Beyond The Shelf Podcast Episode Transcript: Pam Perino – Ghirardelli


Dave: My guest on today’s show is digital commerce expert, Pam Perino. Pam, great to see you. 

Pam: Nice to see you too. Thanks for having me, Dave. 

Dave: Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with me. I would love to start with your background.

I know we’re going to talk about digital commerce in a little bit, but take us back to the early days. Where did you start? And how did you land here? 

Pam: I can go back a long ways, Dave, but I’ll take you back a bit. So most of my career has actually been in the fashion industry. I started working for Macy’s out of college and went into their executive training program and was in the buying offices and management with them for a while. And then I started on the wholesale side and I worked for several large fashion companies. I worked for Playborn, on the menswear side, DKNY Jeans, and more recently for Perry Ellis International. 

The majority of my background with those companies was really managing field teams, merchandising teams that go out to the stores and making sure the products’ set up correctly merchandised, and educating the stores and working with consumers on all kinds of things. And making sure that the right assortments were there and a lot of communication back and forth between stores and the buying offices and things like that and how I got on to the e-commerce piece was in the last couple years.

I was with Perry Ellis. We had started to work with a PIM Salsify, and they started using that and we were trying to leverage our team’s experience with visual training and Expertise and like, how do we bring that to a website? How do we take how we look at a sales floor, a department and look at how it’s being merchandised?

What are we presenting to the customers? What information are we providing? And really starting I was leading a team where we were looking at our retailer websites and evaluating them and looking for opportunities on how to represent our products on their websites.

So when I started working with Salsify, it was to help support the information that we were providing to the retailers- images, marketing copy, things like that. And I was helping support that project and then an opportunity opened up with Ghirardelli chocolate company, which I’ve been with for a little over three and a half years.

They had seen my experience with Salsify and that’s kind of what led them to me, I believe. And so I started working with them. And this is my first experience with CPG so to speak as we know it and I absolutely love it. It’s been wonderful. And, of course, who doesn’t love chocolate?

Chocolate makes everybody happy. 

Dave: Exactly. Who does not love the product? I know we do. 

Pam: Absolutely. So I was hired as their first e-commerce content manager, managing our content development for our retail partners, as well as managing the syndication piece and working with Salsify to get the content out to our retailers.

So, it’s kind of a two folded side of a position- I work on both sides. 

Dave: So, connecting with the consumer is a big part of it. And also it sounds like connecting these various teams internally. 

Pam: Very much so. It’s an extremely cross functional role. And that’s probably some of the experience and background that I brought from my previous companies and roles because the role I was in is managing field teams across the country. We were working very cross functionally with design teams and sales teams and merchandising teams and it’s really the same way here too. I work very closely with our brand marketing teams, our creative teams, customer marketing, sales, regulatory, all of those different parts of the organization and more. 

So, it’s very much a cross functional role, and you need to be able to excel your communication, follow through and follow up. It’s a very detail oriented type of, of position, and there’s a lot of moving parts at any one time. I think that’s kind of a skill set that I brought into the role, and continue to hone over the last few years or so. 

Dave: I was watching a video to your point about all the different teams that had some voice and commentary from folks at Ghirardelli talking about how Ghirardelli very much feels like a family organization. Of course, we know it as this global, huge chocolate brand. You know, it seems like you’re everywhere, but share a little bit about that. What is that? You have all these different teams and yet you still have this family feel that’s very unique. 

Pam: I think that comes a lot from management, to be honest with you. From the top down, from our CEO down to the leadership team and, and beyond.

I felt from the very beginning people are very welcoming. And that’s part of, I think our company culture and what we try to get across. Even in our marketing– very welcoming and vibrant and we’re a large company within a big, multinational corporation being part of Lindt and Sprungli International.

It’s wonderful. It’s a really great culture. Probably the best I’ve ever experienced before. 

Dave: The other piece you touched on in your intro there was the shift from fashion to going to, to chocolate. There are some, I imagine, similarities and differences in how you connect with the consumer and how you structure content, how you think about the strategy.

So what are some of those or what are some of the learnings that you brought with you from those other roles? 

Pam: Putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes when you’re looking at a product online or even in store asking “What information is going to entice the customer? What do they want to learn? What is the baseline information? Practical information? What’s in the product? How is it presented?” Of course, you want something that’s visually appealing and iIn regards to working for a company that makes chocolate, something that’s going to taste wonderful, too.

So how do we get that across in our marketing copy, as well as in images, whether it’s images that are on the actual package or images that we provide to the consumer online, on a carousel set or below the fold. Showing customers enjoying the product, how to use it, occasion, things like that.

And I think that of course, it’s a little bit different than the fashion industry, but how are people going to use the product? Why are they shopping for that particular product today? Those are the kinds of things I think you think about when you’re putting together content and what’s relevant.

What are top of mind things? Right now, there are a lot of  things that are important that people are looking for. There are “better for you” products and things that have less calories or reduced sugar and we’ve definitely had some newer products in the last year or two, specifically in our baking products with products that have perhaps less sugar. And that’s definitely appealing to a lot of consumers out there as well, too. 

