Carat Convos: Robert Schwartz, Chief Marketing Officer, Carat US

“Find a way to define what your success means to you from a professional, a personal, and an impact on the world standpoint.”

How did you get involved in media?
My connection to the industry has been either in the broader marketing services portfolio, be that digital or direct, or actually running marketing departments on my own. I did work in media for four months back in 1993. I was the worst assistant media planner in the history of mankind. A significant portion of that job had to deal with Donovan Data Systems, and billing and data entry. It should’ve been a Bravo reality show, it was that humorous.

I have been a member of the marketing industry community for 27 years. From senior marketing and agency management positions at JPMorganChase, Prudential, AT&T, & Epsilon to Global Managing Director at WPP, as well as COO of Ogilvy & Mather South.

In 2014, I joined IBM as VP, Global Digital Marketing and prior to joining Carat I served as the Global Leader, Agency Services for IBM iX. By trade, I am a marketer and a strategist. Over the past six or seven years, transformational learning and development has become a big part of the work I’ve done. In this role, I am focused on helping to really grow and drive the Carat brand here in the US, and then some work leading learning and development, which is something that has become ironically near and dear to my heart because that’s not where I started either.

What do you think the biggest opportunity for a CMO is right now?
I’ve spent a lot of time in my previous life on this question of what is this moment in time for CMOs? The context for the CMO at this moment is they are asked to drive a growth agenda for the company. Now, that is something that has been in the purview of CMOs for a long time, right? So, that doesn’t feel like a stretch, but the dimensionalization of growth now is so much broader than it ever has been. It is a much larger agenda than it’s ever been before because it involves connectivity across an entire experience continuum. So, what are we going to do in servicing, what are we going to do in sales, what are we going to do in product development?

All those things have growth impacts and increasingly, a CMO has to be the representative of that total experience for an organization.

The second agenda is around change. And change is not necessarily something that has been in the marketing purview, except that it is a function that has been radically changed over the past decade and a half. Change is related to the culture and the delivery of the brand itself. And a marketer and a CMO has to have a significant influence over that change process in order for brands to be reestablished, brands to be grown and brands to be reinvigorated. And cultures that sort of drive those brands to be reestablished and reinvigorated as well. Those twin agendas of growth and change are very much what I see as the purview of the CMO.

What’s your favorite ’90s jam?
Well I have to make a couple confessions here because I think it’s incredibly important that I stay very authentic to how old I am. I had to verify that ’90s jam referred to music and it wasn’t some other thing. I am fearless in embracing the reality of my middle age-ness. I am an ’80s music person, my coming of age came in that decade and so all of my significant musical influences are from that era. But there’s no doubt that I remember my early days in the city with Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time that was a really seminal moment I think musically. And so there’s a song called Yellow Ledbetter, which was on a B side single release by Pearl Jam. And that song is absolutely brilliant, and it fits my kind of requirements for music. I’m terrible at understanding and listening to the words, which is in sharp contrast to most people. That song worked perfectly for me because it is physically impossible to understand what Eddie Vedder is screaming about in that song.

And how do you spend your free time?
I am a father and a husband. I have two kids. My daughter is 15 and my son is 18 and a senior in high school. So recently we have spent an enormous amount of time on the college process. When I’m not involved in that particular, unique one-off project, I’m a bit of a half-retired runner. I got a Peloton because my knees don’t hold up as well as they used to. I still play soccer once a week, which is a testament to my stupidity because I wind up getting hurt several times a year doing that. And then we have a little place up in the Catskills.

But honestly, if my wife were here, she would say my free time is spent on Twitter, whether it’s consuming Manchester United updates — I’m a huge Man United fan — or whether it is it deeply ensconced in the ongoing rumbling chaos that is our republic at the moment.

What advice would you give to people just starting out in their careers?
I think a couple things have held me in good stead, to the extent that I’m successful at all in my career. And I think that’s a really important thing you have to keep in mind because you’ve got to decide what that means. I’m 48 years old and I’ve had big titles and smaller titles, I managed a massive organization. My last job was 3800 people in my organization. Is that success? I don’t know. I’ll be honest with you, I think I’m still in pursuit of defining for myself what that is. So, I think one of my pieces of advice would be to find a way to define what your success means to you. And some of that has a professional side, a personal side, and an impact on the world side.

In terms of more sort of day in, day out useful advice, it’s two things. One, my dad’s favorite saying was, “It’s all about the people.” Now he was a good country doctor — He never worked in a big corporation in his life, but he is exactly right. And what I have found in every single experience that I’ve had anyplace I’ve ever worked, is that the people have made the difference to me. It is the people that have helped me along and helped me grow. It is the people that have given me the connection point to the work that I’m doing. It is the people that have given me meaning in what I do.

So, I don’t care where you work or what you do, you are in service of the folks that you work with. And they will wind up giving you a whole lot more than you give them. The final thing I’d say is, and I got this piece of advice from my boss just one week before I got married, he sat me down and said, “I’m going to give you the best piece of advice … this is the best piece of career advice I’ve ever gotten. Get away once a quarter.” This probably happened in ’98. And it is a fantastic piece of advice.

What can we look forward to in the next 12 months?
A couple of things. One, you will see more of us in the market. You will see our brand live in places that you haven’t seen it before. The most demonstrable parts of that will be a pod launch. We will also start taking things that we do internally and opening them up to the world. So, the brave brews work will be livestreamed.

You will see us coming out of our shell a little bit in terms of unlocking a window for the outside world to look into what Carat is and what it does, what its people stand for, and what they know. I think in a services business, especially a marketing services business, that is the single most important thing that brands must do. The client-agency relationship must be completely collaborative and transparent. And part of that is them understanding what our stock and trade is right?

And the old adage that our product — our inventory- gets on the elevator every day and goes home. They need to see that right? People go and window shop at an Apple store because they want to see what’s new. They stand out front and look to better understand what the brand does, what it stands for, and what it means. They’ve got to do the same thing with us. And for us, that’s our people. So, one of the opportunities that we can leverage is to make sure that our people are perceived as experts and are understood both for their character as professional and their character as relatable humans. That’s how our business works. So, my next couple of months is going to be on that area in particular.

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