x

READY TO BECOME A MEMBER?

Stay up to date on the digital shelf.

x

THANK YOU!

We'll keep you up to date!

Interview

Interview: Servant Leadership Powers Digital Evolution and Performance at J&J

Throughout a 15 year career at Johnson & Johnson, Matt Fantazier, has careened from Finance, to Brand Management and now Director, Digital Experience at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health. Each stage of that journey has informed a way of working as a servant leader, helping teams prioritize, execute and focus on the right metrics to drive the right business result. Matt joined Lauren Livak and Peter to talk us through his career journey and the set of skills and focus areas required to drive results.

Sign up for Matt’s Hot Take Digital Newsletter

Transcript:

Peter Crosby:

Welcome to Unpacking the Digital Shelf, where we explore brand manufacturing in the digital age.

 

Peter Crosby:

Throughout a 15 year career at Johnson & Johnson, Matt Fantazier, has careened from Finance, to Brand Management and now Director, Digital Experience at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health. Each stage of that journey has informed a way of working as a servant leader, helping teams prioritize, execute and focus on the right metrics to drive the right business result. Matt joined Lauren Livak and Peter to talk us through his career journey and the set of skills and focus areas required to drive results. 

 

Peter Crosby:

So, Matt, thank you so much for making time for our podcast today. I do know in addition to your J&J gig, you are busy churning out a weekly newsletter on digital, which is awesome by the way, Matt's Hot Takes. They are indeed hot. And so we appreciate having you on our show. And-

 

Matt Fantazier:

Great to be here.

 

Peter Crosby:

Yeah. Thank you. Part of what is fascinating, I think about your journey through digital commerce is you've gone from finance to marketing to e-commerce. It's such an interesting mix and I think it's nontraditional for a lot of people. So tell us how you made the switch from numbers guy to, and maybe they're not that far apart. I don't know. Tell me.

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah. I think the dirty secret is I'm still a numbers guy, but I just do other stuff now. But yeah, I started out in finance. I studied in undergrad, went off. I joined J&J right out of undergrad because I did want to work in industry. So that was something I was interested in. I didn't want to work in financial services, but I quickly realized that I wanted to be closer to the strategy, more to the commercial side of the business. So I got my MBA and then joined the marketing team here about nine years ago. But I think what's really helped me make that transition is that especially today, it was true then, it's really true now that I believe that marketing is really a lot of math and magic. So the magic parts, your traditional marketing, you're breaking through and creativity, but there's so much math and so much analytics and data, especially in today's world, that that finance background's really served me well.

 

Matt Fantazier:

And I think today, having a diverse career is just really, really important. Helps me see problems from different perspectives, helps me bring different concepts together. And I think what really, the unlock for me was, I always tell people who are career switchers to not apologize for their background. It's those diverse experiences that really make you unique and a special sort of person and lean into that. Be the marketer who can also read a P&L or somebody who is on the sales team, but also knows how to use Photoshop. Whatever those things are makes you unique and gives you a specific perspective on the world.

 

Peter Crosby:

I love it.

 

Lauren Livak:

And that math and magic.

 

Peter Crosby:

Yeah. I was just going to say Lauren. Yeah.

 

Lauren Livak:

It is one of my favorite lines of yours and I feel like it also applies to digital and eCommerce. And when you're thinking about the P&L, we talk more and more about profitability now and thinking about what levers you can pull. How has that helped on the digital commerce side, too?

 

Matt Fantazier:

It's huge. It's how you make sure you don't go out of business I think. It's interesting, if you rewind not that long ago, but maybe five or so years ago, all the talk around e-commerce was the endless shelf for whatever people called it, but having your entire assortment online was a huge advantage and people being able to buy whatever. Now it's about being choiceful and really making sure that we're promoting the right codes, that we're thinking about profitability, understanding customer acquisition cost, lifetime value. What's our GP? All of that stuff is incredibly important because without paying attention to that, you could very easily lose money every time you sell a product online, on search costs or advertising costs, fulfillment costs. So really understanding the full e-commerce P&L is just incredibly important if you want to have a sustainable business today and scale it.

 

Lauren Livak:

And you have a really interesting role where you are right now, right? You're integrated into the business. You're responsible for the digital experience. Can you talk a little bit about what that entails and how you're working with both the business and the digital team?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah, so my team was created almost a year ago now, about a year ago, and it is unique in that oftentimes you see more of a center of excellence model, which we still have, by the way. There's a lot of things that you don't want to figure out, especially at a large CPG, 30 times for every brand. There's a lot of benefit to who are the right partners? What are the standards we want to follow when we're advertising? My team's a little bit different because we're actually embedded within the local team. So the way we've described is we're sort of the scaffolding around your traditional marketing team and doing a lot of the work and really working hand in hand with our local marketing teams. So we're taking on work, maybe it's post-launch, and I can get into some of the specifics, but more hands on keyboards, more always on sort of maintenance of our marketing objectives in a way that, and I've sat in traditional marketing roles. My last job was a traditional marketing job.