Dave: And then I think the other thing I’ve noticed is you’ve really pioneered some of the content. You have the packaging that you talked about, but also the different formats for communicating with the shopper. 

Pam: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it’s an ever evolving journey. You can’t set it and forget it as I always like to say, you get done with one thing and then you’re going to probably start back at the beginning of that one project.

So, we’re always looking at ways to continually evolve and do things better. And right now we’re working on looking at improving our mobile optimized hero images. How can we provide better information clearer, faster for the consumer? So many people are shopping on their phones.

People are still shopping in stores but really, they’re shopping on their computers or tablets, but most people at some point are on their phones. Whether they’re actually in the store double looking. They’re looking at their phones and then going into the store and perhaps picking up, or buying directly from their phone.

So how do we create content that’s accessible and easy to use and read and see and understand what the product’s all about? And communicate all of those important things to them. And so we’ve definitely incorporated more information using videos which we’re working with your company on and being able to provide more videos for our products online.

Also, too the whole AI thing has really exploded. Everybody is very well aware it’s been everywhere in the last year, it’s really taken off.

So we’re definitely exploring ways to use AI in our content development and creation and how to make us better. Being able to do images and marketing copy faster, better, quicker, and really kind of help elevate our content and continue to evolve it as well.

Dave: Another thing you shared with me is this idea of seasonality and micro seasons. And I thought that was a really unique concept. Tell us a little about that. How does that tie in with some of these different content initiatives? 

Pam: A lot of it started when we were developing our marketing copy and taking it from more basic marketing copy evergreen, but really looking at SEO and how to implement search engine optimization into our marketing copy and having not only great evergreen copy and making sure that we’re surfacing words that are specific to retailers or just overall for our category, but really trying to make sure that those words are there.

So when the customer is shopping online on a particular retailer, or even just searching on a search engine like Google that if they’re putting in a word like “chocolate” or “baking chips” that we’re having those words in our marketing copy so hopefully the Ghirardelli products will rise to the top and the customer can see that that might be a great option for them. 

The seasonality piece kind of came in after that, and we wanted to make sure that, as customers were thinking about different times of the year and gifting or during the holidays, we wanted to make sure that we were updating our marketing copy to put in search engine optimized words that were relevant to that particular season.

So we started off with providing for our core assortment, Christmas optimized copy, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. This year, we’re continuing to evolve that and looking again for more of those micro seasons like Mother’s Day, which is a big gifting opportunity. And chocolate is definitely probably one of the top category gifts during the Mother’s Day timeframe.

Same thing around Halloween. Thinking about how people buy chocolate and candy for Halloween whether it’s parties or trick or treating. Also looking at summer and s’mores, Ghirardelli chocolate squares are perfect to make a s’more. If you have never made a s’more with a Ghirardelli square, you’re missing out. They’re perfectly shaped. Perfectly sized for your graham crackers and we have fabulous flavors and you can make all kinds of fun, creative ones. 

So we’re really trying to help the customer in their journey as they’re shopping and making sure that we’re providing creative, fun ideas for them, not only gift giving opportunities, but also for perhaps baking or, going camping and s’mores are part of many people’s summertime activities.

Dave: You mentioned that Ghirardelli’s got kind of a fun feel to the brand. You’ve been able to have this fun and in touch feel and yet you have a very wide assortment of products; you have a global brand. How do you maintain that approachability and how do you communicate that to the consumer? 

Pam: I think that goes back to really our brand marketing team and working very closely with them. We have an extremely talented brand marketing team made up of amazing people who really know how to do things better and faster and really making sure that we’re incorporating our brand guidelines and our brand tonality and how we want to have our chocolate appear to the customer online. Making sure that, II work very close with our marketing team and their guidelines and how we want to describe our chocolate, the words that we want to use, the way we describe our caramel or our beautifully intense, dark chocolate. Brand marketing works very closely with our research and development group and regulatory as well to make sure that we’re coloring within the lines, but also making sure that we’re Really describing our flavors the best that we can and making them very appealing.

Dave: Absolutely, I love working on your creative and I have to say, this idea of all these different parts of the organization, I’m sure this is something that a lot of folks at various organizations would love to be doing better, would love to see teams working really closely together. What are some learnings or tips especially when it comes to this kind of visual content, digital commerce? What are some things to maybe take away here for folks that are looking?

Pam: I think it’s really a lot of times about breaking down silos. I think sometimes those develop in all organizations, big and small and for good, bad or indifferent reasons. But I think it’s really that you find commonalities and ways to support one another. And I think that’s one of the things that we do so well at Ghirardelli is the teams really do help support one another in projects. We really try to support one another in that way and I think that makes a big difference. And when I first started, that was one of the things I really tried very hard to make sure that I really connected with key stakeholders and all the different parts of the organization that I was going to engage in to really start building that relationship and that communication and support.

Also working with understanding, being compassionate and realizing that my timelines are not necessarily somebody else’s timelines. So it’s about compromise and support back and forth. 

