Being a great CEO or leader is about constructing engaging narratives, storytelling, attracting talent and fundraising. I try and provide vision so there is something the teams are executing against.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Reggie Casagrande, VP of Marketing at MC2000 studio.
Reggie is an integrated culture marketing expert with extensive brand development, strategy, content and digital communications experience. She has spent the last decade building 360 marketing programs, perfecting the digital activation model, driving strategic initiatives & connecting brands to culture. She has worked for adidas and Converse in brand Marketing roles and worked with Nike, Stussy, and Maserati from the agency side.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew up as a “Third Culture Kid” in a diplomatic family, so being exposed to different cultures, languages and countries really laid the foundation for my career as a cultural marketer. I started my career in NYC during the late 90’s working with Hip Hop artists and athletes for magazines which informed my passion for street & style culture. Around the time the digital transformation started to happen, I was pivoting into branding from art direction and working on advertising for brands like Nike and Stussy, early mobile companies like Nokia and Motorola and exploring youth culture & action sports from an agency perspective. I wanted to get more involved with global so I took a job with adidas and moved back to Germany for 6 years. This was around the time adidas went through a major transformation by adding Kanye West and Pharrell Williams to their brand roster. It was an incredible time to work there as people went from moppy faces to high fiving in the hallways as the brand exploded and moved from a 4B$ to a 14B$ valuation. That same experience happened again at Converse where I ran energy marketing through a transformation with multi-hyphenate creator, Tyler the Creator.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It was not funny at the time, but looking back I see the humour. We were doing an activation at Art Basel in Miami for JW Anderson + Converse. Moet was sponsoring the event, but it was pretty unorganized as a pop up. It was just myself and my assistant managing everything from the set up, the gifting suite and the partner outreach. The event was fine and we ended up getting shoes on some very influential people, but we had to deliver the rest with no support or logistics infrastructure in place. In the evening after we left, someone moved all the shoes out of the storage closet into another building. In addition, the Miami traffic during Art Basel is a nightmare so we ended up having to hand carry tons of boxes through construction zones all dressed up and stacked in a car to drop off at influencer’s hotels. We were full of dust and dirt on arrival. The lesson was really to ramp up with resources when feasible. We made it work. I’m not afraid to get scrappy and do what it takes to bring things to life, but it always helps to have logistics and production support.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Working in sports brands, there are so many former athletes that create the culture and mindset. When I got to adidas we spoke of everything in a sports context, words like “playmaker,” “playbook,” “visualize your strengths” and “finish line” were always thrown around. Now, I always think that way. I grew up going to military schools abroad so being exposed to sports and the military at a young age really informed how I think about strategy and vision. If you are an athlete and you warm up, you don’t get hurt or pull a muscle. The same is true in business in terms of agility. If you have the tools and resources to warm up, and you prepare the playbook, you can win.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I’m pretty passionate about social action and as a cultural marketer, I have long known that multicultural teams outperform homogeneous ones. Working in global organizations, you see that when you have a diverse team, you get so many interesting perspectives that can inform solutions much faster. Not only is diversity integral to a healthy company culture, but it’s required to win. A team’s diversity needs to mirror that of the consumers we serve. We are passionate about multiculturalism and make an effort to elevate diverse voices.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
I believe that diversity initiatives require a strategy and a commitment just like anything. I made a commitment a long time ago to build diverse teams and look for skills that are complementary to what we already have. Recruiting diverse voices requires creating a pipeline. It takes extra effort to do and executives need to look in places that may not be the most traditional — referrals, community organizations, social media, business charities etc. I work with a few charities mentoring women in business and there are so many inspiring leaders there. I also will respond to young people that reach out to me on social media like Clubhouse, IG and LinkedIn, and start a dialogue with them.
Once that is established, it is also important to provide dialogue and conversations around a diverse range of topics affecting culture. For example, we work off a cultural calendar. Asian Heritage is a big deal because our consumers, creators and many of our staff members identify as Asian. I try to listen and provide a platform for dialogue: giving my colleagues an opportunity to tell us what they would like to see, what matters to their community. Listening. That’s the first step. Being a woman in a male dominated field is also challenging, so when I see women out there on the teams and in the audience, I always tell them that I see them, and that I am happy they are there. My perspective is that I’m just warming the seat for the next generation.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what an executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I am the VP of Marketing at MC2000 studio. My role is a trifecta of strategy, planning and team building. Being able to see initiatives holistically with an integrated approach is best. Our hard goals are really about driving growth and revenue, but our soft goals are about elevating culture and creators; how that comes to life is really a balance of qualitative and quantitative critical thinking.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
Being a great CEO or leader is about constructing engaging narratives, storytelling, attracting talent and fundraising. I try and provide vision so there is something the teams are executing against. Failure to plan means planning to fail, so it’s always important to think a few quarters or even years out. Emotional intelligence is also becoming so much more important. You can be strong and kind, this is what makes the best leaders. Look at all the amazing women that stepped up during the pandemic, showing empathy and power. They had that balance of strength and EQ, and it resonated with their people.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
There is always more scrutiny on what a woman does in the workplace, but as you prove yourself, your team members will rely on your expertise.
Like many female high powered executives, I also have a family, dogs, household and finances to manage. That said, we are jugglers and multitaskers, sometimes firefighters putting out fires. Over the years, women have been told they are aggressive, when they are just being direct. Or difficult, if they don’t agree with everything. Women have to walk a fine line, in that they need to be strong and smart, without being too intimidating. I hope that will change soon.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I think anyone with vision, patience and passion can be an executive. Sure, the politics can be challenging, but being able to build something truly spectacular and see results can be inspiring, even for someone who identifies as a creative person at heart. Mentoring and building teams is something that I love about my job, and it’s very important as you move up the ladder.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Learn to empower your teams and delegate ownership well. It is hard to scale without it and helps build confidence and skills in the younger team members. You need a succession plan. In Europe, they do that well, as they bring in a temp to cover maternity leave, holidays etc. Not so common in the US, but ensuring you are training your team to take more on and learn a bigger piece of the business is key to incubating future leaders.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I try to stand up for women and diverse voices in how I act and what I say. I try to coach and mentor, I volunteer with charities I admire. I make time for younger team members to coach them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It may sound silly, but I’m all about positivity, so I love this quote by the rapper Biggie Smalls. “Spread Love, It’s the Brooklyn Way”.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Wow, there are so many amazing women that I admire. Michelle Obama, Oprah, Melinda Gates, Anna WIntour, Angela Davis, Kamala Harris, Mary Callahan Erdoes, Adena Friedman are all awesome leaders.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.