Innovator Insights: 5 Career Tips From Female Marketing Leaders At Danone, Lyft And More

Years before her current role as Head of Global Brand Marketing at T. Rowe Price, Sylvia Toense found herself being pigeonholed in an earlier job as the “make it pretty” marketer on a team of mostly male financial advisors. “When I would try to chime in and have a voice, to offer more at the table, I would get the stiff arm,” Price recalled at Brand Innovators’ Women In Brand Marketing Livecast on October 15. “They’d say, ‘You don’t understand, you’re not a financial advisor.’ It was then that I realized that I needed another path to create credibility.”

Years before her current role as Head of Global Brand Marketing at T. Rowe Price, Sylvia Toense found herself being pigeonholed in an earlier job as the “make it pretty” marketer on a team of mostly male financial advisors. 

“When I would try to chime in and have a voice, to offer more at the table, I would get the stiff arm,” Price recalled at Brand Innovators’ Women In Brand Marketing Livecast on October 15. “They’d say, ‘You don’t understand, you’re not a financial advisor.’ It was then that I realized that I needed another path to create credibility.”

She began to ferociously read market research from any source she could get her hands on, whether it was third party, journalistic or internal, so that she could bring an informed voice to the table. “I was able to say ‘Yes, I understand what you’re saying, but I have some interesting information about what a survey of 10,000 investors said about what they really want from their financial advisors.’”

Toense’s proven ability to advocate for herself and become a student of the financial sector helped get her hired by T. Rowe Price as VP of Marketing in 2007, eventually being elevated to oversee all marketing duties in 2018 for the global investment management firm. 

Read on for more insights from Toense as well as senior executives at Danone, Del Taco, Lyft and Tailored Brands, Inc. from Brand Innovators’ latest Women In Marketing Livecast that shed important light on how female marketers have paved their own path to success. You can also watch the entire program on our Video on Demand arcihve.

Stay hungry, and stay curious. “You need to try to put yourself in positions or on projects where you don’t have a lot of experience on a particular subject,” said Bryna Corcoran, who category-hopped from high-def audio to virtual stylists at Dolby and Stitch Fix before assuming her current role as Director of Social Media at Lyft in 2020. “Seek out opportunities to shadow or partner with other teams that are responsible for different aspects of the overall consumer journey so you can get exposure to it. The biggest skill is being curious about the entire end-to-end journey. You don’t need to be a full-blown expert in everything, but have a pulse on it. And ask questions so you can understand how your piece of the puzzle fits.” 

Think outside the binaries of your brand. Kara Richmond, Senior Director, Brand Marketing at Tailored Brands, Inc., works on a portfolio of leading retail brands that have historically targeted men, including Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank. But listening to customer needs has enabled Richmond and her peers to apply a gender-neutral lens to historically male-targeted clothing retailers. “We have the ability to get men’s wear for any customer,” she said. “It could be if a female decides that she wants it, or a transgender person, or anybody who wants to wear a suit or a jacket. That has always been a key feature of the brand, which is to make sure you get the perfect fit.” 

Don’t be afraid to figure it out as you go. Though it may feel unnatural to some people, Erin Levzow, Vice President of Marketing Technology, Del Taco Restaurants, said that it’s important for women in the workplace to stop questioning themselves, because men rarely do. “My advice for other females in marketing is to ask a lot of questions, but don’t question yourself. In the time it might take you to raise your hand, the man next to you is already raising his hand, so you need to go for it. If you’re not exactly sure how to do something but you want to do it, say yes, and figure it out afterwards. It’s the passion that matters. Jump at the chance, find the right mentors and keep pushing forward.” 

Cultivate your brand purpose. Linda Bethea, who joined Danone earlier this year as Head of Marketing, noted that women in marketing have a unique opportunity to help define a brand’s purpose and incorporate it into the company’s messaging. “When we talk about Danone’s mission, which is ‘One Planet. One Health,” all of our brands are committed to delivering that vision, but of course in a way that is authentic to that individual brand and its brand purpose. We know that today more and more consumers care about brand purpose. They want to buy brands and believe in brands that share their values. We are living in this value-driven world, so it is more important than ever that we are building brands that have a purpose in the world.” 

Know how to push to make progress. Learning how to make things happen in any organization is important, and knowing how to push initiatives forward when there are roadblocks is even more critical. “Everyone needs to use their own style, but what I have found is asking questions and eliciting more meaningful conversations is the way I can drive conversation forward. It’s not just about asking questions though, you need to ask the hard questions to really make progress,” said T. Rowe Price’s Toense. “Whether it’s the smallest or largest brand task, my brain is wired to think about what our client’s perspective is, what our competition is doing, and what is happening in the environment. If you think about those three concentric circles, the intersection is brand and marketing strategy.” 

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