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Take a Swing at the Story: Jill Thomas, PGA Tour Superstore

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

This is the Authentic Avenue podcast episode featuring Jill Thomas from PGA Tour Superstore, with host Adam Conner.

This is a link you can use to find Authentic Avenue, a marketing podcast hosted by Adam Conner, on Apple Podcasts. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review!

Today I chat with Jill Thomas, who is the CMO / CxO / Head of eCommerce for PGA Tour Superstore, a growing golf retail footprint founded by industry legend Arthur Blank which has everything your golf game needs...except a better approach shot.

Today, we discuss Jill's approach!


FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW: (powered by AI; 100% accuracy not guaranteed; provided by Descript)

Adam Conner: [00:00:00] The game of golf, fascinating, frustrating, and the focus of today's show, or at least that's what I try to take a swing at on this Authentic Avenue.

PGA Tour Superstore: a retail network, where you can get just about everything your golf game needs, except I guess a lower handicap. And today we're on with Jill Thomas, Jill is their chief marketing officer, chief experience officer and head of e-commerce. If you want to know more about the brand, you got to talk to Jill and that journey for her started in January, 2020.

So we talk about what happened after the first 75 days of her tenure, during which the world turned upside down. Golf's momentum since then and how it all plays into that. Great. A word authenticity. We expand on things like the transformation to modern marketing, as well as explore why marketers, if they're supposed to be the great chief storyteller of their business, don't follow the story.

As often as a broad industry, I thought that was an interesting discussion. And then of course, towards the end, we also talk about her definition for the word and advice as to how to achieve it. I've gotten more into golf over the last two years, even caught myself watching it the other day. And it's possible.

You've tried it yourself in the last year or two, at least once. And now you'll get to learn about the business side of it, at least from the retail perspective. So let's tee off, sit down, relax and listen in. As I get real with the PGA Tour Superstore and Jill Thomas.

Hey Jill, how are you doing? Good to chat with you.

Jill Thomas: [00:01:31] I am doing great, Adam. It's good to talk to you as well.

Adam Conner: [00:01:34] I have been a bigger fan of golf over the last year or two than I was historically. We're going to talk today about how that has been mimicked across at least the U S and of course, how it's colored your journey. The first thing that I want to do is to ask about that change that you've made, because anybody who goes in your LinkedIn can see, well, Joel was a leader in food and Bev and hospitality in that way for a long, long time and boom, all of a sudden moved over to the PGA Tour Superstore.

Why was that? And Hey, some people might even be wondering what is the PGA Tour Superstore. So I'm hoping you can enlighten me on both fronts tickets.

Jill Thomas: [00:02:13] All right. That sounds great. So, well, let's start with, what is the PGA Tour Superstore? Um, PGA Tour Superstore is a. A privately held company owned by Arthur Blank.

Um, probably one of the greatest retailers of, of our time. And, uh, it is, we are the largest specialty golf and tennis retailer in the country. Uh, that is our only focus. And, um, we have about just about 50 stores and a great pathway to continue to grow. So that, that tells you a little bit about, what's exciting about the PGA Tour Superstore now.

To be honest, when I joined, um, it was pre pandemic. So I didn't see this incredible growth in golf. Um, I, I, I knew that, um, you know, golf is a game. I have a lot of personal passion for, and I thought it would be really fun to help tell those stories and to get other people as passionate about it as I am.

Um, but I didn't see what was, you know, coming just shortly few months after I started, which was this global. A change in the way people see the game from a game where I have to, you know, a hard game where I have to sort of hit a, a little white volunteer hole, more into this opportunity to, uh, You know, socially, um, connect while physically distancing and be outside and, and mind, body, and spirit and all the great benefits of the game that I think a new audience is discovering, uh, or our current, you know, our existing audience is rediscovering.

So that's sort of the, who the PGA Tour Superstore is. And then, you know, my story is simply this, I, you know, I have great passion for great brands and brands that have the opportunity to tell a great story. And that really transcends any sort of industry. Um, I guess if you look at what. Is consistent about these industries is they're fun and they're lighthearted.

