Some of the most critical technologies that shape the way we live are the ones that we don’t even realize are there – they keep us safe and comfortable as we live our lives and do our jobs. Johnson Controls has been providing these solutions on a global scale for over 130 years. But it’s really been the last four years – since CMO Kim Metcalf-Kupres took the helm – that’s set the stage for the brand’s digital transformation. Before she joins us at Transition 2017, we sat down with her to talk about the vision for Johnson Controls as a brand and an organization.

Digital Change kim metcalf kupres


This year’s Transition is all about “The Path to Digital Change.” What does the idea of digital change mean to you and how you lead at Johnson Controls?

Digitization is at the core of our strategy as a company. It’s relevant to us on multiple levels – both to our products and the way we operate. Strategically, it’s one of the five “megatrends” we’re focusing on for the development of our own business. We’re creating smart buildings, cities, and energy solutions for our customers, so a focus on increased capabilities — like sensors and control systems — is inherent in what we do and the value we create.

Digitization is also incredibly important in the way we conduct business. Throughout our supply chain, platforms are increasingly digitized and connected. And particularly in marketing, we’re implementing everything from Percolate — which we use to manage our marketing assets and content marketing programs — to customer-facing portals like our e-commerce platform, customer relationship management system, and customer experience systems. For us “digital change” is a fundamental shift not only in the products and services we provide, but in the way we run our business.

Johnson Controls has been around for over 130 years. How do you approach leading all this digital change and updating your brand’s values, while retaining its heritage?

That’s true, we are an 130-year-old company. From a brand standpoint, what we do and the value we create is enduring. We provide essential, everyday technologies that create a more connected, comfortable, and sustainable world. These have been important for people in environments where we work, live, and play for as long as we can remember. But the knowledge, expertise, and solutions themselves are constantly evolving. It’s how we deliver them and what the technologies look like that change.

From a values perspective, we are a purpose-led company. We’re very focused on our customers, our integrity, and our corporate citizenship. We want to make a difference in the world and be a leader in the markets wherein we choose to participate. This requires us to be engaged, current, and authentic. But because we stay true to our core principles, we can continue to evolve in a changing world and adapt to changing needs without losing our identity. We continue to build and advance our identity to reflect evolutions in the world around us.

You recently launched a new partnership with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Can you talk about the inception of this initiative?

The strategic partnership we have with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the investment we’ve made in Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, is a great example of what we mean by “purpose-led” and “value-based.” The opportunity came to us while we were working with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Industrial Realty Group; as they continued to evolve their vision, they approached us about being the naming rights partner for the village.

Why is this partnership important to your greater brand strategy and values?

We chose to move forward with them because it’s really brand-relevant for us. This is a self-contained smart city, and it’s one of the first of its kind. Our technology and our solutions directly apply to what they are trying to build and will extend into how they operate and maintain the Village.

The experiences of every visitor and occupant — be it a guest, player, fan, or business partner — will benefit from what we bring to the table. The Village is a great living showcase of the potential for smart buildings and smart cities. It’s a place we can take both our customers to see the “art of the possible,” as well as our employees to be inspired. It’s also a place for us to innovate and explore new technologies, as we push the envelope and extend guest experiences with immersive technologies.

The partnership also spans all the vertical markets we serve. It’s a very diverse and versatile location — including everything from stadiums and offices to medical facilities. This project helps us connect with any client in a meaningful way.

In addition, the values that the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the game of football represent resonate with the brand values of Johnson Controls. We believe in celebrating excellence, leadership, integrity, and being a force for good in the world.

Johnson Controls is a B2B brand that touches a lot of consumers’ lives in ways they might not realize; but this partnership is very visible to the average consumer. Why was it important to your strategy to increase the visibility of Johnson Controls?

We think it’s important to increase the visibility of our brand because Johnson Controls has really gone through a fundamental transformation over the last four or five years. We did brand equity studies as we embarked on this journey and found that we didn’t have a “bad” brand — but we also didn’t have a widely recognized brand. We were lost in the mix of “biggest brands you’ve never heard of.” There are a lot of companies talking about their industrial capabilities, and a lot of companies with the name “Johnson” in them. There was a desire to be more unique and distinct in our identity, and to be more aspirational in the way we view ourselves today and in the future.

How do you see marketing technology fitting into the role of the modern CMO?

Anyone who is not considering technology as an area of focus and responsibility is going to get left behind. Digital is transforming the traditional functions and capabilities in business; and the implications are huge for our talent, the skilled workforce, and the investments we make. You’ve got to have appetite to transform your own capabilities and have foresight to see the implications for the way you conduct business on a daily basis. Ultimately, we use marketing technology to help people feel empowered to achieve their commercial objectives.

However, I will say, in a large company with dispersed resources, you end up with the potential for fragmentation. We had a lot of well-intentioned, energetic folks go and start their own websites and social presences. This meant we had to go through a period of “cleanup” to get to a single brand identity and put stronger governance in place.

“Ultimately, we use marketing technology to help people feel empowered to achieve their commercial objectives.”

As you continue to use marketing technology to empower your people, how are you seeing the CMO/CIO relationship evolve?

That’s actually a really interesting area of debate I hear in the industry often — both at conferences and in conversations with peers. In the future, will the CIO own marketing? Will the CMO own IT?  Or will there be a Chief Digital Officer who owns it all? To me, it depends on the type of company you’re in.

First and foremost, you really need acumen that goes both ways. At Johnson Controls, it’s not an “either, or,” IT and Marketing form more of a partnership. There is a definite need for IT’s technical discipline and expertise to support the many different platforms and business processes across the company. But there’s also the strategic ownership, commercial goals, and customer experience objectives we’re trying to drive, that really need marketing discipline and customer-orientation. In other companies, where tech permeates everybody’s DNA, you might see a different model. But in most B2B companies that are continuing to transform, there needs to be a very strong cross-functional partnership.