CMO of the Week: Thomson Reuters’ David Carrel

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David Carrel’s vision as chief marketing officer at Thomson Reuters is to be the leading content driven technology company focused on professionals. 

A few years ago, the brand began its transition from a holding company to an operating company. As part of the shift, the idea is to build Thomson Reuters as a brand. “The vision has really been to help drive and accelerate our shift to a SAS technology company,” says Carrel. 

The brand evolution project is underway and will likely be rolled out in Q1 2024. In the meantime, the company has been transitioning the infrastructure from holding company to operating company. Carrel is tasked with creating this brand and telling that story.

“We are a new company. We haven't really looked at our brand positioning, messaging, tagline and visuals in five to 10 years,” says Carrel. “We are focused on bringing together the companies we run and the different market segments we operate in.” 

This includes creating a brand that speaks to their target segments, which includes legal, government, tax and accounting, corporate and business. In the current marketplace, there is a big demand for generative AI and Thomson Reuters is positioning itself as the go-to for AI in the legal market.

“It's driving lots of excitement in an industry, of legal professionals, that has maybe not been as on the cutting edge of technology, as some other segments,” explains Carrel. “We announced a $100 million annual investment in AI, in partnership with Microsoft back in May.”

The brand has plans to roll out new AI products before the end of this year and will be using its content strategy to push this message. The company will likely reveal more at its SYNERGY 2023 conference in November, featuring keynotes from tennis champion Venus Williams and real estate mogul and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran.

Prior to working for Thomson Reuters, Carrel held senior marketing roles at Amazon, Adobe and Digitas. Brand Innovators caught up with Carrel from his office in the Seattle area to talk brand positioning, Microsoft partnership and AI. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How are you thinking about innovation?

There's innovation across Thomson Reuters in a few different areas. Obviously, product innovation. We changed our roadmap. It's really instilling across our product portfolio, how best to use generative AI. We're moving fast on the innovation front. A really big thing for us is thought leadership. We have a whole team at the Thomson Reuters Institute that studies and publishes surveys. We just published one on the Future of Professionals. We surveyed about 1,200 professionals globally on what's changing their markets and how AI is having an impact. 

The other key areas of innovation from a marketing standpoint, really leading with education. My historical peers that predated me had built up tons of trust with our customers. Thomson Reuters has been in legal markets for 150 years. Customers have come to rely on us. We build strong relationships. Customers trust us. The way we go to market with education is job one, and in many regards, has really been a breakthrough. We're building AI into our products so innovating in how we educate. This is where we circle back to our brand launch. In the past as a holding company, Thomson Reuters was really not front and center. It was a collection of brands. Now we're in the transition. As we go forward, we will lean into our master brand more. Customers know us. Innovation is how we're thinking about the company on the product side, as well as on the marketing side. 

What's driving this brand push? 

A lot of it is shifted from a holding company to an operating company. Over the years, we've divested some brands. We've made some acquisitions. As we've refined where we're focused, I invest in some products invested in others. And coming together as an operating company. We see great opportunities to have the brand breakthrough and mean something distinct. It's a collection of a lot of different things. And now it's more focused on content driven technology for professionals. Can we build a meaningful brand around that is distinct and meaningful to our national corporate customers? 

But there's been meaningful changes that say, Hey, now, it is important to have a brand breakthrough. As we think about having more, we have 100 products plus. You have a lot of different areas you can bring together, whether or not we want to connect them, and build technology platforms, as well as just have conversations with our customers around all of our suite of products, not just one product. It's definitely a meaningful change, that we talked about the highest levels of the company. It's a multi-year investment, we haven't really started yet, we've done the redoing the internal strategy, development positioning, then looking forward to sharing that more broadly, internally and to this year and externally, beginning next year.

We spoke about AI. Are there any other key marketing trends that you're watching this year as we head into the end of the year?

Well, definitely Gen AI. It's the customers who really want it to, it's not sometimes you get technology, that the technology companies are pushing, changing. The other trends, education and interest on that one. For us, fewer, bigger, better campaigns to break through. A good example is when we launched our AI initiatives back in May, we publicly said in our earnings announcement that we're going to invest $100 million annually in AI. Then soon thereafter, we had a partnership with Microsoft 365 Copilot, showing and announcing some videos of our product. It’s bringing together a really strong interest from our customers.

How has your past experience helped you in this role?

We're on the journey from holding company to SAS technology company. Having been at AWS, Adobe helps. They're working with subscriptions in Prime really thinking about how do you drive a subscription-based business? Adobe's a good parallel in regards to how we go to market. We have both large enterprise customers, as well as mid-market, understanding the differences and those markets. The technology piece and sales enterprise technology has been a good base for me to help drive that across Thomson Reuters. It's a powerful, meaningful, noticeable shift across the company, having that experience has been helpful. 

What is your approach to leadership?

Other than being special, unique, but really thinking about thought leadership and people leadership. You need to be driving a vision, driving change, which we're doing and generative AI. Our go-to-market strategy, how we've organized marketing, connecting with our customers and really pushing education, thought leadership and then people leadership. Getting the right people in place, enabling them, setting them up and making sure as we came together as a holding company, we are doing our best to create great roles and put great people in them. 

It's a lot easier said than done. But it's something you're constantly working on. As a leader, it is about connecting people, motivating them, rewarding them and giving shout outs. I've been doing weekly emails to my team and providing updates on what's going on in the company, as well as some personal anecdotes to connect with people and get them to know me in a more personal way. 

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