Female Disruptors: Cathy Lang and Stacey Hawes of Epsilon are shaking up how data is used in marketing

Cathy: The best advice I was given is that as leaders, one of the most important qualities is the ability to make decisions. Making…


Cathy: The best advice I was given is that as leaders, one of the most important qualities is the ability to make decisions. Making decisions quickly, right or wrong, keeps your business moving forward. The good news: if you make the wrong decision, you can quickly recover and change the course. Let’s face it, what leader out there makes the right decisions 100% of the time? Aside from that: step up, be aware of your surroundings and your emotions. Learn how your unique characteristics can empower your career, whether through knowledge, empathy or otherwise.
Stacey: A great piece of advice I got many years ago is that it is OK to fail. As a woman I am constantly trying to prove my value and OVER-achieve. Over the years when projects didn’t come to fruition I really beat myself up over it. During my time at Doubleclick I led a project to develop an email data cooperative — which was super disruptive at the time. After a year, I realized it wasn’t the right solution. I presented to the President with the recommendation to close down the business and he accepted my suggestion. Suddenly, I realized I was left without a job! But, the opposite happened — he was so appreciative that I made the “right” recommendation, I had a choice of which role I wanted to do next — I learned so much from that failure. Some of my best learnings have come from failed projects.
Lastly, I was going through a year-long women in leadership program in Denver and we studied Emotional Intelligence. One of the most powerful things came out of this endeavor for me and I always share this advice with the women I mentor and both women and men that work in my organization — Be aware of your wake. We all leave an impression and the higher you move up the ladder the more eyes are on you. So, it’s critical to be aware of the wake you’re leaving behind — are you leaving people with life boats or life jackets? You need to really think about the wake you want to leave and have the self-awareness to know if it’s what you intended.

I had the pleasure of interviewing two executive leaders from Epsilon: Cathy Lang and Stacey Hawes. It’s particularly rare to find women leaders at the top of either data or automotive industries, but Stacey Hawes and Cathy Lang are at the helm of Epsilon’s Data and Automotive Practices (respectively). Together, they’re championing female leadership and representation in the industry, while driving business for Fortune 500 clients. Both company leaders leverage Epsilon’s robust data assets and proprietary technology platforms to help clients deepen relationships with customers, while simultaneously helping Epsilon compete for and win business through the changing marketing landscaping.
Sitting on Epsilon’s management team, Stacey and Cathy are actively bringing other female leaders together and supporting women in business. Together, Stacey and Cathy launched Epsilon’s first-ever Women in Leadership initiative off the ground with local chapters in 24 locations across the globe (including Bangalore, India), giving 85% of all women at Epsilon access to on-site programs. Believing in the power of numbers, especially in the era of the #MeToo movement, global marketing company Epsilon subscribes to the philosophy that it’s not just about one female disruptor, it’s about what women can do together to create change — and Stacey and Cathy are doing just that.
Cathy, President of Automotive at Epsilon, has been an active member of the marketing community for more than 20 years. She’s held a variety of strategic marketing positions with Fortune 100 companies such as AT&T, Bridgestone/Firestone, MCI and Grainger. In 2001, she joined Aspen Marketing as Chief Operating Officer, where she was responsible for managing the entire client service function of this CRM agency, while also directing agency capabilities from strategy and analytics to creative, database and fulfillment. She joined Epsilon in 2011, following the company’s acquisition of Aspen, where she has been a member of the Executive Team. Cathy has been recognized as an Adweek “Disruptor” (2017) and “Wonder Woman of the Automotive Industry” by Dealer Marketing Magazine (2017).
As President of Data at Epsilon, Stacey has been an active member and leader within the data industry for more than 18 years helping clients across verticals determine how data can be incorporated into new and pre-existing marketing solutions. Stacey’s leadership of the company’s Data division has resulted in unprecedented levels of growth and customer satisfaction as her team works across Epsilon’s Agency, Automotive, Technology and Conversant practices to develop new data-driven solutions. Stacey was recently named Direct Marketer of the Year by the Taylor Institute and in 2017 she was named a Woman to Watch by Ad Age and an IAB Data Rockstar for her contributions to the industry, demonstrated excellence in data science and for driving women forward in business.
Stacey can often be heard speaking in the industry on data driven marketing as well as women in leadership. You can hear her speak at the upcoming Bacardi SHE summit on September 13 in Fort Lauderdale.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Cathy: Thanks for including me. It’s been an interesting ride, for sure. When I began at Aspen Marketing (acquired by Epsilon in 2011), it was the top direct marketing agency servicing the automotive industry, but our capabilities were limited due to our size and offerings. I have been successful in evolving the Automotive practice within Epsilon from a 500 employee organization to more than 1,300 employees worldwide, while doubling the business over the same timeframe. I originally came to the agency world from the brand-side, with the goal of spending one year to learn how a CMO’s money was really spent. Within months, I feel in love with the diversity of challenges brought on by world-class clients and being able to tackle those with constantly-evolving data-driven solutions that are deployed across a myriad of channels.

