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Kelly Manderfield

Episode 55: The 5-Step Systematic Marketing Process to Transform Your Brand, with Kelly Manderfield

Kelly Manderfield is the Chief Marketing Officer for Cleveland Metroparks and leads all marketing initiatives across its 18 park reservations, eight golf courses, dining, retail, and a nationally acclaimed zoo. Manderfield is a critical member of the team that earned Cleveland Metroparks Best in Nation Gold Medal Award for excellence in Park and Recreation Management.

Under her leadership, Cleveland Metroparks has developed and executed several transformative brand campaigns, including Cleveland Metroparks Come Out and Play and 100 Year centennial campaigns as well as the rebrand of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo bringing wildlife conservation to the forefront.

As CMO, Manderfield has created a culture of strategic data-driven decision making to support the agency’s goals and initiatives as well as drive revenue. She manages overall marketing from end-to-end, including: communications, advertising, research, special events, event rentals, corporate partnerships, retail and visual communications.

Manderfield has developed and fostered strong, mutually beneficial hometown partnerships, including KeyBanks revival of ZooKeys and sponsorship of the Centennial Fireworks Celebration that attracted more than 30,000 people to Edgewater Beach. Additionally, she helped secure Cuyahoga Community Colleges sponsorship and involvement with the popular Edgewater LIVE concert series.

Prior to her joining Cleveland Metroparks, Manderfield was most recently Vice President, Senior Marketing and Strategist at KeyCorp where she oversaw national marketing programs, advertising and public relations campaigns.

Manderfield received a Masters of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Bowling Green State University. She currently sits on the board of Burning River Foundation, which is dedicated to improving, maintaining and celebrating the vitality of our regional freshwater resources.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The five step systematic marketing process: insight, concept, design, launch, and review
  • Using a brand equity study to assess brand awareness and see what organization challenges need to be solved for
  • Bringing a brand with built-in equity to life
  • Creating different campaigns and pitting them against each other to find the strategy that will bring the highest ROI
  • Taking a campaign across all mediums so it resonates with the most people
  • Preparing your staff to execute the campaign successfully (and why they need complete buy-in)
  • Assessing the success of a campaign to learn what worked, what didn’t, and how the next version can be better
  • How qualitative research can help inform quantitative research
  • Using study data to figure out what’s important to your visitors (or customers) and planning work based on the data
  • Why every problem that you’ll find from the brand equity study won’t be a marketing problem
  • Figuring out your market position: something that really differentiates you
  • When launching a new marketing initiative, how much gets unveiled on launch day and how much gets rolled out later?
  • Involving your staff in the research phase so you know what they will be excited to market
  • Eliminating bias from your research

Ways to contact Lauren:

Podcast eBooks:

The Power of Two

Episodes 1, 2 and 3 collide to bring you summary of lessons learned and systems created around Vision and Key Initiatives that help drive success to companies and businesses.

The Transition to Automation

In Episode 25, Vera talks with Heidi Rasmussen, CEO and Co-Founder of one of Inc 5000’s fastest growing companies in America – freshbenies. This eBook highlights part of the conversation to bring out the best lesson in automation and on-boarding for startups.

Using IT Strategically

In Episode 29, Vera talks with Tom Grooms, Vice President, Information Technology, and Chief Information Officer for CF Industries. This eBook is your guide for seeing IT as more than just a faster way to do your accounting.

The ZFactor Methodology

In Episode 35, Vera talks with Cindy Goldsberry, founder and partner of ZFactor Group. This eBook shows you how to take your business from vendor to value creator.


Welcome to System Execution: the strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company, but here we’ll solve your physical, technological, and psychological systems issues by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business, and providing you the guidelines and tools that you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results.

Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera Fischer: Today’s episode is sponsored by 97 Degrees West, the brand marketing agency located in Austin, Texas. 97 Degrees West serves regional and national companies in the healthcare, finance, energy, and manufacturing industries. 97 Degrees West believes that an integrated approach to marketing that involves traditional and digital strategies that fit your customer’s buying journey yields the greatest impact on your bottom line. Go to www.97dwest.com to learn more.

Welcome to System Execution, a podcast devoted to uses processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host. Many of you know that business success relies on systems. Systems can be physical, such as a warehouse or factory, or technological, think software, while others are psychological systems, such as checklists, org charts, or your daily hot list. I’m really excited to start the year of 2018 with our guest who is the CMO, or Chief Marketing Officer, for Cleveland Metroparks, Kelly Manderfield. Kelly is the CMO and she leads all marketing initiatives across its 18 park reservations, 8 golf courses, dining, retail, and a nationally acclaimed zoo. Manderfield is a critical member of the team that earned Cleveland Metroparks best in nation gold medal award for excellence in park and recreation management.

