…Making that human connection leads to breakthroughs, and I would encourage us to seek it out, rather than shy away from it, even in professional settings. Forging a connection with others is what life is all about.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel Boorstin, Vice President of Global Marketing at VOSS Water.
In 2016, Ariel joined VOSS, a global premium bottled water brand, with an iconic package and growing portfolio of still and sparkling products available in over 50 countries. In her role as VP of global marketing, Ariel leads an internal team of marketing and communications professionals, in addition to several external agencies, and is charged with bringing the brand’s ethos of authenticity and everyday appreciation to life through high profile global campaigns, talent partnerships, innovation and various other efforts. Prior to VOSS, Ariel served as Brand Manager at Pernod Ricard USA, the Global co-leader in premium wine & spirits. She holds a BA in Psychology from Claremont McKenna College in southern California, near where she grew up and began her career, before relocating to New York where she currently resides.
Thank you for joining us Ariel! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in Los Angeles, and when I moved to New York post college, I remember being genuinely stunned that there were so many career options outside of the entertainment industry. I embarked on some career exploration, quickly understanding how it’s just as important to learn what you don’t want to do, as it is to know what you do want to do. My first marketing role was with a global leader in premium wine and spirits with an incredible portfolio, where I had the pleasure of marketing products that are experienced and not just simply purchased — a satisfaction that stuck with me as a driving force in my career. Since then, I have sought out lifestyle brands that are rooted in experience, that have a real emotional connection to consumers, and that, at their best, are greater than the sum of their parts. I’ve been very lucky to work on brands like VOSS, that I’m excited to live and breathe every day.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Starting out, I remember feeling like I was working tirelessly to prove myself and gain recognition within a large organization. If promotions occurred every two years, I needed to achieve mine in one, which created an intense pressure and also an inability to appreciate where I was in the moment. There was one role in particular that I passionately wanted, but didn’t end up getting. At the time, I had felt incredibly ready for it, and I was deeply disappointed when it didn’t work out. I reacted by feeling slighted, but then used it to fuel my personal growth. If this is the kind of role I want, what skills do I need to build in order to be ready for the next opportunity? Looking back, it was definitely one of those ‘everything happens for a reason’ moments.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I think grit is one of the most valuable attributes one can possess — both personally and professionally. The more you experience, the more you realize that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens, that truly matters. Once a gut emotional reaction subsides, there is so much value in shifting your mindset to ask yourself, ‘What can I take away from this? — something that is typically easier said than done in the heat of the moment, but a worthy ambition.
I also learned quickly that something will always inevitably go wrong — whether during new product development, planning a launch event, or shooting a campaign — nothing ever goes 100 percent smoothly. Once you accept that, it is much easier to focus on the solution rather than getting caught up in the problem.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first job out of college, I was working in Los Angeles as a Production Assistant on a television show. Predictably, one of my first tasks was to get ‘large containers of coffee’ for the staff. I went to Starbucks and returned with two large canisters of coffee grounds. The producer looked at me like I was crazy, clarifying that they wanted large containers of already made coffee. I was sent back out to right my wrong and remember feeling completely mortified that I had made such a silly mistake. Walking back into that room with fresh, hot, drinkable coffee in hand was daunting, but it taught me that 1. mistakes happen, 2. they are rarely the end of the world, and 3. the best thing you can do when they happen is to own them, solve them, and move on.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self regarding life lessons, things you would like her to know now, what would they be and why?
I think one of the hardest things in life is to have true, genuine clarity on what is important to you. There is so much noise about what one should need or want in order to feel fulfilled. I would advise my younger self to take the time to look inward and clarify my core values, absent from the noise, then seek and protect those things unapologetically.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One of the best things about working at VOSS is that it’s a small company, behind a large brand. Our awareness far surpasses our market share, so the company still functions as a startup in many ways. This, of course, comes with its challenges, but some of the most gratifying work we’ve done has been incredibly scrappy. Being creative out of necessity can produce some of the most interesting results. The marketing team is unafraid to test and learn, which I find quite unique and also very exciting — we are always looking for ways to ‘spend a little, and learn a lot.’
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I, like many people, felt that there is this expectation to know without question what you are meant to do in this world, when in reality, very few of our paths are linear. When I began my career, I remember feeling an intense need to know exactly where I was going, and unnecessary pressure to get there as quickly as possible. This outlook does not set anyone up for success. Without sounding painfully cliché, I would encourage my colleagues to embrace the process. Even when things are messy, which is most of the time, you are always learning, growing, and becoming a more compelling team member. I am also a strong believer in work/life balance. Take the moments you need to feel like yourself, to spend time with those you love, and to have meaningful life experiences. All of this will make you a stronger person, as well as a stronger professional.
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?
I had a boss early in my career from whom I learned a tremendous amount, both professionally and personally. He was an exceptional manager, and he taught me a lot about how to handle stress. We were working to launch a new brand and having to manage through a number of challenging situations. Throughout the process, regardless of how absurd some of those challenges became, he never took his stress out on the rest of the team, and he always maintained a sense of humor. This provided great motivation to work even harder to overcome those obstacles. It showed me the value of being someone with whom people enjoy working, and that kindness, humor and likeability pay dividends.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Recently, as the world has fallen on unprecedented times due to the global coronavirus pandemic, I had the opportunity to play a major role in developing a relief effort on behalf of VOSS. Working quickly, thoughtfully and cross functionally, VOSS has been able to deliver more than 700,000 bottles of water to first responders on the frontlines and others in need. As the crisis was initially unfolding, we weren’t certain whether VOSS had a place in the conversation, but it quickly became clear that not only could we help, but we had somewhat of a moral obligation to do so. The appreciation from first responders has been overwhelming, and the effort has been some of the most meaningful and fulfilling work I’ve done in my career.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started at my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Change is the only constant: Businesses and brands must evolve in order to succeed, and the same is true as it applies to your role. I came to VOSS during an inflection point, and there have been a number of shifts since I joined the organization. The role I accepted is a far cry from the work I am doing today, and I find myself looking back and marveling at how much has changed. Every company I’ve worked for has had these evolution’s, and learning to thrive amongst the chaos often uncovers opportunities for growth.
Do not underestimate the value of authentic brand equity:For the first 10 years of its existence, VOSS was only available in high-end restaurants and hotels, which is very unusual. Building the brand in this manner, instead of leveraging traditional marketing methods like systematic retail distribution, large scale advertising campaigns, and celebrity partners, created a level of equity that is incredibly powerful. It’s certainly not a quick or easy method, but being able to experience the resonance of the brand first-hand and how it emotionally connects to consumers has provided valuable insights that have helped me effectively do my job as a marketer.
You are ready: Opportunities were presented to me that I may not have been anticipating, but I quickly realized, like so many things in life, you jump in and learn by doing. Empowering and enabling my team, and learning from one another as we go, has been hugely gratifying and productive.
Don’t let budget constraints hinder big thinking: If an idea is worth funding, the money will come. You can always scale things back, so don’t be afraid to think big. With the right people, focused against the right initiatives, you will figure out a way to get it done.
You can never do it all: Working at a smaller company, with a leaner team and fewer resources, you must constantly prioritize, and doing so well is a key to success. Get clear on what will drive the most value in the organization, and focus yourself and your team against those deliverables. There will always be things that you can’t execute flawlessly, but you still need to get them done, and efficiency matters. Feeling comfortable with picking and choosing where to lean in, so that you can move quickly, is critical.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am a big believer in the power of authentic connection. Particularly in business, this can get lost, and we’re almost encouraged not to share too much of who we are. I think there’s a misconception that being genuine is in opposition with being professional, and we often forget that every business, and every brand, is powered by human beings. Making that human connection leads to breakthroughs, and I would encourage us to seek it out, rather than shy away from it, even in professional settings. Forging a connection with others is what life is all about.
How can our readers follow you on social media?