And, um, in my, my mind food service in particular is a great place for a marketer to be because there's so much marketing that is happening, you know, both strategically and tactically and digitally and socially and all the ways that we like to. Connect brands with consumers and consumers with brands. So it's for me, um, you know, I, I really feel very fortunate to have worked in food service and what is again cool for me I've I had the opportunity to work.

Both on the brand side, like at PepsiCo, as well as on the retail side and some of the, um, you know, the chains that I've worked with. Um, and then on the, you know, a brand side, like, or a brand like Cinnabon, which is brand it's, CPG, it's, it's, uh, retail, it's all the things. So just a great training ground and a great way to do a lot of marketing, um, in food service.

So, um, the trans you know, the move to the PGA Tour Superstore was really pretty, a pretty easy decision for me because one, the ownership to the growth, my own personal passion for the game. And then finally this opportunity to really transform the business into a more modern marketing. Um, organization.

And that was really what was most exciting

Adam Conner: [00:05:37] to me. Uh, Arthur blank for folks who don't know exactly who that is. If you go on Wikipedia right now, you'll see, um, co-founder home Depot owns the Atlanta Falcons. So very big in the Atlanta world. Uh, also the owner of, uh, Atlanta United, if you're a soccer fan, like me and now into golf, uh, which is, uh, as I said, a game that I'm getting a little bit more excited for.

I do want to talk about. Who tends to like golf or historically, and then how that's changed. I'm going to ask that in a little bit, because like, frankly, Joe, between you and me and everybody else listening, like for a long time, I kind of just thought golf was like, where business was done about old white folks, cigars, things like that.

So I, you know, I, a lot of people maybe had that perception, obviously last year, people want to get out, we want to do something recreationally golf was also one of the first and only things available. But I want to talk about that in this related momentum in just a second. Let me, let me ask you a question about.

Going back to the story, as opposed to the business, there are certain industries that I've observed. Uh, I think CBD is one of them. The tech has definitely another one in tech is so broad. You'd be like, well, I'm not in that kind of tech I'm in this kind of tech, but whatever. Let's just say tech broadly, once somebody gets that broad vertical expertise, it's been my experience just from observation that they tend to stay there following the story.

While interesting for most people seems to have a limit within those. Let's say two walls of the Verde left and right. Why don't more people. If marketers really are like the chief storyteller, why don't they jump industries more often? Do you think that's just like a sign of the times where last year men, a lot of industries had to rethink what they did and who they brought in, or do you think that it's more of a personal change where folks have seen the last couple of years and thought.

Why not now to change what I do, regardless of what the industries want.

Jill Thomas: [00:07:28] I think it's probably a little of both. I, you know, I will say in food service, um, and restaurants in particular, it, there's a, it's a, it's really kind of a small world and there is a level of comfort and truly understanding that business.

And it's a little different because product in the restaurant world is owned by the marketing. Team generally, you, you usually own the menu. And so there's an innovation component that you get to drive, which is pretty cool. Um, but I think really while Y Y you're seeing some change in that, in that, you know, in that old way of like you stick when one industry is, because I think businesses starting to understand that.

We are the chief storytellers in that transcends industry. And it kind of gets back to, to me what the core of your podcast is all about this idea of authentic, authentic brands and authenticity, which means it's not about the product or the industry as much as it is the consumer and the need that you're solving and your real purpose, like what is the purpose?

So. We've talked about this before, but you know, I can, I use Cinnabon as a great example. If you think it's about selling cinnamon rolls, you're absolutely incorrect. It is about, uh, a moment of respite in a crazy world. It's about just escape and, um, just a P you know, just kind of, it's, it's an amazing, uh, product that when you're in a crazy mall or environment like that, if you can.

You know, stop and enjoy this, this moment. It's just a moment. And in our crazy world, that's important. Um, so same with golf. If you think you're selling golf clubs, you know, then you, you know, that would make changing industries hard. Um, because, well, I, you know, I know about golf clubs, but if you start to realize that we're not really selling golf clubs, what we're selling is access to.