Dave: We really respect the way you’re able to work across these different groups. And one other question we often hear related to this is, When you’re starting out on new visual creative or SEO or mobile, whatever it’s going to be, how do you get the awareness and the buy in?

Pam: Yes. I think when we launch a new product, in the last couple of months, we launched some new baking items. My work begins usually with brand marketing and creative and discussing when the product’s launching once we have packaging designs and finalizing photo shoots and what are the things we need to include in photo shoots.

And then also to one of the things we’ve really started to incorporate into our photo shoots is really making sure that we’re including elements that we could include in a video, things that maybe in the past, we hadn’t really thought about before.

But what are all the different needs of the various teams? It’s definitely expanded over the last several years. Internally, we’re starting to think about those things in a different way and really thinking about when we do a creative brief, really making sure that we’re hitting all the points, social, our e shop, where creative is going to be used or needed.

With marketing copy we’ve worked with an agency to make sure that we have enticing, interesting and SEO optimized the best that we possibly can, marketing copy.

So it’s a very well rounded approach, but we do it in parts. The insight of starting from basically when the product is introduced and at the photo shoot. I think that’s a great way of thinking about this and then you can put that content to work in all these different ways but starting early in the process.

 And I think a lot of the tools that we’ve incorporated and are starting to use over the last year or two have helped us accelerate that as well and helped us to be more nimble and quick and be able to react to changes.

The retailers are always having changes in their requirements and their needs too. And that’s something that we have to think about when we develop our content. We work very closely with many of them, but we do see a lot of changes both on the PDP, but also in retail media and some of these other areas. 

Dave: How are you thinking about that in the next couple of years? You’ve got the top of funnel, you’ve got retail media, you’ve got the PDP, you’ve got social. How do you prioritize and how do you strategize on these areas?

Pam: Yeah, it’s tough. It’s a moving target all the time. I’m responsible for above and below the fold in my area of responsibility, but I work closely with coworkers who work in retail media or social. And so, we do try to obviously share information and help support one another and things like that when we find a retailer’s changing their requirements. Sometimes you find out things after they happen, sometimes you’ll hear about things ahead of time and, I think a lot of times the partners that we use to support in our content journey find out information as well, too.

There’s not one perfect way to find out the changes that are happening because they happen so quickly and that’s also part of the challenge. So, you have to be ready all the time. Every time I go to send some content out, I’m like, “Okay, is it ready? Is it going to be ready?

Am I going to get the green light to be able to send it off?” 

I’m always happy when it’s there, but sometimes I’ll get a little oops. Okay, wait a second. We’re missing something here and make an update. It’s always kind of like a surprise. Sometimes you feel like in certain industries or business, there’s peaks and valleys and I don’t feel like that at all.I think that there’s always constant movement and change and things like that. 

Dave: So well, constant movement and change. That brings me to my next question. So if we’ve got summer with s’mores, we’ve got back to school. We’ve got Halloween coming up. What’s on deck for you looking forward?

Pam: Well, I think right now a lot surrounding AI and how we’re using AI with our content work. Really looking at Images and how we’re using them. Of course, video work with It’sRapid there and really trying to make sure that we, have videos for all of our items to provide to the retailers.

As we kind of head into the last part of the year, those are some of the key things. I think I mentioned earlier that we’re going to be looking at some guidance on how we’re going to be looking at our hero images and really kind of looking at the next evolution.

You know, definitely very mobile ready and, really making sure that we’re getting across to the consumer, all the things that they need to quickly pick up on when they’re shopping online, mobile.

Dave: Before we wrap up, I like to ask a few non-work questions.

First of all, thank you again. This is so many great topics for folks to be thinking about. Outside of work hobbies what are some favorite activities?

Pam: First, I love to travel, especially international travel. I love spending time with family and friends, the last few years have been challenging with the pandemic, but now we seem to be in a better place and so I’m looking forward to work travel coming up and just really enjoying the summer and spending time with family and friends.

I love to read, I think sometimes it’s just the simpler things to be honest, and I think if the last few years, if we can find a silver lining out the craziness that’s happened in the world, you know, maybe that’s it.

It’s just the simpler things. I think it’s what I truly appreciate most. 

Dave: So well said. That really resonates with me. So my other question for you is if you had to choose two people who have inspired you the most or who you’ve learned from, who would they be? 

Pam: When I think about work, it was probably, my manager when I worked for Claiborne years back, she was such an inspiring person and I think she really taught me a lot about leadership and management and how to work with people, whether it’s somebody that’s reporting to you or somebody who is at the same level as you or somebody above you.

I think the other person probably would be my dad. He’s such a strong person in every way and just really the heart and soul of our family and our extended family too. I’ve always looked at him with such admiration and love.. And of course I’m a little jaded, but he’s just such a good, honorable man and has lived his life with such integrity and something I would really aspire hopefully to have a legacy like that.

Dave: Wonderful. That’s inspiring and for me as a dad, certainly something to aspire to. Thank you for sharing that. 

Pam: Absolutely. 

Dave: Well, Pam, thank you so much again for taking time. Really appreciate it. 

Pam: Absolutely, Dave. Thank you for having me. It’s great to be with you today.


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