The Wall Street Journal CMO Network connects the decision-makers behind the world’s most influential brands to discuss what – and who – is driving today’s trends and chart the path forward. Read the full interview here.
In the past two years, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about marketing through economic uncertainty?
You have to have chutzpah. One lesson from history is that brands that pull back their marketing during periods of economic uncertainty suffer when the economy bounces back. Brands can’t go into hibernation and expect to stay top-of-mind with customers. The challenge becomes balancing the instinct to slow spend with what will likely happen if we don’t continue to invest (i.e., burn versus growth rate). But weathering the economic storm can only really happen if you have the right team with you to help tackle the truly hard challenges. A connected team that lets you approach those hills with a can-do mindset is the real unlock.
When faced with a new challenge, what’s your decision-making process, and where do you turn for trusted information or advice?
My amazing and wise father taught me that good business is driven by close relationships. I also learned the value of surrounding myself with people who have differing points of view—and that there is a magic to working through a problem together. Having been exposed to many different industries in my career (advertising, entertainment, tech, publishing and manufacturing, to name a few), I am lucky to have collected an array of knowledgeable and trusted partners that revel in conversations about new ideas.
What are the biggest challenges around ROI, and what do you consider the most effective ways of measuring it?
While ROI is critical and it helps us substantiate why marketing is valuable, it can become a paralyzer. Marketers must recognize that not everything needs to be measured to the nth degree. It’s important for us to balance implementing good ideas with measuring the tactics. I’d argue that a seemingly immeasurable tactic can yield an enormous watershed moment for a brand that would be impossible to show on a spreadsheet.
What shifts do you see happening in marketing and advertising in the next five years?
Generative AI will be the game-changer for just about everything. Daily content creation will change dramatically, and marketing machines around the world will feel and absorb that impact. An AI-driven solution to communicate something different to every single household could, for instance, inspire consumers to appreciate the brand and the dynamic content even more. One downside is that AI could push customization to a level that erodes the benefit of capturing a cultural moment with a shared consumer experience with brands.
What are you most proud of in your current role?
Quad is a $3 billion-revenue company that partners with many of the world’s most recognizable brands, reaches tens of millions of households every day and collects first-party data in a way that no other marketer can. It’s hugely rewarding for me to see how marketing is helping shepherd the next evolution of the company. We are driving Quad’s visibility and engagement while focusing on the needs of the modern marketer. Our team is working to surface the insights that will help unlock marketing excellence at scale for our clients.
What’s in your toolbox for investing in your team—to help them stay focused, feel supported and be productive?
I rely on relationships and technology. I am always in service to the folks that I have the benefit of working with. I don’t worry about them staying focused or productive. That is their job. My priority is making sure they have the resources they need to get their jobs done without friction and, if needed, knock down barriers in their way. The best working teams can tackle any obstacle if they enjoy being together. The most important tool is the enjoyment of their job and the responsibility that comes with it.
Tell us about a milestone that shaped your career path?
I attended this year’s American Advertising Federation (AAF) Hall of Fame dinner where Louis Carr, BET’s head of media, spoke about why there should be a “Spouse’s Hall of Fame,” as he could not have achieved his success without his amazing wife. I passionately agree. The only milestone that matters to me—far beyond all others—was being fortunate enough to find and marry the best person I could. And that decision has been the most important one in my life. She helps me—not my brand or my job, just me. She focuses on the big picture and keeps me constantly striving for what she knows I am capable of. And she has my back no matter what. And it goes both ways. That relationship is the model for how I work, build teams and partner. So yes, a romantic answer for The Wall Street Journal.
What priorities rise to the top for you in your role as CMO during times like this?
Telling our story—because it’s really good. Many people have known Quad as their biggest marketing manufacturing partner, but in the past five years, we have accelerated our company’s transformation to provide the full array of solutions that marketers need to drive their business forward, from strategic business consulting to physical production of assets. We have rolled out the framing of this idea with the new Quad signature as a marketing experience (MX) company. I am focused on communicating that Quad can support marketers’ expanding and complex needs at scale. Beyond that, it has been all about talent growth via our remarkable culture. Making a space for marketers to think expansively and stretch themselves is what I try to do every day—and laughing together while we do it.
What does authentic marketing look like for you? And what’s one mistake you think brands make during times of instability?
Telling a story that truly connects you to who you are as a person and your brand. That is authentic marketing—and frankly it’s not something you see a lot of. Working for a brand with a story you don’t love makes being authentic very difficult. If you don’t love the story of the brand that you’re working on, work for another brand.
As for the one mistake brands make during times of instability, it is failing to get people comfortable with change. If we’re not embracing change and evolution, then we’re not doing our job as marketers. Instability provides an opportunity to evolve.
When engaging with new social platforms, what traditional rules of advertising and marketing are you emphasizing? Minimizing?
In traditional advertising, everything is polished and perfected. Marketers need to become comfortable with social being more raw and real. This creates a sense of vulnerability, which we don’t like to have because we don’t have control over every single message. When people can comment and give opinions, it creates risk. Risk and marketing have traditionally been hard to mix.
However, the best brands in the world are now comfortable sharing their opinions on social media platforms. This is where it comes back to authenticity. When brands veer out of their sphere of influence, they become less authentic, and the public can sense that. Maximize what you believe in as a brand—as human beings that work for that brand—and minimize anything else.