Silver Apples 2019

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Meet the DMCNY 2019 Silver Apple Honorees

By Emily Blumenfield | 10.24.19

Each year the DMCNY presents its highly distinguished Silver Apple Awards to several professionals who have at least 25 years in marketing and who not only have excelled in their careers, but also have generously contributed their talents and time to the marketing industry. We'll be introducing you to the 2019 honorees over the next few weeks, in advance of DMCNY's annual Silver Apples gala on November 7 at Edison Ballroom in New York. 


Carl Horton, Jr. 

Associate Partner, Digital Strategy, IBM

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Plenty of marketers claim to be customer centric. Carl Horton Jr. actually is. In fact, the desire to understand people and meet their needs is what drew Horton to marketing more than 25 years ago. It’s no wonder he specializes in designing and executing customer experience solutions and strategies. And Horton readily shares his expertise. He has advised Fortune 500 companies on everything from loyalty programs and business-to-business CRM to artificial intelligence and mobile-centric strategy.


Before joining IBM, Horton served as vice president and global lead for consumer and small business CRM for Dell. Prior to that he was co-leader of Accenture’s North America Loyalty & Rewards practice.

Horton’s focus on people extends outside the office. He is deeply involved in community service and blends his personal and professional passions when he can. In one case, he used advanced analytics to help significantly curb gun violence in three Connecticut cities. He received a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Attorney, as a result.


In a conversation with MKTGinsight for DMCNY, Horton shared some career history, advice, and insights.


What initially drew you to marketing?

I'm passionate about people and was a double major — in economics and political science — because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I took a year to teach at an inner-city school in Washington, D.C. after college, and then accepted an offer from Bain & Company. I worked in several different areas and found that I loved being able to understand people’s needs. That was what drew me to community service and politics, and drew me to marketing.


At the time, Fred Reichheld was building the concept of customer retention. I worked on several important projects where we started doing segmentation to understand why different groups were churning or defecting from a company. I had great interest in and passion for understanding their reasoning, and then communicating a message tailored to a customer’s specific needs, whether it was regarding pricing or service or product. 


Tell us about a career highlight or turning point.

One big moment was working at J.Crew back in the early 2000s as vice president of strategy, helping them build out new concepts. I worked on growing the catalog, opening stores, and going on the Internet. I also had a chance to design and do a lot of the work for the kids' business, which was relatively new at the time. That evolved into CrewCuts, which was really exciting and is something I'm very proud of.


What excites you most about marketing right now?

I would say the ability to actually execute against the dream: We've been talking personalization and mass customization, real-time personalized customer experiences, as well as real-time trigger marketing for a long time. But what we've actually had is tailored marketing by segments. So, I’m excited by the ability to leverage AI and machine learning in real time to identify insights, identify customer trends, and then automate responses to customers in real time.


Delivering real-time personalized customer experiences is now possible, versus the vision of it or the aspiration and it's really exciting.


Share a treasured customer story.

This is more of a friend story… I was the head of CRM at Lord & Taylor and Harte Hanks was my vendor. The folks at Harte Hanks kept saying, "There's this guy you've got to meet; you would just love him." And I said, “Why is it that I would love to meet this guy? Is it because he's black?” But they're like, "No, no, no. You guys will totally get along."


So, they finally introduced us, and we did have a lot in common. It turns out, for example, that I had gone to Yale undergrad, he went to Yale grad school, and were in the same fraternity. We have become incredibly tight ever since we met in 2008, all because this person took the initiative to make the introduction. It really got me to step back and say, "Hey, they were right." I'm so glad they introduced us. I’m so appreciative and indebted. 


Tell us a favorite story about data.

I was on the team doing personalization work at Dell. Dell had been doing a great deal of broad-based marketing, mostly above-the-line and catalog work. I got to come in and help build an incredible foundation to then drive towards personalization.


We created tailored catalogs and personalized lifecycle marketing, among other initiatives. One thing we did was leverage web spiders to determine which small businesses were growing. The spiders would go into job websites like to see which companies had a significant number of new job postings. We’d then take that data and market to those companies specifically. Our numbers grew dramatically, especially in China, because of tools like that.


What's your go-to marketing metric?

I'd say the biggest one is response rates. It’s simple but, if people are responding, whether it's clicking through or buying or engaging with your marketing materials, that means you've done it right: you've identified the customer, you've got them at the time of need, you've got the right message and the right product to get them to respond. And then, of course, there’s lots of data you can track to get more specific. 


What advice do you have for someone who's just starting out in marketing?

Listen. Listen to the people who've been doing this. Listen to the people behind you who are young and have crazy ideas. Listen to your customer. Listen when your customers don't respond to better understand why they didn't. 

Don't be in meetings just waiting for that pause to jump in and give your response. Be an active listener.


What was the best piece of business advice that you received? 

“It's 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Everybody has gotten beat up in life. But those who keep getting back up and persevering are the ones who get to that next level. Success isn’t just about talent, it's not just about that great idea; it's about perspiration and perseverance.


Share an inspiring quote or personal motto that guides you.

It's in many ways it's the Golden Rule. One reason I connect with people is that I like sharing knowledge. I'm not a game player. I'm probably too nice a boss. But I believe in the idea of, do unto others as you want them to do to you — to make every effort to treat people with respect, to treat them like a grownup, and to treat them the way that I would want to be treated. 


What's something surprising about you? 

I ran for political office back in 2002–2003, so service is my first love. But speaking in front of large groups of people used to panic me. I've learned to manage that panic over time because I realized that people were there for positive reasons and they’ve come to hear you speak.


What are a few of your interests outside work? 

First and foremost are my kids. I just love watching them do their thing — from seeing their musicals to watching them play in their high school band. Also, travel. I’ve had the opportunity to go to a number of cities around the world, mostly for work, but when I can I bring my wife or spend some extra time in a city.


What's your hidden skill? 

I grew up playing tennis. I played four years of varsity in high school, and then I played at Yale. And I used to coach tennis during the summer in high school. I even went to [tennis coach] Nick Bollettieri's IMG Academy and played there for a while. So, I was a pretty serious tennis guy growing up.

Meet the other 2019 DMCNY Silver Apple honorees:

  • Gretchen Littlefield, CEO, Moore DM Group 

  • Joe Pych, Cofounder and CEO, Bionic Advertising Systems, and Founder and CEO, NextMark 

  • Britt Vatne, President, Data Management, ALC 

  • 2019 Apple of Excellence, Advocacy: 
    Tony Hadley, Senior Vice President, Regulation & Public Policy, Experian

  • 2019 Apple of Excellence Disruptor: 
    Mayur Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, Freshly

  • Corporate Golden Apple: 
    Marketing EDGE

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About the Author

Emily Blumenfield is a writer for DMCNY. Outside the association, she specializes in creative writing and slightly dark stories — having been heavily influenced by authors such as Agatha Christie and Neil Gaiman, as well as her favorite video games and comics. She uses those influences to create pieces that stand out for their offbeat humor and unique ideas.

Find her on LinkedIn.