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Shelagh Stoneham on her role at Shoppers Drug Mart

Six months in, the senior vice-president of marketing shares her goals for the brand

With six months as Shoppers Drug Mart’s senior vice-president of marketing under her belt, Shelagh Stoneham chats with Canadian Grocer's sister magazine Marketing Magazine about what’s she learned from her previous roles in the marketing industry and her goals for the brand.

You’ve worked in leadership roles at companies such as Rogers Communications and BBDO. How has that prepared you to be senior vice-president, marketing at Shoppers Drug Mart, the role you took on last September?
Every role I’ve taken has been a building block. I’ve worked with a number of large brands spanning a number of industries, but it’s a chance to experience cultures and different kinds of business challenges and frankly draw upon my skills in buildng a strong collaborative team. In fact, at Rogers, I held a number of progressively more senior roles. And here I am at Shoppers. Really, it draws upon my expertise, which is building a high-performing marketing team and leading them to deliver outstanding results for shareholders. And that’s really been consistent throughout. The kind of leader I am, I mean I think by the time you get to my stage in career, you have a style that’s pretty well based. I have a bit of a reputation of being a vibrant, collaborative and authentic leader, and I have a real passion for innovation. And I truly believe that a data-driven approach leveraging key consumer insight within a culture of creativity can drive a strong return on investment. And I’ve proved it over and over again. I have a really inclusive style. I really leave no man behind. I’ve had incredible satisfaction in my role at Shoppers since I arrived here in September. I’ve inherited a very strong, capable team.

You were once executive managing director at BBDO. What is it like for a marketing manager to have seen the other side of the process?
When I was at BBDO, part of my role was leading business development. So now, as part of various RFP reviews at Shoppers Drug Mart, I am often on the other side of the table listening to presentations from various agencies. I have to say, when an agency presents well, I always have to give them positive feedback because I know how much work goes into those presentations and how challenging it is to be in the moment. And if anyone stumbles, I feel I have to reach in and close the gaps for them. I haven’t forgotten my perspective in being in the service business. Here at Shoppers, I am still in the service business.

What are your goals for the brand?
My goal is to support our brand through incredibly strong, compelling and differentiated brand marketing. We’ve done a lot of strategic planning in my first few months at Shoppers, and now we’re developing a plan to help bring the work to life. The subtle shift in evolution is staring to roll out.

You have one of the more successful loyalty programs with Shoppers Optimum. How integral has it become to the brand?
It’s not just best in class in Canada — I would say it rivals the best in North America. And I feel very fortunate to have a foundation that is so incredibly valued by our customers. They love their Optimum points and they spend them. And it’s a wonderful way for us to able to give back to our customers and to enhance the value proposition.

Shoppers has transformed over the years from drugstore to a kind of general store for Canadians. That must play a big part in loyalty.
Absolutely. Actually, I feel like I’ve come home. When I’m working here at Shoppers, I feel every bit as connected as our customers do with the brand. We’ve got 98% brand awareness, which is a staggering number. But more importantly, 59% or more of Canadian shoppers visit us every month. Over 1.2 million customers shop at Shoppers every day. So every day is a bit of a reset. We work hard to surprise and delight our customers. So we never take for granted our customer loyalty. We work hard to improve the experience.

How do you see the role of social media? Is it a marketing function?
It is indeed. Well, we all own it. It’s marketing and it’s corporate communications and so on. So we share the responsibility for social media. It’s just a wonderful channel for any brand. Marketing used to be something in which products and services were communicated to a customer. Now it’s a dialogue. Social media allows us to hear the customer’s voice and to calibrate our activities to build stronger and more meaningful relationships.

This article first appeared in Marketing Magazine.

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