus on incorporating direct mail into the mix. And they are missing out!

To study the value of direct mail, we conducted neuro-marketing research, using EEG and eye-tracking glasses, measuring the impact on the brain of direct mail and digital marketing. At the end of the day, the impact of physical objects like direct mail was outstanding. This research laid the foundation for what we now call Smartmail Marketing.   We focus on the importance of Physicality, Data and Connectivity. It’s not a new product, but indeed, an important approach to integrated marketing. This evidence-based approach, and the quality of the marketing materials my team and I have created is starting to change the conversation. That’s very thrilling to me. The organization has embraced it too. Hearing these conversations internally, in the hallways, as well as in the marketing industry is exciting, too. We still have a way to go, but it is definitely gaining momentum. It’s not about choosing one channel over another, but instead, the power of strategically using them together to drive action.

How do you create an environment and culture where innovation projects can move forward and ultimately thrive?

To be truly successful, it needs to happen at multiple levels. I encourage my team to come to me with ideas, some rationale, and a lot of passion. And then I ask what they need from me. Sometimes, it’s to get involved. Other times, it’s to help them navigate some hurdles. And sometimes, it’s to cheer them on. I have built a team that supports each other, and so they know that if they need help, all they need to do is ask. This approach has allowed us to create our own events, define how we “show up” at industry events, and really reposition our marketing efforts.

At a broader level, we’ve got an amazing executive development program called LEAD. It’s team-based, cross-functional, and encourages integrated thinking. Each cohort kicks off with several days of intensive sessions, and each team is assigned a real-life Canada Post business problem in addition to their day job; they’ll work with colleagues who they’ve never met before this session, and come up with opportunities and solutions. At the end of the timeframe, each team presents their opportunities to a panel of executives. I participated in this program several years ago, and two of our proposals have actually been brought to life. Like any training I have done, my objective is not to just end up with another dusty binder on a shelf.

It also helps to have somebody at the helm who can remove some of the barriers your team may face by empowering them and helping them progress. When he came to Canada Post, our president, Deepak Chopra, revived some work that went on to become the Canada Post app – he gave that team the support and technology they needed to get the job done. The app now has millions of downloads; and as our e-commerce business grows, so does its functionality. To encourage this kind of innovation, I allow my team to voice complexities and challenges, help them navigate around roadblocks inherent to a large organization, and create a safe playground best I can.

Last but not least, I like piloting things. It gives us a little bit more permission to fail eloquently and fast if we have to. As a direct marketer, it’s all about test and learn; innovation is very similar. You come up with an idea, try different things, and see what works. Then, you roll out the winners.

What are some of the skills and tools you rely on to succeed? When hiring, how do you identify that type of thinking?

I hire based on expertise, passion, creativity and curiosity. With a potential employee, I’m asking myself, do they really understand the role that marketing plays? How passionate are they about marketing? What are the instances where they’ve shown they can come up with ideas and complete them? What I’m looking for is the skills that enable thinking through an idea, and the guts to go forward with it.

Another thing I look for is a team mentality, which is important for “fit” with the dynamics of my team. Everyone helps each other, typically without even being asked, and no job is too small. Each hire helps create a secure environment within our team, where they can bounce ideas off each other and come forward with ideas. When I’m hiring the right people into an environment where I have the ability to support them, I get to see good ideas take flight, and that’s very rewarding.

Which company / large organization is doing innovation well? Who do you look up to and feel inspired by? Who are you mentored by?

From a marketing perspective, IKEA is a big one: they consistently create a physical catalogue that Canadians keep and refer to, then augment that user experience by bringing mobile into the mix. You can hover your smartphone over the page and see how an item will look in your home. That’s the future of how we’ll interact with advertising. And it’s the perfect example of Connectivity—bringing physical and digital marketing together.

I’m also inspired by companies like Frank & Oak and Warby Parker that appreciate the importance of physical location; they’re opening stores so that consumers can get the full experience. It’s an interesting trend, that more businesses understand the importance of having the omni-channel presence for the consumer, and how pure-play e-commerce retailers are transitioning and making it work. In the late 90s, I worked at TD Bank, and we thought, ‘oh we won’t need tellers and people because everything will go online.’ Instead, TD has opened new branches and extended its hours, because it’s still a great sales channel.  As much as we’re online, heads down, we still like to interact with humans. Not for everything, but for some things.

What are the most common mistakes or pitfalls you have seen large organizations make in regards to intrapreneurship? How do you break through and overcome those barriers?

Larger organizations can become overly process-driven. Doing something that isn’t part of the rules can be almost impossible. Organizations of many sizes can be risk-averse and become paralyzed as a result. When this happens, it’s much harder to build an intrapreneurial spirit. It will be a bigger risk for those brave enough to try.

I also think nobody really wants failure. But the organizations that penalize employees for failure don’t innovate. To inspire creativity and innovation, organizations must protect people who take risks. Otherwise, people are afraid of giving new ideas life.

How do you keep on top of what’s coming next, that would influence the way you think and work? Is there a set of rules that you live by?

I try and read everything I can. Newsletters and articles about marketing, e-commerce, content from professional associations, and other resources. We’re even looking at implementing a platform where we can access and share those articles centrally. I’m also constantly talking with people – there are a lot of smart and interesting people on my team, and because we’re at a lot of trade shows and industry events, I meet a lot of people that way, too. And of course, I’m always looking at design trends and what’s happening in other industries. Things like the impact of drones on parcel-delivery, or home 3D printers, might be big disruptors for us. By looking at developments well beyond one’s industry, new opportunities, and risks, can be identified.

In terms of a set of rules I live by, it would definitely be about attempting to balance work and life. Balance is incredibly important. When you’re exhausted, it’s hard to come up with great ideas. Sometimes the most amazing people are the hardest working, and you need to force them to take a break. Having an interest or hobby that is very different from one’s day job is important for perspective. I spent a number of years as a board member for an amazing charity… and my team knows I will be at my happiest if I have logged at least a few kilometres’ run before work—it’s when I do my best thinking and plotting!