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C-Suite Executives Come to Campus

Nine MSU alumni, who hold CMO positions at their respective companies, shared insights from their decades of industry experience.

a man in a suit speaks onstage

C-Suite Executives Come to Campus

Chief marketing officers from across the country shared advice on growth, disruption and innovation in a changing world during the Forbes CMO Alumni Symposium held November 2, 2018 at
Michigan State University.

Nine chief marketing officers—all MSU alumni from the Eli Broad College of Business and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences—shared insights from their decades of industry experience in building brands through customer engagement; powering marketing strategies through technology and data; and achieving competitive advantage through superior value creation.

“The industry is changing so dramatically, and now, more than ever, marketing practitioners need to connect with academia, and vice versa, so everyone can benefit, and we can develop and nurture the next generation of marketing leader,” said Jennifer Rooney, Editor, CMO Network, Forbes, who has been helping connect CMO’s across the country with their alma maters for almost six years.

Douglas E. Hughes, chairperson of the Department of Marketing and the United Shore Faculty Fellow in Sales Leadership at the Broad College said: “This event, and MSU’s partnership with Forbes, represents our institutional mission which is to disseminate knowledge through collaborative relationships while developing transformational leaders who make business happen.”

The featured presenters included:

  • Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer, Ally Financial
  • John Costello, Chief Executive Officer, Bottom Line Branding
  • Tom Dobry, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Lithia Motors
  • Chris Fredrickson, President and Founder, Traverse City Whiskey Co.
  • Casey Hurbis, Chief Marketing Officer, Quicken Loans
  • Elizabeth Ross, President and Chief Executive Officer, Periscope
  • Andy Royston, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Kerry Group
  • Jay Spenchian, Senior Vice President, Marketing, U.S. Cellular
  • Tamara Steffens, GM, Business Development for Microsoft
  • Jim Trebilcock, Chief Concentrate and International Officer, Keurig Dr. Pepper

The event attracted nearly 400 students, as well as faculty and members of the Mid-Michigan business community, who were joined by Forbes editors, and deans and department chairs in the Eli Broad College of Business and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

 Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer, Ally Financial, received her B.A. in Advertising from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and was the key driver to bring the Forbes CMO Symposium to MSU.

 “I think about my tenure at Michigan State University, and when I was here, I did not imagine myself as the CMO of a Fortune 500 company someday.  But I believe I am proof that if you really hustle, there are endless opportunities in this industry for your career,” she said.

Throughout the symposium, business executives reflected on a wide range of topics including data analysis, disruption in established markets and pointers for bringing about innovation. Panel discussions covered broad trends, ranging from the prevalence of social media marketing and ad retargeting to the renewed focus on reaching consumers on an emotional level. The presentations and panel discussions also were packed with advice for undergraduate students.

 “Putting your head down and working hard is the key to success,” said John Costello, CEO of Bottom Line Branding. Costello earned his M.B.A. from the Broad College of Business in 1970. He shared his view with the students in attendance on the importance of building a personal brand and rising above the competition. “The strategies and principles of building business brands are actually pretty similar to the strategies in building your own personal brand.”

He said one of his key strategies is to “differentiate or disappear,” a goal that he believes both individuals and companies should strive to attain.

The day provided multiple formats for CMO alumni to share their stories, interact with faculty and inspire students.

 “I think the things you will remember most,” said Dean Prabu David, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, “are the creativity, the surprise and the humor from the campaigns today.  This human element will remain a key component of consumer interaction for years to come, and all of you will have the opportunity to be a part of it.”

For students and others in attendance, the CMO Alumni Symposium fostered many memorable moments, according to Melissa Priebe, a Communication Arts and Sciences student, who wrote of her appreciation for “actionable insights into business leadership, inspiring the next generation of C-Suite executives.”