Penny Wise

Director, Brand and Core Marketing, 3M

"We treat all our brands seriously and strategically, and we are always assessing the impact and connection we are making with our customers so that they will recognize 3M, know 3M, and continue to purchase 3M products."

How has the 3M brand reclaimed prominence and highlighted core strengths like innovation?

3M is very fortunate to be able to lean on a rich heritage of innovation, but we recognize that the present and future growth of our position relies on constant attention to our brand—which means underlining our impact and relevance among various constituencies, both internal and external. Through executive input and integrated team assessment, we refined our brand positioning to better capture the unique and contemporary aspects of our culture of innovation. Namely, we began to clearly articulate the purpose of our company, the essence of our brand and the stories that bring it to life. This involved mobilizing our employees internally and providing them with communication tools that better equipped them to tell the 3M story. It also meant taking steps to activate our brand externally through various marketing and communication efforts. From events and sponsorships to social media, PR and creative asset development in the digital space, our commitment to strengthening the 3M brand is substantial and ongoing.

Given 3M’s excellent credentials in environmental stewardship, how are you building brand value and positive perception by relating your track record in areas such as pollution prevention?

Sustainability is an integral part of the 3M brand. This is evident, both in our operations, through initiatives like 3P, and our products that help customers address their sustainability challenges. We're focused on making 3M employees sustainability brand ambassadors by doing the following:

  • Offering an electronic sustainability training program for sales that touches on trends and products
  • roviding a toolkit to assist 3Mers in sharing our story externally which includes presentations, videos, catalogs and gift boxes featuring sustainable products
  • Educating on sustainability issues and trends through a monthly web series. Past speakers have included 3M executives, customers and noted academics
  • Integrating sustainability into corporate and product brand positioning
  • Focusing on sustainability during 3M's recent brand reinvigoration work. 3M's sustainability key messages and positioning for product and corporate communications were enhanced to align with this approach (see
  • Embedding sustainability education into global brand workshops
  • Participating in external sustainability focused organizations such as Net Impact, the Corporate Eco-Forum and Sustainable Brands to connect with customers and other stakeholders around 3M's sustainability approach.

You opened a R&D center in India recently. What are the challenges for the 3M brand going forward as your operation becomes even more global?

One of the major challenges for any global corporation is to ensure that the corporate brand message stays consistent and one’s identity stays in tact regardless of geography or growth. Despite cultural nuances, we've prided ourselves on the consistency of the 3M experience in multiple facets, including company values, employee loyalty, product quality, ingenuity, manufacturing practices, and customer relationships. Every input has impact on the global footprint and success of our brand as we expand and drive growth. Though our ability to maintain consistency globally is certainly an asset, it is also necessary have a certain level of flexibility when dealing with different regions. We want to be close to our customers so we can understand their needs and provide solutions that are culturally and locally relevant. That's why it's important to have local R&D centers such as the one you referenced in India.

Given the breadth of the 3M business, how do you see the challenges of connecting your organization with people within the B2B versus B2C context?

When you have a company as diverse and complex as 3M, the challenges can be substantial. That said, whether the context is B2B or B2C, the message is the same. Everything we do ladders back to an established and credible position of trust, quality and leadership. From consumer products to industrial solutions, no matter what the market space, this is what 3M stands for. Our internal culture enables multiple opportunities for sharing and cross-pollination of ideas and technologies among our employees to avoid silos or varied value propositions that could fragment the meaning and/or strength of the 3M brand. We meet challenge with commitment, with the hope that our passion for excellence is apparent regardless of the market context.

.How much do you think the 3M brand drives choice, premium and loyalty with your customers compared to your leading product brands, such as Post-it, Scotch-Brite and Nexcare?

We treat all our brands seriously and strategically, and we are always assessing the impact and connection we are making with our customers so that they will recognize 3M, know 3M, and continue to purchase 3M products.

Research has validated the strength of our corporate brand reputation, and we know this is a powerful asset. In like manner, several of our product brands enjoy category leadership and customer loyalty, so we are constantly working with our product management teams to assess how to strengthen positioning while leveraging the associated value of our corporate brand to enhance customer understanding and experience as we expand our product portfolios and enter new markets.

The culture at 3M is very strong. How are your employees engaged in communicating the brand?

Our culture is one of the most differentiating elements of 3M, which includes an inspired workforce of engaged employees who are strong communication ambassadors on behalf of the 3M brand every day. We take steps to ensure this level of understanding and commitment continues by consistently conducting local brand workshops on a global basis. Each time we conduct these sessions, the energy, excitement and enthusiasm about the 3M brand is evident. We make sure we ask questions, encourage understanding, embrace a unified identity and explore creative avenues for new communications opportunities. The workshops inspire a rich exchange of ideas and serve as a call to action to bring our brand story to life.

When we see success, we educate and exchange learnings internally to drive replication. An example of this is a campaign that our West Europe team developed on YouTube. The "YouTube Innovation Campaign" goal was to create a brand campaign that would give both existing customers and a younger target audience a true understanding of the deeper 3M brand and reasons to believe that 3M is the innovation company. Collaboration between three countries (Germany, UK and the Netherlands) drove the plan, which was based on market research that the team had done showing the impact of communicating to external audiences about the 3M brand. We find that when people know 3M, they love 3M. Further, our research shows that awareness of our brand increases purchase intent by 30%. The YouTube Innovation Campaign ensured that the content and the message would have broad appeal across geographies. The plan started with one country (the Netherlands), quickly spread to 26 and has delivered over 200 million impressions to the target audience. The videos have been viewed by over 2.7 million people and it’s clearly been a great success. For those who want to see it for themselves, the campaign can be found at here.

  • About Penny Wise

    Penny Wise is a passionate brand steward. In her role as Director, Brand and Core Marketing, she is responsible for building the 3M Brand. In collaboration with marketing leaders worldwide, she is creating a proud culture of brand ambassadors in the company. Prior to relocating to St. Paul in September 2010, Penny was Executive Director for the 3M Canada Consumer and Office Business, which is the home to many of 3M’s popular brands like Post-it® and Scotch®. She has been with 3M 12 years and holds an MBA from York University in Toronto, Canada, with a specialization in Marketing.