72 Hours At SXSW: Thoughts From A Creative Director’s First Year At The Festival

“This doesn’t happen every day.”

Robbie Krieger, playing a rare full set of material by The Doors, after Dennis Quaid dropped in to sing lead vocals for two songs at the Belmont, 3/14/23.

I’m big into pattern recognition, and it somehow felt important that it was 25 years ago that I made my first and only trip to Austin, Texas. 

I was in film and TV development back then, and I’d been invited to be a judge for the screenwriting competition of the 1998 Austin Film Festival. I remember the opening night party at the Driskill Hotel and loving the freewheeling music and film-loving vibe of Austin that had been immortalized for movie fiends like myself in Richard Linklater’s Slacker

Fast forward to now, and lo and behold I’m staying at the Driskill, wearing the sweet badge of an Ayzenberg colleague who went every year but had to drop out with a conflict. My goal was to soak up as much as I could in the short time I was there, just three of the ten days that the festivals and conferences would run and swim in the slipstream of the more than 300,000 folks estimated to descend on Austin to listen to the heartbeat of popular culture. 

Over twenty different panels offered up “The Future of” one thing or another, from music and film to design and healthcare, which is just what the doctor ordered for a creative with a bone-dry well, who just stepped off the most intense heads-down, live-in-the-present client treadmill of his life.

With over 350 panels and sessions and over 1400 musical acts playing this year’s South By (the official Spotify playlist clocks in at over 64 hours of music), I quickly gave up any illusions of seeing “the best” stuff and shifted my focus on the experiences that I thought I would get the most out of for myself and my tech and gaming-focused integrated agency space.camp. The SXSW app is a mobile marvel, and guided by my RFID badge, an incredibly helpful and well-staffed volunteer army, and QR codes as far as the eye can see, I dove into Day 4 head first.

As an insatiable music fan 30 years into their career, I’m too old to be young, but also far too young to be old. This compass setting guided me to showcases that featured a blend of living legends like New Order, Robbie Krieger, and French disco legend Cerrone and up-and-coming acts like Loose Articles, Bartees Strange, and spill tab.

Bartees Strange was a standout.

Music is such a critical component of a creative’s life, from trending sounds of TikTok to the soundtrack of a trailer, and keeping your references both timeless and timely is the key to collaborative fluency. It’s also an enormous endorphin release to step out from behind your laptop and dance with your colleagues and new festival friends that happily accumulate during your time in Austin.

The friendliness of your fellow festival goers at SXSW cannot be understated (my tote getting nicked by this badge-wearing bandit notwithstanding).

I was also eager to check out the state of experiential, with no shortage of brands, films, shows and products setting up shop to use the power of SXSW to catapult into the social sphere. 

I won’t name names because I don’t want to throw any shade on what was undoubtedly a ton of hard work, but the playbook felt a bit tired and uninspired on the whole. Scan the QR code for an IGS effect, take a selfie at the booth or in front of our screen array, grab a bit of swag and don’t forget to use our hashtag. I was only there for a fraction of the fest, so please let me know what experiential moments you saw at SXSW that you felt moved the needle.

Look mom, I’m in a kaleidoscopic chip bowl!

The panels I attended were global, thought-provoking, uplifting—and entertaining as hell. Hearing stories from the front lines of The Infinite Frontier of Virtual Production at the Australia House was informative from a technical standpoint and affirmed what I’ve been seeing anecdotally at work—more women are in more positions of power in production than ever before thanks to the power of persistence and perseverance.

Listening to Joost van Dreunen, professor and leading academic on gaming and interactive, deliver a master class on “All About Games: Data, Trends, and What’s Next for 2023” was like drinking from the firehose.

Did you know that the number two global fashion brand in the world was Fortnite? With $5.8 billion in digital apparel, Fortnite is second only to Gucci and ahead of Ralph Lauren and Prada. 52 different video game companies hauled in over $1 billion last year, but the big fish keep getting bigger. Doja Cat is drawing huge audiences by streaming her Power Wash Simulator sessions on Twitch.

As a marketer, all this intel gets the hamster wheels spinning. I can’t wait to be back with my team to start applying this to our current workstreams.

From the fanboy perspective, sitting in on the Evil Dead Rises panel was pure bliss (gong hits will do that to you). Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell anchored a panel of cast and crew of the latest entry into the Evil Dead cinematic universe that now somehow spans over four decades.

