Leslie Dukker Doty: 2015 Marketing Hall of Femme Honoree

Reader’s Digest doesn’t only publish stories; it also helps customers write their own and form emotional connections with the brand. This is Leslie Dukker Doty’s specialty. And last year the CMO led the initiatives that helped the publication acquire 800,000 new customers.

Marketing strategy: I have a clear methodology and a specific approach. I call it inspiring action. It’s based on building and inspiring brands while optimizing the levels of response…. It’s [also] based on the idea that people need to tell themselves stories and then try to live out those stories. You just do better when your brand is part of that story and becomes part of their lives.

Winning ways: We relaunched [Reader’s Digest] January 2014; we’re growing, acquiring, and rebuilding the customer base; and we’re rebuilding our database…. [The relaunch] started with the rebranding and then [focused on] doing things well that we used to do very well from a direct marketing perspective and product services. Most recently, [we’re] launching into new adjacency products that are more relevant to the next generation of audiences or to people who don’t know that we’re still around.

Defining moment: Earlier in my career I was made the business lead for the Citibank AAdvantage Card business. It was one of the first co-branded cards within the industry and was a program with American Airlines…. The co-branded card was positioned around aspirational travel in terms of using the card to get to a destination. We had a hypothesis that it was more than that. We did very expensive brand-positioning research and we reached that aha moment where we understood what that connection was with the customer and with the prospect. People did get free travel, but that wasn’t why they were inspired around that card. It was about the gaming around collecting miles…. It was a breakthrough concept and that’s how the “Or Was It the Miles?” campaign was born, which was not about travel, but was about how you collected miles and why. And by bringing that campaign into the marketplace it changed the industry.

Trend watching: I’m watching mobile, mobile traffic, and mobile behavior; I’m developing products and services that can be delivered on mobile; and [I’m] looking at how people are behaving and interacting.

Words to live by: A lot of times we get wrapped up in what we’re doing…. When the team starts to meltdown, I say, ‘We’re not doing brain surgery here.’

Good read: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

It’s just a great read about courage, ingenuity, and perseverance in life-threatening situations where there’s a lot of evil…. Those themes are meaningful to me.

Good advice: Track how much time you spend with your customers and your perspective customers versus marketers and businesspeople…. All other things being equal, if you know your customer, you’re going to win.

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