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Getting to Know: Coleen Kuehn, Chief Media Officer

Coleen Kuehn has been listed as Ad Age’s Women to Watch — having served as the president of Media.com; executive director at MediaCom; executive vice president at Havas; president of client leadership at MediaVest, and now leading Merkle’s media solutions as chief media officer. Her experience with brands such as Coca-Cola, American Express, Walmart, Yahoo!, NBCUniversal, Exxon Mobil, and Volvo barely scratch the surface of her expertise across industries.

Merkle's Chief Media Officer, Coleen Kuehn

Why did you want to work in marketing?

My curiosity in human beings is what led me to marketing. I’ve always been intrigued by how people make decisions and by understanding what motivates them. I found human decisioning and psychology to be at the crux of marketing and just followed my passion from there. Not only was I able to work in an area of interest, but I could use my interest to provide insights to brands, helping them to navigate their customers and the market more effectively.

What was your journey to an executive role?

I believe there were three key things that helped in my career growth, (1) a focus on product development, (2) my early understanding of digital, and (3) my willingness to take risks.

  1. Product Development: When I first finished my studies, I was most interested in new product development within marketing. I found a company, American Express, that allowed me to jump into product development at the start of my career whereas other companies required a few years of experience. I learned how to figure out difficult problems early on.
  2. Digital Understanding: With the same company, I then started helping with online properties and learning how to build a website for new services (e.g., travel, financial services). As it turns out, I found that product development was meeting the internet of things, and I was one of few people that understood the role of digital within the marketing landscape – there were only a handful digital pioneers in those earlier days.
  3. Taking Risks: I also learned how to take risks early. While I was at MediaCom, I stepped out a bit to help start Media.com which was a big risk at the time but then led to work for me to help bring P&G brands online for the first time. That essentially led me to a career in the agency world. Without the initial risk taking, I would have never landed where I did.

What advice do you have for people that want to get into marketing?

There are four suggestions I’d have for folks looking to get into marketing:

  1. Find your passion: Marketing provides opportunities in analytics, media, strategy, product development, research, sales and several other areas. Find your passion and work to build your skillsets.
  2. Find an Internship:  Research opportunities with local companies you’re passionately interested in. Seek out internship positions. I did an internship as a paralegal and learned I didn’t want to do it.
  3. Find Shadowing Opportunities: I was with Walmart one day and we had a college student shadowing my client, attending every meeting – can you imagine the value they got in one day? This approach can be both interesting and extremely valuable.
  4. Find time for Advertising Week: Sign up for advertising week. It is the highest return on investment for anyone interested in marketing. The content, the conversations, and the relationships and networking can be powerful. They’ve priced tickets to be accessible at all levels (check out pricing here).

What do you see coming that will disrupt the market?

Conversation commerce and voice search. I think it’s going to dramatically change the market. Think about this, if I ask Google for the nearest Italian restaurant near me, it only comes up with one option. What does this mean to marketers? You must be #1 in search results, and with the growth of voice, in time, it’s going to change the way we work. Think about it even now, I have increased my productivity on the way to work, I can transcribe a whole set of meetings notes via voice command. It’s powerful.

What good books would you recommend? (business and pleasure)

Business Books:

Non-business: I don’t read fiction. The truth is stranger than fiction.

  • Anything by Ralph Waldo Emerson – (e.g., his essays on self-reliance)
  • I love Mark Twain and when he said, “I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have time”

What do you like to do for fun?

When I am not working I enjoy traveling with my kids for their soccer games. I play tennis or really any racquet sport ... I especially enjoy beating Adam Lavelle at ping pong. I like to go on walks with my rescue dog to relax – I don’t bring my phone, I just relax and go on a walk in the arboretum.

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