Andy Kennemer, GSK’s head of customer experience and digital innovation

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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