 

Matt Fantazier:

So I'm not totally speaking out of school here, but you are often keeping so many balls in the air that you can't necessarily go deep on everything or really take that pause to really do some deep analytics and figure out what we should do next. That's what my team does. And I think what's unique is also, we don't have team goals. My team fully adopts whatever the goals of the brands they support. That's our goal. We have Neutrogena goals. We have Aveeno goals. We have Johnson's Baby goals, and we work to prioritize our work against those business objectives.

 

Peter Crosby:

And Matt, the difference in traditional marketing, and I want you to say yes, this is true, or no, it isn't. I'm just kind of making it up, but when you get to the digital shelf and it's an algorithm making choices about whether you've the right or the wrong thing and punishing or rewarding you based on that, it has a requirement of a pace of continuous optimization that is just not what traditional marketers are accustomed to. And so that's sort of that math and magic. Right. And so is your team part of building that muscle across these local teams?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah. It's a huge shift for marketing today. The way we've been doing marketing has been the same way since the '50s and '60s. You create a campaign, you put it in market, you wait six months, light some prayer candles and hope that it worked. Now we have the benefit of data and feedback. You can see what's working and what's not. And as a traditional CPG, we're a wholesaler by and large. So that is the model for us, where it goes on a truck and it goes to a Walmart or a Target or wherever. And then we wait. But now that we can see some of this, it's a rewiring of not just set and forget, but really that always on optimization. And I think the challenge, though, is really understanding when and how often, because statistical significance is still a concept that exists in the world. You can't just optimize off of every single data point, but really understand when have I gotten to a point where I have a learning, where I think I know what's happening here and I can make a different choice. Or it's not clear yet. Let's let this play out for another week or two weeks or whatever the case may be.

 

Matt Fantazier:

But yeah, it's a completely different muscle. It's performance marketing. But the challenge is bringing those worlds together because the brand and the equity still matters enormously. It's now coupling that. It's an and, it's not an or anymore. You have to be able to do both.

 

Peter Crosby:

Well, particularly as retail sites and media are moving towards a more full final experience, similarly because that's the way the consumer insists on shopping. They won't do what you want them to do. They do what they want you to do, and then you have to catch up with them. And so when you think about those shifts and the opportunity to be more full funnel in the places that you show up, when your folks parachute in and join these teams, I think, one, you mentioned it earlier, they adopt their KPIs. So it's not like this person who has different objectives. Somebody comes in and joins, which I think from what I've heard from other companies, that's not necessarily what happens. And I like that. I'd love to hear more about how you arrive at those shared metrics, but overall, how does this change fit in with the rest of the way the business operates and how have you made that work?

 

Matt Fantazier:

I mean, it's a lot of making sure that we're all on the same page. There's a lot of the, "Hey, let's make sure we're talking about the goals. What's important for your business right now." Onboarding, most of my teams knew to J&J. So it's a doubly challenging new team, a lot of new people that are learning the brands at the same time. So it was extra important for us to spend that upfront time and ground on the strategies. We didn't do anything until we were clear on what are the brand strategies, what are the challenges, understanding the competitive set in the market place so that we weren't just chasing shiny objects or creating solutions looking for a problem, essentially. So first step, align on the strategies, but then also align on the priorities. So what are you trying to achieve? And then what's the hottest thing on your list?

 

Matt Fantazier:

You can also get into a lot of trouble trying to solve every problem in the book in the first six months. But I think what's unique about my team as well is that we've been able to really focus and have this strike team mentality of hey, this is really important this week. This is your only job this week. Go figure out this social media campaign we're launching on Neutrogena Face or this digital shelf project that we have NPI launching next week on Aveeno. This is your only job. Get this out the door, make it awesome. This is what we need to do to run the business this week. I think those are the things that have allowed us to really move quickly, but it all starts with the business strategy. That's just it.

