News for Authors

Q&A with Consumer Marketing: Finding Ways to Welcome Consumers to the Habit of Reading

by The Author Newsletter Team|November, 2019

At Penguin Random House, our marketing teams play a major role in getting the word out about your books. We spoke with Sanyu Dillon, executive vice president and director of marketing strategy and consumer engagement, about the evolution of her team and of consumer marketing as a whole.


Dillon leads the Consumer Marketing group, comprising consumer insights and analytics, creative strategy, consumer engagement, video, and design. Throughout our illuminating interview with Sanyu, she shares how and why Consumer Marketing has expanded its areas of focus, “providing insights, scale, technology, and a creative spark to understand and engage readers of all ages and backgrounds and resources.”


Your team is now called Consumer Marketing and has undergone a number of changes over the past year. Explain the evolution of your team.

We have recently streamlined the team’s name and have expanded its areas of focus and its resources to encompass insights and analytics, creative strategy, engagement, video, and design. We’ve also recalibrated our mission to place an emphasis on creating meaningful experiences for consumers and elevating the role of reading in people’s lives. What I’m most excited about, though, is how these changes better prepare us to partner with all divisions and departments across the company. We do that by providing insights, scale, technology, and a creative spark to understand and engage readers of all ages and backgrounds.


Why and how is consumer marketing important to the growth of Penguin Random House, and in what ways do you collaborate with and support our publishing divisions?

Having a better understanding of, reaching more of, and engaging more deeply with our consumers are all vital to our growth as a company, and give PRH a strong competitive advantage. The team’s focus on the consumer enables us to anticipate where the market is heading, drive discovery and demand in the face of a challenging retail environment, and cultivate destinations where readers can find their next great reads.

With regard to collaboration, let me first say that collaborating is one of the best parts of my job. And that’s because there’s a strong sense of purpose in this company and that creates a lot of passion for the work, the books, and our authors. My team strives to be the ultimate collaborators by bringing our specialties and resources to the table to supercharge the great work our divisions already do. Here are just a few examples of how our collaboration works in practice:

  • Understand: We are the only publisher with in-house reader segmentation capabilities, consumer behavior tracking, and a proprietary one-hundred-thousand-member survey panel available for custom research. We use these resources when partnering with divisions to uncover opportunity audiences and strategies for specific books and authors, to work with editorial teams to offer insights into content acquisition, and to delve into macro-level topics. Part of understanding is also keeping the consumer of the near and far future top of mind. For example, we have launched a series of multicultural marketing workshops with the goal of informing and educating PRH marketers about opportunities in and approaches to multicultural marketing across a wide group of targets.
  • Reach: With 21 million readers visiting our digital platforms monthly, we can extend and amplify the work of our divisions at scale. Our digital properties include PRH.comBrightly, and Read It Forward, as well as a robust email platform and a strong social media presence. We also help our divisions reach and discover readers wherever they are through emerging and leading technologies and platforms. The team also explores ways to diversify the PRH advertising footprint and advises on best practices, including recent ad buyers’ meetings focused on maximizing first-party data, the fragmented world of podcasts, and the upcoming focus on the Amazon advertising suite of products. We can elevate cross-divisional and cross-category opportunities that provide additional entry points to consumers, such as our upcoming holiday campaign. We also forge unique partnerships with leading companies and organizations including YouTube Originals, Google Assistant, and the Facebook Oculus team to help bring new readers to Penguin Random House offerings across divisions.
  • Engage: Once we understand readers and find ways to reach them, it’s important to offer them meaningful experiences. Doing this well allows us to establish a strong connection between PRH and the consumer, activate subscribers, and turn our most engaged subscribers into evangelists for our books and authors. An example is the recent video we created—with real live penguins!


How does Consumer Marketing incorporate creativity and innovation to drive demand for our books?

These terms can be defined in many ways, but for us it’s about using the tools and talent at our disposal to create opportunities for all marketers at PRH (including those of us in Consumer Marketing!) to add a spark of creativity to their work. Some of our current key creativity-ready initiatives include:

  • Splash, our new landing-page template launching in 2020, which offers solutions for marketers to creatively target readers.
  • Our quarterly Moments report, which identifies topics and trends in the zeitgeist and identifies opportunity titles that fit the trend.
  • And then one of our biggest ongoing innovations is our email program and website—we are constantly improving our personalization, automation, and segmentation. For example, our email program has sent 42 million emails to subscribers, with an average open rate of 32 percent (far above industry benchmarks) across 334 curated campaigns, as well as automated personalized campaigns triggered by specific subscriber behaviors or characteristics.


Where do you see marketing heading in the future? 

Marketing is a discipline that is constantly evolving, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. I have no idea what the future holds. Discovery continues to be a challenge, new platforms create more fragmentation, and we are competing with a plethora of other companies and marketers for the finite resource of time.  One current definition of marketing (according to the American Marketing Association) is “activities designed to create value for customers.” Increasingly, given the challenge of discoverability for brands, it’s become “Right Person, Right Place, Right Time, and Right Message.” I’m particularly interested in how companies use data to understand “Right Person, Right Place, and Right Time” and how they use a mix of insights and creativity to understand the “Right Message.” I think marketing that “wins”—that hits the target audience with compelling and meaningful messages—wonderfully blends creativity with data. And that ladders up to marketers embracing both the art and the science of marketing and structuring teams to equally support both.



Sanyu Dillon is Executive Vice President and Director, Marketing Strategy and Consumer Engagement at Penguin Random House.