How Marketing Expert Will Smith Keeps The PetSmart Brand Soaring

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Marketing Trends Background

The pet category is the second-most emotional in the eyes of consumers, behind only children. So as the CMO of PetSmart, Will Smith has a daily challenge to elevate his brand while connecting with the hearts and minds of customers. On this episode of Marketing Trends, Smith explains how he does this, including through strategies of expanding services both in-store and online and building more trust with consumers

Tune in to learn:

  • Where did Will’s journey to marketing start? (4:35)
  • The education you get at P&G (6:30)
  • How working at PetSmart is different than other marketing roles (8:20)
  • How PetSmart successfully handled the shifts and pivots of the last few years (12:30)
  • The importance of leadership and mentoring (18:00)
  • The challenges of branding in 2023 (25:05)
  • Where ecommerce comes into play in the pet products world (32:30)
  • How to elevate the retail store experience (38:00)
  • Understanding customer obsession (40:00)
  • Ensuring a good culture (44:30)


About the Guest:

Will Smith joined PetSmart as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer in Sept. of 2019. Most recently, he served as the Chief Marketing Officer of Abercrombie & Fitch, where he led the global marketing efforts for the company’s iconic lifestyle brands – Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and Abercrombie Kids.

Will also formerly held the Chief Marketing Officer role at Caleres, a company previously known as Brown Shoe Company. During his tenure there, he drove the strategic repositioning of Famous Footwear, upgraded the in-store communications and design, led the brand’s foray into digital and social media, accelerated e-commerce sales and traffic and contemporized all customer contact strategies and tactics.

Earlier in his career, Will gained strong retail, wholesale, and brand building experience having worked in senior brand management positions for iconic packaged goods companies such as Kraft Foods and Philip Morris USA, in entertainment as Vice President of Marketing for Urban Music at Atlantic Records, and as GM for Blackground Records, and in fashion apparel as group vice president of marketing for Kate Spade/Liz Claiborne Retail.

Will earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cornell University as well as an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

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Episode 397