A really cool experience that allows people to physically distance socially connect. It can be very social. It's about building community. It's about connecting with nature. It's it can be mind, body, and spirit if you don't take it too, too seriously. I mean, um, you know, there certainly those who are very serious about their game and it may be, they don't find it know peaceful, but for most of us who are recreational golfers and you know, when you're standing out there in the middle of.

Of nature. It's just, there's something really about well-being that is important. And if you start to, to think about it in that way and get under the purpose of any of these brands in any of these industries. You then really can tell those stories in a compelling way. And, and to me, that's when brands just find their magic and, you know, I'll, I'll use a Chipotle is a great example.

You know, they're not trying to sell you a, uh, a burrito they're trying to, you know, help you improve your lifestyle. And, you know, you know, they really are underneath the, the more of the core and the purpose of the brand and not so much about the product itself. Of course, it's product. Has to deliver. Um, and that's one great thing about the PGA Tour Superstore.

Our stores are beautiful. They're well lit. They're big. We have a lot of assortment. We have really, well-trained helpful associates who live the values of, of, and the culture that Arthur blank has created, which is a very purpose driven, um, brand. And so that makes it very easy for me to tell those beautiful stories and drive people into that environment, because I know that when they get there, they'll, it'll, you know, it all pay off the story will, will be true.

So, um, so to me that that's probably has something to do with it, but, you know, that's, that's my own personal experience.

Adam Conner: [00:11:29] The story has certainly become a priority, hopefully the priority for most, but certainly a priority for many. And what the thing represents rather than what the thing is, is where people who are great storytellers thrive.

I'm glad you're doing that for PGA Tour Superstore. And now I'm glad that you have that beautiful showroom to bring, to bring people back into. I'm going to ask about what happened there last year, when you couldn't do that. I never imagined that even if you were a marketer dedicated to just selling golf clubs and nothing else, I don't think that you would have planned to do so in a parking lot, but we'll come back to that.

And we'll stick to those who are doing marketing in a modern world. Very, very well, by the way, listeners, if you want to go into a deep dive on Chipola, you can check out the episode that came out on December 10th of last year, in which we did that from a social perspective, but let's talk very briefly about marketing in the modern world here, Jill.

And what I mean by modern world is maybe just the world of the last year or two. And to talk about it broadly, where I have seen the most memorable marketing. Campaigns agencies, businesses, uh, progress was a world of, you know, probably the mid 19 hundreds where it was like, look at all the great features of this golf club, you know, whatever it is, then it's the moral bromance and the spokespeople.

And it became really flashy campaigns. And then of course, with the age of social and digital, that brought in a whole new way to express yourself quickly and easily to younger generations. But over the last year or two, it has definitely been a little bit different, even from that again, the story and the purpose and the, how the thing makes you feel is on top.

As I just said, you've talked about this, you've called it the transformation to modern marketing when you're and what is, what is that all about? Because I'm an observer. I'm, I'm not. I'm not in the marketing world every day, at least not from the same perspective that you are. So I'd like to talk about that a little bit and how you're carving out your corner of it.

Jill Thomas: [00:13:28] Great. Marketers are really fairly industry agnostic. If you're customer focused, if you're disciplined and you believe in one simple truth, which is if you ask the customer what they care about or what is important to them, and then you deliver that, that they will reward you. And I mean, to me, that is a very simple idea that sometimes gets lost.

Um, in translation because we have products we want to sell or, you know, goals we need to hit, but I really try to live that. And I try not to get too consumed by, you know, the, the thing. And I really do try to focus on the bigger idea. And so transformation is more modern. Marketing is. Really to me, you know, the world is discovering what great marketers have known all along, which is if you are a customer driven customer focused organization.

Um, at, with, uh, with, uh, with a clear purpose that matters to, to your audience, um, that is where success lives. And so modern marketing to me. And that transformation is certainly about digital and the ecosystem that we create and sure we have to build out our tech stack and we, we have to do those things, um, to put data in the center of what we're doing.

Um, but that for me is really just a modern facilitator of an idea that, um, is, is, is an analog idea, which is the customer is at the center of everything that we do. Um, and it's it, you know, at the end of the day, um, what I mean, when I say transforming this team and others that I've worked on to modern marketing, it is.