Under Kelly’s leadership, Cleveland Metroparks has developed and executed several transformative brand campaigns including Cleveland Metroparks Come Out and Play and 100 Year Centennial campaigns, as well as the rebrand of Cleveland Metro Park Zoo bringing wildlife conservation to the forefront. Kelly received a Master’s of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology from Cleveland State University and a BA in Communication from Bowling Green State University. Kelly currently sits on the board of Burning River Foundation, which is dedicated to improving, maintaining, and celebrating the vitality of our regional freshwater resources. Welcome to System Execution Kelly.

Kelly Manderfield: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be a guest.

More on Kelly’s Background

Vera Fischer: We are really excited to have you. Your Cleveland Metroparks, I did a little research and it just looks amazing. I can’t wait to get started on the five step systematic marketing process you’re going to be speaking with us about. But before we do that, I know my listeners would really appreciate hearing more about you and your experience.

Kelly Manderfield: Sure. I’ve been at Cleveland Metroparks for about four and a half years now. It has been the most exciting and rewarding position that I’ve had in my career. I can tell you that with nearly 18 million annual recreation visits a year, the community definitely uses and loves the Cleveland Metroparks. It’s also been referenced for many many years as the emerald necklace. It’s really a ring of green space surrounding the inner suburbs and surrounding suburbs of the Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township area. Most recently, back in 2013, also connecting to one of the region’s greatest natural assets, which is Lake Eerie. It’s been a lot of fun and very rewarding to be able to add new programming and drive people back to these assets that they continue to fall in love with each visit.


Kelly’s 5-Step Systematic Marketing Process

Vera Fischer: Well Kelly I know that we’ve got a lot to cover because we had our preliminary conversation and I’m really excited to get started with this. But I know that you mentioned to me that when you began your position at Cleveland Metroparks things were a bit in disarray when it comes to the brand. I know this will lead into that five step systematic marketing process, so let’s start with what was it like when you first started, and what did you immediately know you needed to fix?

Kelly Manderfield: Sure. Coming on board in 2013 one of my first observations was there that had really never been a brand equity study just gauging things like guest perception, awareness, usage. So one of the first things we set out, and part of the reason that drove this as well is there were so many different logos and identities representing various assets across the park system, whether it was a specific event at one of our various nature centers, different logos and lockups for each golf course, for the zoo. Some of them may or may not have carried the Cleveland Metroparks name or brand identity along with them. As you can see, coming in as an experienced marketer, I was concerned that a lot of these marks were diluting the overall master brand of Cleveland Metroparks and perhaps damaging some of the awareness affiliated with that overarching brand and all the assets that it had and offerings that were associated with it.

Step #1: Insight


Step one that we really follow in our human process, it’s a very systematic marketing process, and for me it always begins and is founded in insight. Really looking at what market research did we have on hand, what historical analysis was available, what did we know about who was visiting us, and really taking that information to say what gaps do we have, what more would we like to learn and gauge.

So really launching the first ever brand equity study right out of the gate and learning a lot of baseline things that we knew we could always go back and measure over time to see how we were growing awareness or solving for challenges that the organization may or may not have had. So it all started with insight.

Step #2: Concept


Then from there, really moving into step two, which is all around concept. What we were able to gauge from the study was that the overall impression of the Cleveland Metroparks has always been one of very beloved asset in the community. That was very high, but where we did see some challenges was the idea that people didn’t know that there was eight golf courses associated with the brand, or that certain events were associated with Cleveland Metroparks.

What we wanted to do was come up with a concept or a market positioning because we knew that the logo or the symbol that was associated with Cleveland Metroparks, that was introduced in the mid-70s, had built in equity to it. We wanted to maintain that symbol and that master brand logo, but bring it to life with what we call a market position.

A lot of agencies, whether you call it a purpose, a business strategy and a promise, or your mission, your vision, a lot of those are already established. What we were looking to do was create a differentiated position, something that we could go to market with, maybe a two to three year campaign that would be of interest and attractive to all of our various users groups. You have different segmented audiences, whether I’m a zoo user, or a golf user, or a park user, or I come to education events, and there’s a lot of crossover in there as well.

Coming up with this concept or this market position, it really, to forming a strategy and having internal brainstorms. When I say a concept, what we usually do here as a best practice is we’ll come up with three mini ad campaigns, if you will, because we go out and we do further testing. This is a multi-phase research approach to what your ultimately going to land on.

