Karen Quintos
Charting the future of public relations

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The Innovator 25: Karen Quintos

 

CMO at Dell since 2010
  Austin, Texas
 Technology, 20+ years

"We want to connect with our customers and sustain that conversation over the long term. And often, particularly with thought-leadership content, you’re just creating awareness and credibility, not looking at it as a specific lead-generation activity. Customers are more than just clicks, likes and open-rates."

For allowing Dell to be the inaugural native advertising campaign for both the New York Times and USA Today — knowing the public scrutiny and potential backlash that could, and would, follow. For being unafraid to learn from the many lessons of Dell’s past to develop data-driven, practical solutions to solving customer problems rather than falling into the trap of transactional relationships. And because during Dell’s bid to go private in 2013, Quintos launched the “Beginnings” campaign that harkened back to Dell’s entrepreneurial roots — fostering more excitement than doubt on Dell’s next chapter.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Social media & online marketing.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
About the same as other marketing disciplines

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Content creation & creative copy.
 

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

CMO

How do you define innovation?

Innovation is all about finding a better way that matters to customers, and not accepting the status quo. We believe it’s not ‘innovation for innovation’s sake,’ but rather to always strive to find a better way that adds value for customers. At Dell, we are 100% focused on making technology work better for our customers. That drives us to find more powerful, more flexible and more efficient solutions that are simpler and easier for our customers to deploy and manage.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
I’m really impressed with the recent British Airways “Magic of Flying” campaign that leveraged the power of the cloud to display flight data in real-time on its billboards throughout London. That is taking personalization/customization to new heights, so to speak.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Brands that are thinking out of the box when it comes to B2B communications are really interesting. The lines between consumer and business are blurred, and customers now expect the same kind of creativity and inspiration whether the message is geared toward an enterprise or individual. A recent favorite example is Volvo’s “Epic Split” campaign featuring the action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme split between two of their trucks. Volvo demonstrated unique features of their trucks with the cinematic quality of an action film. That grabs the attention of their core fleet vehicle buying audience while creating a halo effect for the brand as futuristic and exciting.
 

[Native advertising] puts us in a position to start a conversation rather than react to a conversation…This is a different kind of content than traditional marketing collateral. It cannot be self-serving or transactional, but should offer something – a viewpoint, relevant information, analysis – that is valuable to the reader.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Our most recent “Beginnings” campaign was much more than an ad campaign; it was a celebration of our customers’ success and a return to our own entrepreneurial roots. We brought the founding stories of our customers’ businesses to life, showing how Dell’s technology is at the core of today’s most iconic brands such as Dermalogica, Dropbox, Shutterfly and Whole Foods. Through storytelling, we reminded our audience of Dell’s heritage and our commitment to empower entrepreneurs with the technology they need to change the world. This message resonated across business and consumer audiences to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit within all of us. As a marketer there’s nothing that makes me more proud.
 

Who is your mentor and why?
I have a number of mentors. Some are ex-managers, some are prior CMO’s and leaders of large global companies, and one is actually my husband. Each person plays a somewhat different role, and I use them to get advice on professional and personal matters or new business and marketing opportunities. I trust their honest input and really value their perspectives and experiences.

How do you get inspired?
Hearing stories of how are customers are changing the world and meeting with new, innovative entrepreneurs. Our customers are so diverse and they use technology in such creative ways that it’s hard to not be inspired. And entrepreneurs are so passionate and enthusiastic about the future—that energy, that spirit, the belief that they can make a difference—it is so contagious.
 

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Ask yourself three things: Is it important to your customers? Will it empower your employees to do their best work that is truly differentiated? Is it aligned to your business strategy? If you answer yes to all, you’re on the right path!
 

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world? This could be a city, a venue, a neighborhood, etc.
Austin, Texas, is an amazing mixture of arts, music and technology. The city brings together creative people in a very special way – through a culture of ideas. Events like Austin’s own SXSW have really brought that to forefront.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
I cherish any time that I can spend with my family. I love the moments with my kids and my husband in the morning before everyone starts their own day and then that time around the dinner table, when we can sit and share that day’s adventures with each other.
 

  One of the most compelling aspects of digital marketing is that the up-front investment is often only a fraction of what, say, a broad-reach media placement might cost. So it encourages the idea of ‘fail fast and fail often.’ But just trying things because you can isn’t a very smart approach.