Um, it is the enablement. Digital provides the enablement, but it's the evolution from cost center to revenue driver. Meaning the old school marketing CA is seen as like, it costs us money. We spend money on marketing versus seeing your marketing partners as, as a strategic thought partner who can help us drive, um, drive the business and also creates revenue.

Um, on their own and, and, you know, that's really about connecting the customer, leveraging the data and the insight to move beyond a transaction, to a relationship, the better we manage that relationship, the more value we can deliver and in, so we can deliver revenue and we can tie that revenue very specifically to our actions.

So digital has enabled it, but really we've been on this mission for, you know, Since the invention of, of marketing, you know, back in the fifties, you know, so, and the idea is, is really customer driven. So that's what I mean when I say transformation to modern marketing, it's, uh, it's really, you know, this awareness that people are now having, Hey, wait, marketing is more than pretty pictures.

We actually, uh, can deliver. Results.

Adam Conner: [00:16:33] Well, I appreciate your, your thoughts on this. And also, uh, listeners. There's a great visual to go along with it, which I can't do here. Cause it'd be bad radio. But when we first talked, what about this? As an example of it, Jill held up a book that said F the funnel on the front of it, which I thought was very funny.

What are your stack of books right now that you're reading to help you along this journey? I'm curious. Well,

Jill Thomas: [00:16:52] you know, it's funny you asked that because I am a voracious reader. I am, uh, you know, I have, I never am satisfied that I have all the information I need. Um, I am reading this book of the funnel, um, by Jeff Pedowitz and I'm super excited to read it.

Um, it really speaks to what we're talking about. Um, I am trying to learn more about AI. It's a little advanced topics for our brand right now. Um, but I always, I'm trying to sharpen the saw. I read everything. Uh, I never assume I know anything. I listen to podcasts religiously. I years in particular, I listened to, um, I read, I read white papers.

I'm on LinkedIn all the time, downloading the newest, latest information. And I just really try to, you know, stay on top of my game. It doesn't mean that we're, we are not in advanced digital marketing. Uh, team yet, you know, we're moving in that direction. We're pretty small brand, you know, all things considered.

So AI is, is not, we're not quite there yet. You know, we've got some foundational work to do, but I am, you know, I always want to know what's the thing. And then, and then I try to just, you know, I like to read about what marketers, like what was underneath some of the great ideas. You know, Chris brannich fully is one of my, I think he's one of the greatest marketers in the business right now.

You know, I, I really try to know who's doing, you know, who's leading what brands, uh, to your earlier point, a lot of great marketers go from one brand to another. We just saw that with, uh, our friend Fernando Matata at burger king, moving to a different industry. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. And that to me is he's a great storyteller that goes back to your first point.

Um, he can, he can, he can do anything. So anyways, that's, that's, that's sort of, what's on my reading list. I have it's long.

Adam Conner: [00:18:55] Well, maybe we'll get a list of that and put it in the show notes or something, but for now, let's talk about, uh, how, uh, golf has changed over the last year or two. And I'm not just talking about the tech innovations.

It doesn't take long if. You are captured by the algorithm on Tik TOK to see, for example, a top tracer show, a great golf shot. Uh, we're certainly a far cry from almost exactly five years ago when Eldrick the golf robot hit a hole in one on the 16th, the waste management Phoenix open in Scottsdale, but over the last year or two, that change has been much more foundational.

Not only in the feeling that you get when you're out, but the ability to play. And that extends to the rest of the golf world, including yours. You joined the PGA Tour Superstore in January of 20, say you had about two months in a week worth of normalcy before the whole world got thrown upside down. What was that

Jill Thomas: [00:19:46] like?

Yeah, it was crazy by the way. You're a great golf historian. I like that about you. Um, I, you know, honestly, I was so excited about this role in this opportunity. And I could see that there was a great opportunity to evolve the marketing function here. And I had, you know, I've read all the books, the, you know, the first 90 days I was, I had a plan.

I really wanted to do this exactly the right way. I, my thought was I would come in and I would be pretty silent. You know, listen, listen, listen and learn. As much as I could really try to understand, um, you know, the organization, the culture, all those things. And I was kinda cruising along in that, at that, in that path.

And I had already made some, a couple of presentations to our leadership team about my vision, for how I wanted to see things change. And I'll be honest, you know, I think in those early days there was a little bit of, oh, that's, that's cool. That's neat. You know, wouldn't that be nice, you know, kind of like.

Okay. Back to the, our regularly scheduled program. And, and I was like, okay, that's fine. Because that's part of the learning process uses is the cultural understanding of, you know, where you're trying to take things. And, and that gave me a signal, which was, it might, it might take me a little bit longer, you know, because I have to.

Educate and I have to influence and try to help people understand what we're, what we want to be. Um, you know, where the direction we want to move to, and then to your point, the world turned upside down. And so then all of a sudden, all those things I had been talking about personalization and data and data-driven insights and putting the customer in the center of what we're doing and.

All those things that I have been talking about became absolutely critical. And, um, and, and, and, you know, so in that, in that very short period of time, it was less than 90 days. Um, I went from, let me sort of like sit back and, you know, take my time here to a huge sense of urgency and that, and that really changed, changed a lot of, uh, of what we were doing.

Adam Conner: [00:22:00] Probably great then that you already had a good deal of e-commerce experience coming in, but once things did settle in, let's say first quarter, maybe even second, we'll probably second quarter of 20. I would have to think that also served really great cause like where otherwise you would sit there and, and listen and sponge for awhile and then take thoughtful action with everybody looking around and being like, what should we do?

You must have had a hell of a lot more agency from not day one, but maybe day 75 than most.

Jill Thomas: [00:22:33] Absolutely. I mean, you know, at the beginning, uh, it was, you know, we're an experiential retailer. We take great pride in that. And our mission is to drive people into the store. We want to. Talk to people about their game.

We want to understand what their actual needs are. We don't just want to sell them products. We want to really customize their, um, their product set based on their individual game and their needs and their goals for their own game. And, you know, certainly there's like really some cool digital ways you can do that in the virtual world.

But when you, your core focus is, is in store. Those feel like X, like X. Expenses that maybe you're not quite ready to take on, but that was what was required. You know, once we started closing our doors, I mean, it was very obvious to me what was about to happen. So to your point about my e-commerce background was extremely helpful.

Um, and, and just sort of a digital mindset anyways, but it was, um, You know, I just immediately kind of settled into, okay. We have to be extremely nimble. We have to be extremely flexible. We have no idea what the future holds. So how can, how can we position ourselves to really serve the needs of the business?

You know, so w you know, we were challenged by this duality, this, how do you find a way to develop new and compelling digital experiences? While ensuring we maintain our commitment to the experience in the physical store. That was, that was where we started. That was before COVID right. And honestly, some people here saw those as competing agendas.

When I would talk about. Digital or digital experiences. Some people would say things like, well, we want people to go into the store. Of course we want people to go into the store, but this idea of how do you create a parallel virtual world that kind of delivers those same, the same wonderful feelings and experiences as someone in the physical store.

Um, but immediately as we began closing the store was evident that e-commerce was going to play this larger role in our response and being from food service for fortunately curbside was the easiest thing. Uh, it, it came very early and it was like a no brainer and we did it. And once we did that and the organization saw the incredible success that an enabled it, put all those other virtual experiences back on the table.

So we did virtual lessons. Virtual personal shopping, Facebook live events. We added functionality to the website, true fit for those who couldn't try things on. We added a variety of new payment, convenience options, like apple pay and quad pay to make purchases more affordable and the organization fully supported and got behind all those ideas.

And it, it, it really clearly paid off. So. When you're reliant on just your physical space for great brand experience, you know, taking that physical space out of of service can present, you know, a pretty big risk. So having the digital footprint to compliment the in-store experience is always the goal pre pandemic and post pandemic for us, that journey continues, but it is elevated quite significantly.

