Silver Apples 2019
Meet the DMCNY 2019 Silver Apple Honorees
By Emily Blumenfield | 11.2.19
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.
Chief Marketing Officer, Freshly
Mayur Gupta is a marketing trailblazer. Throughout his career, he’s looked for unique and creative ways to use technology to support marketing. That approach led to his appointment as the first chief marketing technologist at Kimberly Clark — and, in fact, one of the first in that role for any company — responsible for all digital and e-commerce capabilities.
As CMO of Healthgrades, Gupta drove its digital transformation, activating one of the largest digital platforms in healthcare. And while serving as vice president for growth and marketing at Spotify, he helped the company fully integrate its marketing ecosystem. Earlier in his career, he led client engagements — conceptualizing, building, and delivering multichannel capabilities designed to help change consumer behaviors and drive business growth — as technology director, martech and strategy, for SapientNitro. These successes led to Gupta
being recognized as one of BrandInnovators’ “40 Under 40” and receiving the CMO Programmatic Marketing Award, among other honors.
In a conversation with MKTGinsight for DMCNY, Gupta shared some career history, advice, and insights.
What initially drew you to marketing?
It was rather accidental. I started my career as an engineer — writing code, working as the Unix admin, etcetera — until I got the opportunity to lead product development for an adtech platform we had acquired. I was at SapientNitro at the time. That was my entry into the world of marketing and advertising, which lead to a very basic understanding of marketing at the time. After that, I ran production studios and marketing strategy. The tipping point for me was, after 12 years at SapientNitro, I joined Kimberly-Clark as its chief marketing technologist.
Since then I've taken baby steps more and more towards the center of marketing. It's been a fun and quite unusual journey from engineering to marketing. Thankfully, marketing itself has evolved dramatically in the last 10 years or so, which has given someone like me a chance to call myself a marketer — at least every now and then.
Tell us about a career highlight or turning point.
One highlight was moving from pure technology to building products for marketing and advertising.
But, as I said, the tipping point was when I joined Kimberly-Clark, a Fortune 100 CPG, leading digital and e-commerce as its chief marketing technologist. It truly made me realize that it was the application of technology and data that changed human lives. It wasn't the existence of tech, but how well we apply it.
Why is being a disruptor important to you?
When those tipping points happened, I realized I could actually have a point of view; I could have a perspective. I also realized that what gave me confidence was that no perspective was right or wrong, as long as you had one.
That also gave me the desire to keep challenging my own thinking. What you want isn't static. That's why, what excites me about having moved across four different jobs in 20 years is the appetite to throw myself into something that I've never done before.
I have seen how failures have helped me through my career and that has removed the fear of failing anywhere in the future — because I believe that, even if I fail, it's going to take me leaps and bounds farther forward than if I had just stayed where I was.
What excites you most about marketing right now?
It’s the nuances of blending art and science to prove why a purpose-driven brand is much more than just talk or aesthetics. It's truly a reflection of who you are as a company and why you exist. A true mission-led brand, and the brand building for it, is owned by every single function and every person in the organization, not just marketing.
There is a constant battle between growth and brand at many companies today. My firm belief is they are not isolated; they amplify each other. It's not an either/or. If you leverage one of them as a company, you can grow. But if you truly want to change the world and grow and scale as an organization that is impacting millions of lives, then you have to invest in both the underlying brand — that emotional and cultural connection — while investing in data and science and technology to bring those people home, which is performance marketing.
Share a treasured customer story.
Four months into my job at Freshly, my coworker Ashley shared a video sent in by a customer. These videos aren’t solicited; they’re one way our customers submit their stories and feedback.
This particular individual, a young woman, had been struggling with her health, and as a result, her self-belief and confidence. She had been using Freshly for a while and shared a self-recorded video from her phone about the positive impact our meals were having. I could see firsthand how Freshly had changed her life, how we enabled and inspired that journey, and that person now truly felt beautiful and confident in the way she was.
That to me was absolutely inspiring and reinforced our mission. It also reinforced my decision to come to Freshly. When you see that, you truly get goosebumps.
Share a favorite data story.
Many years back, at Kimberly-Clark, I was part of the team working on an incontinence brand. We had started the category, so we had seen tremendous growth. But, eventually, it started to slow down. We needed to figure out if the product was wrong or we didn't have a product-market fit, or something was missing. So, we invested in behavioral science to truly understand the why behind the what.
We learned that we were selling this product in retail aisles, but there was a lot of stigma associated with the category. People did not want to be seen buying that product. That led us to totally change the marketing strategy to focus on removing that stigma and making the product a part of life. Also, from a business model standpoint, that led the company to launch a direct-to-consumer brand, so we removed friction through a subscription model where, once you kicked it off, you never had to go back to an aisle to shop for it.
What's your go-to marketing metric?
There’s a plethora, but there's one I can really vouch for now: customer acquisition costs to lifetime revenue ratio. We’re not calling it lifetime value because, from a marketing standpoint, we don't want to bring too many factors into … how we determine lifetime value.
We believe that no matter what we do, no matter how much we invest in our brand and our purpose and our mission, as long as we are holding ourselves accountable to bringing in higher-quality users who, ultimately, bring more value to the company — even if we have to pay more to bring in that user — we are succeeding. Because if you don't bring in high-value customers, you bleed twice. If you bring in someone who never ought to be here, you bleed first to entice them to come through, and then you bleed again to continue to try and keep them.
What's one piece of advice for someone just starting out in marketing?
Be a disruptor; challenge the status quo.
Marketing is not the same as it was five years back and it won't be the same 12 months from now. Consumer behavior and expectations are constantly evolving — and a marketer's role, and their DNA, and their skillset are … also ever-evolving in this consumer-led era.
But, remember, one thing that will never change about marketing is it will always be about people, it will always about humans first. As marketers, we can never forget to put the human at the center of our ecosystem.
What was the best piece of business advice that you received?
I did not receive it personally — which would have been awesome, because I would have met Albert Einstein — but there is one quote that I will never forget, especially as a technologist and engineer: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't know it well enough."
That quote taught me that the biggest mission you have as a change agent is to drive influence, and the only way to drive influence is if you're able to articulate the complexity to yourself and make it as simple as possible to others.
Do you have either a personal motto or an inspiring quote that guides you?
I practice Nichiren Buddhism and my mentor is Japanese philosopher Daisaku Ikeda. What I've learned from him is the meaning of victory.
Victory is not about crossing the line; it’s about not being defeated. I try to live that every single day, having learned that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. There's a lot of joy in that battle of life.
It's a process where you elevate your positive forces every day in the morning before you go out, and then you come back and take time to appreciate what you have.
What's something surprising about you?
Even though I'm a marketer, I’m a bit of an introvert and very much a family person, so it's tough for me to make new friends. I am social once I've unlocked, but it takes me a while to unlock and break the ice.
What are a few of your interests outside work?
My life revolves around the three women in my life: my wife and my two daughters. We all love to play tennis — that would be my number one sport. I couldn't choose between the two, so I made sure that my girls play also tennis; that way, I can do both at the same time.
Cricket has been a lifelong passion. I'm also a big movie buff. I love watching movies. These days I have a renewed interest in reading books on Audible.
What's your hidden skill?
I used to be an artist, I used to draw a lot of sketches, especially pencil sketches. I drew a self-sketch [when I was young], and my dad still has it, framed. Then I started sketching my brother and my mom and dad. I would love to bring it back someday and draw my two daughters and my wife.
Meet the other 2019 DMCNY Silver Apple honorees:
Carl Horton Jr., Associate Partner, IBM
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
Corporate Golden Apple:
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.