We are delighted to welcome Danone's Head of Marketing Linda Bethea as she joins The Marketing Society New York Board. We interviewed her to find out her favourite marketing campaigns, the biggest risks she's taken and more.
What’s your golden rule?
Be authentic. This matters as much professionally as it does personally. Don’t try to mold yourself into who you think an executive should be. Don’t try to change yourself into who you think someone wants you to be. Harness what makes you unique and use that to your advantage!
Who has been your biggest influence?
For better or worse, Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo. During my time there, I greatly admired her as a business leader. She was incredibly smart and business savvy – she saw trends before anyone else did and was unafraid to take risks to move the business forward. As a leader, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the consumer and am not afraid to take chances that I believe are the right thing for our brands and business.
However, Indra was also very transparent about the personal sacrifices she made and the toll it took on her family. For me, I have been very clear that my career comes second to my family. My daughter has, and will always be, the #1 priority in my life. I believe that being a great mom makes me a better people leader.
What is your most hated business expression?
“Let’s circle back on this.” I have a strong bias for action and would much rather work through the issue and make a decision.
What is your favourite marketing campaign ever?
Two immediately come to mind – The Always “Like a Girl” campaign was brilliant in bringing brand purpose to life in a breakthrough way by turning a stigma into a strength. I also love the long-running Avis "We Try Harder" campaign because it’s built on a core insight and I believe that deep insights and human truths are what unlock brilliant creative. Avis leveraged the fact that people/companies at the top often become complacent while those who aren’t will often work much harder to get there. A brilliant insight that was executed with just the right amount of transparency and self-deprecating humor to be successful.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
After 5 years in traditional brand management roles at Frito-Lay, I accepted a field role in our North Business Unit. The move was full of risk – the North BU was our most competitive and challenged business (uphill battle!), the role was based in a field office in New Jersey (out of sight, out of mind!), and I had zero experience in category management or field sales/marketing (not set up for success!). That year was the most challenging of my career – both professionally and personally. But it was also the most rewarding and was instrumental in shaping the leader I am today. I discovered how important it is to listen and learn – I was responsible for managing a team of career professionals in roles in which I had zero experience. I learned how critical it was to understand and partner with other functions – finance, operations, sales, category management – in order to succeed as a marketer. When I moved back into a brand marketing role within PepsiCo, I felt much better equipped to lead diverse teams to develop successful marketing plans.
Which leader do you admire most and why?
Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder and CEO of Bumble, an online dating and networking platform. She is a bad-ass female business leader who is not afraid of taking risks and standing up for what she believes in. She started Bumble in 2014 with female empowerment in mind – it bills itself as not just a dating application but a movement for healthy relationships and women empowerment. And that influences everything she does as a leader – from hiring (82% of employees are female), to innovation (it’s the only dating app where women have to initiate the conversation), to activism (banning gun images on the app after the Parkland shooting, starting a relief fund for women impacted by the Texas abortion law, creating the Bumble Fund to invest in female-led tech companies). Her risks and conviction have paid off – she became the youngest self-made woman billionaire after Bumble went public in 2021.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in marketing?
Be curious! Ask tons of questions of your colleagues and learn as much about your company, your competitors, and your consumers as possible.
Connect with Linda on LinkedIn.
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