Zena Srivatsa Arnold, Chief Digital & Marketing Officer at Kimberly-Clark, will chair the Instant Impact category of the 2022 WARC Awards for Effectiveness. Here, she talks about how Kimberly-Clark goes about ensuring effectiveness is built into its marketing efforts, the importance of adopting an agile mindset, and what she’s looking for in this year’s entries.


Zena Srivatsa Arnold, Chief Digital & Marketing Officer at Kimberly-Clark

Describe your role.

As the chief digital and marketing officer at Kimberly-Clark, I drive the digital transformation of all of the marketing for our trusted brands that include Kleenex®, Kotex®, Huggies®, Andrex® and Cottonelle®. Some people still refer to “digital marketing” as something distinct, but I believe that all marketing is digital in some way in today’s world.

If you think about how we develop ads now, from the idea to measuring its effectiveness, there are a lot of brand-new digital capabilities that I want our organisation to use more as we set out to be the best modern marketers that we can.

At Kimberly-Clark, our approach to revolutionise marketing for the digital-first world is building personalised and value-driven exchanges. Our vision is a shift from mass advertising to relationship-building, which can enable a mutual value exchange between us and our consumers and lead to longer lifetime values.

Before joining Kimberly-Clark, you were at Google for over six years. Are there any lessons from working in the technology sector that you apply in your current position?

Google is a fantastic company on many levels, and one of the key things that I learned there is around its culture of pushing for innovation and constant change, and for looking at things differently. This drive to adapt rapidly is an exciting mindset that companies should embrace much more, because the world is changing very quickly.

What I’m bringing from my time there is this culture of innovation and agility. It’s experimentation and becoming comfortable with failure, because that’s how you learn and how you can advance. What’s most exciting is that now, with data and technology, you can try things at a much lower cost and resource investment, which enables you to see what works before scaling it up and achieving success. This is all part of the ‘fail fast and move on’ mentality that enables you to take risks and develop a new playbook lightyears faster than we could have done even a decade ago.

What are the main challenges you are facing at the moment?

Like many other companies, we have been impacted by commodity cost increases and supply chain challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s also a lot of change in how and where consumers are doing their buying – a lot of it has moved to e-commerce, so brands need to meet them where they are.

In the marketing world, we’re seeing the results of the depreciation of cookies, which means we are focused on doing less third-party cookie-based targeting and more people-based marketing. It’s a change that we need to adapt to very fast, while getting the right systems and skills in place.

At Kimberly-Clark, how do you ensure effectiveness is built into your communications from the very start?

Whenever you’re starting any piece of work, it’s important to think about your success criteria. Getting really clear on that upfront is key because you need to know where the goalpost is in order to aim your work towards it and have something clear to go after.

The other key element that we’ve gotten a lot deeper into is consumer insights. This is all about having the ability to understand what our consumers are thinking and feeling as we start the work. It’s exciting because in the past, we used to have to wait months for insight studies to come out with a snapshot of consumer insights, and now we can go on social media and get a pulse-check every minute if we’d like.

Can you share an example of a recent campaign (not from Kimberly-Clark) that impressed you for its effectiveness?

One that stood out to me was Popeye’s chicken sandwich launch in the U.S. Popeye’s took a true 360 approach and started with social media and engaging with key influencers to help spread the word. The conversation exploded everywhere and reinforced the traditional media they put behind the launch. The campaign brought in a lot of new customers, leading to awesome business results, and also built the brand as being engaging and fun.

In your view, what are the essential elements of a successful paper in the Instant Impact category?

It’s critical to have clearly defined goals for the work and show how the strategy worked towards reaching those goals. Then, it’s about showing how the strategy came to life in the eyes of consumers. Finally, we want to see that results were achieved and measured in a robust way.

What is your one bugbear when reading an effectiveness paper?

It’s frustrating when a paper tries to prove effectiveness by introducing vanity metrics that were not part of the initial objectives. Especially as you think about instant impact, business and brand-building results are very important – if you come up with metrics other than those, it feels like you’re trying make something fit when it didn’t necessarily achieve what you intended it to do in the first place.

The WARC Awards for Effectiveness are now open for entries. The deadline for submission is 2nd March, 2022.

Entry is free. For more info on how to submit your work, visit the Awards website.