Marketing today takes savvy, perseverance, and deft juggling skills. Winners of the 2013 Direct Marketing News 40 Under 40 Awards have them all, in spades.
These 40 leaders represent the most accomplished young talent in marketing. They’ve launched initiatives that have helped to significantly grow their companies, or spur their customers’ successes, and influenced the industry in numerous ways—from enhancing the core elements of direct marketing, to advancing measurement, to guiding their company and clients on mastering new technologies.
Their work is helping to guide others in marketing to master such areas as integrating digital and traditional marketing, using cross-channel data to inform marketing decisions, and building loyalty at a time when customers churn at the click of a mouse. Their stories are ones of determination, creativity, and adaptability.
Greg Alvo, Founder & CEO, OrderGroove
Winning ways: A nationally ranked tennis player in his youth, the bane of Alvo’s existence was replacing the strings he habitually popped on his racquets. “It’s the catalyst behind this business,” he says. The business is OrderGroove, which takes brand advocates and super-monetizes them by transforming them into brand subscribers. Only five years old, OrderGroove serves 75 brands including CVS, L’Oreal, and Johnson & Johnson. Zabar’s, the legendary New York City gourmet retailer, multiplied customer purchase frequency by five times and nearly doubled their annual spend with the Z-Peat subscription program OrderGroove designed.
Defining moment: “Hands down, launching and growing OrderGroove to capture the massive subscription commerce opportunity in front of us. The desire to create value out of nothing has driven my career from day one.”
Good read: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. “It was an amazing reference when I was first launching OrderGroove. It laid out how to get started in a practical and refreshing way. I encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs to read it.”
Good advice: “Test and measure everything, then learn and innovate accordingly.”
Amy Avery, SVP, Head of Data and Analytics, Proximity North America
Winning ways: Avery helped the Marine Corps march to the rhythm of data while at JWT, created a digital analytics department from the ground up at BBDO, and now melds social with customer relationship management (CRM) as head of data and analytics at Proximity NA. She is the elusive right brain–left brain hybrid that is the quarry of marketing departments everywhere. “Amy has the uncommon combination of account and analytics background,” says Proximity Chairman Andrew Bailey. “She has a unique ability to apply advanced solutions to client problems and explain them in a simple manner.” And apply them she does. After testing the best placement for the call to action in a recent campaign, Avery’s team delivered the client a tenfold increase in response and incremental revenue of $1.3 million.
Defining moment: “Working on FEMA as an account director, my role was to convince people to purchase insurance. I spent a lot of time working with a database and analytics team to collect and analyze data on what made people buy. As a result of the targeting and contact strategy we put together, the National Flood Insurance Program had unprecedented policy sales. I took that experience into a newly created role of business intelligence director, where I served as the ‘translator’ between clients and the analytics resources, finding creative solutions to solve business challenges.”
Good read: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. “It has reminded me that compassion and loyalty are often the most valuable things you can offer.”
Good advice: “Look for opportunities rather than wait for them to come to you, and don’t be afraid of failure.”
Aaron Bell, CEO, AdRoll
Winning ways: There was a time, not long ago, when tracking people’s serpentine Web journeys and targeting them with relevant ads along the way was a strategy for big budget players. Now retargeting is a weapon in every direct marketer’s arsenal, thanks largely to ex-programmer Bell. One of Microsoft’s youngest software engineers, he busted out AdRoll in 2007 to bring retargeting to the marketing masses. AdRoll hit pay-dirt last year, tripling its revenue from 2011 and showing its first profit. Not bad, but fate could have taken Bell in another direction. In 1999 he and two Stanford classmates launched Steamtunnels, an online version of the school’s “facebook.” The university shut down the project due to privacy concerns.
Defining moment: “I took to computers early in life and started professionally coding in my early teens. At age 15 I had the opportunity to interview at Microsoft and was hired as a software development engineer in the Microsoft Exchange group. I can’t overstate how much I learned about team and software best practices in my five years there. The leader of the group was Brian Valentine, who also came to management through a programming background, and inspired his team with his gumption and humor.”
Good read: “I like the notes from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel’s recent Stanford lecture series.”
Good advice: “Start from your customer and work backwards.”
Jeremy Bloom, Cofounder, Integrate
Winning ways: The business world loves sports metaphors—but Jeremy Bloom doesn’t need metaphors. An all-star athlete turned entrepreneur, Bloom skied for the U.S. Olympic team and played professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles before tackling the world of direct marketing. After winning 11 World Cup Gold medals in freestyle skiing and retiring from the gridiron, Bloom went on to cofound ad-tech company Integrate, where he and his team developed AdHQ, an omnichannel workflow management platform for marketers. Under Bloom’s leadership, Integrate nearly doubled its revenue in 2012. But Bloom also sets aside time to give back—since launching nonprofit organization Wish of a Lifetime in 2008, he’s helped grant more than 650 wishes to elderly people across the country.
Defining moment: “Raising Integrate’s Series A funding was my true initiation into the world of business. It was confirmation that we were indeed on the right course, creating something special, and it provided Integrate with tremendous momentum.”
Good read: “Good to Great by Jim Collins prepared me for many of the obstacles Integrate has encountered during its maturation process and given me a realistic grip on what it takes to create a great company.”
Good advice: “Get focused from the very beginning on measuring the ROI of every dollar spent—whether those dollars are yours or your clients’.”