We came up with our three campaigns. Often times we’ll do a TV storyboard and script, a billboard that could also act as an online display ad, and we’ll go to market and we’ll test those, typically quantitatively. We have done qualitative focus groups for larger effect as well, and just get some feedback and ask about various things.

What’s most motivational to you to drive a visit? How does this make you feel? How does this fit the overall image of the Cleveland Metro Park system? How appealing is it?

Really then take those campaigns and put them up against one another so that when you’re developing your ultimate campaign you’re going to ensure that you’re going to get the best return for your investment, and really hone in on what’s the most motivating message, tweaking it with feedback from a various panel of people on what they think, what they like, and making those changes.

Step #3: The Design Phase


That takes you into step three, which is the design phase. Really how you are going to express this concept that you’ve identified as something that’s going to resonate as a campaign. This is where you start to plan out your media. You take the concept and you express it across what all mediums are needed as part of my campaign and my strategy, and really designing that fully integrated campaign.

Equally important here is thinking about your intended audience. You can go to market with a very strong compelling message, but if you can’t deliver it when the audiences are coming to your location to experience it, you’re going to fall short. As part of that design phase you should also be thinking about the visitor experience.

Step #4: Launch


This will bring you to step four, which is launch. Are we ready to go live? Preparing all of your various executions, trafficking them to the respective outlets, getting your staff aligned about what you’re about to launch and embark on.

Equally as important as our market position when we were rebranding Cleveland Metroparks and introducing it was communicating that internally to our staff. Internal staff, staff that’s interacting with our guests in the frontline, and really getting their buy-in so that they were ambassadors and they were going to bring to life what we were going to take to the market, being prepared on site.

Step #5: Review


Then that brings you to step five, which could arguably be one of the most important and critical steps, which is review. How did we perform? Once you’ve gone to market, creating how are you going to report your success over time.

Then what is your baseline, what was your intended return on investment, and what have you learned so that when we go back to do this again we’re able to be even stronger and we’re versed and educated on what we did and how we get better and how we improve.

Vera Fischer: Kelly, just to recap, we’ve got five steps in this systematic marketing process. The first is insight, the second is concept, the third is design, the fourth is launch, and the fifth is review. I’ve got a couple of questions on each of these steps within your process.

Kelly Manderfield: Sure.


Components of the Insight Phase

Vera Fischer: Let’s go back up to step one and look at that insight. Can you elaborate more on the components of a brand equity study and how you may have implemented that study within the community?

Kelly Manderfield: Sure. We went about it two ways. A lot of times when you’re thinking about what kind of data, you’re looking to collect what kind of feedback, you’re always going to decide whether you want to do qualitative and/or quantitative. What we established since we had never done something similar to this in the past history of the Cleveland Metroparks, we decided to do both. We actually started with the qualitative because that helped shape the quantitative. We did a series of, and we actually heard from a focus group sampling, we decided to do more of a one on one interview. We actually looked through, we have a significant amount of visitors that we deem advocates or ambassadors.

These are folks that may be family members to our Cleveland Metro Park Zoo, or they are avid golfers that are playing one of our eight courses on a weekly basis. We tapped into those advocates and met with them first in a one on one interview and asked them a series of questions about what was it that kept bringing them back, what was their passion or their drive and love of the Cleveland Metroparks. Asking them a lot about imagery and sharing different images and having them select which of these images. It could be pictures of family interacting in a park, or someone golfing, or an animal, or nature, or wildlife, or a beauty shot, and having them pick from these pictures to try to really draw out what was pulling at the strings and the emotions and evoking some of that positive emotion with our ambassadors first and foremost.

Once we collected that feedback, we used that to draw upon a quantitative test that we went to market with. We were able to … We did work for a third party with that to recruit who we were going to include in the quantitative tests. We got a few hundred people, I think it was between 250, 300 people, so it was representative of our population that helped recruit. It was an online quantitative study. We asked a lot of things about overall impression of the parks, how and what they were using, what resonated with them most, and asking a laundry list of everything from our trails to our picnic shelters, to viewing nature, to how are we doing and then what was important to them. We were able to, one of the most valuable things that came out of it was having a quadrant and really being able to plot and have a grid of high and low in terms of what was important and what were we doing well, and how were we performing.

