In this episode we talk with Morgan Jennings, Digital Marketing Strategist at Audi of America about how marketing and consumer experience change from CPGS to Premium/Luxury brands
Morgan A. Jennings
Francisco Serrano (01:04):
Welcome back to the new episode of the now gen podcast. And today we have a very interesting guest Morgan Jennings. Morgan is the current digital marketing managers strategist at Audi of America. Very happy to have her here. Hey Morgan, how are you? You’re a very, very keen and special guests because of your experience in luxury brand industry. So welcome back. I welcome Morgan.
Morgan Jennings (01:32):
ThankyYou. Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
Francisco Serrano (01:35):
Yeah. Happy to have you. And, uh, we were talking a little bit about the technology before we were jumping into this, uh, interview you and, and it’s changing by the hour and by the minute, right. So you have to cope because then you’re when Sue them and then Google meet or it’s Microsoft and it’s just, uh, suffered different things. So, Morgan, my first question, I see that you study, you studied fine arts focusing in fashion business, right? And now you have experienced with some luxury fashion brands also, uh, tell me, how did you go from that into work into the automotive industry?
Morgan Jennings (02:15):
Yeah, so I went to, um, a liberal arts college here in the state of Georgia called Savannah college of art and design. Um, I, it, it inspired me in college, in high school. Um, when I went on a trip to Savannah and, uh, I saw how beautiful the campuses were and how much effort and time the college had really put into restoring Savannah. And then I, you know, I walked into the campus when I went on a tour. Um, when I was still in high school, it was just breathtaking. Um, and so I’d always been into fashion. I’ve always loved fashion. I get that from my grandma on my mom’s side. Um, just, you know, as a little girl always playing dress up, wearing my mom’s heels. So I always thought, you know, I, okay. I want to go into fashion. And, um, you know, I was a die hard J crew lover, uh, when I was in high school.
And so I knew I wanted to, you know, maybe you stay in that realm. Um, so I started working at J crew when I graduated high school and went into college and, um, you know, really lean towards, uh, bastion. And yeah, I have a marketing background as far as my family, my dad was in marketing and so it was my grandfather. And, um, so it really runs in my family. So I knew I wanted to do fashion and marketing, but, you know, as I got older and I matured and I really, you know, figured out who I was and what I wanted, I realized that I wanted to go more into cars and, and ended up, you know, I ended up realizing now in my later twenties, it was, it was meant to always be that way. Pars run in my family, my grandfather, uh, worked as a consultant to GM and Chrysler back in the seventies and my dad, um, you know, restores cars and loves cars.
So it really runs in my family as well. So it just made sense for me to, you know, push more into the automotive sector. So when I was getting my master’s at SCAD, um, I actually picked automotive as my, my thesis topic. Um, and really just, you know, that was where my passion was. So I decided, you know, I set a goal and I talked to a really dear mentor and professor of mine and said, Hey, I want to work at Porsche. Um, Porsche was, you know, local to Atlanta. And so that’s what I put my eyes on and that’s what drove me. And, you know, he said, I know you’re in fashion marketing, but I think there’s a lot of ways that it correlates and I think you can do it. And that’s what, you know, I took my thesis and said, Hey, even though I really looked at studying and fashion marketing, there’s a way to take what I learned and take my, my, um, my, my business acumen really transitioned it into the luxury automotive sector. Um, and I’ve been blessed and that’s what I’ve done so far.
Francisco Serrano (04:57):
Yeah. I imagine what you’re saying is that, uh, you know, luxury, it’s kind of the common theme among the two things. How, how are they connected? Tell me a little bit more about that. How does luxury and fashion and luxury in, in the auto industry? How does that connect?
Yes. So when you look through the history of cars and fashion, they’re very, very closely intertwined. Um, we’ve been creating fashion for cars since the beginning. When we first had the cars, they had no, um, covers. So we were creating certain coats and goggles and hats to wear for, um, for the cars that, that these, these people were buying. And of course back in this time, these people were more on the luxury sector because they had the money to afford these cars, right? So as you go on, you start to see fashion houses collaborate with, with car industries, you saw Gucci and Fiat. You’ve seen, um, Hermès and Bugatti. You’ve seen all these cool collaborations and so fashion and, um, cars intertwined, Louis Vuitton, and BMW did a collaboration a few years ago. So when you look at it and you look at the interior of cars and you look at the fashion, they’re all very similar, you know, down from the stitching, like at a rolls Royce, when you look at how intricate the insight is from the star lights up at the top to, you know, the beautiful pastel painting they’ll put on your seat, that’s what you want.
