James Kugler, Sigma-Aldrich: DMN 2014 40 Under 40 Award winner

James Kugler
Director, Global Digital Marketing at Sigma-Aldrich

Winning ways: Few know that digital is where it’s at more than Kugler does. Traditionally, direct marketing has relied heavily on print communications, but Kugler has led the charge in the life-science company’s shift to Web- and data-driven marketing. After a complete overhaul, Sigma-Aldrich’s flagship e-commerce site earns a reported $1 billion in annual revenue. And the results don’t stop there. In fact, Kugler’s major initiative to shift from print to digital marketing has culminated in doubling the sales growth for the biology portfolio in the company’s research and applied business units.

Defining moment: “My defining moment came up kind of serendipitously. I was intent on completing a doctorate program…. But while in college I took a class in bio-entrepreneurship that required us to give a presentation at the end. The vice presidents of Sigma-Aldrich were there, and they came up to me afterwards and asked if I wanted to try something very different in corporate strategy and planning. I jumped on it. So I took a completely different path that was very much in the moment…. It’s been a great adventure.”

Words to live by: “Be relentlessly curious. And my dad used to always say, ‘Creativity is the search for something that doesn’t exist and sometimes finding it.’”

Head swivel: “I think a major trend is the use of in-memory computing [or the ability to store information on dedicated servers, which results in fast response times for searches]. It allows us to look at truly massive amounts of information. Data is no longer the limiter. You aren’t limited by the types of data-related questions that you can ask and you can now focus on what you can find from it.”

Good advice: “Empathy, empathy, empathy. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. It helps you understand customers and connect the dots.”

First job: “I handed out towels at a pool in Cape Cod; there’s a lot of tourism there. It had a huge influence on me because there was so much focus on the lifetime value of a customer—in this case the tourist who you wanted to keep coming back.”

Currently reading: A lot of math books and epic poetry.

Favorite mobile app: Circa, a news app that pares stories down to headlines.

Favorite pastime: Write and record music. I have a studio in my home, and I love to put together pop and rock songs.

Click or tap here to read the stories behind the successes of the other Direct Marketing News 2014 40 Under 40 winners. 

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