Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. My guest today is Kelly Hungerford, a native Californian living in Switzerland.

Kelly’s been in Europe for more than twenty years. Her business experience is vast, and she’s been through a lot of different roles. Kelly worked for the enterprise, then she worked for startups, and back at the enterprise as the Director of Digital Transformation, Strategy and Services for a global oral care brand Sunstar.

In this episode:

  • What are the most common challenges of Digital Transformation
  • What is the best way to launch a digital initiative in a company?
  • How to set up digital transformation implementation in an enterprise
  • What is the role of education within a company?
  • What are the most important resources and how to use leverage them?
  • How to use a hypothetical exercise to plan for the future, prepare for disruption, and engage management in the process.
  • What are the elements of a digital transformation plan?
  • How to decide on which technology to use and enable the teams
  • How to make the transition and change, less stressful and more enjoyable for the groups and employees.
  • What are the long term benefits of digital transformation, and how to resolve the challenges?

Quotes from the episode:

“One advantage to a platform and having the same UI across many different solutions is if the UI is good, it’s really enjoyable to use. And it’s a huge motivator for the team.

“If you want to sell any transformative initiative in-house, you’re not going to go out meek. You’re going out to make a big bang. Sell a vision, evangelize. Transformation isn’t incremental. The process itself is a day in, day out, but the vision has to be so big. Don’t be afraid to think big.”


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If you want to chat, reach out to any social media channels or email me hello@pamdidner.com. You can also join my Facebook community: Build Your Marketing Skills to Get Ahead. When you join, you get a free Starbucks on me. You can go to the Announcement tab and click on the barcode of the gift card.

If you want to keep on expanding your knowledge about marketing and technology to help you with a digital transformation implementation check out some of my previous podcast episodes.

How to Create and Evaluate Your MarTech Stack?

Marketing Automation: a Modern Marketer’s Must-Have

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Content Marketing


Hey, a big hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. I have a very special guest today. Kelly Hungerford from Switzerland, actually Director of Digital Transformation and Services for Sunstar. Hey, welcome, Kelly. So good to have you! How are you doing?

Kelly Hungerford: It’s great to be here. Thank you. This is pretty fun. Right. We have nine hours between us, and it’s kind of like a coffee cocktail hour. 

Pam Didner: Exactly. Well, it’s afternoon your time and the morning, my time. So you will start– both of us will start cocktail. I’m just going to start. 

Kelly Hungerford: (laughs) Yay! 

Pam Didner: No problem. (laughs)

Kelly Hungerford: Cause it’s not coffee time here (laughs).

Pam Didner: So, Kelly, tell our listeners about yourself.

Kelly Hungerford: So I’m a Californian, native Californian living in Switzerland. I’ve been in Europe for 20 plus years. And I’m currently– I’ve been through a lot of different roles. I’ve worked for the enterprise, then I’ve worked for startups, and I’m back at the enterprise. Now I’m taking a position. I went from consulting. I did the opposite. Went as an independent consultant, and I joined a brand in an enterprise. And I’m now the Director of Digital Transformation, Strategy and Services for a global oral care brand called Sunstar. 

Pam Didner: Can you tell us a little bit about Sunstar. You know, you say it’s a global oral brand. What does that mean? What kind of products and selling? 

Kelly Hungerford: So, so this is a this is a cool story. I mean, and I think this, um, won me over to is why I joined them. Because, you know, as a consultant, we have a lot of flexibility, and we get to meet so many cool people. And this company I thought was really special. They started in 1932 in Japan—in Osaka, Japan. And they didn’t start as an oral care company. They started producing rubber glue in tubes for bicycles, so for bicycle repair.

They manufactured the tubes, and the glue also put it inside. Also, they did their packaging, and that was a success. And then four years later, when they still had denta-freeze in little cans, right? They said, “wait a minute, we can take this technology and what we know about rubber glue in tubes and let’s put toothpaste in those tubes.” So they launched with that. I think they call it Sunstar cream, and it was the toothpaste that started their oral care division in 1936. So it was really interesting in Japan.