That’s so close to couture and ready to wear and fashion. So they’re very, they’re very similar and intertwined and, and, you know, people don’t realize it, but it’s there. It’s for sure there.
Francisco Serrano (06:38):
Yeah. And it’s getting a little bit more into the, so before I’ve seen it that the, the, you know, the, you could have a car and personalized to your thinking, but it was more the roll Royce type of thing, but now it’s getting, it’s getting a more realistic way before it was just a $300,000 car, but now with Tesla, you can personalize a lot of things with the software. And so it’s interesting. And, and, and how does, I mean, you’ve been, uh, almost two years with Audi and you’ve been before COVID and post golf. It w what happened, did that change things inside your company and your, the way that you will operate in the digital realm?
Morgan Jennings (07:24):
Sure, sure. So, um, really what we focus on in my role is, um, we have, uh, different areas to, so for me specifically, I have 22 dealerships in the Southeast, um, and I’m based out of Atlanta. And so primarily for us, we travel to all of our dealerships pre COVID. And so, um, ironic enough, I was hired in the midst of COVID and started virtually and have only known this job to be virtual until a few weeks ago. So yeah, it’s, it’s been crazy and, you know, they grounded Audi Volks, which we found or Volkswagen group, um, you know, grounded us all. And so, um, it wasn’t until about, you know, two, three weeks ago that we’d been tiptoeing back into the field and slowly starting to see dealerships, but for the impacts, I mean, it’s through and through. It’s not just, you know, we’re not just feeling it, every OEM is feeling it from inventory shortages to part shortages, to technician shortages. I mean, you know, we’ve truly felt that the hit of it, um, you know, and we’re blessed to be doing so well, but it’s definitely, um, COVID, it’s been an interesting time, for sure.
Francisco Serrano (08:33):
I was saying that it’s not only internally that you have problems, you know, getting the parts, getting the cards made and everything, but also communicating with the customer, right. Making, you know, uh, don’t get angry. Your car is coming type of thing.
Morgan Jennings (08:48):
Yes, so it’s really about making those clients and those customers still feel special while they’re waiting for their cars to get there. So we have people who have ordered the new e-tron GT, and we’re just now starting to get those shipments. And, you know, they’re not all coming in at once. Dealers are getting one to two cars at a time, and even the cars are not necessarily sellable, they’re marketing cars. So for us, it’s really about making sure that the dealership is making this customers truly feel special and, and making them, you know, understand that we appreciate you, and we’re going to do what we need to do to make you happy while you wait for your car. And that’s everything from, you know, putting together an experiential event where you get them together with other clients who are waiting for cars and get them in their current Audis and do drives to a winery where everything’s paid for for the weekend.
I mean, it’s about putting together and dipping into those budgets that you have to really make those top tier clients feel special and help them understand that, Hey, we understand that the bind we’re all in, but thank you for working with us. But at the same time, you know, we’re seeing that we have some, some, some room because we may not have a bunch of inventory, but we also have customers, the younger generation that’s willing to work with us because they CA they need a car right now. They may be able to afford an Audi, but they’re not our older customer where they have two or three cars and they can wait on that GT or wait on that QA. And, and, you know, our younger generation needs the cars now, so we can serve them now. And our older generation, we can definitely cater to their needs and say, Hey, thank you for being a client. We really appreciate it. Um, so I think that’s, you know, that’s what it’s all about.
Francisco Serrano (10:33):
Yeah. Yeah. I want to focus. We were talking in the pre-interview about the now gen, right? And you mentioned the word now, like four times just, you know, the younger generations in one now they want now, now, and, and also we have seen that, you know, the baby boomer shows where they want things now, because I mean, they’re a little bit more lenient, but in the end they won now. So how does that world in you’re in the e-com world? So tell us, so the now gen listeners podcast listeners, they, they weren’t there. They were thinking, okay, so how in the hell I’m going to buy a car online? Does that happen? Or no? Or how does it work?
Morgan Jennings (11:16):
So now that we’re in the age of where Carvana came onto the platform and really shook things up for the dealerships, right? And so people are now more educated on the fact that they can purchase online, but they’re not necessarily educated on the fact that, Hey, you can do this through your local dealership. And so we have to on top of get everybody to understand that, Hey, we’re a, we can now serve you in this way. We also have to break down the barrier of the dealership, mists, right? People think that dealerships are just, you know, awful places to go. They don’t want to be haggled, but in reality, we’re trying to create a better process. That’s catered to you where we let you do your thing and we leave you alone, or we’re there if you need us. Um, and so we have now the option to where dealers can fully buy their car online.
