Marisa Thalberg is an executive with a remarkably varied background: She worked in the beauty business at Estee Lauder before switching to fast food, where she helped Taco Bell achieve record sales. She’s currently in the home-improvement space as EVP and Chief Brand & Marketing Officer at Lowes.
On the latest episode of the podcast Math & Magic: Stories from the Frontiers of Marketing, hosted by iHeartMedia Chairman and CEO Bob Pittman, Thalberg reveals her secret sauce: creativity.
“I think all those [experiences] have taught me how to really lead with an agile mind and connect dots that aren’t obvious,” she says. “I think that’s one of the greatest joys I’ve found as my career has progressed as a marketer and as a leader. When you’ve just done the same thing your whole career, you have a lot of expertise. But it doesn’t necessarily give you other perspectives that allow you to view the world in a different way.”
She also explains to Pittman how writing plays as a second-grader shaped her schooling, why she started the “Executive Moms” blog, and the reason she’s long championed audio as a vital marketing tool.
Thalberg also discusses one of her greatest achievements to date — which is still playing out in real-time: the performance of Lowe’s amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As much of the American retail industry recoils from the economic trauma, Lowe’s has enjoyed recent analyst upgrades and a 10% year-to-date rise in its stock price. One key to that success in undoubtedly radio: Lowe’s was the fifth-largest advertiser on the medium over the past two years, based on spot volume, with 1.4 million airings in 2019.
But from Thalberg’s point of view, you might say it’s a matter of math… and magic — namely, the ability to keep her fingers on the pulse of American consumers.
“There are tons of data sources, and we’re absolutely looking at all those,” she says. “But I think part of the reason we’re in our roles is because you’d better have a certain intuition and instinct for how this is all playing out, and from the signals you’re just seeing in culture, in media. You’ve got to put that all together to be able to make decisions in the moment, which is really what we were doing.”