Q&A: From Abercrombie to GSK, customer experience expert Andy Kennemer on his fashion-forward leap to pharma
Abercrombie & Fitch’s Andy Kennemer was getting ready for the Super Bowl of retail, better known as Black Friday, a few years ago when a recruiter for GlaxoSmithKline reached out. Kennemer, then Abercrombie’s VP of marketing, was prepping plans for holiday fashion sales when the recruiter asked if he’d ever thought about a career in pharma.
Not surprisingly, he hadn’t. But the call got him thinking. Four years into helping steer Abercrombie’s brand turnaround — from one of the country’s most hated retailers to a surprising comeback kid — he was intrigued by the idea of joining healthcare.
Now GSK’s head of customer experience and digital innovation, the self-described digital and technology geek has never looked back.
Well, except maybe to talk about the challenges he took on at Abercrombie and how that translates to marketing at GSK.
Abercrombie & Fitch in the late 1990s and early 2000s was the teen fashion authority. Retail stores pumped party music, perfume spritzers and in-store sales “models” as young people flocked to its pricey preppy aesthetic. But problems were piling up. The retailer was sued multiple times, including in a Supreme Court case it lost, over discriminatory hiring practices stemming from policies that among other things required employees to be attractive. Consumers and celebrities lashed out about its well-publicized ban on extra-large sizes and boycotts were common.
When Kennemer joined Abercrombie, the red ink was flowing. He helped the brand reset and refocus on customer experience and especially the digital one. By 2018, sales were back in the black and Abercrombie was being heralded by Business Insider as the biggest comeback story in retail. And Kennemer was ready for his next challenge.
While GSK wasn’t in dire straits as the Abercrombie brand had been, Kennemer still brought plenty of lessons learned and customer strategies to the pharma company. He spoke to MarketingRx editor Beth Bulik recently about what it was like to turn around the floundering fashion retailer and then take that experience along in his leap to pharma.
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