Sam Brubaker, Marketing Director, Champion Factory Direct
Winning ways: Brubaker has helped Champion Factory Direct generate in excess of $200 million in annual revenues. Because of his work, Champion has achieved over 35% marketing productivity improvement in direct marketing investments, an 8% increase in average contract sales due to geo-targeting, and a 20% improved profitability due to product mix targeting efforts.
Defining moment: Although Champion is a national brand and online activity was handled at the national level, media buying used to occur at a local level. Brubaker found himself in the position of having to educate the brass by proving the value of programs that had occurred online. “Much of it was changing the methodology of what we buy, how we buy, and how we drive the inquiries,” he says. “It’s changed the way we do business.”
Good read: Seth Godin’s Tribes.
Good advice: “Always be a good listener, whether it’s being coached or whether it’s listening to people in the field, and always ask a lot of questions.”
Jennifer Bunner, Director of Insight, Outsell LLC
Winning ways: For Bunner, data and analytics are true passions. In the past two years alone she’s grown the insights team at Outsell by 200%. With Bunner at the insights helm, Outsell has created innovative digital experiences for some of the biggest brands in the auto industry—helping those clients see results like increasing dealership new vehicle sales by 13% and sparking a 22% uptick in customer retention.
Defining moment: “Early in my career I was given the opportunity, along with a great deal of responsibility and freedom, to build a CRM program for a key client from the ground up. I had a great mentor who allowed me to take ownership of the project, take risks, make mistakes, and learn from those experiences—while being extremely supportive along the way. Through this I was made visible to leaders within and outside the company, but most important it helped me build my confidence as a businesswoman and believe in myself.”
Good read: “Don’t Kiss With Your Mouth Full by Henry P. Mahone presents complex situations in single parenting, inter-generational relationships, and family matters with a gentle, humorous touch. The main character shows how imperfection is OK as long as we know what is good and keep striving.”
Good advice: “Have a vision for your career early on and then find a strong mentor to support, advise, and advocate for you as you work toward it.”
Jon Butts, President, Muscle Up Marketing
Winning ways: Jon Butts left a stable, well-paying job to found Muscle Up Marketing less than three years ago with $1,000 in cash. Today, the gym and health club marketing agency is a multimillion-dollar company. Not only are the agency’s campaigns effective—a recent direct mail effort brought in an impressive 5% response rate—its attention to detail is nonpareil. Muscle Up Marketing has a 100% quality track record. In its entire history, the agency has never had to reprint a single piece of work.
Defining moment: “I was at my last job over four years when the company introduced a new non-compete that I thought was over restrictive. I was given the ultimatum: Sign it or else they’d be forced to terminate me. I was making good money, but I was unhappy. I opted to walk away and start my own company. Everyone thought I was crazy.”
Good read: “The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon. I believe in sweating the small stuff—because the small things really add up and go a long way.”
Good advice: “Take the chance when it’s there, so you don’t have to wonder ‘what if’ later in life.”
Gurbaksh Chahal, Founder and CEO, RadiumOne
Winning Ways: At only 30, Chahal is on his third company. He dropped out of high school to start the first, ClickAgents, which he sold to ValueClick for $40 million. Next came BlueLithium, which Yahoo! acquired for $300 million. Now he helps marketers target consumers with hashtag ads at his new company, RadiumOne. Hyundai used the company’s services to launch its first hashtag campaign during Super Bowl XLVII and exceeded its mobile click-through rate benchmark by 41 times. “I firmly believe that Darwin was right, that those who are able to adapt and change will survive,” Chahal says. “We’re now at an inflection point where science and society are bound together and we must to remain nimble to evolve with the changing media landscape.”
Defining moment: “Starting my first company at the age of 16. The company was hailed as a market-maker in the ad network space and within 18 months I sold it…. Innovation is moving at the speed of light. Within the next five years technology will advance so quickly that life as we know it will challenge us to rethink the way we approach business, relationships, and play.”
Good advice: “A successful business is not run by algorithms but by relationships.”
Carrie Chitsey, CEO, BLK24
Winning Ways: Chitsey founded and sold her first company before she was 30, so she took that money and used it to roll out 3Seventy, a company with a revolutionary SMS text program that was embraced by companies large and small. Not yet 35, the poker-playing Chitsey has dealt herself another winning hand with BLK24, a marketing consultancy that helps brands meld mobile initiatives with their overarching strategies. “Poker has taught me how to read people, and how to make the right decisions in business,” she says, adding that successful entrepreneurs must have a little riverboat gambler in them. “If you’re going to go your own way, you have to go in strong or go home.”
Defining moment: “I had personal motivations that made me leave a Big 5 consulting company and start my first company in 2006. I was driven to work for myself, make my clients proud, and start charting my own course. I’ve had a path I’ve been working toward ever since and driving toward that every day.”
Good read: “I’ve been reading the Steve Jobs [biography by Walter Isaacson] and it shows me more than ever that you have to chart your own course and, in doing so, you don’t always make friends. You have to stick to your own instincts and ethics, first and foremost.”
Good advice: “The only person who defines your success is you. There is never a good excuse for obstacles; there is always a solution if you are determined to succeed.”