Stacey: It’s my pleasure! Like Cathy, I too joined Epsilon by way of acquisition, in 2008, when Epsilon acquired Abacus, the industry’s original cooperative database. I’ve grown up, if you will, in the data-driven marketing industry. It’s been a transformative ride helping marketers pivot out of the mailbox and activate data across channels to drive marketing performance. When I started in this industry, at Doubleclick, email was the big “disrupter.” The proliferation of channels has made it a fun couple of decades helping marketers navigate those changes.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Stacey: Data is a key differentiator in marketing today and it is a very disruptive time in the industry. Our focus has first been on protecting and respecting customer data, not only how we manage our assets but advising clients on how to appropriately use data. We’ve also been focused on helping clients create growth by activating data in any channel including display, social, addressable and direct mail. Years ago we started leveraging more data to drive targeted banner ads, which at that time was disruptive. We recently started putting a great deal of focus on TV, investing heavily in both linear and addressable TV. We believe taking proven direct marketing techniques into that channel will explode in the next couple of years and help drive growth for brands. Data is a foundational element that informs a lot of the disruptive work our teams do across our practice areas, including in Cathy’s automotive practice.

Cathy: Every day, my team delivers disruptive marketing solutions and products for our clients, enabling them to better build relationships with their potential and existing customers through emerging technologies, great creative and the world’s best data. We are laser focused on increasing the bottom line of our clients, and are exceedingly fortunate to have a stable of marketers who want innovative solutions and are eager to test and learn.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

Cathy: When I started my career in the automotive industry 17 years ago, I was the only female on the leadership team and one of only ten women at the entire agency. In my career prior to joining the agency side, I was extremely fortunate to work for a few strong female leaders, who have since gone on to become Fortune 500 CEOs. It was from this small stable of mentors that I was able to form my leadership style and learn some incredible qualities that I still leverage today. Alongside Stacey at Epsilon, we have championed the company’s Diversity and Inclusion council worldwide, including a Women in Leadership program, which provides educational and mentorship opportunities for up-and-coming executives across the organization.

Stacey: I’ve had a couple of key mentors in my career, both men that I worked for. I prefer to leave them nameless as to not boost their egos, but one was an expert in data-driven marketing who helped teach me the basics and foundation of this business. The other was a mentor on how to navigate corporate politics and really taught me a lot about my network and the value of people from different backgrounds and roles. When I look back on my career, I didn’t have a strong female role model. It was a missing piece, which is why I make it a point to reach my hand back and help other women. So, each year I mentor an up and coming woman at Epsilon and Conversant.

How are you going to shake things up next?

Cathy: The automotive industry is a very exciting place right now, with connected cars becoming the “fifth screen” for marketers to deliver real-time, personalized messages to consumers. Additionally, the explosion of mobility initiatives, such as self-driving cars and ride sharing programs, are all resulting in us, as marketers, to be much more disruptive in our approaches, ideas and executions. We’re constantly thinking of the next big idea of how best to utilize all these new technologies, channels and real-time data in ways that establish meaningful relationships with consumers.

Stacey: Cathy mentioned connected cars. Across the board, connected devices, emerging technologies and the Internet of Things are shaking things up. We’re looking at the application of data from connected devices and determining what’s meaningful in that data — and what we can access in a privacy compliant way. How would a brand use those insights to market differently?

