The C-Suite Snapshot

Market/Article 

The C-Suite Snapshot

May 26, 2010

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Vic Walia

Senior Director, Brand Marketing
Expedia Inc.— Hotels.com

What is the first website you look at in the morning?
I used to look at several sites including Adage.com, Brandweek.com, NYTimes.com, etc. Now there are really only two sites that matter. My first visit each morning is to CMO.com, which aggregates all the relevant marketing content so that I can stay abreast with what is happening. The second is Seth Godin’s daily blog—a must read for any marketer. [Editor’s Note: Check out orange’s interview with Godin.]

What is the biggest challenge facing marketing today?
I think it’s the same challenge marketers have been facing for decades and will continue to face for some time to come: measuring marketing efficiency. It’s easy to gravitate to the media vehicles that have more data, such as online or other direct response vehicles. But as brand stewards, we can’t, and shouldn’t, abandon the traditional brand-building principles that are at the core of marketing communications. So the challenge really is to balance the role of ‘new media vehicles,’ which are attractive, with the traditional vehicles, which build efficient reach and are great for storytelling—because after all, at the end of the day, we marketers are just storytellers.[/column] [column]

What kind of people do you surround yourself with? Why?
It’s a wide range of people, but there is not a marketer in the bunch—and that’s by design. I think marketers tend to fall into groupthink. We read the same articles, watch the same TV shows, consume the same media, have a very similar network of people and all want to be the center of attention in a room. It’s for that reason I surround myself with people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines—it’s amazing the perspective one attains when he/she chats with someone who has no clue or interest in marketing or advertising.

Where was the last place you flew?
London. The Hotels.com global headquarters recently relocated to London, U.K., and as a result there are a lot of transatlantic trips.

When you have a creative block what do you do to overcome it?
I go to sleep. The power of a mind that is well rested is truly amazing. When I have a creative block, the best thing for me to do is to let my subconscious help me sort it out. I’ve, on occasion, woken up in the middle of the night with a great idea, the one that eluded me all day long. I “sleep on it,” as they say, and it hasn’t failed me yet. [/column]

[column] What is your favorite season and why?
The fall, most definitely. I don’t know why our calendar starts in January. Nothing really ‘starts’ in January … However in the fall, it’s the beginning of school; football, basketball, and hockey are all about to start up after a long hiatus; and it’s a whole new TV season. I love the fall because everything seems to be happening anew.

What campaign or idea have you seen that you wish had been yours?
I am really impressed with what Kodak has done in recent years. Here is a company, a brand, that needed to reinvent itself. In my opinion, Kodak has embraced the digital age and is one of the few advertisers who successfully uses social media to engage photo enthusiasts. From what I have read, Kodak has a chief blogger and a chief listener, definitely a progressive marketer with respect to social media—something I am truly envious of.

Why is marketing important?
That’s simple. It’s because marketing makes the world go ‘round…from politics, to the media coverage of international disasters, to the announcement of a blockbuster drug that will cure the common cold (have we invented this yet?), [/column] [column]marketing is at the core, and without it, not only could we not afford to entertain one another, but we also wouldn’t know how to communicate transformational ideas impacting human progress and innovation.

Marilyn Joslyn

Director of Creative and Marketing
Landmark Theatres— Wagner/Cuban Companies

What is the first website you look at in the morning?
LandmarkTheatres.com. I want to make sure all the information is correct, and I read some of our customer comments. I then look at indiewire.com. Not only do they report all the news regarding independent film, but they have great bloggers, like Anne Thompson, who have an interesting perspective on the changing trends in our industry. And they cover all the film festivals and markets, so even if I’m not there, I feel like I’m up to date with what films have been sold, how they are being reviewed and who’s making what deals.[/column]

[column] What is the biggest challenge facing marketing today?
I think there are three major challenges:
1) Breaking through the clutter. We utilize the web, our Film Club e-mail, in-theater digital signage, social networking sites, and Twitter to get the word out about new films. We are always searching for alternative ways to attract new consumers.
2) Being constantly innovative. Landmark Theatres has a very loyal following who look forward to our e-mail blasts and website updates; but, we have to keep our messaging fresh. We utilize giveaways, film contest tie-ins, personal letters from filmmakers as well as Q & A sessions after select shows to keep our audience engaged.
3) Keeping costs down. To offset rising print costs, we utilize viral marketing more and more. However, our audience still reads the newspaper, so we need to be sure our ads are easy to read, graphically appealing, and always accurate. We use viral marketing as an adjunct to reach younger consumers who get their movie information online.