Louis Cohen, SVP, Head of Search, Affiliate Marketing and Lead Generation, Citibank, NA
Winning Ways: Cohen is a digital marketing superhero. He led the expansion of Citibank’s digital customer acquisition efforts across all U.S. consumer businesses and grew the core program by more than 400% in two years. He shares his marketing knowledge by working as a digital marketing professor for Baruch College and NYU.
Defining Moment: “After my freshman year of college, thanks to guidance from my older brother, I landed an internship at Marvel Comics in marketing. During that summer—when I thought I was headed toward a career in advertising and marketing, working with what we now consider “traditional” media—I had a brilliant idea for a website, called Collectors’ Exchange, which I launched with a friend. The experience of trying to survive in the .com boom, failing to hit it big, but learning a ton, is what propelled me toward a career in digital marketing and gave me life lessons that still serve me well to this day.
Good read: First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. “It makes perfect sense: Manage people to their strengths, and they will be happier, more productive, and more engaged.”
Good advice: “Stay on top of the latest industry news so you can always hold an intelligent conversation with even the most seasoned professional.”
Kristy Croft, Partner, Rosetta
Winning Ways: Croft knows the value of marketing/IT collaboration. She started in computer programming, but switched to marketing after determining that she was way too social for IT. But she continues to apply her IT knowledge to digital marketing at Rosetta. Croft is also a born leader. She restructured Rosetta’s paid, owned, and earned media team, resulting in a 30% boost in aggregate revenue with only a 5% headcount increase.
Defining Moment: “My first week on the job I was asked to go on site with a client and build out their digital marketing program from the ground up. I was brand new to the agency world and relatively new to marketing. I threw everything I had into making sure that the engagement was a success. I learned a lot about myself and my ability during that time…I learned that I had what it took to play with the big boys.”
Good read: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. “I’m the executive sponsor of the Lean In program at Rosetta. I have three small children, my oldest is three years old, and I’m a mentor to a lot of young female professionals at Rosetta. The book just resonated with me because I feel like, at times, women unnecessarily put limits on themselves that they shouldn’t.”
Good advice: “Be firm but fair.”
Viji Davis, VP, Marketing, Resolution Media, Omnicom
Winning ways: When Viji Davis joined the Resolution Media executive team she was 28. She became VP only a year later. From 2011 to 2012 she helped Resolution Media generate 32% total revenue growth and 30% new client growth.
Defining moment: Davis’s family moved from India to Africa when she was two. When she was in elementary school, her parents moved to the U.S. It was a tremendous culture shock and, at a very young age, Davis was forced to learn how to make connections with people. “When I moved here, I had a British accent and when you’re a little kid, nobody understands what you’re saying,” she recalls.
Good read: 365 Dalai Lama: Daily Advice From the Heart. Davis keeps a copy of the book in her office and reads random sections whenever work is especially stressful. “It sounds cheesy but it really does help,” she says. “Even when things seem stressful, you realize stress is just a perceived emotion and it’s just a matter of how much you can control it.”
Good advice: “Do more than what’s required of you and, above all, just be nice.”
Jason DeLuca, Managing Director, Digital Media, Allscope Media
Winning ways: DeLuca knows digital. On top of growing the digital business at Allscope by 400% in just three years, the agency’s holiday campaign for MasterCard yielded such high sales conversions that it’s considered to be the most successful digital media execution the brand has ever run.
Defining moment: “Getting out of college at the same exact time that digital media was just starting to take off and riding that wave as one of the first employees in the digital media department at BBDO, which handed over access to some of the biggest brands in the world. That invaluable experience and opportunity opened the door for many others down the road and gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to excel.”
Good read: “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack, founder of IMG Management, left a big impression on me since I first read it back in high school. So much of business is all about people and managing personalities rather than just dollars and cents. It taught me that having the ability to invoke laughter in the right moments is an extremely useful tool that can make a big difference in getting deals done.”
Good advice: “Surround yourself with the smartest, most successful people you can find in the field and study the way they work, think, communicate, and get things done. Then try to improve upon it in your own unique way and you will be on the right path toward success.”
Amanda Dempsey, Managing Director, Sports and Experiential, hawkeye
Winning ways: Dempsey helped energize client North Face’s running business (up 208%) with The North Face Endurance 50 and helped put Anheuser-Busch on the menu of active, health-minded drinkers during the launch of Michelob ULTRA. As a result, she made hawkeye’s sports and experiential practice soar, doubling its growth since taking the helm. A former varsity soccer player at SMU, Dempsey is grateful to remain active in the sports world as she prepares for her next big challenge: directing the soccer career of two-year-old daughter Payton.
Defining moment: “As an intern, I was able to sit in the same office as the CEO. I took advantage of each and every second I could by listening in on every phone call, every meeting, and every question and answer that came through that office door. Over time I began asking questions and preparing answers and ideas for clients. I tried to approach each day with the mind-set of a CEO and I was lucky enough to receive encouragement to do so.”
Good read: “I’m currently reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. Ironically, I’m having to seek advice on the best ways to communicate and ‘market’ to my daughter. Now that I know to assume she is more like a Neanderthal than a mini-adult, my strategy and approach have changed drastically.”
Good advice: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This was the best piece of advice I ever received and I continue to pay it forward by sharing it with every new hire and intern that I come across.”