Because of our experience during the pandemic, and now this sorts of recognition that you need to have both. And that is a no it's. Now it's no longer a nice to have. It is a must have

Adam Conner: [00:26:06] it's a must have, especially now, because once space was scarce, now it is opening up. There's plenty, more space, not just inside the store, but.

On the course. So I'm curious because we are tiptoeing back to a 100% world. There's a heck of a lot of momentum to capitalize on how are you doing that? And I can't finish this question that making a reference to having some fun along the way I want you to tell me about, I believe how you described it was the biggest unseen video of all time.

Jill Thomas: [00:26:42] Yeah, I did call it that. Didn't I, um, well, listen. So very early recognize that golf just happened to be one of those things that was bringing some positive. Energy into people's lives in this time where so much not positive, you know, negative. I don't want to say negative, but just, you know, such

Adam Conner: [00:27:06] a negative,

Jill Thomas: [00:27:09] it was pretty awful.

Right. So, you know, all of a sudden we said, you know what? Our purpose is no longer just to sell people stuff to enable them. To play it. It's also to be Sam fans, serving fans and have some fun with it. So, you know, we started in parallel to. Uh, you know, all of the things we were doing with e-commerce on the selling side, we also just really tried to amplify our social, um, voice.

We tried to have more fun. We had tried to be more present. We had to try to make people laugh and think of new ways to. To really kind of use golf as the starting point, but kind of bring it more into life experiences. So we, we created a lot of content that I'm really proud of, and I say, it's the least, it's the most unseen because we're small and we don't have a big media budget, but we did invest quite a bit in the content itself.

Um, you know, w we did, you know, one user generated spot that was about playing through, which I know a lot of golf brands have used that I really feel like we were the first to use that. And, and just this whole idea of like, showing some positive moments about bringing families together, bringing, spending time together, being outside, being, you know, healthy and in terms of exercise and movement and.

Um, mind, body and spirit. So that was sort of the, like the way we were moving forward. But the, the greatest unseen video of all time is we created a two minute, two and a half minute mockumentary about the quiet sign guy. So as you, as you probably know, if you're watching golf Tournament and the golf Tournaments had come back.

But the fans were born back then. So, which was a bummer because, you know, we love to get out there and watch our heroes play the game and, and the marshals or the volunteers at, at Mo at every golf Tournament, there's, you know, upwards of 1200 volunteers at most of these major PGA events. They, they weren't, we didn't, they weren't back on the scene because they.

Um, you know, there were no fans there. So the quiet sign guy or the guy who holds up the quiet sign, you know, what was he doing? What was he doing all this time? Because he takes that job very, very seriously. And so, you know, we wanted to highlight and feature what we thought the quiet sign guy might do.

And, and honestly it is, to me, it is hysterical. It is definitely. You know, in the best of show, kind of, um, the mockumentary style, there's a lot of little details and a little comments in there, and little hints of, of, you know, how seriously he takes his job. And I absolutely love it. It's something I'm super proud of, but I can't say, you know, it wasn't, it certainly didn't go viral and it, it certainly, you know, wasn't seen by millions of people maybe.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people, but it, it, it to me is, was really what the spirit of what we were trying to do, which is just to bring a smile to people, uh, in a moment that they needed it.

Adam Conner: [00:30:22] That's a hell of a lot more of an authentic game than virality going from millions of views. You know, listeners, I'll put a link to it in the show notes here and, and I'll, and I'll probably put it as a separate post on LinkedIn too.

Cause I thought I saw it. I thought it was great.

Jill Thomas: [00:30:35] It's funny. So many, um, note or notables in our industry, Nick Faldo, the golf channels morning drive, um, uh, cast. They all did it. Everyone did it for no cost. Everyone was so willing to give us their time because everyone was looking for ways to bring a smile to.

People's faces. And so, you know, we, we were able to pull it off with some pretty, um, there's some pretty famous voices and people in it and, and really, it was very, you know, reasonable in terms of how much we spent on it. Um, but I, again, I'm super proud of it. I would love that you would link it. Cause I think more people should see it just to put a smile on their face.