The gong on stage left figured prominently in the panel 😉

Sam Raimi said “It’s all about entertaining your audience. With the Evil Dead franchise, we’ve left enough room for the audience’s imagination to fill in the dark spaces we’ve left for them.

Connect the audience to the wants and needs of your character and they will be more susceptible to the journey these characters have are on, from an epic quest to a walk down a dark hallway. Once that connection is made, you can deliver the maximum punch.”

Words to live by, for all of us. 

The Metaverse felt more Cronenbergian than ever.

One of my favorite professional experiences was leading creative for the go-to-market campaign for Oculus Rift in 2017. Launching the first consumer-grade VR hardware and catapulting VR gaming from ultra-niche to the mainstream was heady stuff, and it felt like a reunion of sorts to walk the XR Experience Ballroom and experience first-hand the insistence of the Metaverse as it continues to incubate and mutate. The dissonance of Meta announcing another five-figure round of layoffs while innovators and founders work tirelessly to launch the next killer use case was top of mind with the folks I chatted with on the floor. 

Comedians and drag queens unleashed a Texas-size torrent of frustration at the state of affairs in the ever-escalating culture wars.

The world at large flowed through SXSW. The night before I flew in, Bechdel test-acing film Everything Everywhere All At Once nabbed seven Oscars and became the most-awarded film ever almost a year to the day after its debut at SXSW 2022. Silicon Valley banks failing and Washington threatening to boycott TikTok were fiercely discussed.

Did I mention I was only in Austin for 72 hours? If you and your team are lucky enough to go to SXSW for the first time next year, here’s a quick checklist to get you off to a great start:

  • Use the SXSW GO app early and often, and overschedule yourself so you have options once you’re there. You still won’t be able to see everything, but you’ll give yourself a fighting chance.
  • High-profile events give you the option to request a SXXPRESS Pass that guarantees you entry at 9 AM the day before the event. If it’s important to you, have your app open at 8:59 and fire away, they go fast.
  • Don’t turn your back on your SXSW tote, even for a minute. 😉
  • Do as much pre-research as you have time for on the musical acts to ensure you’re seeing the kind of music that lights you up.
  • Take at least one pedicab ride to your next session; the drivers are a hoot.
  • Talk to strangers! I’ve never been to a friendlier fest where everyone is down for a quick chat and a scan of each other’s badge to follow up later.

So, after the dust settled, what did it all mean? What patterns triggered my radar the most? It came down to the people who were there, all drawn by SXSW’s stated mission of “helping creative people achieve their goals.”

The diversity of the attendees, geographically, gender, age, sector and style—from students to septuagenarians and everyone in between—matched the unique blend of bands and brands nearing or surpassing the half-century mark, inspiring and uplifting nascent movements and music.

These diverse and inclusive forces who linked arms together at SXSW, united in the cause to push culture forward, stood in stark contrast to the larger forces in our culture who sow discord between the generations and battle for a supremacy that history tells us is impossible to achieve.

When Krieger and the Doors arrived on the scene, they were leading voices in the counterculture, actively trying to incite the youth to wrest control from the corruption, entitlement and ingrained violence of the establishment. That battle, splintered though it may have become over time, still rages today.

I’ve seen the future, and it’s female, phygital, funky—and pissed off. 

SXSW is amplifying that message for the world, whether you like it or not.

David Rielly is Group Creative Director at space.camp and a regular contributor to AList.

IAB Playfronts: Gaming Is A Gateway To Gen Z And Gen Alpha

There are more than 3 billion active gamers in the world, yet marketers often overlook games and gaming platforms as a powerful way to connect with multigenerational audiences. Nonetheless, gaming ad revenues nearly doubled between 2019 and 2022, topping $8.6 billion. According to Zoe Soon, VP of The Experience Center, IAB, gaming is a global cultural force that is providing marketers with new ways of connecting with consumers, from millennials to Gen Alpha. We spoke with Soon about the upcoming IAB Playfronts and some of the takeaways marketers could look forward to at the 2023 event.

What is new this year at IAB Playfronts? 

Over the last year, we have seen the gaming ecosystem explode, and advertisers are starting to understand this audience’s importance. We will have two days diving into the ecosystem of gaming with presentations discussing the effectiveness of gaming, audience insights, and highlighting best practices for driving campaign ROI.  