Jeremiah Desmarais, VP, Marketing and Strategy, Health Partners America
Winning ways: From graphic designer to top-level marketer—Desmarais’ career trajectory is evidence of the breadth of his skills. Through his efforts as VP of marketing at Applied Systems, the company was able to cut its budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars while still increasing leads to sales by 300%. Clearly, when it comes to lead gen, Desmarais just gets it. He developed a whitepaper engagement strategy that led to a 251% increase in response without a single dollar spent and created a direct response digital presentation format for the sales team at Health Partners America that resulted in a 660% increase in new leads per week.
Defining moment: “Starting my career at a startup with no staff, no budget, and no formal marketing education. This helped me become incredibly resourceful and creative in the ways I would market. Despite it all, only one thing mattered: results.”
Good read: “The Book of Proverbs. Conducting good business is really being able to conduct good human relations. Many business books leave this out and focus on people as pawns in a strategic game of supremacy. However, I’ve found that finding lasting fulfillment in business comes from contributing value, serving others, and being a force for good.”
Good advice: “Give first.”
Theo Fanning, Executive Creative Director, Traction
Winning ways: As cofounder of Traction, Fanning’s leadership has contributed to the agency being selected to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in the U.S. twice in the past five years. His work has also paid dividends for clients. Juice brand Nomsi saw a 550% year-over-year sales increase due to Fanning’s integrated work, and in the six months since the launch of a campaign for Accountemps, the brand’s stock price jumped from $26 to $36.
Defining moment: Fanning went to university to be a film major. Before he arrived on campus, the school shuttered the film school, which resulted in Fanning spending the next four years going through nine majors resulting in two degrees he swore he’d never get: fine arts and English literature. “I basically spent four years exploring a variety of topics that have shaped my career,” he says.
Good read: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. “It’s about the concept of creation and having to deal with the consequences thereof,” he says. “It’s an example of every action having an equal and opposite reaction.”
Good advice: “Take every opportunity; be humble.”
Judah Fontz, VP, Search Fundraising, VeraData
Winning ways: Fontz is so good at his job that Google actually called him to ask how he does it. When he first joined VeraData, Fontz decided to take a risk: Rather than focus on known sources of search revenue, he set his sights on developing a mastery of search marketing for fundraisers—and it’s a gamble that’s paid dividends for all involved. Not only has he personally generated more than $2 million in search marketing grants in the past three years, he’s also helped capture tens of thousands of donors for the charities he’s worked with. In just one example, Fontz increased monthly impressions for a national animal rights charity by 1,391%, while boosting its monthly click-through traffic by 9,516%, and pumping up monthly newsletter subscriptions by 7,985%. Monthly online donations to the charity soared 8,500% as a result.
Defining moment: “Overcoming traditional direct marketing mind-sets and ways of doing things. Now our clients are coordinating their multichannel efforts and are continuing to open up to a more holistic way of allocating budgets and analyzing omnichannel campaign results.”
Good read: “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators. I’m interested in learning about the behaviors of the best innovators and how to apply them.”
Good advice: “Don’t be afraid to question common practices when you have ideas and solutions outside the norm.”
Justin Gray, CEO, LeadMD
Winning ways: Gray doesn’t do anything half way. He founded his first company, RootOne Marketing, to help him pay for college. Later, as VP of sales and marketing at BillingTree, he helped the start-up grow to a multimillion-dollar company. Today, as CEO of LeadMD, he’s overseen a 36% average increase in lead volume for clients—6% higher than the industry average.
Defining moment: “I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever held…. I’m basically unemployable. I don’t like the status quo and I don’t like the dead weight…that was something people couldn’t always handle. When I walk into a company, I see ways to improve it. So I found the only way to achieve that was to build something organic.”
Good read: “The Art of War is a stereotypical answer, but it’s still my answer. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t mentally reference it. I’m currently reading James Altucher’s Choose Yourself! because he always makes me question why I’m doing something. That’s a healthy question in any situation.”
Good advice: “Don’t settle. Plenty of good people become bad at their professions by accepting complacency—once you start, it’s hard to stop.”
Geoff Gross, President, Medical Guardian
Winning Ways: Innovativeness is an attribute common among the 40 Under 40 winners, and it is certainly a common thread in Gross’s success story. He was the first in the medical alert industry to deploy geotargeted paid search, remarketing, and a mobile site. The former high school point guard leads a team of six in-house marketing professionals and 10 agencies in a quest to keep on top of not only the latest methods in marketing, but also the mainstream thoughts of his customers. Among thousands of keywords relevant to his company’s business, his goal is to focus his customers’ website experience on the ones most uniquely relevant to each of them.
Defining moment: “The self-inflicting challenge of trying to do everything myself for too long slowed the growth of my company. Once I was able to figure out that surrounding myself with smart people was the key to success, we grew very quickly. I have an amazing team.”
Good read: “I’ve read many books about John F. Kennedy. What I have taken out of them is the idea that every situation has many angles. It’s important to understand things from different perspectives and make decisions accordingly.”
Good advice: “I’d give the same advice my dad gave me a long time ago: ‘Stick to simple ideas.’”
Ashley Johnston, SVP, Global Marketing, Experian Marketing Services
Winning ways: Johnston’s launch of a cross-channel marketing platform transformed the go-to market strategy of Experian’s marketing services unit. The Dana Campaign, an international effort she helped create and implement, demonstrated to prospects using EMS’s intelligence and tools how a real person interacts with brands across various channels. Johnston’s thought leadership efforts led to 11,000-plus downloads of the company’s Digital Marketer report and helped secure 17 new clients and $4 million in incremental revenue.
