Dropbox’s Head Of Global Customer Marketing Talks Agency Partnerships, CMO Churn & “A More Enlightened Way Of Working”

Dropbox’s Head Of Global Customer Marketing Talks Agency Partnerships, CMO Churn & “A More Enlightened Way Of Working”

B&T had the pleasure of recently going one on one with the delightful Bree Bunzel, head of global customer marketing at Dropbox. We fired plenty of questions her way and, as you’ll discover, she handled each one with aplomb…

B&T: How did you get into marketing? What made you decide to become a marketer?

Bree Bunzel: I grew up with a market researcher father and graphic designer mother, so I’d like to think I had a bit of a head start living with both business and creative minds. I studied journalism at uni and took on a role at the student newspaper selling advertising space (yep, old school print!), and it was there that I started to understand and appreciate the importance of understanding your customer audience, your message and creative.

During my last year of school, I applied for a marketing rotational development program at a tech company called Intuit QuickBooks, where you had the opportunity to rotate and test drive four different marketing roles across various business units. It was this low-risk environment to fully explore distinct roles in product marketing, product management and brand and advertising. I love being the connector in my personal and professional life, and I found joy in being the cross-functional glue across projects and meeting so many talented people across the business. I was fascinated by the blend of business strategy, creativity, human behaviour and psychology, and I was fortunate to learn from smart, empathetic female leaders that inspired me so early on in my career.

B&T: What would you be doing if you weren’t a marketer?

BB: I would be a professional food critic and business advisor, visiting all the hot up and coming restaurants around the world, listening to their business plans while tasting the chef’s latest take on a re-imagined Korean bibimpap – think Shark Tank meets Chef’s Table. I’d advise them on how to best position and market themselves, while also helping them build a bigger community of like-minded founders to support each other. I guess all that eating would add up, so to balance the yin with some yang, I’d probably also have to do this for hot new fitness studios as well.

B&T: What do you love most about marketing, and what do you like least?

BB: I just started reading the book Range, which makes the argument for generalists versus specialists, and I always had a chip on my shoulder that I was constantly changing roles within the marketing organisation. I felt like I was wearing so many hats and was self-conscious about not being an expert in any one topic. Over time, I realised the advantages of not only having the opportunity to learn so many types of marketing, but also the benefit of having a diverse background to help you become a more well-rounded leader. I would say what I thought was my least favourite part of marketing became something I learned to love. My favourite part of marketing is the very cross-functional nature of the role. I find joy in learning and talking to people from diverse backgrounds, making me not only a better marketer, but a better business leader and citizen of the world.

B&T: What attracted you to work at Dropbox?

BB: I’m a loyalist in both my personal and professional life. I turn over every possible stone before I decide to move on, for better or worse. At the time, Dropbox was the company I didn’t know I needed. While on one hand I thought I was happy at my current company, being recently promoted and in a good groove, on the other hand I realised I had known the company so well after 6.5 years that I was comfortable. Deep down, I knew there was more for me elsewhere. Dropbox had reached out, and during my entire interview process, I was impressed by the people, the passion and the culture of the office. The team was small, scrappy and bold. I also loved the Asians@ ERG group there and immediately had both my Sydney and Asians@ community to lean on and learn from.

Dropbox has historically been known as a file storage company, and in more recent years we’ve evolved our focus and mission to designing a more enlightened way of working. With over 500 million customers around the world, we see ourselves as a proxy for the way the future of work is heading, and in talking to these customers, we’ve discovered that the current state of work is more disconnected and unfocused than ever before. This, combined with the current state of the world working remote, has raised new challenges for us to go and solve. Solving new challenges through new products is exciting, but changing perception from who we were to where we want to go takes patience, consistency and persistence. You evolve on every front, from product development, to our customer experience and, of course, our marketing. We are inspired knowing that solving these challenges would lead to more time saved, less burnout and more flow for people using Dropbox around the world.

B&T: What do you look for in an agency partner?

BB: When I think of our favourite agency partners, it starts with trust. Our partners need to trust that we are providing the right vision and context in the brief to set them up for success, and we need to trust our partner to be the incredible experts they are and turn ideas into magic. We look for thought partners who can push the boundaries of how we can bring an idea to life, and embody our Dropbox culture and values in the way we collaborate together.

We as marketers have a platform, and many of us leaders have the collective power to change perceptions, influence representation and give others a voice. With the recent #StopAsianHate movement, I’ve been looking at brands who are leveraging their “power” to take a stance on representation and justice, whether it be talk show topics, advertisements, PSAs and petitions. I’ve admired companies who have consistently shown up, not just in a performative way when it is convenient to be a part of the trend.

Brands like Nike have taken diversity and inclusion to a new level, with community programs such as Made to Play that give underprivileged, underrepresented minorities the opportunity to play sports and build a community they otherwise wouldn’t have. These multi-year pledges and outcomes show the commitment to creating impact and change. The agency Wieden + Kennedy produced a spot a year ago called ‘Call it Covid-19’ to #StopAsianHate and build advocacy, and re-aired the spot after the Atlanta shootings to show how little has changed and how much more work needs to be done. This also helped catalyse a meaningful Stop Asian Hate conversation on the NBA between two former players, Kyle Korver and Dwayne Wade, using influence for good.

B&T: How has the definition of marketing and the role of a marketer changed since you first joined the industry?

BB: Marketers now wear more hats, data and intelligence fuels decision-making, and having an intentional customer experience is paramount. More than ever, you need to know your customers, their journey and their evolving needs over time.

B&T: What’s the best marketing idea you’ve ever come up with?

BB: I’ll reframe the question with the best idea our team came up with. While I was in brand and advertising at my former company Intuit QuickBooks, we started to really understand our small business customer’s needs, and realised that many SMBs are in it alone, and need all the resources and support they can get to become what they consider to be successful. My team came up with the idea of a campaign called ‘Small Business, Big Game’, building an SMB competition and gifting one lucky small business owner with a $4 million, 30-second spot at the Super Bowl. The campaign created significant awareness and sales lift for all of the top SMB winners, and the experience of making a small business owner’s year was priceless.

B&T: CMO churn seems to be an ongoing industry issue. How can it be fixed?

BB: A customer-centric CMO’s role is highly complex. They have to leverage both left- and right-brain skills, short- and long-term goals, and a wide array of leadership expectations and views of the role. There needs to be a clear alignment on roles, responsibilities and impact, and a clear call-out when scope creep occurs. Some of marketing can be subjective, combined with the reality that many people think they are a marketer. Instead of focusing on the one or two big campaigns for the year, CMOs can take on a more agile approach, leveraging design thinking to rapidly experiment, fail fast and stay customer-focused.

I’ve seen best-in-class marketing leaders come from a wide array of various marketing roles (field, PMM, brand, customer marketing), with enough knowledge in each discipline to be dangerous.

B&T: What advice would you give to marketing grads looking to get a start in the industry?

BB: The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships, and your business life is no different. Build as many quality relationships as you can, stay curious and stay hungry.

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