Steve Odland '81
the right track
Odland '81 revs up Office Depot with championship marketing
and a NASCAR partnership that meets customer expectations
taking pole position at Office Depot in March 2005, Chairman
and CEO Steve Odland '81 has driven the corporation
to five straight record-earning quarters and an increase of
$1.2 billion in sales, shifting the office supply retailer
toward international growth and into the spotlight of the
second-most-watched sport in the United States, NASCAR.
a corporate sponsorship with the automotive racing phenomenon,
Office Depot's "Taking Care of Business" campaign
gives millions of small-business owners — many of whom
are NASCAR fans — another way to celebrate the sport
they love, says the Kellogg alum. In addition, the promotion
links NASCAR star Carl Edwards, a former substitute teacher,
to Office Depot's school supply market, through Edwards' ambassadorship
with the National PTA and his role as driver of the official
Office Depot No. 99 Ford Fusion race car.
bundle is fueling the corporation's overall growth, says Odland.
At AutoZone, an auto parts and accessories retailer where
Odland previously served as CEO, NASCAR's marketing potential
was an obvious fit. At Office Depot, however, the match is
just as logical, he explains. "NASCAR is an incredible
draw for small business. It's second only to football [in
television viewers]," he says. "Our goal is to give
customers what we know they like. For example, through a recent
sweepstakes, customers registered to win promotion space on
the Office Depot NASCAR vehicle."
back-to-school shoppers, Office Depot's "Great Tools
for Your Schools" sweepstakes gives classrooms a chance
to win a hauler of new supplies personally delivered by Carl
passion for marketing innovation stems from his longtime fascination
with the discipline. As an undergraduate at Notre Dame, he
grew acquainted with the work of Sidney Levy, an esteemed
marketing scholar who would later teach Odland at the Kellogg
School, where the future CEO enrolled based on its No. 1 marketing
curriculum. During his senior leadership roles in brand management
at Quaker Oats and Sara Lee, Odland knew Kellogg had prepared
marketing fundamentals are the same regardless of what you
are selling," says Odland. Still, the large scale of
Office Depot affects the company's strategy.
nearly $15 billion in sales, Office Depot is one of the largest
sellers of office products and services globally, so we compete
with virtually everybody," says the Kellogg graduate.
"Consider the food industry: Recipes are different all
over the world, so even though you have similar brands, local
tastes factor in. But with office supplies, there is an amazing
consistency for products."
instance, according to Odland, standard software is used worldwide,
with only the languages customized. Office Depot's operations,
spanning 36 countries, target consistent demands for quality
filing supplies, printing and writing instruments, although
promotions are localized. NASCAR, for example is the dominant
form of racing in the U.S., while Formula One is more popular
monitor customer expectations worldwide and develop effective
marketing strategies, executives at Office Depot's Delray
Beach, Fla., headquarters collaborate with colleagues in Europe
and Asia and have instituted a global branding council to
ensure consistency of look, feel and message. Improvements
ahead include more delivery support for the company's booming
Internet sales, which brings in $4 billion annually.
on his team's success in driving productivity, Odland credits
attention to detail among the key factors.
of projects all over the world, ranging from changing the
store light bulbs to more efficient ones, to shortening the
register tapes, to switching to DSL Internet connections,"
says Odland, "are all part of our direction to operate
more efficiently and deliver the best value to our customers."