July 28, 2008

Extending a Best-Selling Brand

Carol Koh Evans ’99, COO of The Knot, talks about the evolution of the No. 1 wedding Web site and why the world needs more women in business.


Carol Koh Evans ’99, the new COO of The Knot, first connected with the country’s No. 1 wedding Web site when she was a student at Columbia. Evans interviewed its founders for a case study she wrote on the financing of start-ups for an entrepreneurship class. During her fourth term, she interned there, and after graduation, she became the company’s director of corporate development.

After leading the Knot’s IPO process and the acquisition of four wedding-related companies, Evans moved to Redmond, Wash., to join Microsoft, first as a senior manager of corporate development and strategy and later, back in New York, as the general manager of Massive Inc., a Microsoft subsidiary and leading in-game advertising company. (She also got married, relying on The Knot’s many resources and tools, she says, to plan her wedding.)

As COO, Evans runs the day-to-day operations of The Knot’s local and national advertising, registry business, e-commerce warehouse and customer service departments. In the following excerpted Q&A, she talks about inspiring an evolving community of “Knotties” and why there should be more women in business.

How has The Knot changed since you left the company seven years ago?

We’re continuing to realize all the things we talked about when we were going public. For example, we talked a lot about extending the brand to other life stages in addition to marriage. Now, we’re targeting newlyweds and new parents in addition to couples who are planning their weddings. It’s very exciting. In the last few years, we launched The Nest, which is a resource for couples during their first few years of marriage, and we recently acquired a company targeting expecting parents called The Bump.

At the beginning, we also asked: How do we create an engaged audience? And we talked about developing content, community and commerce. Today, we’ve extended our brand to every medium: we have books and magazines in addition to our online offerings. We’re also inspiring a community of “Knotties”— men and women who are planning their weddings or starting a life together who share advice and celebrate and commiserate with each other online about everything from finding the right DJ for a reception to relationship issues.

I had a great time the first time I was here and am thrilled to be back. We’re still always thinking about what’s next, whether it’s new technology platforms or the latest in social networking. How do we continue to innovate?

What’s unique about the wedding industry and The Knot’s brand?

The truly unique thing about this audience is that it’s one that replenishes every year. 2.4 million couples get married in the United States annually. And when you consider all the purchasing that happens around weddings in the United States, it’s a $70 billion industry.

It’s also a huge purchasing time for newlyweds — couples are finding a new house or apartment, furniture and appliances as they start a new life together. Some of the brands you buy at this stage of your life are brands you carry with you for the long haul.

This is also an audience that is uniquely receptive. Newlyweds and first-time parents are trying to soak up as much information as possible. We think of ourselves as providers of a service. It’s more about information-gathering than advertising.

There’s so much life in our brand. We’re not just online, and we’re not just about brides. Our range really differentiates our brand from our competitors.  

You spoke at this year’s Columbia Women in Business Conference on a panel called “Why There Should Be More Women in Business.” How would you answer that, in a nutshell?

As women continue to enter the workforce, they increasingly have more buying power. The best companies and brands tap into that. They can communicate with a diverse audience — one that certainly includes women. To do that, you have to have a diverse team. If you have a room of all one type, you’re not going to have a product that speaks to or engages with a diverse audience.

It’s also important to have more seats at the table, whether it’s a marketing discussion or a hiring or promotion decision. The more perspectives, the stronger the team
 

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