Profile: Rich Butwinick, Founder and President, MarketingLab

Photo by Nancy Kuehn

Rich Butwinick says he built MarketingLab backward when he founded the agency 20 years ago.

“I started by listening to the marketers to understand what they needed from an agency,” Butwinick says. “But I learned that we also needed to provide them with things that they didn’t ask for. One client said, ‘Get me what I want, but tell me what I need.’ I thought that was really good direction, and I built a model and a team to support that.”

Today, MarketingLab supports clients using account teams that generally work on more than one account. This adds diversity to their day and allows for cross-pollination. “If you get too siloed, you’re locking in knowledge sets,” Butwinick says. These teams are supported by specialists in strategy, e-commerce, digital strategy and consumer research.

Butwinick says the CPG clients MarketingLab works with usually need help in three areas; learning how consumers today shop for their product category, getting e-commerce right and executing programs at key retailers. “There always seems to be one retailer that they think they have the right to win at but just can’t crack the code,” Butwinick says. “That’s where we come in.”

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Butwinick recommends that all companies establish performance KPIs for their shopper agency early on. “You should expect that the agency is delivering on all the things that are meaningful to you,” he says. “You should do it on a quarterly basis or more – once a year doesn’t seem to be enough.”

He says MarketingLab’s biggest challenge is trying to be an industry thought leader as a mid-size agency. “We need to make the right bets on what to be expert in. That’s why we built DSX, our e-commerce assessment tool, and SellCheck,” Butwinick says.

DSX (Digital Shopper Experience) helps clients make sense of the cluttered digital shopper marketing universe. And SellCheck is a separate LLC that now works with more than 1,000 different brands. “It’s a proven methodology to test your shopper-facing communications, be it in-store or online,” Butwinick says. “That means we can predict your creative effectiveness performance – and it works.”

Moving forward, MarketingLab expects to apply its data-based approach increasingly to its growing roster of healthcare and financial clients. “It’s taking the principles of how you think about marketing from a behavioral science and behavioral marketing standpoint and applying it into different verticals,” Butwinick says.

In his current position, Butwinick is most motivated by making a difference for brands, communities, clients and his own teammates. He also strives to create a culture that encourages and values growth both for clients and the MarketingLab team.