Dana Marineau of Rakuten Rewards: “Relaying information in a way that shapes how people understand and interpret a message”

One thing that remains crucial, no matter what the future of work might look like, is the importance of giving feedback. Providing your team with constant and regular positive feedback allows you to provide critical feedback in a way that is well-received and respected by your team members. As a part of our interview series called […]

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One thing that remains crucial, no matter what the future of work might look like, is the importance of giving feedback. Providing your team with constant and regular positive feedback allows you to provide critical feedback in a way that is well-received and respected by your team members.


As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite” , we had the pleasure of interviewing Dana Marineau.

Dana Marineau is Chief Marketing Officer of Rakuten Rewards and Rakuten Advertising. Rakuten Rewards is a leading e-commerce company that enhances the way people shop by offering Cash Back, deals and rewards from more than 3,500 merchants. Rakuten Advertising provides advertising technology and consumer insights to the world’s leading brands and retailers. An award-winning marketing executive with deep expertise in brand positioning, marketing creativity and consumer loyalty, Marineau is responsible for strengthening Rakuten’s consumer recognition as the leading cash back portal and launching new innovative shopper loyalty programs.

Prior to joining Rakuten, Marineau was vice president of brand, creative and communications at Credit Karma where she rebuilt the company’s position to become a champion for the financial progress of its 100 million members. She also served as a marketing executive at Electronic Arts for more than 15 years, leading global advertising, design and creative for video game brands including FIFA, Madden NFL, Need for Speed and Battlefield.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Growing up, I was obsessed with the news. I would beg my parents to let me stay up late to watch the local news, and I admired the strong, inspirational female news anchors that were nationally known, like Connie Chung and Barbara Walters. These women were such big role models for me, and it really motivated me to see amazing women on TV sharing the most important information on what’s going on in the world. As a result, I wanted to be a news anchor when I grew up.

I lived my whole childhood with that dream, eventually going to college to get a journalism degree with the goal of being just like those women that I would watch on TV. But when I got to college and started taking journalism classes, I quickly found out that I hated being on camera. What I realized is that the thing I most loved about the news was the storytelling — relaying information in a way that shapes how people understand and interpret a message.

I started taking writing and marketing classes and I quickly came to the realization that marketing was the perfect career path for me. I went on to spend 16 years at Electronic Arts before making my way to Credit Karma as a VP and now Rakuten as CMO. The rest is history.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My first boss at Electronic Arts — my first “real” job — really inspired me during those early years of my marketing career. Her name is Carolyn Feinstein, she is currently the CMO at Varo Bank. Fourteen of my 16 years at EA were under her guidance, and I am the professional I am today thanks to her. She was always my biggest fan and advocate, and helped me successfully navigate a very large company like EA.

I remember, during my first year at the company, she called a marketing all-hands meeting where she talked about management and leadership. She said to all of us, “The number one rule of leadership is “,I work for you. You do not work for me.” I have taken that advice with me, and pride myself on treating my team members the same way. I believe my only job is to empower our team, clear roadblocks for our team and support them in every way possible. My whole job is to work for them and to help them succeed. I will never forget that.

What advice can you give to aspiring leaders on how to effectively communicate with their teams?

One thing that remains crucial, no matter what the future of work might look like, is the importance of giving feedback. Providing your team with constant and regular positive feedback allows you to provide critical feedback in a way that is well-received and respected by your team members. When it is time to give feedback that is more critical, they understand that you have their best interest at heart.

There’s a great book about this concept called Radical Candor, by Kim Scott. It talks about being radically honest with your co-workers and employees about where they are succeeding and where they can improve. More-so it’s about relaying that feedback in a way that is empowering and helpful.

What advice would you give younger women who are trying to climb the corporate ladder today?

The most important thing that anyone can do when looking for new jobs or changing industries is to choose the person that they want to work with — not just the company. I really believe that you are in the best position for career-long success when you feel confident working for someone who you know is going to be an advocate for you and give you support that will help you grow. A lot of people make the mistake of going to work for a company because they like the brand or the company’s products — and then they get to work and are miserable or are in a position that remains stagnant.

When you ultimately do climb that corporate ladder and get into a leadership role, that lesson remains an important one to remember. Now, the responsibility is on you to be the leader that you would want to work for. It’s your job to be the advocate for your team members that will ultimately help them succeed and grow in their own careers.

What were you surprised by when you first entered a leadership role? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I’ve ever had to face as a leader is starting a new role amid COVID-19. I just started working at Rakuten in June of 2020, at the height of the pandemic.Since then, I have spent every single moment with each of my colleagues on Zoom. That’s a monumental challenge for someone in a leadership position to overcome.

My managerial style has always been very extroverted. When I first met my new team, things like eye contact and body language had to be thrown out the window. Instead, I was forced to introduce myself and my values as a leader to the team over Zoom.

One thing I’ve done to help mitigate this challenge is by finding ways to create interpersonal interactions between teams through the channels we have available, whether that’s Zoom, Slack or email. For example, I host a weekly Zoom gathering I call “Coffee with Dana.” Each week, we invite a different small group of people from various areas of the business to come together on Zoom and have a cup of coffee with me and talk about our biggest wins, opportunities, and challenges, both professional and personal. I’m trying to replicate some of the experiences that we are missing out on and might have taken for granted when we were back in office. These are the experiences that break up our workday and allow us to draw personal connections with our colleagues — moments like waiting in line at Starbucks on your way to work or walking to the kitchen to grab lunch out of the fridge. These “watercooler” moments are small, but important building blocks of a strong company culture, and I’ve been trying to create new digital re-imaginations of those experiences.

Creating a corporate culture in a world with no physical interaction has been a big challenge, but I feel good about the foundation that we have built as a team and our ability to foster an engaged community of coworkers.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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