Sunstar is a household name across everything. They’re in many different divisions, and in New York, we represent the oral co-brand the US also, uh, the flagship brand has GUM. So a lot of people are familiar with GUM.

Pam Didner: Exactly the floss GUM, the floss. I mean, I use the floss line.

Kelly Hungerford: Inter-dental picks. 

Pam Didner: Yes, exactly. Another one is dental picks. Yes. My husband loves your brands. I mean, we use it– well, he uses it every day. Me, I’m just like…

Kelly Hungerford: Yeah, it’s cool. I’ve learned a lot about oral care. Yeah. So, no, it’s, it’s cool. And then the people are wonderful, and I think it’s so incredible to be an American in Europe, working for a Japanese company. And it’s just all of these cultures together. So culturally, it’s really exciting, and I’m learning a whole new side of the business on a different side of the world. So it’s, it’s pretty cool. 

Pam Didner: Exciting. So the company is a Japanese company, and I assume it is conservative.

Speaking of digital transformation, how did you help them understand the benefit of digital? And how did you get that kickoff?

Kelly Hungerford: First of all, you’re right. The cultures are completely different. And I think many industries, companies and industries have this same issue, maybe, where sales might be good. Well, okay. Let’s say pre-COVID. (laughs) Until February, everything was saying perfectly, and it was kind of like, “why do we need to change?” 

Pam Didner: Right.

Kelly Hungerford:  Back then, it was more about listening in the future. If there’s disruption and if something happened and you couldn’t use the channels that your customer do today to sell, what would you do, and how would you do it? And that was kind of like, that was really for them–and I think for a lot of companies–that question just seems very abstract because we can’t imagine not having these physical channels that we do. Right. 

And so it was starting that conversation with them. Things are good now, but what happens when things change, and things change as we move forward. Marketplaces are changing. And I think a lot of it came down to education, and it was also mapping out it starts at the beginning of, you know, “here’s your ecosystem today and what pieces are missing?” 

The digital piece was missing for them. It was sitting down and talking about “what does this mean to them?”

If they look at the competition and the competition is there, what does it mean that you’re not there? And what would be those very first steps to get going? It wasn’t even a matter of a company saying “we don’t want to do it,” but it’s “where do we get started?” 

And I think that’s the biggest–I think the most logical–place sometimes, and it makes a lot of sense, right, is in the Marketing Department because the marketers are so close to the customer. So, or it could be Sales; also the entry could be there, but for Sunstar, it started in the marketing department in Europe. 

Pam Didner: So, a very quick summary, it sounds like you guys did a very hypothetical exercise.

You know, things are doing well. The company’s still very profitable. But the way we reach out to our customers, the senior management probably is aware of it, as well, like it’s changing, everybody’s going digital. And what would the world look like? How would the consumer, so even the future customers, how would they change?

And you are using that hypothetical scenario to drive the conversation and engage with the management and the marketing team and took them forward in leading that, uh, that effort. 

Kelly Hungerford: Oh yeah. I was just going to say that. There was then the very pragmatic piece that went with it, saying, “if you have this hypothetical, then where you need to start is this audit. Like, let’s audit where you are really.” And out of that conversation came a mass audit on their digital ecosystem.

Pam Didner: Oh, wow. 

Kelly Hungerford: Saying, this is what you’re missing.

So it was 130 pages across the social web, you know, they had 44 different web presences for seven markets. I mean, right there, it was already linked. 

Pam Didner: Yeah, so that’s another way to consolidate. Yeah.

Kelly Hungerford: Yeah. To just show them and say, “here’s the landscape. And there you go.”

Pam Didner: Sounds like the way that you craft, uh, which is my next question you answered, that if you craft that transformation plan is you did a massive audit, and then you use that audit to drive the communications and the collaboration, or even the updates to the management to get buy-in. 

But digital transformation can be so expensive.

And how do you deal with the budget part of it? And that’s one question. Another one is, what were the top say two challenges that you encounter, say during the audit or even getting a buy-in? And how did you overcome that? 

