What first drew you to the marketing industry? What has motivated you to stay in marketing for the past 40 years?
When I first started my career 40 years ago, I did not know I wanted to go into marketing. I got a job at Procter & Gamble because I needed a job while I was going to law school at the University of Puerto Rico. However, there was a strike at the University, so the school closed for 11 months. This was when I had the opportunity to reflect on what I really wanted in my career. Because I was enjoying my job at Procter & Gamble, I continued to stay in marketing. There were moments in my career where different companies wanted to move me to general management on the path to become CEO, but I stayed in marketing because I enjoyed it so much.
I love the analytical side of marketing, trying to figure out why consumers do what they do. What are their motivations, aspirations, and fears? There is also a beautiful creative side of marketing where you translate your insights into meaningful experiences that will delight the consumer. Finally, I love that global marketing allows you to experience firsthand the cultures and histories you learn about in the classroom.
How has the marketing industry changed throughout your career? Where do you see the industry headed, especially with the growing importance of data and analysis?
There are two worlds in marketing: one is the consumer goods world, where analytics was always part of the equation, and the other is everything outside of the consumer goods world, like tech and financial services. The main difference now is there is much more data available. Outside of the consumer goods world, there had previously been a divorce between analytics and creativity, which is now being integrated once again.
You cannot do marketing nowadays unless you have a balanced, renaissance mind of analytics and creativity. I am encouraged by the new generation because they are balanced from the get-go. If someone would have asked Leonardo da Vinci if he was an artist or a scientist, he would not have known what to say. I think that should be the present and future.
What are your thoughts on privacy and marketing?
With everything related to science and technology, the offering always goes before people’s ability to understand the good, the bad, the ugly, and the extraordinary because of the speed of innovation that is occurring nowadays. The law of unintended consequences applies now more than ever.
I fundamentally believe that if many services continue to be free – which, from my perspective, need to be free for a lot of the world’s population – the exchange will be that consumers provide some data. The big caveat is that consumers should be given a choice, and they should also own their own data. Hypertargeting is a good thing, as long as you have consent.
As someone who has been continuously dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout your career, and now through your 5S Diversity consultancy, where do you often see companies struggling in terms of diversity and inclusion?
Companies struggle with everything because it’s hard work! The business case for diversity has been proven time and time again. This work requires a systemic and holistic change, and you need to work on everything at the same time; it cannot be sequential or it will take three decades.
You need to develop pipelines that may be coming from nontraditional places. Once you bring people in, you must make sure you nourish them the right way, that you’re training them on the functional and leadership side, that they have a community of people inside and outside of the company, that they have mentors, and that they have company sponsors who can advocate for them. Finally, what drives disruptive innovation is conflict. Therefore, you have to create an environment where conflict is encouraged because that leads to better solutions and more innovation.
You also need to develop metrics to see how the work is going. For inclusion, there are a variety of metrics to consider. The end goal is to see whether the marketing campaigns speak to consumers of different communities. In order to trigger that end goal, you need to look within the company to evaluate inclusion by seeing whether employees have a sense of belonging at the company and whether they intend to stay at the company for the next three to five years.
What is a piece of advice you would give students interested in marketing careers?
Make sure you balance the quantitative with the creative side of the brain. Because of the amount of data and channels available, I am encouraged by the more quantitative focus the discipline has assumed over the years. However, I am also worried because the problems that brands need to fix today and in the future are about issues of trust. This requires humanism and answering fundamental questions about reality and life. How can we continue to deliver these offerings while respecting privacy? This goes beyond STEM, and society needs to address these questions. We need to bring STEM and humanism together. Without that bridge, we will continue to create offerings that have unintended consequences.
If you could take any course at Yale, what would you want to focus on?
Any course taught by Rodrigo Canales. I went through a little of his innovation course, and he’s an amazing human being and teacher, so I would take anything that he teaches.
What is your social media platform of choice?
I use them all for different reasons. I use WhatsApp to communicate with my international friends about our soccer teams. I try to keep up with my daughter on Instagram. I’m on TikTok when having fun with my younger nephews. I keep in touch with my high school friends on Facebook. I use Twitter for news, and I also use LinkedIn.
What is something that makes you hopeful about the future?
The Aspen Institute, Yale SOM, and 5S Diversity created a project called LEAP, Leadership Empowerment Acceleration Project, for 44 senior leaders from 11 different industries. 75% are women and 60% are people of color. They all directly report to the CMO or just a level below and have 15 to 20 years of experience. I mentor each of these individuals, and I am hopeful for this next generation of leaders because they lead with the right balance of humanism and science.