What kind of people do you surround yourself with? Why?
People who enjoy learning new things, are team players, who like to push the limits, are self starters, and most of all, thrive [/column] [column]on open communication. Other qualities that are important to me are dependability, having a fresh perspective and a true love of design.

What’s on your iPod?
My tastes are rather eclectic and range from Bach to Meshuggah. My top 10 favorites are: Lisa Gerrard, Pink Floyd, Portishead, Massive Attack, Stan Getz, Tool, Miles Davis, Skinny Puppy, Rage Against the Machine, and Straight Jackitt.

Where was the last place you flew?
I recently flew to Dallas, which is one of the key offices for Landmark. I met with our IT group to formulate our strategy for implementing digital signage in several of our theaters. Digital signage is not only eco-conscious but makes it easy to update our movie titles, weekly showtimes and in-theater messaging.

When you have a creative block what do you do to overcome it?
Stop working. Do something enjoyable and then a solution will come to you. You cannot force creativity. It has to flow. Sometimes, switching gears from marketing to fine art and letterpress is a nice change of pace. However, I have found that simply getting up from the desk, engaging with my staff, getting a cup of coffee or moving on to another project will do the trick.[/column]

[column] What is your favorite season and why?
There are no real “seasons” in Los Angeles, but I love fall because of the crisp feeling in the air that invigorates me after a long, hot L.A. summer. It’s the perfect time to hike through the hills where I live and enjoy nature. Plus, I love Halloween as well as Thanksgiving and the time I get to spend with my family.

What campaign or idea have you seen that you wish had been yours?
I loved the Apple iPod campaign and Target’s campaign with the juxtaposition of brands that they did a few years ago, when they first changed their image. The E*Trade campaign is also hilarious and memorable. Perhaps one of my favorites is the Prius campaign, which shows harmony between man, nature, and the car by using people as elements of the landscape.

Why is marketing important?
Good marketing gets the message out to consumers in a non-intrusive yet effective way. When you have a brand like Landmark, targeted marketing is crucial. Our business depends on it. We have to convince people 365 days a year to get off their couch, leave their house and go to the movies. [/column] [column]

Scott Keogh

Chief Marketing Officer
Audi of America

What is the first website you look at in the morning?
Google Alerts, checking news and commentary that involves Audi. It’s a great tool for surveying the discussion going on about our brand globally in minutes instead of hours.

What’s the biggest challenge facing marketing today?
That’s an easy one. It’s panic marketing, where desperation about difficult economic times leads to really small ideas and short-term marketing. I like to challenge our team by saying small minds ensure small times.

What’s the best agency you have ever worked with and why?
I work with upward of 10 agencies, and I aim to make them all feel like they are the best. Doing this naturally encourages any agency to bring forward strong ideas.

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[column]What kind of people do you surround yourself with? Why?
Smart and resilient people. The automotive business is a brutal environment, so we need resourceful team members eager to enter the fray and bounce back every day to take on the next challenge.

What’s on your iPod?
Radiohead, Beach House, and Velvet Underground.

Where was the last place you flew?
Geneva, Switzerland for the Geneva Motor Show.

When you have a creative block what do you do to overcome it?
Everything can be solved with a long walk.

What’s your favorite season and why?
I love the fall—but for the changing leaves not the model year changeover.

What campaign or idea have you seen that you wish had been yours?
It has to be the Geico ringtones. Great stuff from a brand that continuously reinvents its messaging in ways that stick with consumers. Geico has really broken the dogma that everything in your messaging has to be the same. [/column] [column]

Why is marketing important?
Two reasons, really. If done right it builds brands that people love rather than offer up mere commodities that people buy. Good marketing also can rally your entire organization around your products and the tone you are setting.

Donna Wells

Former CMO
Mint.com

Why are you in the marketing profession?
I am really fascinated by human behavior, and marketing is the discipline and practice of understanding and influencing human behavior.

How would you describe the role of a CMO?
First and foremost, a CMO is a steward of their brand. I don’t think that the CMO “owns” the brand anymore—if they ever did—but the brand is something that is shared between prospects, employees, customers, potential customers, and other shareholders and is influenced by how all of these shareholders interact. The CMO sits in the middle of all that.[/column]

[column]To be an effective steward means you have to understand what all of the shareholders’ expectations of and ambitions for the brand are, and have a mastery of all of the different communication channels to reach those shareholders. You have to make sure the brand message is received by your contacts and that you are listening to their feedback. The brand is a living organism; you need to keep it healthy and growing.

What is the first website you look at in the morning?
Probably Google. I’m the most creative in the middle of the night, and I have to get up and see who’s already doing what I’m thinking about and how they’re doing it.

