Guest Interview: Jeremy Skule, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Nasdaq
It’s only natural that the way we interact with brands is changing dramatically during this pandemic. And as our consumption habits shift, so do ad campaigns for the brands we know best. One such name is Nasdaq, which recently shifted gears to release an ad about community, reflecting on the importance of solidarity right now. This might be an unexpected twist from a company previously zeroing in on the concept of ambition.
We spoke with Nasdaq’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Jeremy Skule, to glean his insights on leading such a bellwether brand during this unprecedented time. He shared insights into Nasdaq’s investment in community, his predictions on post-COVID marketing, and his thoughts on how Nasdaq’s CEO changed her mind about one big idea.
What was the inspiration and intention behind Nasdaq’s “Community” ad?
It was a moment in early March. I was sitting there watching CNBC, reading everything that was happening around the world, and I saw our current ad go on air. My first thought was, “I need to get with our brand and creative team to develop a campaign and ensure we have campaigns in market that makes us contextually relevant to what’s happening in the world.”
So, we worked on mapping out the four phases of what we need to be thinking about. In this first phase, what comes up is a sort of raising of awareness and PSA about flattening the curve. We thought about how we could help support society during the current phase we’re in.
If you think about it, though, we have to continue to evolve. We're just starting to move into a second re-emergent phase, which asks “How do we successfully come out of quarantine? What principles need to be abided by?” Next comes a recovery phase, where we consider, “How do you support and help society and the economy recover?” Then comes a fourth phase, the reinvention phase where we see how we can start to do everything completely differently than before. Ultimately, I think we will see new companies emerge.
Overall, we wanted to see how we could be relevant to the Nasdaq community in each one of those phases.
How has the Nasdaq community responded?
The Nasdaq community includes our employees, our shareholders, and all of our clients. On the client front we have issuers, the companies that go public and buy our corporate services, the investing and trading community. As a technology company, we are also thinking about the broader technology community: people that buy and run our technology all over the world. It’s important to keep in mind regulators and legislators, too.
The responses to our campaign have been exceptionally positive so far. It’s a complete omni-channel approach. We have it everywhere you think we should be. So far, we are seeing amazing engagement and receptivity with our clients.
Part of what we’re seeing is not only at the brand level, but each of the business functions. Marketing and communications people have developed contextually relevant ways to go to market and talk to their clients. This could be by doing a buy side poll survey to understand how investors are viewing current market dynamics, helping people understand how to talk to investors, or giving our technology clients free diagnostic checks on their systems. Right now, volume is spiking all over the world and systems are redlining so companies need to make sure their technology performs at the highest level in this environment. Then we’re giving our listed companies opportunities to amplify authentic storytelling on our website and on our social channels.
With our philanthropic community, we have three areas we’re focusing on:
Getting meals to those in need
Protecting front line workers
Getting small businesses back on their feet
We have also allowed the three charities focused on this to take over our social handles on the weekend.
How has this altered how Nasdaq engages with its community—both internally & externally?
Just starting with the existing team, we’ve had to bring forth a renewed level of compassion more so than ever before. There are 150 people on the Marketing and Communications team all dealing with different struggles, and our clients are in the same position. Having a little more compassion (both in your go-to market and your interactions with clients) is essential right now. You have to be human, inquire about how people are doing, ask about their families and friends, and be contextually relevant about what your message is at a time like this.
That being said, some of our businesses have started hosting virtual client lunches with up to 20 clients. I do think people have more time to engage, and are looking for “life-hacks” for how other people are doing this.
Our virtual lunches have been a great success. One day, we had 25 of our data clients on a Zoom call and talked them through different investing strategies, including what data products they might need. It went so well that they asked to come back and discuss other topics.
Another really interesting aspect of our community campaign is the weekly webinars we’re hosting across different businesses. We’re getting three times the number of attendees on webinars. Some of our social shows, too, are getting ten times the usual engagement.