This year’s presenters include Samsung Ads, Activision Blizzard Media, Anzu, Niantic, Twitch, Zynga, and more. Attendees will also hear more of IAB’s editorial voice. We have a panel with leading brands Ally, Mondelez, PepsiCo, and beauty brand Coty, all talking about how they’re leaning into gaming to reach audiences. We also have a panel with agency leaders talking about brand safety in gaming. Any new advertising channel goes through scrutiny when it comes to two things: measurement and brand safety. So we wanted to meet those buy-side questions head-on.

Additionally, we launched the PlayFronts Partner Hub this year, a space to let attendees find and connect directly with presenters while at the event when questions and inspiration strike. The partner hub will feature seven of our presenters. 

How are marketers feeling as they deal with all the uncertainty of 2023?

We are in a downturn market, yet marketers continue to lean into gaming. This is a signal to the industry that gaming is increasingly moving out of the ‘experimental’ budget. One thing savvy marketers have not lost sight of is that gaming is not just a great way to connect with their current consumers, it is also the gateway to Gen Z and beyond. Having been born into the worlds of Fortnite and Roblox, Gen Alpha will inhabit both virtual and physical spaces. Gaming is the first step in connecting with audiences who will eventually straddle both worlds. 

What are some takeaways for marketers after the conference?

There are limitless possibilities for advertising in the gaming industry. Gaming is going to be on more screens than ever before, and we’re seeing a lot of brands come to the space. At the conference, attendees will walk away with consumer insights, an understanding of new and creative ad innovation, and the future of the gaming landscape for brands. Far from being a subculture – gaming is globalizing entertainment and culture. A better understanding of the gaming influencer’s and esports’ power in the gaming ecosystem. This year we’re proud to feature gaming talent in the show because it is important to us that this is not an advertising event about gaming, but that we bring together the gaming ecosystem and co-create a marketplace the way only IAB can. Last but not least, the IAB will unveil some proprietary research that will debunk common myths in gaming.

Learn more about IAB Playfronts.

Less Than Half Of Black Consumers Feel Understood By Brands

According to a recent report by MyCode, just 38% of Black consumers feel understood by major brands. Now beauty influencers like Ami Cole are making the leap from online to in-store sales, opening up new opportunities for retailers to win over skeptical consumers.

Brands Seeking To Connect With Diverse Audiences Should Start With What Consumers Want

A recent McKinsey survey revealed that Black consumers would shift 30 percent of their current spending—approximately $300 billion—to products designed to deliver quality and function that meets their needs.  

“By 2024, the buying power of the U.S. Black population is set to reach $1.8 trillion,” reads a recent NielsenIQ report. “Yet despite this, their needs are still not being met by many beauty and personal care brands.

Despite that $300 billion play up for grabs, the beauty industry, a segment earning a significant share of Black consumers’ discretionary spending, has some catching up to do. Based on the fact that the Black population is 52 percent female with an average age of 33 (5 years younger than non-Black demographics), beauty brands and retailers have a potential audience that ticks all of the boxes yet remains relatively untapped. From the McKinsey report:

  • Black consumers are three times more likely than non-Black customers to walk away from a retailer dissatisfied with their hair care, skincare, and makeup options.
  • Black consumers drive 11 percent of beauty spending, but only 4 to 7 percent of beauty brands carried by retailers are brands created for Black consumers.
  • The median revenue of beauty brands targeting Black consumers was “89 times higher than what non-Black beauty brands return over the same period.” 

Reaching Black consumers eager to shift spending to a brand that understands their needs may fall to marketers rather than brands. Consumer spending drives product development, and recent successes among Black beauty brands illustrate Black interest in finding products and services that are crafted for them. Marketers who find the right mix of clear messaging and authentic value to the consumer may win a piece of that $300 billion pie.

When Black Consumers Find A Product That Works, They Support It Wholeheartedly

According to the MyCode report, only a minority of Black consumers feel that marketers understand their needs. That fact may leave retailers and brands out of a growing and increasingly multi-ethnic demographic. Black consumers often spend more on haircare and beauty products—reaching this demographic can be an important driver of business growth in the future. Black consumers support brands that align with the values that matter to them in addition to delivering quality and meeting needs, recent research shows, and they are willing to pay as much as 20 percent more to purchase those types of products, according to Mckinsey.

