July 2008 - Going the Distance

ERA Chairman Edwin Garrubbo talks about the next chapter for the Association that includes a new mission and vision, while former ERA President and CEO Barbara Tulipane highlights some of the initiatives that have helped the organization evolve.

By Vitisia Paynich and Gina Mullins-Cohen

For the past two years, the leadership, staff and many members of the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) have been doing a bit of soul-searching. Whether it’s addressing ways to expand membership, finding their voice on Capitol Hill or identifying ERA’s overall purpose, these are initiatives that have required many hours of discussion, as well as much debate.

Yet regardless of the individual issues, one fact remains abundantly clear: In order to move forward and prosper, people’s ability to embrace change is at the crux of what propels any organization and its members forward. In ERA’s case, it’s that desire for positive change that has united its members and enabled the Association to implement new objectives that will ensure its future growth.

Electronic Retailer spoke one on one with Edwin Garrubbo, ERA’s 2007-08 chairman and CEO of Creative Commerce LLC, to find out firsthand about some of the Association’s recent accomplishments, as well as ongoing plans for taking ERA to the next level.

Electronic Retailer: This past March, the Board of Directors and ERA staff drafted new Mission and Vision statements. Can you first tell us about the new Mission statement?

Edwin Garrubbo: I’m very proud of our new Mission statement for ERA: Drive, grow, and shape the future of electronic retailing.The word drive means that ERA will steer and lead the industry into the future. We want to be ahead of the curve and be the leader in the electronic retailing space. We want to be the ones that are setting the agenda and defining what electronic retailing is and how everyone can use it. Grow means quite simply that we want to increase the size of the electronic retailing industry in all categories. We don’t just want to maintain television and online shopping sales levels where they are currently. We want to see explosive growth in terms of use by marketers and use by consumers. And then shape means that we want to be able to mold the industry, as well as identify new media and channels for the industry. So, we want to be leaders and shapers, and we want the result to be a bigger, more robust industry for everyone to participate in.

ER: Can you tell us about the new Vision statement?

Garrubbo: The new Vision statement for ERA is also clear and succinct: Be the universally recognized authority, resource, and voice for electronic retailing. By authority, we mean that we’ll be able to speak for what is happening in electronic retailing. And while there may be several organizations or groups that work in the electronic retailing space, we want to be the go-to association. Resource means that we want to be able to provide market research and information to people and our members about electronic retailing. In terms of voice, that means we want to want to speak for electronic retailing and that may include lobbying on Capitol Hill through our government affairs program and that might include our magazine, Electronic Retailer, which we think is a perfect voice-both in print and online-for what we’re doing and what our membership is doing.

ER: ERA has worked toward re-branding itself; can you tell us about the Association’s efforts?

Garrubbo: We spent the better part of last year looking at ERA’s logo. The old logo, which was 10 years old, actually had a line running through that was meant to signify a plug connected to a wall. That might have been a great symbol for electronic retailing 10 years ago, but we all know now with the emergence of wireless and digital technology that the plug is almost obsolete. Our new logo incorporates symbols that signify future looking, targets, video and action. We hope that it can work for another 10 years.

ER: In earlier discussions, there was talk about actually changing the name. Why did you decide to keep the name?

Garrubbo: We embarked on an exploratory campaign, talking to current and past leaders and members in the United States and abroad, to study whether the name, Electronic Retailing Association, is the right name for what we do. Given that the organization has many different types of businesses, many of which have different focuses and perspectives, it was really difficult to reach consensus on a new name. Many believed that the current name actually says it all. It encompasses everything-from television, to the Internet, to digital, to mobile and radio. So, after a lengthy process, we realized that the name we have is really quite good. It is right on target for what we’re trying to do. Now we have a beautiful new logo that signifies forward-thinking. We also will be launching our new website in the near future. This same branding will also be rolled out in Europe.

ER: Although, you decided to keep the name, Electronic Retailing Association, you did change the tagline. Can you tell us more about the new one?

Garrubbo: During the process, many people suggested that the words direct to consumer should be incorporated into our branding. Therefore, we created a new tagline: Leaders in Direct-to-Consumer Commerce. We sell products electronically and believe that direct-to-consumer commerce is the way of the future.

ER: Of course, in any industry, there is always a certain level of criticism waged against an association. One particular criticism that we’ve heard is that ERA is heading in the wrong direction. What are your thoughts about that?

Garrubbo: There may have been some criticism with the course we charted in the beginning, but I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about the direction and results that we have achieved. Let’s face it; common sense is on our side. We need to embrace new technology and the Internet as the future of electronic retailing. But that doesn’t mean that I no longer believe in the power of DRTV. DRTV and live shopping are our heritage, and are an important part of our future. But clearly, anyone using an infomercial or a spot today will maybe see 50 percent of product orders coming from online. The direct-to-commerce relationship is really what most marketers want. Television remains a perfect way to start that relationship. I strongly believe that marrying traditional direct response television with the Internet is the future of retailing and that ERA is leading the way. This is now a multichannel universe.