Kelly Hungerford: So I think one entry point that every company can do any size is those quick wins. And that audit is very important to see where, when the dust settles, where are you? And then there are some. I see it as like a fast, slow lane. So you have to, as quick wins that you can work on quickly, and then you have that slow lane that’s a lot more strategic. And you know that that’s going to take 24 to 36 months to move that. But along the way, you have various tracks that you can feed in. So we kind of worked on that methodology. 

So some of the quick wins and how I structured the program were really what we could optimize? I mean, optimization was big, was a big piece of, we have running operations. So how do you optimize your running operations and then also implement something new? They had no technology and the technology, although it follows the strategy, it’s a really important piece if you don’t have the technology to glue everything together, right.

Pam Didner: I conquer. Amen! Man, just like music to my ears. I agree with you. That’s talk about technology a little bit.

Kelly Hungerford: In our case, they had the advantage and the disadvantage of not having any marketing technology in the house for the European region.

They pretty much had no micro-sites, so 44 different microsites plus or minus around the region, but they didn’t have technology as a core. So it was kind of outsourced to agencies. And there was an opportunity for sure, on the technology side and the strategic side. But what they need was enablement.

If we get this technology in house and when it comes, how do we use it? How do you use technology to reach goals? And that’s something that I found, and I don’t know what you see with this or how you feel about it, but I often find the enablement part is missing from all of the strategies. So we have these great goals of where we want to go. What kind of technology we’re going to use to enable the teams? But where is the training piece? Often it’s like a demo, or it’s like a one-off.

Pam Didner:  Yeah, I hear you.

Kelly Hungerford:  So we’ve put a drop in; it’s like a continuous enablement drip as part of the foundation to continue this capability building.

Right. Let’s build that email marketing muscle. We need to build the social media listening muscle. And so we’re building all these muscles, but it’s continuous. So I think, um, that’s a huge, huge part. 

Pam Didner: It sounds like two challenges that you ran into. The first one is marketing technology. You need to make sure that technology is set up properly. Then the second thing is to teach people how to use it, which is the enabling part. From your perspective, that it’s not like a one-time training or it’s a one-time activation; it’s a matter of continuous education.

You know, digital transformation, just like the term itself, is a journey of its own, and it’s kind of long play, and it’s not something that you can do in a very short time.

Kelly Hungerford: No, and I think it’s interesting because when we think of digital transformation, we think of these lofty initiatives, right?

I don’t think they have to be. I think if an organization says, “where do I start?” well, start with, if you have technology in house, let’s come from the Martech. If you have technology in house, how well are you using it? What’s your adoption? Are you at 60, 70% of features and functionality? Are you getting everything out of it that to enable and power your journey to reach those goals? And I think that that’s even transformative in its way. 

So if you’re talking about budget and where you need to go, maybe we just need to invest in some hefty education within the organization. And what’s interesting also is we don’t need to lean on the HR department or another department to do it. We can pull together some really interesting programs ourselves with on-demand learning, collaborating with thought leaders with other experts in the area and building in-house programs. And it doesn’t have to be highly expensive.

So I think you can do a lot that’s budget-friendly, and then also start building that proof of concept of if we invest here and we’re strategic and focused about it, and we know what our goal is, if we win here and can show the benefits, then let’s scale that up and move that out. 

Pam Didner: So the martech—or marketing technology–we know that you cannot just use one tool, and a lot of time, you have to build a stack of the tools to compliment your process. How do you source martech? And how did you scale, you know, different regions and the countries? Like Europe is a huge region and multiple countries, and how do you source that? And also scale it? 

I know you’re talking about it like training is an important part of it. Any other elements that you have to take into account when you try to scale the martech stack? 

Kelly Hungerford: (deep sigh) Yeah, the training (laughs).

Pam Didner: (laughs) Why don’t you just start drinking! 

Kelly Hungerford: The people. Pam, this journey. So with Sunstar, I’ve been with them for four years now, one year as an employee, and then it was three years before that designing this program and this initiative. And, you know, we hear people saying, “Oh, transformation’s all about the people.” It’s all about the people. It’s all about the people and how you build in like that motivation, that change motivation, right, to get on board. 

But I think what’s interesting- so going back to the technology piece.