However, authenticity is key to reaching any demographic. Take the Fenty Effect, for example. Fenty, helmed by Rihanna, earned billions in just one year using a powerful strategy: showing the audience that the cosmetics promoted matched the complex tones and shades that fans and other consumers struggled to match with many other brands. That simple idea, for many consumers, was revolutionary.

Fenty brought a new generation of consumers used to hunting for foundations in multiple drug stores and department stores. Fenty’s brand messaging was about meeting a need in a way that demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the audience and what drive’s their purchasing. Today new influencer-fronted brands like Ami Cole are launching at Sephora and bringing products previously only sold online into retail stores. 

The Takeaway:

For brands, reaching a young, motivated, and product-focused consumer means delivering on the basics—function and quality—while listening to what consumers are saying on social and in customer feedback. The “Fenty Effect” shows that Black consumers are ready to spend on products that target their needs explicitly and consistently. 

Marketing Agility And The Secret To Direct Sales With Terry Haley, CMO At Pampered Chef

In this episode, Terry and I discuss his unusual path to marketing, what he learned on his journey through food and restaurants, and the unique challenges and benefits of marketing within a direct sales model like Pampered Chef. They talk about the history and mission of Pampered Chef, the importance of marketing agility, and the impact Covid had on the company.

Terry is CMO and Head of Product at Pampered Chef, where he leads a team of 50 across brand, digital, growth, creative, product, and industrial design. Terry has a background in consumer-packaged goods and restaurant marketing but tells us direct sales requires different muscles. Terry approaches marketing with an appreciation of the differences in all business models and a recognition of the foundations that remain the same. By relentlessly focusing on the consumer and delivering a product that solves their problems, Terry creates trust relationships with the Pampered Chef Contractors, who ultimately model the brand.

 In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Challenges Terry went through early in his career and what he learned from them
  • The similarities and differences of marketing within different business models
  • How Pampered Chef is maintaining consistency while not diluting the authenticity

 Key Highlights

  • [02:00] The role of athletics and cooking in Terry’s life
  • [04:20] How a Poli Sci major became a CMO
  • [12:00] How embracing challenging roles shaped Terry
  • [13:30 The similarities and differences of marketing within various business models
  • [17:45] The benefits of coming in with fresh eyes and being willing to learn
  • [18:50] Pampered Chef business overview
  • [21:30] The competitive advantage of having brand consultants
  • [23:20] How Terry is maximizing Pampered Chef’s unique sales model
  • [27:00] How Pampered Chef’s sales force navigated the shift to digital through Covid
  • [32:15] Which Covid changes will phase out and which are here to stay?
  • [35:50] What Terry learned from a misstep early in his career
  • [42:25] Balancing patience and tenacity
  • [46:00] Why marketers need to build up broader business acumen
  • [50:00] Brands to watch
  • [52:30] Measurement marketing and proving value without losing the art

Resources Mentioned:

 Follow the podcast:

 Connect with the Guest:

 Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

Florida State University Launches CMO Post; Beauty, Gaming Brands Aim For Global Growth With New Chief Marketers

We’re tracking recent chief marketer appointments in the beauty, gaming and retail sectors this week, as well as the creation of a CMO role at Florida State University.

Agnes Landau Named Shiseido Americas’ New CMO

Beauty industry veteran Agnes Landau has taken on the CMO mantle at Shiseido Americas, where she will lead marketing and merchandising efforts for the Shiseido brand, as well as Clé de Peau Beauté, Nars, Issey Miyake, Narciso Rodriguez, Hermès Fragrances and Tory Burch Beauty. Furthermore, Landau will also be in charge of creating and launching a diversity, equity and inclusion strategic roadmap for the company’s U.S. businesses.

Prior to joining Shiseido, one of the world’s oldest cosmetic companies, Landau held various senior leadership roles at Revlon, Clinique, where she worked for 16 years, and the Estée Lauder Companies Inc.

“The changes we announced today ensure that we have top talent, both new and internal, in the right functions to drive growth,” said Ron Gee, president and chief executive officer of Shiseido Americas. “Today, the Americas region continues to be dynamic, resilient and most of all, a compelling opportunity for growth. As a key strategic priority for Shiseido, we will continue to focus our energies on the Americas region, particularly among our marketing, commercial and digital functions.”

