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Curators of the Retail Brand

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An interesting word is being used in a new and fresh way in the marketing world: curation. Attendees at March’s INNOVATE 2011 heard it used by speakers in a variety of ways. It is a vital function of retail CMOs and senior marketing executives because they are, above all,
curators of their brand.

Curation is defined as the selection of, care for and presentation of objects entered into a collection, whether that collection is physical (items in a museum) or digital (entries in a website like Wikipedia). The emphasis of curation may vary among:
The selection process — like the use of expertise or expert advice to decide what items or content should be added to a collection or archive.

The caretaking process — controlling the decay of historical objects (census records) or biological specimens (insects or flowers).

Presentation — determining how objects or records are displayed, including what metadata will be displayed along with them.

All three of the processes above are used by retail marketing teams and CMOs to keep their brands relevant to today’s fickle consumer.

Marketers select what tools and messages are appropriate for their audience through the use of research and data on consumer behavior, product choices and media analysis. With all the tools available today, the message can be highly targeted and very relevant to the consumer.

A CMO who masters the selection process makes the customer aware that the retail brand knows who she is, what she prefers and how she likes to shop. The brand should also be able to offer suggestions on what she might want to consider buying based on past purchase information.

Marketers are caretakers of the brand, responsible for maintaining and guiding it. While today’s retail environment is a two-way conversation between the brand and the customer, the role of marketing is to mediate the dialogue and listen.

Marketing can gain insights from the conversation and continue to share the values and assets of the brand in a dialogue instead of merely pushing out messaging or allowing the brand to decay.

Herein lays the balance of art and science that so many CMOs and senior retail marketers strive for. It’s where the artfulness and passion in the creative delivery need to work with the science of ROI in selecting what and where the message is – and how it is delivered. Marketing needs to put it all together so it resonates and connects with people.

The retailers that assemble and present their brands in the right context and appropriate environment will continue to be successful and connect with the consumer. And if it’s really good, maybe it will be the next exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao or the Met!

RAMA, the marketing division of NRF, will be hosting retail CMOs and senior marketing executives to explore and discuss the idea of the CMO as brand curator at the RAMA CMO Summit, September 14-15 at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City in Arlington, Va.

The program will provide content on a variety of important marketing topics, delivered by thought leaders in an intimate setting. There will be time for peers to debate and discuss the information as well as share ideas.

The RAMA CMO Summit is complimentary for senior retail leaders. Non-retailers can participate via sponsorship opportunities, check it out at or e-mail Kelly Gilmore at