What is the biggest challenge facing marketing today?
There are so many different communication channels and tactics available today; it can be a challenge just to stay on the forefront of these channels to reach customers. Being on the leading edge of content and tools can give you about a half-hour of competitive advantage.

How do you find tools, determine which are worth your time, learn to use them, put them into practice, measure them, etc.? [/column] [column]Never has there been the possibility of as many actively engaged audiences and players as there is today. In the past, if you delighted one consumer with your product, they might tell 12 friends. Now, 100,000 people might follow your tweets or read your blog, and they have a lot of leverage within social media to help your brand. Unfortunately, a disappointed customer also has all of the same leverage, and they can apply it to your detriment as easily as they can apply it to your benefit.

What campaign do you wish had been yours?
I would have to say that Old Spice campaign where the super attractive guy says, “Your man could smell like me.” That campaign is absolutely hilarious. It creates a lot of buzz, is highly entertaining and has great creative execution.

I would have liked to have been able to apply that campaign to another brand that was ready for it or use it to launch a new brand, so that the campaign would drive sales. I don’t know that the company is selling more aftershave because of those ads. I think that’s one of those cases where the creativity of the campaign exceeds the brand or product it’s trying to sell. That’s not marketing or advertising; that’s entertainment.

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[column]What do you think will be different about marketing in the next 10 years?
With the trajectory we’re on, I see a world where I, as a consumer, actually have a personal website set up that announces all of my information to companies, and I get to tell companies what I am in the market for and what I have no interest in at any given point in time. I’ll have a consumer commerce portal (or something with a better name) through which, by my choice, marketers may or may not pass through.

Kim McGill

Vice President of Marketing and Advertising
smart USA

What is the biggest challenge facing marketing today?
Probably the amount of marketing being done. People are hit with 13,000 to 15,000 messages a day, so we need to figure out, how do you break through that clutter? As marketers are getting more creative, their messaging is getting more creative. [/column] [column] You can’t get away from it as a consumer, so you function by filtering it out. As a marketer, we need to make sure the message is getting through, especially when the cost of marketing hasn’t decreased.

Why is marketing important?
How else are people going to know your brand, understand your brand, or purchase your brand versus all the options out there? Marketing is about telling our story better than our competitors’ and looking for ways to make our product more relevant and stand apart from everybody else’s.

What kind of people do you surround yourself with? Why?
I like people who are energetic, proactive, and positive thinking. As I build my team, I look for people who have strengths in areas I don’t. I target the skill sets we need in order to make things happen. I guess you could say it’s a very eclectic, high-functioning group.

Who is doing innovative things?
We always look at Apple, of course. They’re constantly redefining the market, and probably one of the best out there right now. I’m also watching Harley to see what they’re doing. [/column]

[column]They’re like [us] in that their product is a luxury that takes discretionary income to buy. With the economic clash last year, we’re in the same space trying to market to people when they’re in the mode of saving. Harley seems to know what they’re doing.

I’m also watching the folks in the social marketing space. When the big agencies had to scale down, they released a lot of talent that is now forming small little boutiques. They’re looking at cool ways to view marketing and communication, and they’re building campaigns in an innovative way.

Do you prefer talking on the phone, texting, or e-mailing?
When I have time, I prefer to talk face-to-face with people, or on the phone. But I do most of my communicating through e-mail because I can get through large volumes quickly. As communication has increased through texting and e-mail, we get volumes and volumes of information, and the only way to survive is to move through it quickly.

I’m not a casual texter. I text a lot with my kids. That’s their form of communication. So I have to talk to them that way or we don’t communicate.

How do you get to work? What do you do on your commute?
I drive my smart car, like everybody should. [/column] [column]I listen to the radio on my commute. I always have background noise on, when I’m working or driving or at home. I’ve always got something going on in the background.

What is the first thing you do when you get to the office each day?
Get a cup of coffee. It really depends on what time I get in. I normally get in before my staff, so I get my computer fired up. I’ve usually already checked my e-mail by phone on my way in—while parked safely at a stoplight, of course! If I get in after my staff, I walk around and talk to them, see what’s going on, and prioritize for the day.

What’s on your desk?
I have two computers. I have a PC desktop, which is part of the corporate culture. And I have a Mac that I do all my advertising and creative stuff on. I always have my notes, and whatever mail I’ve been going through. Although I’m normally a very neat person, my desk is very cluttered at work. [/column] [column] Do you wait for the light when crossing the street?
Only if there’s a car there. If I think no one’s looking and I can get across, I don’t wait for the light. I’m not much of a rule follower. I like to know what the rules are so I know when I break them. [/column]

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