All Creatures Great and Small: The Company That Put “Smart” Back into Pet Products and Services Endows Faculty Chair
Phil Francis MBA’71
Executive Chairman of PetSmart
Imagine the power of a marketing strategy designed to save millions of lives. PetSmart Charities, Inc. has donated more than $52 million to animal welfare programs and has helped save more than 3 million homeless pets through its adoption centers at 900 PetSmart stores.
Meanwhile, PetSmart’s stock has never been better. Business students, take note: doing good is not only the right thing to do, but also it can help a company’s bottom line.
PetSmart is a leader and innovator in what’s called customer experience marketing, which means giving customers a memorable and positive experience when they interact with your brand. While pets and their owners are the primary beneficiaries of PetSmart’s marketing savvy and generosity, it just so happens that two Kelley alumni are the former CEO and current Executive Chairman of PetSmart, and they, along with their company, have also made a gift to their alma mater that will prepare future retailer marketers.
Former PetSmart CEO Samuel Parker (BS’64, MBA’69), current Executive Chairman Philip Francis, (MBA’71), and the Phoenix, Arizona-based company joined to endow the PetSmart Distinguished Marketing Chair, aimed to attract faculty candidates with research expertise in retail marketing.
“We believe IU is well able to leverage a new commitment in marketing,” says Francis, who with Parker and PetSmart gave $1.5 million to establish the chair.
Philip and Juanita Francis previously funded the Harvey C. Bunke MBA Business Ethics Workshop at the Kelley School. Philip Francis was inducted into the Kelley Academy of Alumni Fellows last spring. He joined PetSmart as president and CEO in March 1998 after spending 10 years on the company’s board of directors, and was named Executive Chairman in June 2009.
Parker led PetSmart from 1989 to 1996 as president and CEO, serving again briefly in 1997 and early 1998. Prior to PetSmart, he was the top executive at Frame-n-Lens Optical, divisions of Lucky Stores and Jewel’s Sav-On-Drugs. Parker and his wife, Sandy, are longtime donors to Indiana University.
Francis jokes that Parker was promoted so quickly over the years that he provided natural position vacancies for him. Now they have the opportunity to create opportunities for Kelley students. “It makes sense for Kelley and for PetSmart, since our own business model depends in part on marketing talent,” says Francis.
Paws for Thought
Francis and his wife are, to use the accepted PetSmart parlance, the proud “pet parents” of an adopted mixed-breed terrier named Bit-O-Honey. And a requirement for the recipient of the PetSmart Distinguished Marketing Chair, in addition to being a leading researcher on retail marketing, is that he or she must also be a “pet parent.”
The term was coined by the company to reflect the current humanization of pets. “It has taken 20 years to get animals out of the barnyard and under the sheets,” says Francis. “PetSmart is riding this wave … our vision has moved closer to the heart.”
And in the area of retail marketing, PetSmart and Kelley will be staying one beat ahead of customers’ needs.