Adam Conner: [00:31:17] yeah, just to give them an idea of like what telling the story. Really is all about, I mean, there is nothing, no view count is going to tell you how genuine something is. This podcast doesn't have a million listeners. That'd be cool, but it doesn't, it's all about the conversations that we have

Jill Thomas: [00:31:33] agreed.

I didn't really create it for that purpose. We created it to really show that we understood what people were going through and we understood. We understand the game. Like we know that the quiet sign guy is an important player in the world. Like people think about the professional golfer or the patrons at an event.

Um, but those volunteers really make those events happen and we wanted to sort of pay homage to them. So that was what was fun about it.

Adam Conner: [00:32:00] Sure. That could be a building block of what authenticity is to you. I'm going to, I have two more questions here. It questions that I asked most people last one. I ask everybody it's second, last one.

I don't really. Do it every time, but I, I kind of want to, cause I'm kind of working on this like one word dictionary where I'm asking people what they think of this word. So as the penultimate, let me ask you, um, how you broadly think about this, this big, a word authenticity. Maybe even how you define it.

And if there are within that, like, I guess to use the nomenclature, like, can you use it in a sentence? Maybe? Can you tell me some of the, I'll say avenues, cause that's this show name some of the ways in which PGA Tour Superstore manifests it?

Jill Thomas: [00:32:38] Authenticity. It's probably why I love your podcast and the purpose of your podcast.

Because to me, it is the most critical idea that we need to bring to the table as marketers or marketing leaders for our brands. And, and what it means to me is your, the ability to step outside of yourself and outside of the product you are selling and really put the customer first and deliver those.

Things that matter to them and, and find the way to connect the brand to the consumer and the consumer to the brand and tell those stories in a way that demonstrates that you get it. And you know, so that, it's a, it's a bit of a long answer. It's not a one word answer, but it really, for me, Um, I, you know, I, I like to use Cinnabon as an example because it's a brand everyone's pretty familiar with and it's so iconic.

And, you know, in terms of the product itself, you know, it's a brand that's a 35 year old brand that's created by a single product, which is pretty amazing, but. It's not about the cinnamon roll. You know, it is really about what it is the metaphor for. And if you think about who the consumer is for that product, primarily are those who drive the social conversation for Cinnabon.

It is the most highly diverse, most socially conscious, highly educated at a young female primarily. And oftentimes they don't actually even eat the product. They just. Use it as a, as a way to talk about their love of something. It's like the ultimate sign of love. And for once we understood that we understood that audience.

We were doing partnerships with the female quotient, which is about, you know, driving empowerment for women and in businesses that are historically male driven and, and building confidence in young women. And it just like opens the door up to so many different. Ideas. And, and, and that to me is where authenticity is born.

It's born in this true understanding of who do you serve and what do they care about? Um, and, and more, you know, more importantly, not, not those, like you said, the, you know, the features and benefits truly in their heart. What is this about? And, and that to me is, is the root of authenticity. And that really today, if you are not an authentic brand, you know, you are really, uh, got a tough, you got a tough putt as they like to say, because, um, it is so obvious, I think in 2021 in the way that consumers.

Get information and experience brands and seek out they're more proactive. They have access to so much more information. You really have to walk the talk. And that's what authenticity is.

Adam Conner: [00:35:37] Well, I think that's a, that was a very thoughtful description, especially with using these a little bit of terminology.

Let me, let me attempt to, to use some of my own here's. I moved to the last question, which is going to be around advice. Lots of people that listen to this show, they're either marketing leaders already, or they're people who are hoping to get their folks who emulate your journey. Joel, for instance, And they are looking for ways in which the people, they look up to carve their own avenues to authenticity.

Because even though we are on the backend of these, uh, awful, awful times that I refer to as negative, but you know, there are some positive there. Let's just say that some folks who are either struggling to find a job or worried to jump or, uh, feel like they're spinning their wheels, feel like they might have a bit of a difficult lie.

And they're not quite sure where to go, not quite sure how to define themselves. They're tied to other things as opposed to their own purpose and telling their own story or telling a story as opposed to a bottom line. You've had experience breaking out of that. And so I'd be curious to know, as we close, how would you advise those folks on how to build their own avenues to authenticity?