And we say fully, you know, no, nobody can fully buy a car online. You’re always going to have to assign paperwork no matter where you buy it from. But as far as the digital process goes, we’re fully integrated for the most part. But what we noticed is that the younger generation, the millennials in, in the, the generation under us, um, is that they will go online and fill out a form, whether it be a contact form or they’ll start, you know, the digital retailing, um, form fills those, start it. But then if we don’t get back to them, if they email us with a question, we don’t get back to them in five, 10 minutes, they’re walking into that dealership and they’re saying, Hey, I need to look at this right now. So even though we’re fully digital, we have those digital features. We see the older customer using it.
Um, and, and coming in and saying, Hey, I filled out all the forms online and here to do the test drive for. We’re seeing yet the younger generation come in and say, you know, I emailed you, you guys, you, you didn’t get back to me quick enough. So I’m here. I want to look at the car. Um, so it’s definitely making the dealership have to adapt and, you know, come up with processes where, you know, say sales people and sales, internet people are both getting credit. And so, um, yeah, it’s definitely interesting time. And, um, it’s interesting to see, you know, how people, um, are reacting to the online buying process.
Francisco Serrano (13:29):
I’m just fascinating specifically in your industry with your challenge, do you have right now because, um, the brick and mortar approach and retailers, for example, you know, fashion industry, they’re kind of using e-com as a, as a, as a leverage of not letting all the sales go and then just selling more, but they still have the real estate and they still want the client to come in. So they’re, they’re creating and innovating different ways to, of having that experience of, Hey, it’s at work to come and look at us here. So how are you doing, what are you, how are you luring them in? And having that, that, you know, balance between hustle free digital, no, you know, this is a prize that said, you don’t have to like, Hey, tell me your best price, tell me your best offer. This is it, but go and live the experience, test, drive the car. So I think that challenge it’s wonderful and interesting for you. Do you have, uh, are you working on that actually every day to make sure that balance is, is it’s, um, it’s meeting the customer’s expectations?
Morgan Jennings (14:42):
Yeah, so I think it starts, it, it definitely starts more at the higher level, right? So it starts all the way at corporate in Germany. It starts from them in the way that they design our dealerships, which they do a beautiful job. Um, our dealerships are fully integrated with the latest technology and set up, and they also have coffee bars for clients to come in and have a full, you know, a full meal and get grits and have tea. And while they’re waiting for their car to be serviced. And so for us, it’s about making the dealership modern and in tuned with technology, but still making it a comfy and cozy place for people to come in. And if they want to talk to those salespeople, or if they want to talk to the general manager, if they want to talk to, you know, to the service people, they still do that and feel comfortable because, you know, I know for me, I personally like to shop in person for, you know, especially for clothes and food and cars.
I still am very much that person that goes into the store, you know? Yes. I order stuff from Amazon. Yes. I order stuff online, but for, for a car, like it’s, there’s still, you know, people want to go in and they can’t wrap their head around like, oh, I can fill out everything online and then go test drive. Like that’s a little, uh, a little much for some people, but it it’s now become, you know, Hey, come in, come see us. We still have those relationships. We still want to build that for you. We still want to take you around the law and show you the different cars and the different colors, go home, take your time, think about it. And then you can start filling out stuff online, and then you can come back and see us. So there’s that flexibility to where, you know, we can have the customer fill out stuff at home. We don’t necessarily have to be there for them and their customer journey. So, um, yeah, I think that making the brick and mortar, uh, a comfortable place and an, and a main focal point will always be something that we’re going to have to focus on no matter what.
Francisco Serrano (16:43):
Yeah. And, uh, when you talk about, you know, you, you talk about trends of some people not going, some people going. So how, as a, as a, as a luxury brand specialty, how do you stay up to date and how do you keep up with all the changes? Do you have like a place to go websites to visit, uh, special education to get? How do you get that?