Carla Dunham Takes On Chief Marketer Role at Away

Away, the New York City-based luggage and travel accessories retailer, has hired former Foxtrot executive Carla Dunham to take over the chief marketing officer position at the company, succeeding Melissa Weiss, who left the role in July 2022.

Previously, Dunham worked in merchandising and marketing roles for a variety of retailers, including Target, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kate Spade & Company. While at Foxtrot, Dunham led the company’s merchandising and marketing departments for three years before joining Away in December.

Dunham’s appointment follows other C-suite changes at the brand as it prepares to ramp up operations as consumers embrace travel spending more than three years following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Case in point: Away’s performance during the Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday holidays was almost double that of 2021, according to a company spokesperson.

Snowprint Studios Welcomes New CMO Jonathan Winters

Jonathan Winters, Miniclip’s former director of performance marketing, has joined Snowprint Studios as the mobile game developer’s chief marketing officer. Snowprint Studios is a mobile game developer known for Legend of Solgard, Rivengard and Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus, a title that has accrued 1.5 million players since its launch.

“I am very excited to join Snowprint and work with such a talented team,” Winters told Pocket Gamer. “I can’t wait to help grow its gaming presence on a global scale. Tacticus has the potential to become a global phenomenon in the tactical segment and I’m super excited to bring the game to its full potential. Being a fan of turn-based strategy and RPG games, I’m looking forward to this fantastic role.”

Winters worked at Miniclip for a little over eight years, where he is credited with helping to grow their global gaming audience. He joins Snowprint Studios following their Best Mobile Game of the Year win for Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus at Pocket Gamer’s Mobile Game of the Year awards.

“Jonathan’s track record and extensive experience from marketing a large number of titles across multiple platforms make him the ideal person to drive Snowprint’s marketing strategy,” said Alexander Ekvall, Snowprint Studios CEO, in a company press release. “He has the proven capability to lead the growth of Tacticus and our future projects in the turn-based tactical segment on mobile, drawing upon his experience of successfully marketing a variety of games to a huge global audience.”

Susannah Wesley-Ahlschwede Accepts Role As Florida State University’s First-Ever CMO

Earlier this month, Florida State University announced the hiring of its first-ever chief marketing officer—Susannah Wesley-Ahlschwede. The Florida native, FSU alumna and adjunct professor of communications will be stepping into the role in familiar territory.

“This is an exciting hire for the university, and I believe Susannah will bring a fresh perspective to help Florida State tell our story and advance our brand,” Richard McCullough, Florida State University president, said in a press release.

Prior to taking on this new role, Wesley-Ahlschwede held various jobs in the marketing and communications sector, working for brands like the Ford Motor Company, American Airlines, Shell, Porsche, Nissan and Takeda, a Japanese pharmaceutical company.

Wesley-Ahlschwede’s role as the university’s first CMO, which will see her working with academic and administrative leaders to develop the university’s marketing strategy, starts on Feb. 13.

“FSU is a powerhouse with incredible students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, community and fans, and I’m excited for the future as we work to become a top 15 university and elevate our reputation in research, academics and innovation,” Wesley-Ahlschwede told FSUNews. “My time at FSU shaped who I am today, and I can’t wait to come back to partner with our world-class team.”

What Brand Marketers Can Learn From The DTC Playbook

While marketers prepare for an uncertain 2023, some brands are reaping the benefits of their 2022 direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategy. That’s an opportunity for savvy marketers to make their value known.

DTC Is Driving Revenue For Some Of America’s Most Famous Brands, Like Levis.

“In 2022, we delivered strong, profitable growth as well as significant market share expansion, demonstrating the enduring strength of our brands, the diversity of our business, and our team’s focused execution of our strategic plan,” stated Chip Bergh, president and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co. in a press release. “Our high-margin DTC business is delivering exceptional results, and our diversification efforts provide additional growth drivers for sustainable long-term growth.”

High margins are central to the appeal of DTC. Because DTC cuts out revenue sharing with wholesalers and third-party retailers, it can make it easier for brands to shift resources to marketing and digital user experience to drive revenue. When successful over time, DTC models can lessen the brand’s long-term reliance on retailers—something that Modern Retail reported as key to Levi Strauss & Co.’s business strategy as it ramped up its direct-to-consumer initiatives in 2020. 