Whether it be for themselves or for their businesses?

Jill Thomas: [00:36:45] That's such a deep question. And, and, you know, I could be very vulnerable and tell you, you know, when you're, uh, Oh, a person and a woman in business, or you're the, you know, trying to create a career, uh, or support a family. You know, you might find yourself in a position where you're not fully fulfilled, but you feel you have obligations or the world is going through what we just went through and therefore your opportunities are more limited.

I would really give a couple pieces of advice, um, to, to especially, you know, specifically to marketers. Um, but I think the first piece is really to anyone and we spoke to it at great length. So I won't, I won't over, over speak to it, but really never lose your intellectual curiosity, become an expert at something.

The world is at our fingertips through the power of the internet and we can get education virtually and we can read and we can really, um, Kind of hone in our craft in our area, our point of view, um, through, through work, you know, through that intellectual curiosity, read, read, read, listen, if that's more your style, um, there's so many free and easy ways to continue to drive your education.

And learn and build connections and reach out to people. Um, you know, I guess that that'd be a subset of it. You know, I, I can't tell you how many people I connect to on LinkedIn and that, I don't know that I just say, Hey, I think what you're doing is awesome. And I'd love to like, be a part of your network and they never say no, you know, I have people reach out to me all the time and say that.

And I always say yes, because, um, you know, I feel like it's my. My part of my role and as a, as a mentor and as a person who wants to help other people grow. Um, so, you know, don't be shy, just get out there and ask the questions that's that intellectual curiosity is, is I think applies to sort of anyone, but in any marketer, the most important piece of advice I would give is really.

Understand that it isn't about digital or analog. It's about the customer, what they need and what they care about and always making it your priority to know and understand them and advocate for them always passionately, even when someone challenges that and so said differently, this idea of practicing radical empathy for your customer, I think is the most important.

Attribute a marketer can have today and we have all kinds of cool ways to get that insight. Um, that's sort of neither here nor there really it's the personal passion and commitment to advocating for, for the customer always. So th those are my two pieces of advice.

Adam Conner: [00:39:40] Now, listeners, if you need, or if you're asking yourself, for example, let's go to that.

Build a niche expertise and just reach out and ask questions. Do you need another proof point than what you're listening to right now. I mean, that is advice that I taught even before I met Jill years ago. I thought if I just ask questions, I'll learn a ton. I'll develop something that I'm really good at and I'll build my own authentic journey that way.

Now it happens to be on the very word that I build that authentic journey. But think about it for yourself. Where can you this week? Ask somebody who you look up to, who you admire, who can you connect with? Who can you ask one question to start there and let it snowball for now. You can listen to this as a proof point that it works.

And this conversation today, a great manifestation of a Jill. I really appreciate you coming on telling me your story. Wow. What a wild ride you've had since your you're moved to PGA Tour Superstore, but I'm so glad that, uh, that you guys are, are firmly in the fairway for what's to come. And I for now greatly appreciate your perspective.

Jill Thomas: [00:40:42] Thanks. Thank you so much, Adam. It was a pleasure

Adam Conner: [00:40:46] before signing off here. I'm going to circle back to that advice bit for just a second. What Jill said is exactly what I did to build my niche expertise and ultimately a business, my authentic journey, truly write down a couple of people who you can reach out to this week and just send one note.

One note, I think it'll pay off, try it and let me know what you think when you do. Here's where you can find me and where you can stay in contact. Even beyond this episode, I'm on LinkedIn. That's where most of my social stuff happens. Adam Conner authentic avenue. Follow both pages. And you can write me an email,

Let me know what you're thinking about the show who I should have on next. And if podcasting is going to become part of your journey, cause I have plenty of expertise there to show you. I'm going to make the turn now sign off and I'll see you next week with another great story and marketing leader to learn about how that a word manifests itself in this world.

And until then I'm Adam Conner saying: until the next time I get real again with you. Thanks for taking a walk with me down Authentic Avenue.


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