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Meet marketing executives from Apple, Uber, and Netflix

On the personal board, top business leaders talk about people seeking advice, and how they shaped their perspective and helped them succeed.Previous articles in the series here..

In the summer of 2020, Bosoma St. John got his dream job as Chief Marketing Officer.

Netflix Ltd

Streaming giants spend more than $ 2 billion annually on marketing. Entertainment is “my sweet spot,” she says.

Based in Los Gatos, California, the company is St. John’s tenth employer and sixth industry in his long career. Bias often prompted previous career changes, she says.

“I couldn’t break through because I hit a wall or ceiling,” she continues. “As a black woman, I had to work harder to succeed.”

The self-proclaimed “Badas” is currently Netflix’s most senior black executive.

The supportive mentor has solidified Mr. St. John’s strong determination to move up by moving forward. “My personal board members have played a role in helping me trust my instincts,” she says.

Biobit

  • Year: 44
  • education: Bachelor’s Degree in English and African-American Studies from Wesleyan University
  • family: Daughter Rael, 12 years old
  • Secret talent: An expert lady who made everything from skirts to curtains
  • Management Mantra: Move yourself, even with glitter or burlap
  • Fun facts: Contrary to what is generally believed, I don’t have all the frills.My favorite ice cream is straight vanilla
  • Heel height: 4-inch high heels are my go-to line … it makes me 6’3 “
  • The superpower you wanted: teleportation

The 44-year-old executive, often nicknamed “Boz,” was born a few months before his father earned a PhD in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Her parents, then citizens of Ghana, returned to Ghana as a child. ..

St. John moved to six different locations before he was thirteen. As a high school student in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she interned with an obstetrician and considered becoming a doctor.

She also loved pop culture, but thought her hobby was “not serious.” St. John revisited her medical career goals after being inspired by an African-American study class in her first year at Wesleyan.

A 1999 graduate with a degree in English and African-American studies was hired as an administrative assistant to Spike DDB, a New York advertising agency led by film director Spike Lee. She was surprised when he accepted her recommendation that pop star Beyonce Knowles would appear in a commercial.

PepsiCo Ltd

“If he had chosen someone else, I probably wouldn’t have been sitting here right now,” she observes. St. John realized that his idea was important, “the order of poking is not important.” She was eventually promoted to the agency’s Senior Account Executive.

In 2005, she joined the Pepsi Unit as an assistant brand manager for multicultural marketing. A few years later, while serving as a marketing executive there, she helped Beyonce make a half-time appearance in the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII and organize an elaborate introductory Pepsi commercial.

St. John got even more attention when she became

Apple Of a corporation

Head of Global Consumer Marketing for Apple Music and iTunes.

At the 2016 Developers Conference, she took an unusual approach in describing Apple’s redesigned streaming music service. “I was really scared,” she recalls. “My style was very different.”

Swaying to hip-hop hits, St. John urged a predominantly white male audience to sing “Rapper’s Delight.” “Some of you aren’t rapping to the beat,” she rebuked the man in the audience.

Her next mission — as Chief Brand Officer

Uber Technologies Ltd

— It didn’t last long. St. John, who was hired in June 2017, resigned a year later.

She and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi say she disagreed on whether improving customer service should be a top priority for ride-hailing service giants. “We just didn’t adjust.” An Uber spokesman refused to comment on her short tenure.

She then held a top marketing spot in

Endeavor Group Holdings Ltd,

An entertainment company known for representing Hollywood’s greatest talent.

“Participating in Netflix has been the biggest marketing challenge to date,” said St. John, who reports to co-CEO Ted Salandos. “I am marketing to so many completely different individual titles and messages.”

To make matters worse, Netflix newcomers underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis during the first week. She resumed work from bed a few days later.

Her most valuable advisors are:

Brett O’Brien

General manager of PepsiCo’s Gatorade.

Pepsi executives hired St. John because St. John was one of the Spike DDB clients. He initially oversaw her at a major food and beverage maker.

But she suspected she would succeed. Unlike many Pepsi buddies, novice assistant brand managers did not have an MBA degree.

“My background didn’t matter. I could do anything,” O’Brien continues. His confidence in her abilities influenced at least one of her further industry transformations.

He also says he urged his disciples to “keep doing you.” “Boz shines her passion,” O’Brien points out, an individual larger than the real thing. “We didn’t have to diminish our passion to meet the perceived corporate norms,” ​​she said.

Arianna Huffington

Founder and CEO of Thrive Global

Executives met at the Consumer Electronics Trade Fair in 2016. Uber’s board member, Huffington, finally suggested that Saint John consider leaving Apple for Uber.

“She needed to be somewhere to shine her perfect personality,” says Huffington. And “Uber needed her special gift.”

The entrepreneur linked St. John with Travis Caranick, then CEO of Uber, to support her candidacy. He interviewed her at Huffington’s Los Angeles home.

Karanik resigned shortly after St. John’s arrival, after months of scandals and setbacks in Uber.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Awe Luv Media Author, Speaker, CEO

St. John was so impressed with the commentary on pop culture on his blog that he asked for Jones to be introduced in 2014. Since then, this pair has been my best friend.

“Luvvie has always encouraged me to keep in trouble,” says Saint John. Her advice turned out to be particularly useful when executives felt discouraged by Uber.

“Are you just looking for trouble wherever you go?” St. John remembers asking himself. “Walking in the door doesn’t mean you want to be an obstacle. I’m exhausted,” she continues. “Sometimes I just want to get stuck.”

Mr. St. John “doesn’t fit even if he tries,” so he must continue to do his best to trouble and change. Mrs. Jones insists. “She is a tall, dark-skinned black woman who often lives in a room that wasn’t made for someone like her.”

The author’s latest book, Professional Troublemaker, explores ways to tackle and normalize fear. She believes that the best advice to St. John should be to calm fear and accept repeated requests for TED talk. Mrs. Jones told her, we grow up by challenging ourselves to do what we are afraid of.

St. John finally delivered a TED talk in August 2021. The focus of her talk was to use her intuition every day.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas

Actor, producer, writer

The pair became acquainted about 10 years ago when a popular Indian actor appeared on the Pepsi-sponsored television show “The X Factor.”

In 2018, St. John attended Chopra’s wedding in India and married musician Nick Jonas. Even today, widowed Netflix executives struggle to pursue a friend’s suggestion that she open her heart and find love again.

St. John’s husband, Peter St. John, died in 2013. My daughter Rael was four years old at the time.

“I know how to get what I want from my career. I don’t know how to do it in love,” admits St. John. “It’s so painful and scary.”

Write in Joan S. Lublin joann.lublin@wsj.com

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Meet marketing executives from Apple, Uber, and Netflix

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