One on One

matt rader

This week we caught up with Matt Rader, SVP, Integrated Marketing & Analytics

Matt leads Public Label’s shopper marketing practice, ensuring our clients have the strongest insights, ideas and executions and our team has the best tools and relationships to deploy on their behalf. He spent 17 years wearing client shoes leading brands such as Hydro, Edge Shave Prep, Hydro Silk, Banana Boat, Woolite, Quattro, Thomas’, Skintimate and Entenmann’s. He’s won the IRI Pacesetter & Rising Star award as well as Effies for his innovations that drove franchise incrementality and his innovation footprint is still felt at store shelves today.

You spent a good part of your career on the client side with CPG brands. Why did you go to the agency side and join Public Label? 

Moving to the agency side of the desk did not come without a lot of soul searching and introspection. By all accounts I had a very successful brand marketing career spanning a length of 17 years. In that time I had worked my way up the corporate ladder from assistant brand manager to director both on a North American business as well as a stint on the international and innovation desk for personal grooming products. I was at a juncture in my career and wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to broaden my experiential career set. I had been in personal grooming for 14 years and I wanted to explore other categories to broaden my career and professional knowledge base. Agency work offers that ability in a way you cannot imagine, working across an incredible spectrum of business verticals. Second, for many years I always wanted to find an agency that thought like I did. I wanted to find an agency partner that could intuitively understand what I was managing as a client and be able to “get” me when I brought something forward. Moving to the agency side was my attempt to provide that for clients. I have walked more than a mile in their shoes, so I “get” them and what they deal with inside their own walls, unlike the typical agency executive. 

Joining Public Label was about a marriage of ideals and vision. I subscribed to the idealism that had started to build at Public Label, that understanding the motivational mindsets of consumers married with the most relevant cultural movements is what drives differential growth. The concept of being demo-agnostic and helping break the paradigm of thinking in how to drive growth with consumers through the lens of motivations and movements really fit with my professional belief system. In addition, the people I met were fantastic, smart, and genuine. I really gravitated to that aspect of Public Label. 

You’re very tuned into the retail landscape. Looking at how it has evolved, what do you think have been some of the most impactful shifts or innovations?

  • COVID – It’s a Captain Obvious moment, but COVID is and will be the single most impactful shift for shoppers and retail for a century or more.  The emergence of COVID accelerated digital adoption within the shopping space at least 10 years within the span of 12 months. Consumer laggards in online shopping adoption were forced to accelerate adoption. As such, the largest development stemming from this is the abundance of omni-geared shoppers which is defined by those that shop online and offline.  In fact, this group shops more often, spends more, and consumes more than either solely brick-and-mortar shoppers or online-only shoppers. They will be the driver of growth for retailers and brands alike. Whichever group conquests them the best will determine the long-term winners at this seminal time in shopping history. 

  • Online Grocery/Retail Pick-Up – Yes, delivery was the focus for quite a while, but the cost of making that profitable is difficult for many. As such, a huge focus has been put on the services at/near store with OGP and consumer pick-up. This used to be a focus for large retailers but now regionals and smaller retailers are placing bets on consumer pick-up service. This development speaks to the shift to OMNI consumers. These consumers still want to feel in control, but they want the ability to shop either in person, online for delivery or online for in-person pick up. Retailers across all channels and types of services have made significant investments in their systems and personnel to capture their fair share of this portion of shopping and they will continue to seek partners from manufacturers to help them recoup the investment. The provocative statement here is brick and mortar is far from dead; conversely it’s alive and well, just going through a metamorphosis. The biggest part of this change is that retail views its physical locations as “shoppable” distribution centers. This shift in definition is monumental in significance as the footprint of available consumers widens greatly. Having an agency partner who understands this dynamic shift and how best to navigate it will be crucial.    
  • Mobile Adaptation: Consumers have overwhelmingly shifted toward mobile being their primary screen. This puts the power of a computer into the hands of consumers that are continuously seeking new, different, and interesting. The combination of having something that allows consumers to infinitely deliver on their interests anytime also opens up a gateway to shopping like never before.  Being able to tap into that seamlessness as a retailer/brand is invaluable to being able to drive growth and make a connection.
  • Retailers as Media Partners:  Look, no matter how you cut it retailers are looking at every avenue to generate revenue and increase margin. They also have the capabilities to know their shopper better than anyone as they have access and collect more data on those shoppers than anyone. Given this fact, most if not all retailers are now in the game of selling their own media capabilities and targeting it to their known shoppers. This development creates an excessively vast array of media options and selections for clients. Gone are the days of “set it and forget it” media where one message blasted across TV screens was considered the first moment of truth. In an omni world, the first moment of truth for a consumer can come from any number of places and from any place in the funnel and the phases of encounter. Consider and purchase are blurring and the technology exists to intentionally blur it even further. Having a partner that understands the intricacies of these ecosystems and how to navigate it is important, but even more important is how you measure and optimize in almost real time. This is an area where Public Label has a real difference. 