That allowed us to look at that strategically and say here’s something that’s really important to our visitors, but maybe we need to do some more work around. Whether it was cleanliness of our restrooms for example, something that simple that was more apparent that we needed to do some work around. We also at Cleveland Metroparks have a Cleveland Metroparks ranger or police law enforcement group, and it was clear that safety is something extremely important to our guests and our visitors. There was a need for more awareness and just overall education around the fact of what the police and law enforcement group is capable, and how they are defending and keeping our park system safe. Free parking, again some of these things that were so simple that we didn’t even think about, we were kind of taking for granted if you will, were extremely important to our guests. Things that we were going to talk more about as we move forward in our campaign efforts. That really kind of shaped the insight things and pieces that led to the concepts we came up for in market positioning.

Vera Fischer: You know Kelly it’s interesting, and listeners this is a point to really take to the bank, is that through this brand equity study you realize that there are issues out there that are not marketing problems. They’re not marketing things that you use to solve them, they’re other things. It really uncovers the entire experience for that desired visitor.

Kelly Manderfield: I think that’s a great point because again when you develop a market positioning, you’re putting something out that’s a brand promise if you will, or something that’s appealing that’s going to drive visitation. But to your point, and as we were talking about before, it’s much greater than that. It’s much bigger picture. Then once you’ve attracted me to come visit what’s my experience and what’s my expectation. That is a full team effort, much more than just the marketing division.

Vera Fischer: Absolutely. Just high level, what would you recommend, or how long did it take you to get through that first step of insight? Just months, a year, what was it?

Kelly Manderfield: Yeah, I would say that a lot of times studies like this can take several months, potentially even a year. We were on a little bit more of an expedited timeline, so to do both bodies of research it took us around four to five months.


Translating Your Market Position

Vera Fischer: Wow. All right. You’ve completed that, you’ve got your insight, and you’re moving on to that concept phase. Some folks may think that the concept phase is something where you start coming up immediately with a creative campaign, but what I really thought was poignant and what you had said is that no we really started off with figuring out what’s our market position. Can you expand a little bit on what that means, a market position?

Kelly Manderfield: Sure. A market position is something that really differentiates you. Thinking about, for us a lot of it is we’re competing for family’s and resident’s time, their leisure time, in terms of the marketing effort that we were building, the campaign we were building towards. We had to think a lot about who are our competitors, why do people love and have passion and enjoy their experiences at Cleveland Metroparks, and how do we differentiate and stand out. What is that unique attribute that we can really build off of that has the appeal and the motivation to drive more visitation and to drive overall favorability? Those were some of the metrics that were really important to us.

Three pillars of the Cleveland Metro Park’s mission are really built around conservation, education, and recreation. In creating this market position, and from a marketing campaign standpoint, we wanted to keep those in mind. Then when we did shift to coming up with some of the creative ideas and concepts, those were things that were expressed as part of that idea or concept. The three concepts that we tested in this instance, again this was back in 2013, one of the campaigns was what will I discover today in Cleveland Metroparks. That was hitting a little bit more on the education side. The second concept or idea that we tested was a testimonial because we thought it was an interesting platform to take all of these different user groups and identities and express what they love most about the parks, and kind of have these rotating testimonials of people, and what they loved about Cleveland Metroparks. Then the third brand platform was, I will call it come out and play. It was really touching on coming out, recreating, having fun, and really leveraging that as the main idea.

Vera Fischer: Kelly, another point is that sometimes the things that you’re trying to overcome from a conceptual perspective is not necessarily a tangible competitor, it’s a mindset that you are trying to overcome. Correct? I mean if conservation is something that is of value within you, you want, everything you do in your life needs to be, or you want it to be geared towards that. I think some listeners out there may think well they don’t have any competitors, but that’s not really true.

Kelly Manderfield: That’s right. Sometimes I think even your competing, like you may have touched on, against yourself, of what’s core to your mission and values, and how do you express that and get other people rallying behind and knowing why it’s important, and that education factor. How do you press upon education, yet in a fun, playful manner so that let’s say we lean on recreation get people to come visit and experience what Cleveland Metroparks has to offer when you’re here visiting? How do we inner weave into the experience some of that conservation and education messaging?


How Long it Takes to Implement this Systematic Marketing Process

Vera Fischer: Exactly. Once we’ve gotten through that concept and design phase, so that design is where you bring all that creative to bear based on whatever the concept that “wins,” and then we’re moving into that launch period. How long did you have to spend from the time that you figured out what that creative looked like to really implementing it across all of your brand touch points, across that entire experience? How long was that before you could officially flip the switch?

Kelly Manderfield: This was another, I would say from end to end, from insight to launch, it was a year long effort, which again is a pretty tight timeline. Again, you’re doing multiple phases of research. To your point, we came up with the creative ideas or concepts, we tested them, and then we took the winning concept if you will and further refined it, tweaked it. I would say that concept and design phase was probably at least another four months, which again is quite timely when you’re producing TV and billboards, and t-shirts, and experiences, and events that are going to play out over the next calendar year.

