Donna Vieira, formerly the CMO of JPMorgan Chase, was appointed chief marketing officer of Sallie Mae in January and in early May the company announced a rebrand. AList sat down with Vieira to talk about the vision she sees for the company and how the rebrand fits into that vision.
What are some of the first steps you took and what were the first things that you adjusted?
One of the first things that I did was get debriefed in all the businesses. I’m responsible, right now, for three lines of businesses. [It’s essential that we are] understanding those, what are the challenges and opportunities are and what our customers say. That’s one body of work. The second body of work is really around our brand and what work we have done with our brand. I’m always about the customer and what the feedback is around our brand. The third body of work for me is all about our people: Our employees and our talents. How do we think about the organization as we move forward? Those are the three core bodies of work.
How far along was the logo process when you started at Sallie Mae?
The team had already done a pretty significant amount of work around the branding prior to my arrival. When I got there, I was debriefed, and I’m very impressed with the quality of work that has been done. My leadership was really to ask, “What does this mean going forward?”; “How do we think about taking this to the marketplace?” and “What does this mean for our business long term?” I think we developed a core set of assets and my goal is to expand these assets. Build on the assets. Not just about that, but what does it really mean to be a purpose-driven brand? How does that translate into creating experiences? Because that’s was what matters of our customers: Experiences with our customers that take the brand forward.
Can you talk about some of the thought that went into the rebrand?
It’s important, for me, to say it’s more than a logo. [It was important to ask] what exactly we’re doing and more importantly, why are we changing? [It] is about coming back to my foundation, and my North Star is always about the customer. If you look at our customer and ask the question: “What do we want to be with our customers?” and “What is our purpose with our customers?” I summarize it around the following: We are in the business of creating prosperous futures.
If you look at our core business of student loans, it’s about helping our customers achieve one of the most important dreams of their lives in getting a post-secondary education. It’s mostly college, but it’s more than that. It’s all about creating a prosperous future. Our customers are changing, they’re evolving, and it’s important for us to stay relevant with our customers to go on this journey. What are their other needs, and what is their “what’s next?” Mobile is one manifestation of that [customer journey]. We will see product diversification; we will be launching a new product shortly. You’ll see brand experiences that come to life. This is the start of what’s going to be an exciting journey for the brand.
What is the core brand message for Sallie Mae and 2019?
We articulate it as: Equipping inspiring minds to achieve their dreams and to create the life that they want. But I think about what that means. We are here to be with our customers on their journey to building their prosperous futures. It’s their journey, and we are the coach and the partner along the way.