Meet Melissa

How does a chemical engineer wind up leading marketing and innovation strategy for Kleenex? And then start her own business?

By choosing the most interesting and challenging ways to make a difference at each turn. Definitely not by following whatever 5-year plan she thought she had!

Would you be interested to learn more? I invite you to read on...

Melissa Jacobs

CEO

Strategist

Marketer

Growth Accelerator

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The Start

At the start of my senior year in college, I had 5 semesters of work experience in a DuPont chemical plant on my resume, thanks to the co-operative education program at Purdue. I also had the sinking feeling that I didn't want to work in a chemical plan anymore.  Uh oh. 

Luckily, Procter & Gamble was on campus to introduce careers in product development. I vividly remember the relief that washed over me when I learned that chemical engineers were using their problem-solving skills to make new and improved products for customers.

Sign me up! 

Enter Kimberly-Clark. Maker of Kleenex, Huggies, Kotex, and many other brands you’ve used over your lifetime.  When I joined the Research & Development team at KC, I learned to put the consumer at the center of everything. At the time, the R&D team was the epicenter of customer understanding.

The company didn’t yet have a Chief Marketing Officer and the marketing team appeared toward the end of our research projects.  We'd tell them what we knew about the customer, how we had improved the product, and give our ideas for marketing claims. For 10 years, each new product to develop or research project to lead was exciting, interesting, and challenging.

The last R&D project I led was to develop a "new to the world" product form for the Kotex business. That experience, working very closely with marketing and insights to change customer behavior, was life-changing. The idea of moving back to a boring product renovation just wasn’t fulfilling anymore. It was time for a pivot.

The Pivot

Three things happened at the same time.

  • R&D projects didn’t seem as interesting and challenging anymore
  • I was finishing up my MBA (which I started with the intention of being the best R&D manager possible)
  • The marketing department was shifting into the central hub for customer understanding (finally hired that first CMO!)

So, I followed my love for customers and moved onto the marketing team.  I swapped out project management for business management and was challenged to learn and grow again. 

While many people work in a different function before going into marketing, I was fortunate to do so with the same company. 

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Over the next 12 years, I learned Brand Management, Marketing Strategy, and owned a P&L. Some highlights:

PREVIOUS WORK AND CLIENTS

Logo for Kleenex Brand Facial Tissues
Logo for Olson Zaltman research agency
Logo for U by Kotex brand of feminine care products
Logo for Takeda Pharmaceutical

The Best

My final role at Kimberly-Clark was my favorite.  I led brand strategy and innovation planning for Kleenex.  What an incredible opportunity to make an impact on such a big brand. 

You might think a brand like Kleenex has a clear, long-standing strategy.  But the challenges were numerous.  The brand is well-loved, I mean who doesn’t like Kleenex?  But, it is also synonymous with a commodity category that has been declining for years.  Are you getting sick less often?  Do you have napkins and toilet paper that will do the job well enough and are easy to grab at the moment?  That’s great for you but not for the facial tissue category! 

This role crystallized for me the power a disciplined strategic approach, rooted in customer understanding, can have in illuminating a new path for growth.

The Next

Another opportunity to pivot toward the most interesting and challenging work arose when Kimberly-Clark announced it was moving all marketing roles to downtown Chicago, from the small-ish town in Wisconsin I’d called home for over 20 years.  It was a sign to leave the nest and start using the skills I’d built at KC to help other companies grow.

I started Crow & Pitcher LLC in 2021 to help my clients accelerate growth with Strategically Sound plans. Together, we identify untapped opportunities, put the customer first, and gain organizational alignment to reduce swirl. The ability to "speak the language" of many stakeholders - marketers, agencies, engineers, developers, and customers / users - allows me to help my clients navigate tough business problems quickly.

Clients like you hire us to help with:

Brand Strategy and Marketing Plans

  • How do we increase awareness and usage of our products or services with our customers (internal or external)?
  • We have a great product, but we're struggling to get the marketing team (or agency) to communicate it well. Why don't they understand what we're saying to them?
  • The brand or product team is not providing enough direction (or the right kind of direction) to inspire the creative team, can you help translate the needs of both sides?
  • We want to advertise our services, but the Communications team or agency we hired is asking us for a brief. Why don't they know what to do and what do we tell them?

Market Research ROI Optimization

  • We've gotten a research report from the supplier we hired, but we don't know what to do with the data.
  • We want to conduct research, but don't know the steps to take or the suppliers who could help us.
  • How do we structure a complicated insights report so it has the best chance of being understood, accepted and used by our client to drive action?
  • What do market research/consumer insights clients really want? What happens to the insights report after it's delivered?

Strategic and Annual Planning

  • We have so many ideas, we never seem to make progress on any one of them. Which ones are worth our limited resources?
  • We have so many business challenges, we don't know where to start to solve them.
  • We thought we agreed on a marketing plan with our leadership team, but every time we ask them to approve a piece of creative, it feels like we're revisiting the plan all over again. How can we get this swirl to stop?

Would you be interested in learning more?

You're invited to drop us a note or schedule a call.

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