 

Lauren Livak:

And Matt, change is hard for anyone. I know this is a different way of thinking. It's a shift in the traditional. We always talk about change management. How did people perceive this change? Were they defensive? Were they welcoming? How did you work through that change management?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah, all the above and I think that's natural. It's just human nature. We're a brand new team. My job was created 10 months ago. Most of my team joined six months ago. So it is very much a new thing. And the natural question people want to understand is, is this person doing my job now? Am I not doing this? And that's not the case, that's not what we were doing, but it's really, change management is huge. That is an enormous amount of my time, for better or worse. That is what I spent a lot of time on. And it's not necessarily maybe what people think of naturally, but I think it's this understanding of business objectives and starting from a shared perspective of I'm not going to come in here and tell you what to do. Tell me what's important to you and really start from that servant leadership mindset and really make sure the team has that posture as well of we're all one team here. We're going to help you achieve the things that you think are really, really important.

 

Matt Fantazier:

And it's not about taking work away, but it's rather how do we take the good thinking that you guys have established and take it farther? You've developed a strategy, you have a hypothesis that a certain audience we want to deliver a certain message to. We can actually go and work with our media agency, with our insights team to develop learning plans and actually iterate on creative or different media executions to understand what's working and what's not working in a way that a traditional brand team typically doesn't have the bandwidth to do. It's not that they can't or won't, it's oftentimes you run out of hours in the day. And like I said earlier, I've done that job. I can speak for myself. I won't speak for anyone else. I didn't have time to do that. So it's really, really tough when you're managing all the things that a brand manager is managing today. And I think that's why it's so important that we adopt their goals. It doesn't feel like we're trying to take the business in a different direction and they lose control. It's really a partnership.

 

Peter Crosby:

When I think of the center of excellence approach that others have taken, not that this isn't, it's just you've embedded it. I was just wondering, are you still able to keep the center of excellence model, which is, we're constantly learning, sharing best practices, that kind of stuff. Is that able to happen?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah, I say jokingly that I want my team to only think of me as the guy who approves our expense reports. But in reality, it's a little bit more than that. I can assemble the Avengers. We have our weekly meetings. Different pillars have their own little, the digital shelf team connects separately, the paid media managers connect separately. So they're sharing information. My entire team meets on a weekly basis to make sure that everyone understands what are the priorities on a week to week basis, who needs help, sharing learning. So, yeah, I think it's a fine balance that you want to be able to maintain in the business, doing the work with the people, but also being able to come back together as a functional team to learn from one another. And that's something that's really hard at a big CPG. I think we do a pretty good job of it, but yeah, that's something that's always on our mind and we get the best of both worlds, I think, on my team, but not without challenges.

 

Peter Crosby:

So just to be clear, in the Marvel scenario, are you Captain America or are you Ironman?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Oh, I don't know. This is a loaded question. I probably feel like Ant-Man half the time, like the dorkiest Avenger, but pretty funny, I'd like to think. Hell-

 

Peter Crosby:

You're the Paul Rudd of J&J. That's what you-

 

Matt Fantazier:

I'll take that all day long.

 

Peter Crosby:

Absolutely.

 

Matt Fantazier:

But like the Avengers, we all have very different capabilities and that's how I've built my team as well, that I think is different. I intentionally recruited people with really different skill sets so that we can... That's part of the need to come together oftentimes, too, is I have folks that have search expertise, creative expertise, and we may need to consult with one another or coach one another, where someone may have, they did it in their last job or they're an expert in a certain type of media. We do a lot of that sharing, too, where it's not just best practice sharing, but hey, how did you do this? Coach me and learn, because there's so much. You could study digital marketing all day and you'd never learn it, because one, it changes too fast, but that's part of the team that I've built as well as ultra diverse skills.

 

Peter Crosby:

How are you winning and retaining candidates in this tough hiring environment?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Oh boy,

 

Peter Crosby:

Maybe that's a different podcast. I don't know.

 

Matt Fantazier:

Give me a different podcast. It's interesting though. As we've recruited, it's been an interesting experience, especially in the last year. A couple things that come up, people are looking for flexibility. That's one that you hear all the time, but I think people in general want to be part of something meaningful. And I think that's what we've been really talking a lot about as we meet with candidates and they come on board is we're building something here. This isn't come in and punch the clock. We're really working on how do we rewire a large CPG and build this capability, digitally native capabilities inside of a J&J. That's a pretty interesting case to make someone. It's not a “I need you to manage social media.”  It's “how do we do this better?” Because none of this is built and I'll always tell partners, my team, anyone that we don't necessarily have all the answers. We're probably going to get a lot out of this wrong and have that openness to say if you have a better way to do it, let's figure that out. It's the only way you can really execute this sort of thing. So I think that's appealing.

