Skip to main content Skip to footer


3M: Digitizing marketing and sales for growth

An interview with David Crist, SVP & CMO at 3M's Safety and Industrial Business Group (SIBG)


In conversation with 3M’s SVP & CMO, David Crist

US multinational 3M is more than 100 years old. Yet its business has evolved faster in the past few years than ever before. Central to helping the business harness change to drive growth is a new, digitally driven focus on marketing, spearheaded by David Crist, SVP & CMO at 3M´s Safety and Industrial Business Group (SIBG).

“I’m really excited about taking marketing to a new level of contribution to the company,” says Crist. “What excites me is the opportunity for marketing—combined with data, ecommerce, and digitization—to become an equal partner at 3M.”

From personalization to the power of brand and analytics, Crist explores a whole new world of digital-first marketing at the iconic company.

When the pandemic hit, it enabled us to see a much bigger future, faster as everything leapfrogged into the digital world.

DAVID CRIST / SVP & CMO, 3M´s Safety and Industrial Business Group (SIBG)

In this edition

Accenture: How does your approach to data and customer insights relate to your growth agenda?

David Crist: Tying data and technology into everything we do at 3M is the key cornerstone of how we´re repositioning marketing and sales. We’re becoming much more data oriented, and our portfolios are being prioritized based on growth profiles. We focus on those business activities that have the greatest share, penetration, and growth opportunity, along with new product development, because that’s core to 3M. As we get more data from more resources, we will start to build up our own data analytics group to uncover what’s working and what’s not in real time—both for our portfolio and channel partners as well as our sales teams. Then we can continue to refine our marketing activities.

We’re at the beginning stages of this process, but it’s going to help us be more targeted in how we drive our business and portfolio priorities as well as growth agenda.

Accenture: 3M recently announced a billion-dollar investment over 20 years to accelerate environmental goals, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. How do you and your team in SIBG contribute to that ambition?

David Crist: There is a whole team working on this because sustainability goes far beyond marketing. We help think of new product introductions that are sustainable and that will resonate with our customers. As we come out of this pandemic and supply chains open up, marketing will play a key role in driving sustainable products through our effective demand generation programs. Highlighting sustainability and driving towards more sustainable products is incredibly important.

Sustainability is core to our future, how we think about new and current products, and how we evolve our portfolio and long-standing commitment.

Accenture: What emerging trends will be game changers in the next few years for the industry & 3M?

David Crist: One of the key things we’re focusing on is the advancements in analytics and mining more data sources, to give us the opportunity to discover new customer needs. Insights are key and it will be exciting to see what comes from analyzing not only customer needs, but also effective commercialization strategies.

Personalization and self-serve digital experiences is another area we’ll be driving. There are exciting opportunities to further reach our target audiences in a more efficient and personalized manner and digital will drive that. We continue to build self-serve digital experiences to better serve our customers, with a shift to more online ordering options and helping customers and end users find the right solutions for their needs. It’s a challenge that our internal teams are excited to work on because it will make for a much better customer experience.

Accenture: What inspires you most?

David Crist: What excites me is the opportunity for marketing—combined with data, ecommerce, and digitization—to become an equal partner, and to help all our marketing people drive that. I believe it’s been an under-valued function within 3M. The way we’re approaching it now, with 3M’s evolved business models, gives me great hope and excitement about what we can do to bring the "third M", marketing, into more focus to help drive growth.

The Industrialist

The Industrialist is your essential guide to the industrial industry, where you can discover the latest innovations, ideas, and insights. Explore more industry leader insights.