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SiriusXM CMO Denise Karkos

December 13, 2021

On gaining consensus, her 24-hour rule for pity parties and getting wins through change

An ongoing interview series between Quad and marketing leaders from some of the country’s biggest, most successful brands.

Two years into her role as Chief Marketing Officer for SiriusXM, Denise Karkos continues to prove her prowess as a change agent, helping to drive the digital transformation of the leading audio entertainment company in North America. A sharp category departure from TD Ameritrade, Denise knew the leap to Sirius XM would come with plenty of opportunities for growth, both personally and professionally.  ​

But as a former captain of Notre Dame’s women’s soccer team, Denise knew the challenge would fit squarely with what drives her to succeed every day: “putting wins on the board.” ​

Quad CMO Josh Golden recently invited Denise to share more of the lessons she’s learned, as well as the piece of advice she lives by. 

Putting Wins on the Board

Denise knows what goes into becoming a transformational leader. She was Ad Age’s 2019 CMO of the Year as TD Ameritrade’s head of marketing.

She’d been in that role for over nine years, though — months later, Denise took on the new challenge as an agent of change at SiriusXM.    ​

But she acknowledges that “change” moves a lot faster in marketing than it might for other areas of business, in any company.   ​

“The most important thing is to go into a company and align with the CEO as to what the change needs to be,” Denise tells Josh. “I have seen a lot of failures where someone comes in with their own agenda.” 

The Pity Party Rule

While she states clearly that she could listen to the astrophysicist in charge of SiriusXM’s satellite technology all day long, it’s more important to hear the analysts who track communication from consumers.​

“It’s an intoxicating amount of data,” she says of the company’s digital platforms, which include Pandora and Stitcher. But it’s not about selling more. “It helps you deliver diverse content to people based on what their needs are.”   ​

Own Your Marketing Career

But why did Denise take on a new challenge in the middle of such a successful run at TD Ameritrade? She cites timing, a strong successor ready to take her place — and a recruiter’s advice.

Denise recalls him saying, “’At your age, you probably have two jobs left at most.’” Staying in her role another 3-5 years would likely guarantee she would remain in financial services forever. “Which is fine if that’s what you want. But it’s not what I wanted.”

Learn more about how Denise Karkos achieves success in her series of  videos, along with why she has a 24-hour rule for pity-parties, how to define a win with the CEO, and the bright side of the realization that “nobody is thinking about you.”