 

Lauren Livak:

And Matt, I want to bring up something you said before about servant leadership, because I think that's really critical when you talk about digital transformation. You talk about change management. I've seen a lot of global teams or centers of excellence have difficulty working with the rest of the organization. And I think a really great thread is that servant leadership, putting yourself in the shoes of the person that you're trying to work with in the organization and saying what challenges are you having, versus here's what you should be doing. Here's the 10 things that are on your checklist. Can you talk a bit more about what you mean by servant leadership and how you think about that? Because I think for our audience, that is a really interesting and important factor in any change.

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah. It could feel like a buzzword. I can tell you it's not. I think it's become something that gets talked about more in organizations. And it's been talked about more here at J&J over the last couple of years, but I've been living it. And I can tell you that 90% of what I'm doing in the last year has nothing to do with my technical skills. It is all understanding different stakeholders. What are the barriers? Helping to bring in the right people to solve a problem or to reduce, clear an impediment from the path of oh, we're trying to do this, but there's this challenge. So I can jump in and do that. We talk about the what and the how at J&J is, I know you're familiar Lauren, but it's a huge how lift. Digital transformation really is not a... To be successful, you have to over index in the how side of things and really make sure that people understand the strategies, you understand them and navigate all those difficult conversations and situations that can arise just naturally. That's been the majority of my job, to be honest.

 

Lauren Livak:

And in doing all that and then having this different approach and having the embedded team, have you seen success? Is there some results or anything you can share about how it's been helpful?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah, from a cultural perspective, I think it's been incredibly successful, where my team and the brand teams that they work closely with feel connected. They feel like they are part of the same team. They are working extremely well together. I give a hundred percent credit to that upfront work we did that we just talked about a couple of minutes ago, of aligning on goals and making sure that everything they're doing is fully in service of what their strategies and priorities are. So culturally and just that work, I think it's been incredibly successful. It's still early days. There's of course things that we need to work through still and improve and continuously improve, especially as new challenges arise or we want to take on a new project. But I think that's been incredibly beneficial. From a business perspective I think what we've been bringing is a really different and new way of thinking around our brands and a couple of things that really pop to mind is our performance marketing mindset that we've been bringing, especially in the retail and ecom environment. As a CPG, we don't always get that kind of data, but we actually do on the retail media side of things.

 

Matt Fantazier:

So bringing that mindset around profitability and understanding conversion cost, and all the things we talked about earlier, we've seen huge improvements in sales, as well as profitability. So all of them are going in the right direction because we're promoting the right things, the right way, with the right activation strategies, all geared towards performance with a team that can actually monitor and optimize as we get feedback from the marketplace. That's been a huge one.

 

Matt Fantazier:

The other one that I would point to, that's kind of a macro benefit, is prioritization. That's something that I'm sure every organization struggles with, but our specific charge to drive prioritization has made sure that the things, not just us, but the brand team, the agencies, all the different external partners we have are focused on are the most important things. So the work that's getting done, I'm highly confident is the most impactful work that we should be spending our time on. So those have been a couple of the initial reads over not a long period of time, but there's a lot of really great examples we've been seeing as we've been really rewiring our approach to going to market.

 

Peter Crosby:

And does that prioritization map change by product or product line? Or is there an overall prioritization target of growth versus profitability? How do you think about that without obviously giving anything away?

 

Matt Fantazier:

No, yeah. Depends on the business. Depends on what they're going after. So we have that conversation with each squad and understand, it could be they're launching a new product so we need to over invest our time and NPI. It could be that they're looking to turn something around. So we're doing something else on another business. It's yes to all of that. It can be product based. It can be work stream based. It could be we need to really focus on our e-commerce and how are we driving conversions? So it can be more at the strategic level as well of driving where our activities lie, but it's very brand specific.

 

Lauren Livak:

And Matt, I want to touch on what you said about retail media and getting more insights from the retail media side. Sometimes you find that the retail media team is completely separate from the digital team. And I think there's a benefit to having it under one umbrella because you're looking at everything end to end and you have all the data in one place. And that's not always the same at every organization. They usually have separate silos. Can you talk a bit about that piece?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah. And I think what our team's done broadly, and this is true for retail media, is we've acted as a bit of a bridge in the organization where we can bring together different teams. So we work collaboratively with the retail media shopper teams today. We work hand in hand with them the same way we work hand in hand with the brand teams, but with a little bit of a different charge, looking more at the media execution and profitability, but very similarly talking prioritization, looking at bringing in frameworks and providing some of the resources to be able to look at this and go deep in a topic that maybe each team isn't always fully resourced to do. So we're bringing that same charge that we're bringing to the brand teams, to the customer teams as well to provide some of that analytical bandwidth and horsepower. So very similar, but it's still a partnership because the way we look at it is the brand teams and the retail teams are really owning the strategy and then we're just activating against that strategy. So they still own what should be done. What are the priorities? How do we need to promote different things at different retailers, and then we'll work within those guardrails to make sure that it's working as efficiently and effectively as possible.