Defining moment: “My tenure with Experian began almost 11 years ago with a startup called CheetahMail. The passion that ran through our small office was palpable and made going to work exciting and challenging. The culture of empowerment and innovation inspired us to take risks and to color outside the lines.”
Good advice: “Control the controllable. There are very few things in life you can control, so when you have the opportunity; take advantage of it.”
Katie Klumper, Group Account Director, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners
Winning Ways: Klumper never settles for less than the best, which was evident when she led BMW’s social-centric ActivE campaign. BMW sold 700 vehicles within two months of the campaign’s launch, and kbs+ was named BMW’s agency of record soon afterwards.
Defining Moment: “When I was five years into my advertising career, I knew I wanted more and moved from Vancouver to New York against the advice from almost everyone. At the time I was bright-eyed and bushytailed, not knowing what I was walking into. But it was exactly what I needed—a real life lesson in business….Brand strategies, testing, marketing plans, multi-tiered advertising, and really big brands.”
Good read: Mad Women by Jane Maas. “It details many of the day-to-day challenges women across the globe take on in advertising—from being cut out of meetings and being taken seriously in the workplace, to managing families at home. I’m fortunate to have a female mentor and CEO who has really taken a stand to help females develop into leadership roles in advertising and addressing these challenges real time.”
Good advice: “Don’t underestimate how important it is to really listen to people and understand what people want and need.”
Ingrid Lindberg, Chief Customer Experience Office, Prime Therapeutics
Winning ways: Lindberg is a pioneer. Before becoming the healthcare industry’s only chief customer experience officer, she helped designed Wystar, a retirement services platform that has since been adopted by Ameriprise and Wachovia. In the past year alone, her rewrite of Prime Therapeutics’ mail service member materials garnered a 34% increase in the annual response rate.
Defining moment: “I took a ‘break job,’ a small role that would afford me some work/life balance for a year or so before I would take on the next big role. It was in an industry I knew nothing about, having worked in finance, packaged goods, and retail up to that point. Little did I know that joining Definity Health would change the course of my career. I was lucky enough to be brought into Definity to design and implement the first Health Savings Account. I had no idea what the impact of my design would be on the industry—but creating that little product opened doors that I could never have imagined.”
Good read: “The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema is the ‘what’ part of my equation, and All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton is the how.”
Good advice: “Never, ever be afraid to ask why and suggest alternatives.”
Mike Lund, VP of Sales, Epsilon Online Solutions, Epsilon
Winning Ways: After Lund joined Epsilon Online Solutions at the ground level, he helped grow the team over 700% in staffing and 334% in sales. He also helped build the team responsible for tripling sales of Epsilon’s TargetDisplay solution year-over-year.
Defining moment: In 2007 Lund left Epsilon to start up the e-commerce division of surfwear company Quiksilver. At the time the company had no CRM team and its website only allowed users to download wallpaper and watch videos. Lund’s task required him to take direct marketing concepts to “an organization that largely had a wholesale mind,” he says. But the job also required him to move his family from Denver to Huntington Beach, CA. “That helped define me, because now I’m willing to take risks and live outside my comfort zone,” Lund says. “That’s the biggest piece, especially in this digital age; you have to do things outside your comfort zone.”
Good read: Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. “I went to high school and middle school in Aspen, so I’ve been skiing my whole life,” Lund says.
Good advice: “Attitude will get you farther than anything else.”
Kira Marchenese, Senior Director, Digital Platforms and Strategy, Environmental Defense Fund
Winning Ways: To say that Marchenese is digitally savvy would be an understatement. Many of the digital initiatives she introduced to EDF were creations she built from the ground up, including a strong testing and analytics practice and a winning social media and content marketing team.
Defining Moment: “When I was at AOL, my boss realized that I was in need of a change. He engineered a swap for me to go into another department and work on search…. But when I got there I realized that the opportunity was completely different from what either of us had realized. This was in 1999 or 2000 and search marketing hadn’t really started yet. We were sitting on piles of data that nobody had figured out what to do with or how to manage just because there was so much of it. What I was able to do was develop different ways of making that data usable. It was an amazing opportunity to be part of an entire field starting to recognize what it could be and the power that good, strong data analysis could [bring].”
Good read: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. “It’s a completely honest but positive look at how little people care about what you do.”
Good advice: “Respect and understand the people that you’re trying to connect with. That outlasts any technology or channel expertise you might develop.”
Marisa Nelson, Email Channel Manager, U.S. Bank
Winning Ways: Nelson is an email marketing expert. She sourced nearly one million email names from within U.S. Bank’s systems to fill the bank’s database, and increased the number of emails sent by U.S. Bank Retail Payment Solutions from 1 million to 6 million in 2012. By launching a trigger-based, automated approach to delivering relevant, timely emails, her efforts increased click-throughs, open rates, and cross-selling results.
Defining Moment: “My first job out of college. It was a startup marketing agency…I was actually their first hire. I went to my first client on my second day of business, and it was a rollercoaster and excitement from there. I had so many opportunities and so much responsibility. I don’t think I ever would have gotten that had I not had that small startup agency life. It allowed me to touch so many different types of marketing.”