Why do you think that is? Is it because you’re providing valuable content?
Yes, that is the number one factor. You need to be choosing valuable content that people are hungry for and need—especially in this environment. I also think, for us, there’s an aspect of this content coming from a highly trusted source. Credibility, insights and expertise matter now more than ever.
Are there any key economic, social, or technological themes Nasdaq is particularly focused on right now?
Compassion is the first area of focus right now. Regarding our technology, we’ve without a doubt been talking about resilience, the stability of the system, and the need to keep the market open so people have access to capital.
While people may not like the general direction of the markets, we do feel that shutting them down would be a huge mistake. From the get-go we said it was important that they stay open. I’m glad we were out early talking about that, and I’m glad they did stay open. Overall, we have been hitting the resiliency and stability theme really hard.
On the economic front, we have been engaged with the government, the treasury department, and the SEC on the packages that have been put forward. Our CEO, Adena Friedman, sits on the New York Federal Reserve Board. She has been very closely involved in what the Fed is doing as well. We feel very good about the monetary and fiscal stimulus put into place, and we need to find a way to get small businesses back on their feet.
How are your pre-IPO companies navigating this pause, given that many had sights on going public this year?
Things are very difficult. Private liquidity has dried up for the most part, and what we’re seeing is that everybody obviously pushes out their intended IPO dates, except for some biotech companies. We’ve actually had a few IPOs in biotech, despite the volatility, which is amazing.
What every company—regardless of public or private status—should be doing is understanding the stresses in their business model, and doing their best to scenario plan around the potential implications of the pandemic.
What market mechanics could be improved or innovated upon as everyone navigates all the volatility and unknown? For example, if circuit breakers are implemented to reduce volatility, why not have them on the upside too?
One of the things we’ve learned about circuit breakers is that there needs to be a time-based buffer from the open of the stock market. What you saw when the circuit breakers went into effect on a particular day, the market opened at 9.30 and, at 9.30 and one second the circuit breakers were triggered. There should be some allotment of time to operate at the open before you go immediately into a market halt. That’s a rule change we would like to see be reevaluated.
As a marketing & communications leader who started in communications, how do you see the role of communications evolving into post-COVID reality?
A lot of my time in the months of February and March was spent on continuity planning. We needed to figure out how we manage our offices, our people all around the world, and literally all the communications associated with every form and function going forward.
Don’t you think in a post COVID-19 world there will be even more of a premium place on communications, brand, but also purpose? Don’t you feel like we were already heading down this path? Those are the things people need to consider: there has to be something more. How you position your employer brand, your culture, and your external branding position around purpose is going to be really critical to attracting and retaining talent and creating a successful client community.
I also think that if you were at an organization where communications didn’t have a seat at the table that has changed and will dramatically change going forward.
Adena, our CEO, has done an exceptional job of moving the organization through this. She has always valued communications, so we were able to get way ahead of the curve.
What are your internal communications like right now?
We just did a poll survey internally with our 4,500 employees in 60 countries and we’ve never seen scores like it. Numbers are at 97% satisfaction regarding how we’ve handled things. It’s really been an enormous effort on the employee communications front – from daily steering committee calls; weekly CEO calls to all-employees; town halls and memos distributed for each global business unit leader; and, leveraging so much technology to communicate daily to employees who are all mostly working from home.
And one of the real eye openers for Adena was that she was the connectivity and productivity that could be achieved across the organization in a remote setting. She’s seen how engaged she is by leveraging the different tech available. It changed her view on that topic.
Now, almost our entire staff is working from home, highly engaged, and productive. We’re running 22 of our own markets effectively and powering more than 120 markets globally through our technology. Knock on wood, but there has not been a blip in any of the markets that we run or that our tech powers.
All of this is happening at a time where volumes are doubling and tripling all around the world. You’re never perfect, and never will be perfect, but it is super encouraging to see how our people and technology are responding.