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Women Of The C-Suite: “Never drink your own Kool-Aid” With Andrea Brimmer CMO at Ally Financial

Never drink your own Kool-Aid — Don’t ever get too full of yourself or believe that you are bigger than the company or your team.


Never drink your own Kool-Aid — Don’t ever get too full of yourself or believe that you are bigger than the company or your team.


I had the pleasure to interview Andrea Brimmer. Andrea is the chief marketing and public relations officer of Ally Financial. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the company’s marketing and advertising strategies and ensuring they support the overall objectives of the organization. She is also responsible for market research initiatives and brand management. An industry thought leader, Brimmer was named to Ad Age’s “Women to Watch” list in 2018, won the Financial Communication Society’s Marketer of the Year award last year and was named to the Forbes list of the 50 Most Influential CMOs.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be in the advertising and marketing field. I was fascinated with how brands attracted customers and grew loyal followings. I knew I wanted to work for an iconic brand and have a hand in that. I went to Michigan State University and studied advertising. After graduation I only applied to jobs where I would be able to work with big brands that were shaped by their advertising. I ended up landing a dream job at an advertising agency working on Chevrolet. It was a perfect fit for me because not only did I love cars, but I was able to work with a major brand that has been defined by strong advertising and marketing. It combined my passions for advertising, branding and cars.

The opportunity to then go to Ally was a fabulous one because I was joining a 90 year old company that had been so influential in the U.S. economy. I was tasked with shaping it into something fresh and new with an entrepreneurial/start up mentality. The opportunity was so attractive to me because it would bring together all of my passions — marketing, advertising and shaping a brand.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting thing that has happened to me since I joined Ally is having the opportunity to become the CMO. I was charged with creating Ally’s first-ever unified brand campaign and worked to connect the dots between Ally’s existing products and new offerings. I was able to really help craft and shape the company’s brand narrative and image in the marketplace post IPO. Ally’s brand sentiment is now the highest in company history.

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?

One time when I was working on Chevrolet, I was heading to meet with a new client who was running all of the brand’s advertising. I arrived in the meeting room and started talking about how nervous I was to meet this new client. I had heard a lot about him! Little did I know, the client was actually already in the room. I had no idea it was him. It was so embarrassing! I learned to never assume, always ask questions and ensure you know your audience.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Ally stand out is our laser and unrelenting focus on the customer. The customer is at the core of who we are and everything we do. Ally was born in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. When you have a strong vision and a core mission that resonates with consumers, you can become successful.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re working on some very exciting projects. A big thing we’re focusing on is an all new campaign effort for “Do It Right,” our company brand philosophy, that will launch later this year. We also just onboarded all new agencies and bringing this new campaign together will be our first big job together. I’m excited about this because I think the work will inspire people to be more mindful about their money and live a life with a higher purpose.


What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Being a female leader is hard because it’s full of challenges and multitasking. First and foremost you have to never give up and keep pushing on. You have to understand that it’s ok not to be perfect at everything. You should focus on the things that are most important to those in your life who matter most. Have the self-awareness to know that you can’t be all things to all people, but you can focus on what’s the most important to the people in your life at the right time.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

It is important to find good leaders that you can depend on. They should think similar to you in culture, work/life balance and other important issues. Try to surround yourself with amazing people who inspire you. I also think it’s important to operate an open door policy and let your team know that you care about them as people. If they feel motivated they’ll run through walls for you, but you need to make it authentic and real. You need to take care of culture first and everything else will take care of itself.

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?

So many people have helped me in all different ways throughout my life. My parents have always been there to help me when things get hard. They were wonderful with taking care of my children when I was a working single mother and they have always been there for me. Professionally I’ve had great mentors, including people at Ally like Jeff Brown (JB) Ally’s CEO. He has given me autonomy and taught me about the importance of culture. Diane Morais, the President of Consumer & Commercial Banking Products at Ally Bank, has been a huge mentor to me as well. She’s been a wonderful sounding board, business partner and a great friend. She understands what I’m going through because she is someone with an equally demanding job and home life. It’s helpful to have someone who understands.


How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to use my platform as a female executive to really focus on the issues facing women in business today. I work to set an example for younger women who are coming up in business. I also focus on how to create gender equality, pay equality and be an example of a successful woman in the business world. I truly believe in the quote that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” and I’ve chosen to accept the responsibility, very deeply, that I am a women who can help others.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why.

Never drink your own Kool-Aid — Don’t ever get too full of yourself or believe that you are bigger than the company or your team.

Good is the enemy of great — Don’t settle to just be “good,” it’s too easy to do that. Push yourself and your team. In pushing for great things is where you find the exceptional.

Strong body = strong mind — Take care of yourself. You are sharper at work and produce better results when you take care of yourself physically. Make sure you keep up with exercise, sleep and eating right.

Always put your family first — Family is the one constant in your life and the most important thing. Jobs come and go but family never does. Find the ways to remember what’s important to them and put them first. I’ve gone through personal hardship when I’ve forgotten to do this.

Culture matters — People want to work at a company where values are important and they align with the way things are done. People also want to work at a company that places an emphasis on work / life balance, to the extent it can be achieved. Companies also need to do good in the world. It isn’t enough anymore to just make money and take money; companies should have a purpose and leaders need to drive this purpose. Culture makes a huge difference and is critically important.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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’m really saddened by the amount of hatred and division in the world right now. I think it’s so unnecessary. There are all kinds of people that make the world go around, and it’s easy to be kind and accepting of other points of view, even if you don’t agree with them. I would like to inspire others to just follow the golden rule and do it right.


Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love the quote “The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose is to give it away.” As I’ve gotten older this is something that I have learned to appreciate more. I realize that it isn’t ok to be selfish with that purpose; we all have a higher calling and the notion of giving it away is very important.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://twitter.com/andreabrimmer

https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrea-brimmer-a4345a68/

Originally published at medium.com

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