Good read: Strengths Finder by Tom Rath. “Not only did it help me understand where I excel and what things I should leverage in my personality, but it helps you understand other people and what their strengths are.”
Good advice: “Don’t underestimate the power of data and or understanding the technical components of your job.”
Matt Olson, Director, Marketing & Customer Analytics, Aviva
Winning Ways: Olson’s work has set the bar high for the life insurance industry. He led Aviva’s analytics team in creating a suite of predictive models that drive fact-based decisions on customer retention, customer experience, customer valuation, and marketing campaigns. Under his guidance, Aviva launched a data-driven, customer-driven approach to marketing that’s driving a competitive advantage. In fact, last year Aviva USA had one of its best years ever.
Defining moment: “Transitioning from my initial job out of college to my second job. It was moving from a cush risk analytics position to an advertising agency, which provided me exposure to a much broader set of industries, a much more complex type of application of marketing, and using analytics in marketing applications. It really broadened my horizons to understand, outside of the financial industry, what kind of applications there are for analytics and for marketing.”
Good read: Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris. “It helped me understand the best way to develop an analytical capability not only for marketing, but for an entire organization in general.”
Good advice: “Reach out to understand the data world, how data can improve your decision making, and how you can use data to better identify the targeted customers that you want to market to.”
William Peterson, Email Marketing Manager, U.S. Bank
Winning Ways: Peterson knows how to balance the art and sciences of email marketing. His data-driven approach helps U.S. Bank deliver triggered, tailored emails based on customers’ behavior to establish customer loyalty, and to ensure that the relationships between the customers and the bank remain positive. He also headed U.S. Bank’s transition to a new email execution platform and was able to seamlessly maintain harmony across about 20 business sub-lines. Peterson works diligently to ensure that companywide and individual unit goals are met.
Defining Moment: “You always need to start somewhere. For me, that was as a direct mail buyer. When an opportunity to work as an email program manager was offered to me, I accepted the challenge of learning the email craft. Now, more than six years later, I’m helping to lead the email team at U.S. Bank. I continue to focus on streamlining our process, bringing new opportunities to our sales team, and partnering across channels to optimize the email experience for our customers.”
Good read: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. “[Gladwell] focuses on mechanisms by which trends take hold. Understanding the mechanisms has helped me to focus on who we target and how we talk to them.”
Good advice: “Never waste an opportunity to build a closer relationship with your key stakeholders.”
Tom Pettus, VP, Creative Director, INNOCEAN USA
Winning Ways: At INNOCEAN USA, Pettus has delivered award-winning campaigns for clients as diverse as Hyundai, Nike, and Best Buy. At Hyundai, for instance, Pettus’s integrated campaign, which enhanced the site for the Elantra car with a virtual test drive animation, garnered more than 910,000 virtual test drives in less than six months and helped the Hyundai Elantra surpass Hyundai’s perennial sales leader, the Sonata.
Defining moment: When Pettus arrived at R/GA in 2003, most of his experience had been on the traditional side of marketing. He’d done print and radio at agencies like Deutsch and McCann Erickson. But at R/GA, Pettus found himself dropped into a group working on new Nike business. “I started getting a digital grad school education by virtue of where I was seated,” Pettus says. “That’s where I transitioned into the work I’m doing now.”
Good read: Pettus reads mostly blogs, like ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch, and Mashable.
Good advice: “Don’t think just within your medium.”
Slavi Samardzija, Chief Analytics Officer, Wunderman
Winning ways: The data insight tools and best practices Samardzija created at Wunderman are now used by global brands like Nokia, Citigroup, Kimberly-Clark, Coca-Cola, and IBM. Within the company he has led, mentored, and managed large teams of marketing strategists, data analysts, and advanced level statisticians.
Defining moment: Samardzija grew up in the former Yugoslavia, where he attended a school specializing in math. When he moved to the U.S. to further his education, he felt he should study business since he could easily get an engineering degree in his home country. One year into studying marketing, however, Samardzija realized that there was a significant intersection between numbers and business in market research. “I went into business to get into other areas but quickly found that market research was a perfect fit,” he says, “and that grew into direct marketing, where I’ve been the last 15 or 16 years.”
Good read: Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt. “It’s just fascinating to read about their system of government and interactions among the senators and the politics and the interpersonal relationships that existed at that time.”
Good advice: “It’s critical to seek out mentors early on.”
Jodie Sangster, CEO, Association for Data-Driven Marketing & Advertising
Winning ways: Jodie Sangster is a direct marketing powerhouse. Not only does she sit at the helm of the ADMA, Asia-Pacific’s largest marketing association—a role she took on at just 35—she’s chair of the International Federation of DMAs, which spans more than 30 countries. She recently developed Australia’s first CMO network and helped to establish a DMA in Saudi Arabia. A trained lawyer in three countries, Sangster has served as both the chief privacy and compliance office at Acxiom Asia Pacific and as SVP of education and global development for the DMA in Washington, D.C.
Defining moment: “Going to work in the United States. I went from being a lawyer in Europe and Australia into a much broader business role that included a global remit and a wide marketing perspective. I loved being a lawyer, but found myself more inspired by the business world. Because of this opportunity, I felt ready to take on my first CEO role.”
Good read: “I’m not a big fan of business books, although I have read a few in my time. Too many give advice without context. But one of my staff loaned me Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, which examines anxiety about living in a continuous ‘now’ world enabled by the pings of email, social media, and technology. It’s fascinating and disturbing.”