We took advantage of Sunstar because there was not a lot of technology, really centralized. We said, you know, “this is an opportunity for a platform.”

So for Sunstar, we took the platform approach, and we brought Adobe in house. So that is our marketing stack. It’s analytics; we have a CMS, a dam, email marketing, uh, target for optimization, and so forth. So that is our stack and how we build it, but what’s interesting is, we took the approach of kind of, I like to say, um, “we were building the boat and sailing it, too.” Where sometimes you–

Pam Didner: (laughs) Building the boat and sailing it, too! “We are not sinking! We are not building it; it’s just magical! It’s going to happen!” It is going to happen. (laughs)

Kelly Hungerford: (laughs) It is going to happen!

Pam Didner: That’s everybody. 

Kelly Hungerford: Yeah, it is everybody, right? So it’s, you have all of these different pieces and you have to learn how to navigate, and somehow you have to reach your business goals, right? It’s not like businesses saying, “Oh, we’re going to give you three years. We’re going to give you a break and build this up.” And then, so I think, you know, little by little, it’s almost, I feel like we’re building layers, right? Like I would say, the region is, is together. We’re kind of building these layers, and it’s going up and up.

We’re not deep in expertise in one area. It’s little by little.

We go around, and we tackle a bit, and it’s been really fun to watch. So I think in terms of adoption, we’re becoming more and more proficient, but we’re not. Yeah, it’s 60% of any one piece of our stack yet because we’re tackling all of it together. 

Pam Didner: All of it at the same time and also doing your day job. 

Kelly Hungerford: Yeah. I mean, I take my hat off to this team. I think they’re incredible. It’s just like, but it’s pretty fun having said that, how can technology, because I think this is something that people might not think about also are more managers or decision-makers when they’re thinking about what kind of stack are they putting together? One advantage to a platform and having the same UI across many different solutions is if the UI is good, it’s really enjoyable to use. And it’s a huge motivator for the team, right? 

So I think, again, the transformation is a lot about how can we also make this easy for people? Because I think, you know, what’s the saying, like, “people love progress, but they hate change.” So, how do you make those changes enjoyable? 

Pam Didner: Kelly, you know, you were talking like a Sage today, Man. You know, “people like progress. They don’t like change.” You know, “we are building a boat and sailing at the same time.”

Kelly Hungerford: (laughs) Yeah. “Adapt or die was another one.” Yeah. But it’s true. Google – right. I mean, so I think that that’s another success factor with the technology and the marketing stack.

You could have many different silos or silos, single-vendor solutions and weave them together, but think about what that means for the person using it. They’re going to have different log-ins different interfaces.

So it’s kind of something to take into consideration. 

Pam Didner: Got it. So while are you going through this journey? And, uh, is there one or two takeaway you would like to share with our listeners? If they want to kick off the initiative like this, what are the one or two things they should pay attention to in the beginning, driving the transformation initiative?

Kelly Hungerford: So I think the one super important thing is the resources. 

Pam Didner: When you are talking about resources that you are talking about, people resources or budget?

Kelly Hungerford: About people resources. Yeah, the budget also. Ah, the budget. No, this is what I believe, first of all, a compelling story. Like you need to understand what’s the pain point and put the passion into selling that and sell big, right? I mean, if you, if you want to sell any transformative initiative in-house, you’re not going to go out meek, man. You’re, you’re going out to make a big bang, right?

You’re selling the vision. And evangelize, and I mean, like go big, like big, bold.

Transformation isn’t; it’s not incremental. I mean, the process itself it’s a day in, day out, but the vision has to be so big.

So I think one thing is don’t be afraid to think big. 

Pam Didner: Got it. 

Kelly Hungerford: I mean, even when people tell you it’s crazy, it’s like, “Yep, and we’re going to do this, and this is how we’re going to do it.” And you have to believe in it, but go big. And then I think you understand the team you have to work with and your strengths well and, yeah, where you need to build some muscle. Because that’s the really difficult part. And you’re going to have to sell these people that they can do this. And if you can’t get them on board, it’s going to be difficult. 