Morgan Jennings (17:07):
Yeah. So, um, with the way that we’re currently set up, we have a, a special relationship with a dealer.com who is our website provider, and they are always bringing us the latest updates and really doing stuff customized to Audi and the Audi customer. Um, on top of that, just for me personally, it’s really about staying up-to-date on the latest, you know, automotive news, and what’s going on. As far as the social media landscape, like we just had that big privacy update with apple and people don’t realize how that impacts the car industry and that, you know, we have to figure out how to target people who no longer want to be targeted. And so, um, it’s really overcoming all of that. I mean, it’s changing day by day, constantly, right. You know, you have constant algorithm updates and all of this. And I think so it’s very, very important for these dealerships, no matter what, um, OEM, no matter, even if you’re luxury versus non-luxury, it’s about creating a true organic following so that you can, you know, build rapport with your community. So you can show people that we’re more than just this brand. We’re here to service you and be a part of your life and, and, and be a part of your journey. And I think that in today’s world, it’s no longer about just being a brand. It’s about being a lifestyle brand and showing people how you fit into their world.
Francisco Serrano (17:58):
That´s good. That’s good. Um, going into the time machine a little bit here and, uh, look back at your career professional career. Tell me what is that moment that you felt proud of Morgan to say, Hey, you kill it right there with, you know, in any of the companies you’ve been in a situation, just, just so we can understand something that has been challenging for you.
Morgan Jennings (19:03):
Yeah. So in, um, so full transparency when I was like, it starts when I was a little girl, I think when I was in the first grade, I was told my parents were told that I was never going to learn how to read. I was a non-reader and it turned out that I had an eye problem. And so, um, it was basically where my one, I would read one line and my other, I would read another line, but in the early, early two thousands, that was not well diagnosed. And it turned out at random, my family, my grandmother had it, my dad had it, but it was just never diagnosed. And so it was finally when I was in third grade, figured out what was wrong with me, you know? And I was always told, oh, you’re not that bright. Even though my IQ test and really highly, I was super creative, but I just couldn’t read. So I’d fail every subject in school. Right. So then I figured out what was wrong with me, got therapy. And, you know, I always struggled in school, no matter what, at the end of the day, I also had dyslexia. Then I went to SCAD and then realized, you know, I’m definitely a creative, they referred to us as creatives. And so getting through school at SCAD and graduating with Magnum collage on top of my class being, yeah, being part of, you know, a fashion marketing club and being really involved in my school where the professors were coming to me and asked me to be involved in scholarships and do all this stuff. And, um, I was, that was the first moment where I was like, okay, I’m capable of setting my mind to something and doing it. And then once I graduated and said, I want to go into automotive. That was another thing it’s like, how do you do that? You’ve been in fashion. I worked at Louis Vuitton and college. It’s like, how do you get into automotive now? Right. So it started with internship after internship and my dad and I were die, hard BMW fans. And I told myself, you know, I’m going to work at BMW one day. That’s where I want to be. Like, if it’s not for long, I just, I have to work there at some point.
Well, I applied for a Southern marketing internship, um, at BMW of Atlanta. And I got called for, to interview for that, but also, um, a Rolls Royce position. And now he was like, you know, cause there’s a sister company who was like, okay, well sign me up. And so I wasn’t ready. And I wasn’t prepared to move to New Jersey and pick my whole life up and go up there, you know, 23 or 24 years old, but I did it and it was the best experience of my life. My, you know, my boss truly gave me the opportunity to work in every aspect for a luxury company. And it was opportunity of a lifetime. And I, you know, after that conclusion happened at rolls Royce, I transitioned into a position at BMW, the same building. And I was like, I did it, I made it, I, I set this goal out to be at BMW and I did it I’m here.
And I was just, you know, it was hard. It was a bumpy road. It was a lot of work, a lot of sleepless nights working on my master’s while working at Rolls Royce. But I did it. And I think that, that was that, yeah, that was that moment where I was like, okay. And, uh, you know, I definitely had a huge support system and, you know, from, from my home life to my work life, I definitely had people rooting for me. Um, and that’s definitely, definitely helped and played a huge role into it. But I think that when I was there, that was that moment where it was like, okay, I can, I can do it. So yeah.
Francisco Serrano (22:21):
Wow. Uh, it seems that you’ve been a warrior all your life from, from day one and now, you know, BMW, your dream car and, or company brand. And now you’re just overcoming all this challenges. And so well, that’s, I think that’s the spirits survive right. To survive and grow and you’ve shown him so congrats on that. And, and, and I wanna, I don’t to pick on that and ask you, I guess we’re coming to a close some interview and as a takeaway for all the listeners, what would you say to everybody that is listening that Morgan can to tell them so they can take it and use it, uh, in their professional career?
