Photo of Mindy Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships and Marketing at Marvel Studios
Mindy Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships and Marketing at Marvel Studios

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How leaders from Marvel, M&Ms, Cheetos, Porsche and more keep their teams flowing


Published on April 04, 2019

Building a brand takes a massive amount of teamwork. And if your brand becomes a cultural icon, customers come to feel like part of the team as they grow to feel ownership of the brand identity. So how do the teams that built the brands work together to maintain those avid customer relationships?

As they prepared for The Gathering, leaders from some of the world’s best-known companies shared how they cultivate collaboration and create long-term customer loyalty. Here’s what they had to say.

Marvel Studios: Broadening your channels

Mindy Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships and Marketing at Marvel Studios, says having a wide range of platforms—ABC, ESPN, parks, consumer products, new-media, digital, social—creates a unique opportunity to collaborate across the company.

“We have these baked in the lines of businesses and platforms that are all acting in concert to rise all boats… I think a key point for partnerships is collaboration. It's not just with the brand and our fans. It is very much collaboration internally. Whether it is with Parks, if it's our TV partners, PR, digital, experiential—we are constantly pulling everybody together.”
—Mindy Hamilton

Cheetos: Connecting on a human level first

Jennifer Saenz, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Cheetos, says she fosters collaboration on her team by connecting with people on a human level. She starts meetings by encouraging them to talk about what’s going on in their lives outside of work, and strives to create an environment that allows them to keep learning from the outside.

“We do a lot of case studies and bringing in people from the outside, bringing in media partners to talk about work they've done with other companies. It's easy to get stuck in your own world, or your own bubble and think only about our brands and the way that we operate, but there's so much to be said for stepping back and looking a bit more broadly at the world.”
—Jennifer Saenz

M&M’s: Drawing inspiration from diversity 

Nils Weigelt, Global Brand Director at M&M, says his team draws inspiration from their diverse backgrounds and influences to create something new, creative, and different.

“I truly believe that the individual has to be happy in the first place before you start collaboration… When you're together with creative people, there's a lot of laughter, there's a lot of fun on the table, because the stories that are being told are just exciting for everybody. That's where one leads to another and where you're creating some kind of innovation atmosphere that gives the possibility of creating something new.”—Nils Weigelt

Porsche: Encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset

Scott Baker, Director of Marketing Communications at Porsche, says fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in his organization helps individuals step up and fill the void if an employee leaves or an agency relationship changes. When faced with resource-related setbacks, he relies on people who are willing to get “out of their lane” in support of others. 

“From a company standpoint, things are very strong. Our sales are at the strongest they've ever been. It's making sure that with the limited resources that we have, when there's a hole in one space, that we have people that are going to march forward [and fill it].”
—Scott Baker

The North Face: Creating a culture of accountability

Tom Herbst, Head of Global Marketing at The North Face, says he believes in driving collaboration by giving his team freedom to take action, then holding them accountable for their deliverable. He says this encourages them to reach out to other people for help. 

“We don't really think of ourselves as the marketing team. We think of ourselves as a team of people that are helping to build The North Face culture and tell North Face stories. We have the benefit of having a beautiful campus that really brings our brand to life. It's full of outdoor spaces. You'll see our tents and our products set up all the time. I encourage my team to get out of our space and spend time with the people who are making the product so they understand the stories from the beginning. I think what drives collaboration in our team is sort of the cross-pollination with the other parts of the business.”—Tom Herbst

YETI: Creating a culture of perpetual learning

Bill Neff, Marketing Director at YETI, believes in creating a learning atmosphere where open dialogue encourages the individuals who are “running their routes”  to come back together in a huddle and get on the same page.

“For us, collaboration comes with people wanting to talk about things with other people. There's specializations within the marketing department. We have our media planner. We have our in-house producer. We have our photo editor. We have all these people that do these different things. Our creative department, our copywriters, they aren't writing in a bubble. They're working with our sports marketing, our community marketing team to make sure that when we communicate that we're communicating correctly.”
—Bill Neff

For more ideas on keeping your team in flow, download our tips guide, From Friction to Flow.