Pam Didner: Any kind of, even for just a very simple tool adoption, like for example, I will implement the tool actually for salespeople to use. And if I don’t get them on board, I can implement it. I can go live if they are not using the tool. Well, you know what? I fail miserably. So I understand the people part. Like, if you want to make some changes, you have to bring the people along the way, and if they are not coming along, there’s no chance you can do it. None!   

Kelly Hungerford: Nope. And I think the other– I’m going to add one more in that I know you said two, but now I’m going to say three. So the other is early on, I think that internal the intro, and I’m thinking about the beginnings of inception of the project, and that’s why this initiative, that’s why I come back to this important is partnering with departments internally. So if you’re a bigger organization—

Pam Didner: Of course, we are talking about enterprises.

Kelly Hungerford: Yeah. But if we talk about budget, it’s a really good point. I think everyone thinks of going up like, “oh, we need to sell up to maybe the Managing Director. We need to sell up to the VP. We need to sell up to the CEO.” But you need to sell across also. And I think you need to ask yourself, do I have IT involved? I mean, you have to have IT involved.

Pam Didner: Yeah. Totally. 

Kelly Hungerford:  And you have to have Finance involved. And I think that that’s the department, everybody leaves out. Nobody wants to talk to Finance. 

Pam Didner: Yeah. Do you have to get your money somewhere? (laughs)

Kelly Hungerford: Exactly. The earlier you bring the finance team on board, the easier of ago, because this is all about education.

And especially if you’re in a more conservative company or industry where maybe digital, like this whole ecosystem—manufacturing is an example–it’s just not their bread and butter. So you have to educate them along the way. And that means every department needs to be educated. But Finance, they’re holding the purse strings. I mean.

Pam Didner: Yeah, I hear you. I get it.

Kelly Hungerford: Hug me! Hug me!

Pam Didner: Yeah, so the budget is important and that the people bring people along and, simultaneously, sourcing the technology. They are every single element within the digital transformation that you need to actually explore and also pay attention to.

Kelly Hungerford: Yeah. 

Pam Didner: I want to ask you one quick parting question. What is the most useless talent you have? 

Kelly Hungerford: (laughs) Yeah, sticking my foot in my mouth, (Pam laughs) for sure. That is my most useless talent. And I’m good at it as an American in Europe. So it’s gotten me nowhere. 

Pam Didner: Oh my God, you made me laugh. You know what, that’s a very good answer. I don’t think anybody has ever said that to me (both laugh). You know, that applies to me too. There are times I will say things, and I will think out loud, and then I just said it. And I was like, “what am I doing? What are you doing, Pam? What are you doing?” Shut up.

Kelly Hungerford: All the time. So I’d be like, “Oh, did I say that. Oh, I’m sorry.” Yeah, because I’m very direct, you know, but sometimes it’s just too direct, so.

Pam Didner: I understand. 

Kelly Hungerford: Yeah. I can learn a little discretion over here, European discretion.

Pam Didner: You know what, Kelly? Just be you. Just be you. You are fantastic!

Kelly Hungerford: That’s right. And see, I found a company that accepts me as me. They love me so I can thrive because we don’t want to be somewhere where the company doesn’t accept us, right? That’s no fun. So I’m, I’m in love with it. 

Pam Didner: Hey, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it. 

Kelly Hungerford: Thank you, Pam. Thanks a lot. 

Pam Didner: Again, thank you so much for listening to my podcast. And the podcast is one-way communication. I don’t necessarily know who you are, but your support means a great deal to me.

If you want to chat, reach out to any social media channels or email me at hello@pamdidner.com. You can also join my Facebook community, Build Your Marketing Skills to Get Ahead. Love to hear from you. 

Take care. Bye.


What can Pam Didner do for you?

Being in the corporate world for 20+ years and having held various positions from accounting and supply chain management, and marketing to sales enablement, she knows how corporations work. She can make you and your team a rock star by identifying areas to shine and do better. She does that through private coaching, keynote speaking, workshop training, and hands-on consulting. Contact her or find her on LinkedIn and Twitter. A quick note: Check out her new 90-Day Revenue Reboot, if you are struggling with marketing.