According to the Levi Strauss & Co. press release, Q4’s strong DTC sales growth offset a decline in wholesale revenues. According to Multichannel Merchant, the company’s goal is to achieve position DTC as driving 55 percent of its topline earnings by 2027 by tripling its eCommerce footprint and expanding its overall DTC investment, per Retail Dive. That strategy is driven by data, according to CEO Chip Bergh, as the company only expects low single-digit growth in the wholesale sector from 2023 to 2027.

“Levi’s is by far our single biggest asset as a company, and the brand is stronger today than at any point in its history,” Bergh stated in 2022. “I’ll back that bold statement up with two data points. First is the record gross margins over the last few quarters. And second is the pricing power that the brand has demonstrated, with [average unit retail] up 10% year to date while we continue to grow unit volume.”

Levi Strauss & Co. is not the only iconic American brand that has leaned into DTC as a way to drive revenues in a time of economic uncertainty. Both PepsiCo and KraftHeinz launched DTC initiatives in the early months of the 2020 pandemic, with the latter recently completing the acquisition of a subscription business, JustSpices. 

“With Just Spices, we will leverage Kraft Heinz’s scale and agility to accelerate the business in the fast-growing taste elevation market beyond the company’s current German base and its recent market entries in Spain, Austria, and Switzerland,” said Rafael Oliveira, EVP & President, International Markets at Kraft Heinz. “We also see tremendous potential to further strengthen and enhance Kraft Heinz’s own direct-to-consumer operations and go-to-market expansion.”

KraftHeinz’s strategy in its recent DTC subscription brand acquisition reflects the opportunity inherent in the segment and its overall growth.

DTC Subscriptions Showed Strong—If Uneven—Resilience In 2022

Despite economic headwinds, the Quarter Over Quarter (QOQ) revenue growth rate for the DTC segment outperformed the S&P 500 in 2022, according to a recent report by PipeCandy. There are over 225 million DTC subscriptions in the U.S. today the report states, rounding out to about 3.7 subscriptions per subscribed household.  

That said—even some iconic brands, like Doc Martens, have seen lower-than-expected revenues from DTC, despite the channel showing nearly two-fold the growth rate of wholesale (15 percent versus eight percent). In addition, DTC sales do not always mean easier access to higher revenues. According to CNBC, costs can skyrocket and result in higher spending for the same sales or net revenue level. Much of the costs of developing a successful DTC plan come from marketing: when ROI falls, so do brands’ and investors’ appetite for DTC innovation.

Yet the opportunity is undeniable. According to recent data from Statista, 64 percent of consumers have purchased regularly from a DTC brand in 2022, and that figure will likely rise to 80 percent by 2027. The level of DTC penetration in the US could provide marketers with an unprecedented opportunity to shorten the sales funnel and garner deeper insights into customer behavior.

What It Means For Marketers

Retail success in any form is based on consumer confidence, regardless of how easy it is to purchase or how low the discount is at checkout. That means marketers will have a substantial role to play in guiding consumers to brand messaging that not only builds awareness of products and services but delivers the user experiences and answers to “is it worth it” that drive consumers to shop D2C in the first place.

Key Takeaways:

  • Marketers can transform DTC potential into revenue by leveraging data to tap into consumer brand affinity in messaging. That strategy may include leveraging creative engagement methods, like SMS, to capitalize on moments when existing customers may want to interact with content even when they are not ready to purchase.
  • DTC’s success is data-driven. Brands that see consistent growth in the DTC segment tend to build their strategy on insights gained from social listening – and the expert translation of those insights by marketers into strategy.

Having The Bravery To Be A Change-Maker With Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing & Public Relations Officer At Ally Financial

In this episode, Andrea and I discuss how she came to be the CMO of Ally, her approach to creating the brand, and how Ally is leaning into their role as a disrupter in the category to address pain points in the financial industry. Andrea also outlines how Ally impacts women’s sports, why that investment is so important for the future, and why it’s so important to her. They talk about having courage as a marketer, the importance of being willing to do the right thing, and why companies need to understand the weight of their marketing dollars.

