GainShare: transparency and accountability in performance
With a career spanning over 30 years, Bryan Walkey is the CEO of GainShare Performance Marketing. “I joined the firm full-time four years ago, but I've had an association as an advisor to the firm for over 30 years. Before joining as a partner and CEO, I had worked with Gainshare to coordinate teams and delivery in both Toronto and Chicago. The goal today is to drive seamless delivery and results across teams, tactics, and markets.”
Known as Northern Lights Direct for more than 35 years, the company recently rebranded as GainShare Performance Marketing. “We started in DRTV, and so we felt it best to change our brand name to better represent who we are today. We now do so much more than direct response TV. As a performance marketer, we coordinate the customer journey across all channels, and we wanted to ensure we showcased that scope.”
GainShare’s relationship with GoDaddy
Discussing GainShare’s partnership with GoDaddy, Walkey explains, “GoDaddy is a performance culture, and they're looking for a high return on their ad spend, and we help them accomplish that and acquire customers in the most efficient way possible. We provide strategy, media planning, buying, optimization, and analytics. We work with a number of their teams, including performance & brand video, creative and business intelligence.”
“With GoDaddy, it is truly a collaborative effort. We feel like we're part of their team. Because they're a performance-driven company, they hold us to account every day, every week, and every month. We're in contact with them multiple times a day, measuring daily and continually optimizing. At the end of the day, it is all about performance,” he adds.
What makes GainShare different from its competitors?
“As a performance marketer, we provide transparency, accountability, and we're driving return on investment, return on ad spend,” begins Walkey. “There's been a lot of moaning in the marketing community about procurement driving the price to zero. Well, we believe it’s essential to drive the cost of marketing and investments directly to the bottom line. We are excited to work with CMOs, CFOs, and Procurement equally because we're focused on business outcomes,” he continues.
“We talk about return on investment, return on ad spend, we profess transparency and accountability, all things that resonate with both procurement and finance. We deal with the marketing team on the things that are important to them. And we plan and answer procurement on the things that are important to them as well. So, it's a true business relationship.”
GainShare’s company culture
Walkey describes GainShare’s company culture as “dynamic” and acknowledges the role diversity has in the organization. “We have two offices, one in Chicago and one in Toronto, and we are so fortunate that 19 different cultures are represented here. Diversity has not necessarily been a conscious effort because it’s just who we are, who we have always been, and we are a better organization because of our diversity.”
Part of the culture of GainShare is about being grateful for what we have and for giving back to the communities where we live. Walkey details two initiatives that he believes do just that. “One of our initiatives is dealing with food insecurity in marginalized communities. And in a city like Chicago, particularly in certain neighborhoods, there is limited access to grocery stores and fresh fruit and vegetables. That's what is called a food desert. As a result, people get their food from bodegas and corner stores, which then results in exacerbating underlying health conditions to already vulnerable communities, often making them even more adversely affected by COVID 19. So we've partnered with a group called Feeding Chicago Families that supports local grocery stores in a vulnerable neighborhood, including providing fresh food baskets for families in need.
“Then, in the long term, we have focused on education initiatives supporting students from marginalized communities, either through bursaries or internships, and giving them opportunities they might not otherwise get. We feel we can have a meaningful impact in our communities.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.