Kathy Seegebrecht, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at UL, is a mover and shaker in sales and marketing — and we can prove it! Recently, she earned the top honor at the 2019 ANA B2 Awards where she received the Marketer of the Year award, which honors individual rather than corporate achievement.
However, if taking home a prestigious award wasn’t enough, Seegebrecht, along with Ellyn Raftery, executive vice president and chief marketing and strategy officer of FIS, and Gemma Davis, global account-based marketing director for ServiceNow, broke through the ANA’s glass ceiling. For the first time in the award’s history, all the finalists were women.
Seegebrecht spoke with us to discuss her win and the ever-increasing importance of brand in today’s marketplace.
Q. This was the first time in the award's history that all the finalists in the Individual Marketer of the Year category were women. How does it feel to be held up as a role model for women?
A. It’s always wonderful to see other women receive recognition, and it was great to hear that this was the first time it was an all-woman slate. I’m proud of the attention and recognize that the team behind me made it possible.
Q. To what do you credit your recognition by the ANA?
A. We have a compelling story to tell about the evolution of marketing at UL. We’ve created a positive, collaborative environment with our centers of excellence in marketing, and, in many cases, a shared service model which resonates with the businesses. Moreover, the overall UL mission — these are the key reasons for this honor.
Q. How can organizations better communicate the importance of brand to its employees?
A. Brand communication starts at the top as it does here with Keith Williams, UL’s CEO. Keith is such an essential and dedicated brand advocate — he makes our job in marketing a lot easier. I think repetition is also part of the answer. You have to reinforce over and over what the brand stands for and the importance of using it correctly. Your role then becomes more of a brand concierge, ensuring that people operate within the guidelines and helping them correct course when they stray. Lastly, I'd say give them the tools, as we have with our recent enterprise brand initiative — the UL enterprise overview material, brand framework and enterprise brand training.
Q. In terms of rolling out brand transformation campaigns, what activation strategies have worked for you throughout your career?
A. It boils down to one simple strategy: do, learn, do. I've used this approach over and over throughout my career, and it works. If you have a good idea, put it into action — launch, execute and learn. Be prepared to refine and rework it as you can't expect to create a new global campaign and have it be perfect. You're going to find out that there's always something different that is needed, whether it’s refreshed messaging, added channels or more nuanced personas. The ability to adjust and stay flexible is the key to achieving anything in life.
Q. You’re leading the company in transformative change: how do you break it down and handle everything in your role as CMO and SVP?
A. It has to be a conscious effort because there are so many things going on. I'm a list person, so I break it down by priorities and then the criticality of those priorities. I identify them all to make sure I know what things are in the air and then prioritize them to make sure nothing gets dropped.
I'd say the other thing is I've gotten much better at being an effective delegator. That means delegating what makes sense — and probably more importantly — delegating it to the right people. However, you also have to empower them to take things off their plate or their team's plate. You must have a ruthless prioritization to make sure the most critical things get done on time and done right.
Q. How can brands leverage, protect and expand the value of customer relationships?
A. One of the things that I value about my career history is that I started in sales. I always try to keep the customer at the center of the conversation. That means making the customer experience a big part of your goal. Valuing the customer relationship also involves placing the customer at the center of your culture. You do this by continually reminding employees that the most important thing we can do is to help our clients be successful.
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