 

Peter Crosby:

So Matt, when you think about what the future looks like, I think both for this initiative that you're working on, is it one of those things where you know you've done your job when it's kind of disbanded?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yes.

 

Peter Crosby:

So they answer that. So I'd love to hear more about that. And then when I look at your career, and you've been at Johnson & Johnson nine years and that's, I feel like in this industry, I feel like for so many people the opportunities have to come by changing your company. But I think it's just noteworthy that you've done a bunch of different jobs at J&J and are continually rising. What do you think about where you want to spend your time and what that looks like as a career?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah. What success looks like is I think, yeah, maybe it's me actively putting myself out of a job here, but kidding aside, it's continuing to integrate marketing and digital marketing to just be marketing. Digital marketing's an archaic term. I hope it's out of our vernacular sooner rather than later, because the reality is that it's just marketing today. We don't talk about TV marketing or radio marketing. It's just how we communicate with our consumers, period. But yeah, I think that's the ultimate goal is how do we further integrate? How do we make this just our way of doing business? And I think it's not, we still need those capabilities. It's just how do we efficiently work together as one team? And that's why we're embedded. That's what we're striving for. You still need all those capabilities and all those focus areas, but you gotta bring the strategy and the digital side together, the math and the magic, just to come back around to my initial point. It needs to be one thing under one roof. And I think that's the ultimate goal here. And as far as me and my career, I've actually been at J&J for 15 years.

 

Peter Crosby:

Oh sorry. Oh my gosh.

 

Matt Fantazier:

First six of that were in finance.

 

Peter Crosby:

Oh, okay.

 

Matt Fantazier:

So nine in marketing. I counted once. I've done 10 different jobs in 15 years. I've worked in all three sectors, two different functions, digital marketing, traditional marketing, worked in skin health, worked in OTC. And I think the moral of the story there is I haven't had to leave to grow. And I think that's what's really been exciting for me is I've been able to do different things to grow, to try new functions, new parts of marketing, all under the same company with... It's been nice to not have to change my 401k and be able to do that. That's work I don't want to deal with, but kidding aside, I think that's been what’s really rewarding about working in J & J. It's the good part of working at a big company. There's the downsides that everyone talks about of big CPG and maybe you don't move as fast and we're trying to. By the way, that's what my team's doing. But the real positive is you can have a diverse career all in one place and learn, grow, and then build. It's really just been building blocks upon itself I would say over the last 15 years.

 

Peter Crosby:

15 years. Looking at you, you must have started when you were 15, which is a really amazing-

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah, I use all of our facial care products though. Doesn't just happen.

 

Peter Crosby:

We'll put this video up on LinkedIn for everyone to see. It's impressive. I should have done that myself. So Matt, first of all, if folks want to get on your newsletter list, which is really, it's a great, you do the things that stood out to you in the week, but also a fair amount of, hey, here's what I think we have to think about with this, which is a nice mix of digest and thought. So if they wanted to get on your list, how would they do that?

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah, the easiest way, because I don't have a clean URL for it, is to follow me on LinkedIn or look at my profile on LinkedIn. I have a link there to subscribe. And when I post, I always have a link to subscribe or to read the link to the newsletter. So it should be pretty easy to find, hopefully.

 

Peter Crosby:

Is that like the dentist kids have bad teeth, the marketing side of a marketer.

 

Matt Fantazier:

Yeah. Totally neglected the URL. So sorry about that.

 

Peter Crosby:

It's a great place to-

 

Matt Fantazier:

Coming in real hot right now. Oh boy, I gotta fix that.

 

Peter Crosby:

Yeah. It always needs to be fixed in the last moment. But LinkedIn, it must follow on LinkedIn. And Matt overall, just thank you for putting in the time to come and share with the community, how you're thinking about it, magic and math and servant leadership. I just think it is a really great way of thinking about how you think about embedding and changing the business and what the mindset is required. One of humility and yet passion. So thank you for sharing that with us. We really appreciate it.

 

Matt Fantazier:

Thanks for having me.

 

Lauren Livak:

Thank you, Matt.

 

Peter Crosby:

Thanks again to Matt for joining us. Check out his newsletter on his LinkedIn page for more of his brain on a weekly basis. Thanks for being part of our community.