ER: What have been some of your personal goals that you hoped to achieve during your tenure as ERA chairman? And, have you already met those goals?

Garrubbo: My personal goal when I became chair-elect two years ago was to clarify the focus of the trade association and to embrace online marketing and all digital media. If we step back and look at our progress, our success is obvious. We have updated all of our programs-including educational, government affairs, and meeting/networking. All programs now also include a focus on both TV and Internet marketing, e-commerce and mobile marketing/commerce. We implemented this strategy even before all of our members asked us to, but now our members are very appreciative. So yes, I’ve achieved what I set out to do: 1) Refocus the central purpose of ERA on supporting our core members, which are electronic retailers and marketers; and 2) to deliver services and benefits that keep an eye on the Internet and on the future.

ER: As we go to press with this issue, the Association will be saying farewell to its president and CEO, Barbara Tulipane. Do you have any parting words?

Garrubbo: I want to just thank Barbara Tulipane for all of her hard work and dedication. She has worked tirelessly. She was always available to staff and members. Barbara has committed eight years to ERA and that commitment has benefitted all of us. We’re very sorry to be seeing her move on, but she’s got a great opportunity in front of her and we are very excited to continue the momentum that’s been built under her tenure as CEO.

Tulipane Discusses the Initiatives That Have Added to ERA’s Growth

In June, Barbara Tulipane announced that she was stepping down as president and CEO of ERA. During her tenure, Tulipane led the management and operations of the 500-memeber-company organization. She first joined ERA in 2000 as executive vice president, where she oversaw all business management functions and provided strategic direction to all divisions.

Prior to her departure, Tulipane reflected on some of ERA’s key accomplishments over the past year while under her leadership and shared her thoughts on the Association’s future.

Electronic Retailer: This year, ERA introduced its new Accreditation Program. Can you tell us more about that program and its objectives?

Barbara Tulipane: One of the things that we have always recognized is the expertise that ERA members bring to the table, and we wanted to acknowledge that in a more formal way. We wanted to ensure that the people in direct response who have the knowledge receive their credentials by taking a series of classes and ultimately taking a test. I think that will not only bring career opportunities to those individuals, but it will also help the company receive an accreditation.

ER: In terms of government affairs, can you tell us about some of the developments that have taken place this year?

Tulipane: ERA should be very proud of the work that it has done in this area, especially Net neutrality. We were the only organization from the retailing side that was asked to serve on a panel with the Federal Trade Commission. We feel very strongly that the Internet should be open and have unfettered access. And I think one of the reasons why it resonated so much with ERA members is because they have experienced what it’s like to work in a closed network system-the cable industry. So, I think that’s why we were successful there. The streamlined sales tax concerns me a great deal, especially in this economy. The states are looking for revenue and they see this as an easy way. ERA members need to be extremely watchful of this. Streamlined sales tax is an issue that the Association has been very actively involved with and will continue to monitor closely.

ER: Once again, ERA hosted a very successful Government Affairs Fly-In. What do you believe were some of the highlights from this year’s event?

Tulipane: We were much more optimistic about Net neutrality legislation. Last year, we didn’t see the type of support that we had hoped for-we had some Republicans who were against legislation and we had the Democrats who were pro-legislation. However, I believe you’re seeing a shift in the culture on Capitol Hill, and I think you’re going to see more bipartisan support. The other highlight from this year’s event was certainly the turnout that we got. The GA Fly-In continues to grow. It’s probably my most favorite event because I just love to watch the members who start off very nervous, not knowing the issues and not knowing what to say. But then after they get a couple of meetings under their belt with their staterepresentative, they just become very confident and you can just see that sense of pride. And often I find that they will turn to me and say, “Oh my god, I get it. I get why ERA is active on the Hill, and I get what this Association is all about!” So, that’s a highlight for me, as well.

ER: What do you believe will be key to ERA’s continued growth?

Tulipane: There are three elements that are needed for ERA’s success and that’s leadership of the Board, the members and the staff. You have to have all three working in concert with each other to achieve success, and I know that ERA will continue to do well. I believe that the leaders will continue to listen to the members and that the members will support the staff. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and I know that there are only more good things in store for ERA and I will be watching.

ER: During your time at ERA, what’s the one thing that you’re most proud of?

Tulipane: I’m most proud of the sense of pride that this industry has now. Electronic retailers and direct marketers have a place at the table. They’re showing traditional advertisers how it’s done and this is their time to shine. There’s a sense of optimism and pride not only in the industry, but also in the organization itself. ER: Although you decided to keep the name, Electronic Retailing Association, you did change the tagline. Can you tell us more about the new one?


No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment