Marketing leaders share their expertise with MBA students
Know your market.
Remember that your role in the marketing department benefits the entire organization and gives you the opportunity to learn in ways that others might not.
Those were a few of the common themes sounded by the chief marketing officers who spoke on Monday evenings throughout November to Brandman University’s Marketing Management class at the Irvine campus. The trio of marketing officers shared stories about their careers, the challenges their organizations face and their hopes for future of marketing as part of the “CMO Talent Challenge” offered by the Association of National Advertisers.
“I think what was really important to the students is they heard marketing professionals and executives communicate the same principles we’ve discussed in class for effectively marketing products today in the real world. I think it’s a wonderful program,” said Gerry Mazur, the adjunct professor for the class. “A lot of people don’t have a feel for the professionalism that goes into marketing.”
Curacao, a large Hispanic retail company; Pantaya, a new streaming movie service from Lionsgate; and Jack in the Box have more in common from a marketing perspective than non-marketers might think. Each faces the challenge of making their companies appeal to new markets or age groups while still guarding the organization’s brand.
“If you’re in marketing, you have to understand the entire company,” said the first week’s speaker, Mike Azarkman, vice president of marketing and brand for Curacao. While the retail company built its brand on appealing to new immigrants, it now must find a way to keep customers from the millennial generation, who are more likely to be second-generation and accustomed to shopping online.
Although much of retail business fixates on competing with online retailer Amazon, he doesn’t see it as an online vs. in-store conflict. “There’s really no such thing. I want to change the conversation. It’s all about customer experience from digital to what they do in the stores,” he said. “The competitive advantage is to understand the customers and what they think of you.”
While Curacao will continue to have success because of its ability to offering financing to customers who probably can’t get it elsewhere (both millennials and immigrants), Azarkman said current marketing initiatives focus on store events that bring in the whole family.
Iwona Alter, the vice president and chief marketing officer for Jack in the Box, said millennials are also a target customer. The fast-food industry is no longer growing, she said, but she sees Jack in the Box as being able to fill an intermediary step between quick service restaurants (QSR) and more expensive fast-casual chains.
They’re focusing on what she calls “QSR plus” by building and emphasizing quality while still delivering convenience and service. Jack in the Box, she said, has an advantage because part of its brand reputation is one of being underdog/challengers who have long offered menu variety that goes beyond burgers, fries and shakes.
The challenge, she said is to meet the expectation of “I want to get the food the way I want it when I want it” while maintaining the spirit and integrity of the brand that exists. It helps to work at a company that accepts risk-taking as part of its DNA. But even with permission to try new things, comes the responsibility to plan and test and understand which products need to be offered and when, she said.
MBA student Deena Hyman was particularly impressed by Alter's willingness to talk about both her successes and failures. "It really showed how she rebounded," said Hyman, who also appreciated the different career paths and work life described by each of the CMO Challenge speakers. "It's good to know what being a CMO involves day-to-day. The image of what you thought the job might look like, might not be it all."
Teylez Perez, the senior vice president of marketing for Pantaya, is also looking for millennials and their parents. Pantaya launched in August and is a Spanish-language streaming service created by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. in collaboration with Pantelion Films and Hemisphere TV.
The service launched with 300 movie titles, many of which were unavailable in the U.S. but are top box office hits in Mexico. Perez, the CMO for Curacao for nine years before being lured away by Pantaya, sees the service as a way to help millennials connect to their culture because the movies tend to reflect the way they grew up.
Launching the site, he said, took a deep dive into the different levels of acculturation of people in the U.S. with Mexican or other Hispanic heritages. Watching movies (with subtitles available) and talking about them is a way to connect recent immigrants with second- or third-generation Americans who may speak only limited Spanish or none at all.
Understanding those different segments also guides how and where his marketing department uses its advertising dollars.
Like Azarkman and Alter, Perez exuded enthusiasm for his company as well as for the career of marketing.
“I took a chance,” he said of leaving Curacao, in part because the idea of a new company was exciting and in part because it aligned with what he saw as a need for those, like himself, who grew up speaking Spanish.
Alter said much the same about working at Jack in the Box and urged the Brandman students to think about what was important to them. “Integrity, courage, taking a chance, defining yourself will guide you to employers you want to work for. For me, Jack in the Box was a natural fit.
The goal of ANA’s “CMO Talent Challenge” is to promote talent development and training, a top priority this year for the organization. The speakers in the Brandman series were contacted by members of Brandman’s Marketing Department, led by Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Marketing Officer Roger Lee, a longtime member of ANA.
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