Vera Fischer: Whenever you did the launch, was it something where you literally said, “Okay on this day everything switches over,” or was it a rolled out plan or launch rather?

Kelly Manderfield: I would say it was a combination of both in the sense of there was quite a bit that turned on that launch day. It was led by, we had our Chief Executive Officer Brian Zimmerman sent out a note to all staff sharing with them the creative, I think it was like a day or so before, to get them excited, let them know what to expect, what was coming. Again, this is something that park district had really never done before, a brand campaign really showcasing the park and inviting our community to come out and visit, and doing it in a much more meaningful and different way than we had before. I think that was an extremely important part of it. That next day the mass media campaign went into full effect. You had billboards popping up, TV, radio, digital assets running.

Then the more that was kind of a rolling launch I would say would be a lot of the staff would get excited about the effort and come up with more ideas. Even further ways to activate it, whatever their role may be in the organization they would start to think of new ways to bring that brand positioning to life, which was really rewarding and exciting to watch play out. It was some of these deliverables that you may or may not have even thought of at the beginning of the campaign.


Best Practices When Implementing a Systematic Marketing Process

Vera Fischer: Kelly, no launch is ever 100% perfect, so any guidelines that you can share with us that says okay this one wasn’t a home run, we maybe should have tweaked this a little differently? Any of this that you could share with us a okay watch out for?

Kelly Manderfield: Yeah. I mean I can tell you right now, as mentioned this was back in 2013, we currently, over the past several months, have been coming up with our next evolution of what is our next market positioning. Again, we see this as a three year commitment. The come out and play campaign was in market for three seasons. We pivoted this past year to celebrate the centennial. As we embark in next year, we will be launching our next or our new market position to keep it fresh. I will tell you one of the things that we did differently was at the same time of collecting insight from our community and our visitors, we mirrored the same exact tests internally with our staff. Not only did we do focus groups with staff, we also did the qualitative and the quantitative tests with the concepts with our staff. It’s funny, we got very similar response so that we knew that what we were going to go to market with was something that the staff was very excited about.

I will tell you that many of our staff personally thanked us for being involved in the systematic marketing process. They got even more excited about it. We have an internal brand steering committee that we’ve developed. We’ve been thinking about all of the different ways that the different departments can bring this to life. How can we help them deliver in their areas? What can we provide them with, what tools? When we go to market to launch this spring, I have a feeling that we will be even more successful because not only did we involve the external community, but we involved our staff to help drive this one home as well.

Vera Fischer: Well and that really brings it full circle from at the beginning of our conversation you really touched on the human aspect of it. That’s where it is so critical is to get that human commitment and that response, and the feedback, et cetera. You don’t really develop it in a vacuum.

Kelly Manderfield: That’s exactly right. I think that a lot of times your DNA of your organization, what you want to shine on the inside, comes even more to fruition on the outside when you develop something internally within that you go to market with because you can guaranteed deliver an excellent experience when our guests come.

Vera Fischer: When will that new campaign launch next year?

Kelly Manderfield: We will be launching it in early April on 2018.

Vera Fischer: Oh well great. Well I will absolutely be on the lookout for that. Well Kelly you’ve shown us that processes are needed to get the work done, and you’ve provided a few of the nuances that our listeners need to hear regarding the execution of successful system. Before we go, let’s close out today’s discussion with any final advice you want to share, anything we may have missed, and then please tell us the best way we can connect with you.

Kelly Manderfield: Sure. Well thanks again for having me as a guest. I love being able to showcase the work that we’ve been doing here at Cleveland Metroparks. Advice would be I think it really helps to have a framework or a human process if you will to guide you, but at the end of the day, I think from a marketing standpoint, the more that you can involve data and research makes your approach so much more objective and fact based. It really, you should still have fun with it and be creative, but again the more you can be grounded in feedback and make sure that you’re headed the right direction, I think the more successful you’ll be in the end. If you have questions or you’d like to bounce any ideas off of me, I can be found on Twitter. My handle is @kmanderfield and I would love to hear from you.

Vera Fischer: Well System Execution fans no matter how many notes you took or how often you re-listen to this episode, remember every successful business uses systems to drive to a better outcome. Kelly, it’s been great to have you on the show and thank you again for sharing your insight with our listeners.

Kelly Manderfield: Thanks for having me.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution enlightening. For free examples, case studies, e-books, and more be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at vera@systemexecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.




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