What do you think is the biggest missed opportunity that marketers should be taking advantage of right now? 

I am a contrarian in thinking when I think about missed opportunities for brands. I tend not to think about it in terms of where were the situations in which people missed first-mover advantage, i.e.. OTT, in game integration etc. I tend to focus more on a zig zag strategy to find the opportunities. I say this to mean while the market is zigging you should be zagging in order to give yourself the potential for differential growth. By using this strategy, you have the chance to stand out. I often find myself focused on traditional tactics and methodologies that have fallen out of favor, but that offer extreme value because nobody is focused on them. One that sticks out to me right now is in-home SAMPLING.  This used to be a very big piece of the marketing mix, but as digitization has arrived this tactic has been shunned. I am not surprised by it becoming less of a focus, but in a time like COVID when consumers are trapped at home, what better time than to deliver a sample!!! As a marketer you pray for captive audiences, especially in a skippable world like we live. Now you have one and nobody is taking advantage of sending what I would call a “care package” to consumers. I mean who does not love getting a care package?!?!  Of course, everyone does, and free is well “free”.  If brands were taking advantage of this tactic, you’d have 100% share of voice inside the home in a non-skippable way. Moreover, you have given a tangible handshake to consumers with the sample and message. 

What cultural movement or consumer motivation are you particularly tuned into right now?

The movement is Gaming and the motivation is Escape. This combination makes for a powerful opportunity for brands and products. The gaming movement is immersive and provides “escapism” for the consumer.  Yes, there has been integration and in-game sponsorship, but I think there is just so much more opportunity here. I am a gamer and think brands are still missing the biggest opportunity which is helping me escape and enjoy the game more by providing me bonus content or things I can use in game to help me enjoy it more. I’m thrilled we are in the process of building out this capability at Public Label for our clients to thrive in this dynamic space. 

Over the course of your career, what has been your proudest accomplishment?

To be honest there are many I look back on fondly, but the one that sticks out to me is the brand I led the creation of from concept development all the way to go-to-market plans for 9 different countries. The brand is Schick Hydro Skin comfort razor which is still in market today. Our task was not an easy one, we needed to develop a product on the Hydro base chassis that would deliver incremental shelf space and bend the trend by bringing in new users as well. As you can imagine in Men’s grooming lots of territory has been trodden, but we saw an opportunity to continue to make a more comfortable shave by adding a second pivot to the razor design. In essence the second pivot would act as a shock absorber for the shave.  R&D called this technology a leaf spring, but we commercialized it using the terminology of “shock absorber” and this really hit the mark with consumers. It was intuitive and used their own experiences to connect them quickly with the technology. In addition, we shifted the brand to a masculine space with a black color palette and vibrant color cuing for flavors of skin gel. This was no small task as the brand architecture had been blue and white. No one in the shave space had occupied a predominant black color palette. This really helped the brand stand out at shelf. Every time I go to the store I see a brand I created and I know all the small inside stories that went into making that brand happen. Even five years later, I’m definitely proud of the work my team and I did to deliver that launch. 

How about your proudest personal accomplishment?

It has got to be 10 years as a youth soccer coach and coordinator in Southbury, CT. I played sports my whole life and coaches always played a special role for me in providing guidance, teaching me life lessons, instilling in me how to be a great teammate, and how to lead by example. I now get the opportunity to pay it forward to other kids as a coach. Often as a youth coach you never really have a sense of how you are doing in the moment, but after the season you get a glimpse and it makes it all worth it. The best compliment I have ever received was from one player who said, “Coach Rader, you make playing soccer on Saturday as much fun as going to the school carnival.”  For kids ranging from U4-U10 that is really saying something. 

What are some fun facts about Matt Rader?

  • Real Okie from Muskogee – born in Muskogee, Oklahoma
  • All-State Oklahoma Football Player
  • Football player Cornell University
  • Acapella singer in Cayugas Waiters at Cornell University
  • 15-year writer for Fantasy Football Mastermind (hung up the cleats, but deep knowledge of fantasy sports)
  • Once finished in the top 500 of fantasy sports on ESPN across all sports fantasy games. I was in the 99.9 percentile of all fantasy gamers on the site as far as points accumulated in a year. 
  • Love to game and primarily focus on Madden Football
  • Worked as a congressional aide for 4 years, so have depth on politics
  • A die-hard Denver Broncos fan – attended Super Bowl 48 and 50 in which I saw Peyton Manning’s last game and watched him win the Super Bowl in his last game
  • I wear flipflops about 99% of my waking hours

Next Interview