Good advice: “Take every opportunity that presents itself—no experiences are ever wasted.”
Stephanie Scheele, Senior Director, Marketing Insights and Services, Vera Bradley
Winning Ways: For Scheele, integrated marketing is always in style. During her 11-year tenure at Vera Bradley, she led the consolidation of the company’s customer database, which allowed the company to move from one-size-fits-all messaging to tailored communications. She also played a major role in the launch of Vera Bradley Japan.
Defining Moment: “In the recent past our VP of marketing left Vera Bradley to take a position with another company. His departure left me in a position to assume several roles. That situation, while initially viewed as a problem, turned out to be a great opportunity for me. I was given the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities, manage more people, and make more decisions for the marketing department at Vera Bradley. The situation, while challenging, provided an opportunity for growth and gave me additional confidence in my ability as a leader.”
Good read: “The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. It revealed how happiness actually fuels success and performance, not the other way around.”
Good advice: “No job is too little, regardless of your title.”
Jason Siegel, Partner and Creative Director, Bluetext
Winning ways: In the grand tradition of young, driven entrepreneurs, Siegel founded his first digital agency, Internet Gravity, in his dorm room. Soon after (in 1998) he took home Yahoo’s College Web Designer of the Year award, and he hasn’t slowed down since. After selling Internet Gravity—which under Siegel’s leadership grew into a top 20 agency in the greater Washington, D.C. area—to global PR agency Qorvis, Siegel stayed busy, developing award-winning apps and still finding the time to found marketing software company UFollowUp in 2002. Not one to let moss grow, Siegel started integrated communications agency Bluetext in 2011 and sold UFollowUp to Lasso CRM in 2012. Today Bluetext is a multimillion-dollar company with top-tier clients, including Google and Cisco.
Defining moment: “I had the opportunity to design a mobile app for the 2008 inauguration of President Obama, creating a groundbreaking experience that provided information to more than a million attendees and conducted nationwide interactive surveys. The app resulted in both a Webby and widespread media recognition, including being interviewed on ABC News with Charles Gibson.”
Good read: “Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I strongly believe in learning from others’ mistakes and this book is a great set of lessons on how to overcome those mistakes.”
Good advice: “The most important skill is to think. Don’t simply push paper—be creative. That will take you higher and farther than anything else.”
Loni Stark, Director, Product & Industry Marketing, Adobe Systems
Winning Ways: Stark has never let her job define or limit what she can do. From engineering to product management to marketing at Adobe and to cofounding Stark Insider—a technology, theater, wine, and food website—there’s no stopping her. Stark’s “can do” attitude helped her spearhead the launch of Adobe Experience Manager, which is number one in market share worldwide for web content management.
Defining moment: “It was in a parking lot in San Jose one morning when I just started at Adobe. I had just had a setback and questioned my ability to achieve what I wanted. I paced around because I always think better when I’m moving. I had an epiphany. I realized that what I thought didn’t actually matter. If I questioned whether I was good enough, how could I ever convince someone else to give me a chance at something more? I vowed to never be the one to limit my own potential from self-doubt. I would shoot for the moon and let the world try to tell me otherwise.”
Good read: “Crossing the Chasm [by Geoffrey Moore] is the book that has been most influential in how I think about the adoption of technology in business and creativity.”
Good advice: “Always strive to understand the ‘why’ behind what you’re trying to accomplish, then constantly innovate and question how things ‘have always’ been done.”
Mason Thelen, Founding Partner and Owner, Elicit
Winning Ways: Thelen is a master of customer-centricity, loyalty marketing, and analytics and segmentation—and he’s got the clientele to prove it. He’s developed loyalty and relationship marketing programs for the likes of Home Depot, NASCAR, and Pepsico.
Defining moment: “[A successful career] is the summation of the great colleagues, friends, mentors, competitors, and business partners [a person] has worked with who have given opportunities to grow, share, and build together.”
Good read: How We Decide and Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. “Lehrer, unintentionally, taught an important lesson this past year when he effectively killed his brilliant young career by making up a quote supposedly attributed to Bob Dylan….We can be brilliant and do amazing work, but we are only as good as our word, we have to respect facts, and personal integrity can never be sacrificed.”
Good advice: Thelen cites five key tenets to drive your career:
- You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.
- Honesty, loyalty, and respect should drive every decision you make.
- Over-preparedness is the secret ingredient to real success.
- Get the facts; marketers have lived too long in an era of heuristics, self-created belief systems, and gut feel.
- Find a way to work, partner, and challenge your universe of clients, partners, and competitors in a constructive and mutually beneficial way.
Gene Turner, SVP, Managing Partner, Horizon Media
Winning ways: Turner was under 30 when he arrived at Horizon Media to build a direct business. Less than a decade later the company’s direct marketing division, headed by Turner, has 40 clients and is Horizon’s largest and most profitable unit, with billings of $550 million. Turner put together a cross-functional team conversant in digital marketing and brand development and built the unit on a “strategy first” platform that has attracted such clients as DISH Network, Geico, and Weight Watchers. In the past year alone Horizon’s direct division scored a dozen new client wins adding up to $300 million in billings.