Andrea Brimmer is widely recognized as one of the country’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders. According to her, the secrets are collaboration, passion and openness. At Ally, Andrea has a professional platform that intersects with her personal passion and uses that unique privilege to make a real difference in the world.

 In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Ally is showing up in authentic ways and changing the way people feel about their finances
  • The responsibility of banks in financial and social inclusion
  • Why Andrea considers Ally one of the most tremendous success stories in American Business History

 Key Highlights

  • [01:30] Being on Michigan State’s first D1 women’s soccer team
  • [02:30] Where Andrea got her start in her career and how she landed at Ally
  • [05:15] The narrative of short CMO tenures and the secrets to her success
  • [08:00] Modulating between being a wavemaker and a wave rider
  • [10:00] Allys transition to becoming a change-maker
  • [12:30] How Ally is making an impact on women’s sports
  • [18:00] The Diversity and Inclusion strides Ally is making
  • [21:50] How Andrea found bravery as a leader
  • [23:50] The impact of losing her brother
  • [25:50] Learning to enjoy the ride
  • [27:00] How brands show up in culture and what that means
  • [29:15] Brands to watch
  • [31:00] The changing role of the CMO and how that impacts the industry
  • [32:00] The next wave and how to market marketing

Resources Mentioned:

 Follow the podcast:

 Connect with the Guest:

 Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

Trend Set: Mountain Dew Leans Into Drop Culture; L’Oréal Turns To Influencers Over 40

In this week’s trend roundup from Ayzenberg’s Ashley Otah: an example of a brand leveraging a cultural moment and a beauty industry giant turning to “older” influencers for its latest campaign.

Mountain Dew

Mountain Dew has produced a hot sauce. The catch is you can’t buy it. Instead, those looking for a taste of the Baja Blast Hot Sauce must enter to win one of the 750 limited edition bottles available. The contest draws from “drop culture,” as only a select few will get a chance to claim the ultimate prize. Having established fans and newcomers alike hop on something they already enjoy increases brand awareness and affinity.


FanDuel is taking football fans on a ride for their latest campaign following former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski while he prepares for the Super Bowl, where the retired football star will feature in a live ad in which he’ll attempt a field goal. The month-long campaign differs from one-off spots that can be lost in a sea of ads by becoming a part of a cultural moment.


For L’Oréal’s latest campaign, the cosmetics company turned to influencers over the age of 40, highlighting the need for representation of all kinds, including age. Although social media is bombarded with ads targeting younger demographics, one cannot forget the purchasing power of a more mature clientele. Aside from that, the inclusion of all backgrounds has an impact beyond monetary gain.

Trend Set: Hyper-Personalization Grows On Social

Meeting people where they are—whether through personalized content streams or inclusive design—is the latest brand pivot, as outlined by Ayzenberg’s Ashley Otah in this week’s trend roundup.


In another example of “​​TikTokification,” Twitter is overhauling users’ timelines and prioritizing a new “For You” feed, which shows users tweets from people they follow interspersed with tweets curated by the algorithm. With this move, the social media giant is communicating its intent to compile and share content that’s tailored to each individual, highlighting a more significant trend: hyper-personalization.

According to a 2018 report from Epsilon, 90 percent of consumers surveyed said they find personalized marketing appealing, and in a different study from McKinsey & Company, 78 percent of respondents said personalized content made them more likely to repurchase from a brand. So it’s no surprise there is an uptick of platforms gearing up to pivot toward personalized content feeds. For the foreseeable future, brands should focus on hyper-personalization while staying true to their native platforms.


Earlier this month at CES, the consumer tech industry’s big annual showcase, L’Oréal unveiled Hapta, a motorized device capable of distinguishing unwanted hand tremors from intended movements designed to help people with disabilities apply lipstick.

This is a significant step toward inclusivity, as the device aims to help people with limited mobility gain more independence. Inclusive design should not be an afterthought but a foundational component built in from the start. However, there is always room for growth. In the future, L’Oréal hopes to make more devices available and accessible as the brand leans into its beauty/tech strategy.


TikTok is building a new way for creators and brands to band together. With an update to its Creator Marketplace, the short-form video platform has created a one-stop shop for managers to execute, oversee and analyze campaigns. A new addition to the platform is the Talent Portal, which allows managers to negotiate brand deals for clients. The combination of the two creates a perfect storm for creators to land more deals and for brands to maintain and grow partnerships. Creating easily navigable and needed products is a win.