Morgan Jennings (23:08):
Yeah. I think that a lot of times people get deterred or do you know, unmotivated when they have, you know, maybe negative people around them or, you know, not the best situation at home or, you know, things just aren’t going the way that they thought it would because, you know, they had a timeline in their head or something. And the one thing I have to say is that it’s take a deep breath, look at yourself in the mirror and say that you can do it. I think that for me personally, you know, I am, I’m somebody who gets really stressed out very easily and you know, you can’t be afraid of hard work either, you know? And so it’s really about just being in the moment, being present and being your biggest supporter. And I think as long as you can support yourself and you’re willing to put in the time and the effort and the hard work, you will, you can achieve anything you set your mind to, and you can definitely, you know, get through it. I mean, look, you’re always going to have people standing in your way. You’re always going to have things come up. You’re always going to have, you know, something going on. It’s about how you handle those situations, whether handle it with grace or with chaos. And I think that sometimes you need a little bit of both, but you know, it’s, it’s always about taking, I think, you know, a deep breath and just saying, you can do it and you’ll get through it and you can achieve it.
Francisco Serrano (24:32):
Exactly. I completely agree with you. And, and I can attest to the audience that you initially today, you had problems with communication and you didn’t drop the ball and you get, get an old computer and now we’re having this conversation. So, and it was about three minutes. So yeah, I can attest what you’re saying. So it works folks. It works. Okay. So yeah. Thank you very much for that, for sharing that and a question for you, I’m going to treat how a luxury specialist picks the groceries at a supermarket. Tell me, tell me the top three brands that come into your, into your mind. So three brands don’t be shy, just boom, boom, boom.
Morgan Jennings (25:24):
Okay. Um, so I love to cook. I’m a big cooker. I think the top three brands on my God. I can’t think, I just think of like vegetables and stuff like that. Um, I love silk almond creamer. Um, I definitely am a person. I cannot drink my coffee black. I tried that in college, which is I can’t do it anymore.
And then I think, oh gosh. Um, okay. So there’s this truffle pasta that I absolutely love. You can’t necessarily find this in every grocery store, but if you live in New York city, you can go to Italy and you can find it there. Um, I get it at my local, uh, store down in Sarasota. Um, a byte is what it’s called the bites of Tuscany. She’s great. That’s where I get this pasta, but, um, it’s truffle pasta. So if you ever see truffle pasta, I definitely say get it. It’s my favorite thing out there. And then, um, oh God.
Okay. So this isn’t good. This isn’t out there anymore, but the last thing is Trix yogurt, because that was my favorite thing as a kid. And I still look for it on the shelves all the time and I can never find it. And here in Georgia we have beautiful sunsets and they always look like Trix yogurt to me. So I want Trix yogurt and I can’t find it. And it’s just like this never ending battle. And so, yeah, Trix yogurt, the bunny, the bunny, the bunny rabbit with like cotton candy, um, flavors and stuff like that. I love that kind of stuff. And I think, cause I love color. Um, you know, I, I, I love, I love color, so it’s just, you know, it’s probably, it’s awful for you, but…
Francisco Serrano (27:10):
Definitely. Yeah, but I mean, yeah, that’s good. That’s good. You don’t have to like, or be passionate about brands only if they’re good for you. I mean, we all have to have a balance. Right. Excellent. Well, thank you for sharing that. Uh, uh, well, we’re, we’ve been talking to Morgan Jennings out as digital marketing strategists. If someone from the audience is interested in contacting you, how can they do so do you have like a preferable way so they can get in touch?
Morgan Jennings (27:30):
TYeah, um, they could find me on LinkedIn, um, just Morgan Jennings on throw it up in there. Um, also, uh, my favorite thing on social media is Instagram. Um, I’m on there, but, um, you know, LinkedIn is probably the best way if it’s a more of a professional. Um, do you want to ask me, but uh, yeah, it’s pretty…
Francisco Serrano (27:58):
Excellent. Anything else you want to add?
Morgan Jennings (28:00):
Um, oh gosh. Now I think that’s pretty much it. Um, I definitely enjoy doing this podcast though. So, um, yeah, thank you for having me.
Francisco Serrano (28:08):
Oh, it was exciting to learn a lot about the luxury industry and especially how cars are dealing with it’s in the brand Audi, which is right there at the top. So thank you for sharing that. And like I said, at the beginning is it’s your experience and, and, and people just like to listen to this and see they can take away what you just gave us and, and use it in their professional careers and, and we’re learning as we grow. Right. So it’s not, it’s not perfection. It’s just trying, trying, trying until you get there. So thank you. Thank you for that. Uh, if you want to learn more about the most relevant power brands for the now Jan stay tune for the next episode and thank you so much. Uh, Morgan Jenny’s Audi’s digital marketing strategists. Thank you.