Defining moment: “I left Wunderman to join Horizon, whose direct marketing discipline was in its infancy, with only one other direct response employee and one client. I saw this as an incredible opportunity and it’s been rewarding to build my division from the ground up.”
Good read: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. “It explains when you should trust your instincts and when to be wary of them, how first impressions matter, and that decisions made quickly can be just as effective as those made more deliberately and cautiously.”
Good advice: “Be persistent and tenacious, have a sense of humor, and go above and beyond.”
Mike Volpe, CMO, HubSpot
Winning ways: Volpe has a knack for getting customers to come to Hubspot. His inbound marketing tactics have grown HubSpot’s marketing reach to include 1.4 million blog views per month and more than 290,000 Twitter followers. His marketing leadership has helped the company grow 82% year-over- year in annual revenue.
Defining moment: Volpe’s biggest risk was joining HubSpot in 2007, when it only had five employees, no money, and only a handful of customers. Before that, he had a great job as director of marketing at a growing, successful company called SolidWorks, which sold engineering software. But as SolidWorks grew Volpe wanted to try something more entrepreneurial. “I believed in [HubSpot] so much—I knew the market was there and if the product was there, if we could solve the problem, then people would buy it,” Volpe recalls. “There was a lot of risk in the execution. But I felt the market would be there.”
Good read: The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott.
Good advice: “Get to know the buyer and become what they want to consume, rather than interrupting the things they want to consume.”
Andrea Wilson, Director of Digital Strategy, Luxury Practice Lead, iProspect
Winning ways: Wilson’s position is proof of her trailblazing ways. iProspect’s Luxe Group didn’t exist until she invented it. Noting how small the marketing budgets were with luxury clients and how little customer intelligence they had at hand, Wilson launched a research project and a whitepaper on affluent shoppers. A new practice was born at the global digital agency. “There are luxe-specific agencies in Europe, but we noticed there was a unique challenge here,” she says. “As an agency, if you don’t know how to speak to luxury consumers the right way, luxury clients are not going to work with you.”
Defining moment: “Spearheading our affluent male research has had a significant impact on my own career and the agency. No one was really talking about the male shopper, and our exposure skyrocketed. We got coverage from CNBC and USA Today.”
Good read: Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine.
Good advice: “Don’t be afraid to ask ‘Why?’ and expose yourself to everything you possibly can beyond your comfort zone, especially the difficult and the scary. Pushing yourself will help shape your experiences and perception, allowing you to gain confidence and perspective as you meet new challenges.
Rudy Wilson, VP, Brand Management and Advertising, AT&T
Winning ways: After 10 years overseeing digital and direct marketing at Frito-Lay, Wilson took his talents to AT&T where he oversaw the telco’s “It Can Wait” anti-texting-while-driving campaign. What began as a small effort one year ago has since garnered 1.5 million pledges to never text and drive, and more than 200 corporate collaborators, including Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
Defining moment: When working on Doritos for Frito-Lay, Wilson was tasked with turning the brand around in a way that hadn’t been done before. “They gave me enough rope to be risky, but it gave me the confidence to do new things,” he says. The result was Crash the Superbowl, an online contest that began in 2006 in which contestants shot their own Doritos commercials.
Good read: Wilson makes it a point to read and watch the same materials as his target audience. “It’s to understand their frame of reference,” he says. At Doritos, he zeroed in on MTV and teen magazines. At AT&T, he reads tech blogs. “Marketing is part art and part science,” Wilson says. “That art is a little about gut and if I didn’t have that frame of reference, it’d be hard to get that gut built up.”
Good advice: “There are a lot of people out there with great ideas, but not a lot of people out there who can sell their great ideas.”
Mike Woods, Head of Digital, Framestore
Winning ways: As a founder of Framestore’s Digital Department over a decade ago, Woods identified the impact of the Internet and began creating a content platform. His success today is best seen through the iconic characters on primetime commercials made possible by the work he pioneered—from GEICO’s Gecko to Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears.
Defining moment: Woods’ defining moment came from horsing around at work. In the mid-1990s Woods worked in CGI and post-production on video. However, he’d also use some of his work resources to experiment on his own building websites and making video content years before YouTube and viral videos, putting it online, and trying to understand what people liked to watch. “Silly mash-up things seemed to be the perfect material for online consumption,” he says. “This was the time of the Ally McBeal dancing baby.”
Good read: Woods has been reading the long-out-of-print British author Patrick Hamilton, whose books were steeped in working-class British life lurching in and out of pubs.
Good advice: “Soak up as many influences in the field as you can.”
Wacarra Yeomans, Director, Creative Services, Responsys
Winning ways: At only 30 years of age, Yeomans manages 70 Responsys team members and nearly 150 clients. She developed Responsys’ content strategy offering, and in mobile email convinced 40 customers to embrace responsive design. One leading outdoor gear and apparel retailer saw a 40% increase in mobile opens as a result
Defining moment: A few years ago, when Yeomans worked at a small agency that was eventually acquired by Responsys, she realized mid-presentation that the client already knew most of what she was talking about. “Having a less awesome moment in your career makes you think about what you could have done better,” she says. The experience pushed her to look at ways to get in front of problems clients have, to anticipate their needs so she can preemptively start working on a solution.
Good read: The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever.
Good advice: “At its core, digital marketing is all about what the customer wants and the best way to succeed is to make sure the marketing decisions you’re making will benefit your consumer.”