McDonald’s Promotes Chief Marketer To Executive Suite; TIME, Denny’s, Broncos Welcome New CMOs

We’re tracking new hires and promotions among chief marketers at McDonald’s, Denny’s, TIME and the Denver Broncos this week.

McDonald’s Promotes Global CMO Morgan Flatley

As it lays the groundwork for growth opportunities in the near future, which includes elevating its marketing “through creative excellence,” McDonald’s announced the promotion of Global Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flatley to executive vice president, global chief marketing officer and new business ventures. In her new role, Flatley will lead new business ventures and opportunities that extend the brand’s reach as it aims to stay one step ahead of customer demand.

“Marketing has been an important growth driver for us, said Chris Kempczinski, president and CEO of McDonald’s. “Our creative excellence is making our brand not just more recognizable, but more relevant to our fans. I can confidently say that the McDonald’s marketing team is truly firing on all cylinders.”

Sadé Muhammad Named TIME Chief Marketing Officer

With more than a decade’s worth of experience in journalism and marketing, Sadé Muhammad joined the TIME team earlier this month as their new chief marketing officer, marking the first time the brand named a CMO since becoming an independent company in 2018. In her new role, Muhammad will aim to revitalize the TIME brand and accelerate its digital transformation and growth opportunities.

“We are thrilled to welcome Sadé, who has a proven track record of innovation, revenue generation, and building trust with audiences,” said TIME CEO Jessica Sibley. “As TIME enters a pivotal moment in its 100-year history, Sadé’s background as a marketer, trained journalist, and changemaker makes her the perfect person to lead TIME as our chief marketing officer.”

Prior to taking on the CMO mantle at TIME, Muhammad worked at Forbes, where she founded the company’s Representation & Inclusion Practice, a B2B ad business meant to encourage marketing partners to highlight DEI as foundational to their companies’ growth strategy. She also managed all business development, sales, marketing strategy, client relations and sponsorships for the initiative.

“My passion is harnessing the power of authentic brands to get audiences to listen and, in turn, unlock their unique power to affect change,” Muhammad said. “TIME is one of the world’s most trusted storytellers and I am thrilled to bring our partners’ stories to life with imaginative ideas to inspire a smarter, better marketplace.”

Denny’s Welcomes New CMO—Industry Leader Sherri Landry

Denny’s Corporation recently announced Sherri Landry, an industry veteran with more than 25 years of marketing experience with a focus on casual dining, would be taking over the role of senior vice president, chief marketing officer. 

She joins the restaurant chain after spending nearly five years at CEC Entertainment, where, as CMO, she oversaw multiple brands, including Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza. Prior to CEC Entertainment, Landry held marketing leadership roles at Pizza Hut, T.G.I. Fridays, Main Event Entertainment, Sara Lee and Procter and Gamble, among others.

“Sherri has the perfect blend of leadership experience and business savvy that we need to propel us through the next chapter of Denny’s brand evolution while honoring our brand purpose, feeding people’s bodies, minds and souls,” said John Dillon, Denny’s president. “Having worked with Sherri in the past, I know she will inspire our team members and franchisees with creativity and a strategic vision that will continue to fuel our growth in 2023. I could not be more thrilled to welcome Sherri to the Denny’s family.”

Landry will start her new role at the end of the month and will be tasked with spearheading the brand’s next phase of growth as it celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. “Denny’s is one of the most iconic American brands in the restaurant industry and beyond,” Landry said. “I am truly honored and looking forward to joining the Denny’s brand team and leading our marketing efforts at such a pivotal time.”

Denver Broncos Draft RealSelf CMO Hailey Sullivan

Earlier this week, the Denver Broncos announced Hailey Sullivan would be joining the team as its new chief marketing officer, leading the organization’s integrated marketing team to deepen relationships with current and future fans.

Sullivan makes this pivot into the world of sports after holding the CMO position at RealSelf, an online platform and community facilitating doctor-patient connections regarding cosmetic treatments. She also worked for MGA Entertainment from 2019-21, overseeing iconic brands like LOL Surprise, Bratz, Little Tikes and Rainbow High. And from 2010-2019, Sullivan held various positions at Mattel, working to grow brands like Barbie, Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels and Thomas & Friends.