AI and machine learning are also big areas of focus and investment for us. We’re making mindful investments in AI to ensure we have a full view on data going in, algorithms involved and what’s coming out of the machines — as we shake things up we need to ensure we evolve appropriately by protecting and respecting data and preventing machines from making biased decisions. As consumer choice in marketing activities becomes more prevalent, we need to be one step ahead to ensure that we’re not only meeting their expectations regarding privacy, but still finding unique ways to build emotional connections through marketing activities

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Cathy: The best advice I was given is that as leaders, one of the most important qualities is the ability to make decisions. Making decisions quickly, right or wrong, keeps your business moving forward. The good news: if you make the wrong decision, you can quickly recover and change the course. Let’s face it, what leader out there makes the right decisions 100% of the time? Aside from that: step up, be aware of your surroundings and your emotions. Learn how your unique characteristics can empower your career, whether through knowledge, empathy or otherwise.

Stacey: A great piece of advice I got many years ago is that it is OK to fail. As a woman I am constantly trying to prove my value and OVER-achieve. Over the years when projects didn’t come to fruition I really beat myself up over it. During my time at Doubleclick I led a project to develop an email data cooperative — which was super disruptive at the time. After a year, I realized it wasn’t the right solution. I presented to the President with the recommendation to close down the business and he accepted my suggestion. Suddenly, I realized I was left without a job! But, the opposite happened — he was so appreciative that I made the “right” recommendation, I had a choice of which role I wanted to do next — I learned so much from that failure. Some of my best learnings have come from failed projects.

Lastly, I was going through a year-long women in leadership program in Denver and we studied Emotional Intelligence. One of the most powerful things came out of this endeavor for me and I always share this advice with the women I mentor and both women and men that work in my organization — Be aware of your wake. We all leave an impression and the higher you move up the ladder the more eyes are on you. So, it’s critical to be aware of the wake you’re leaving behind — are you leaving people with life boats or life jackets? You need to really think about the wake you want to leave and have the self-awareness to know if it’s what you intended.

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.

Stacey: Cathy and I both had the opportunity to hear Mel Robbins speak at Epsilon’s annual client event earlier this year. Her book The 5 Second Rule really stuck with me because of its simplicity…and how it works! If you’re not familiar with the concept you can basically “reprogram” your brain in 5 seconds. I’ve started using this in situations both at work and at home (it is fantastic if you have children!). If you stop and count backward from 5, there is basically a trigger in your brain that resets and allows you to diffuse a situation or find the courage/motivation to change a situation. It has helped me keep my cool in many situations at work.

I will throw in something else that has had a profound impact on my thinking with regard to leadership, but it hasn’t been published…yet. I often talk about leadership at home and was recently talking with my 11-year old daughter, Georgia, who suggested I may be over-complicating the subject. She then shared with me what she calls her 5 S’s of Leadership: Skills, Sense, Strength, Smarts and (my favorite) Smiles. She defined each of them for me, but the one that really stuck with me is the last one. A smile really can go a long way as business challenges and demands pile up. A smile and a thank you, now that’s a winning combination. No one wants to be led by a “grumpy cat” she told me. I now am much more intentional about leading with a smile.

Cathy: As a marketer, I aim to absorb a lot of content throughout the week, from industry-specific newspapers to podcasts and television programs. I’m a fan of the “This Week in Tech” podcast, which covers different emerging technologies with a roundtable of experts each week. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly is a great read on the same topic.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Cathy: I have such great admiration for Mary Barra, not only the current CEO of GM, but the first female CEO named in the Automotive industry. It’s a tough industry that has been notoriously a very male-dominated space. She is not only leading with great grace and passion, but she also is consistently putting women in leadership roles and thus changing the industry. I would love to sit down with her to exchange ideas on how, together, we can make these changes happen at an even greater pace.

Stacey: I would love to have the opportunity to meet Reese Witherspoon. Reese is a successful actress, mother, producer, entrepreneur and she is actively involved in children’s and women’s advocacy organizations. I was born and raised in the south and southern women are smarter and stronger than most people know — I think she exudes those qualities and always does it with a smile!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Cathy: I recommend following Epsilon on twitter (@epsilonmktg) for the latest and greatest news about the organization.

Stacey: You can also find us both on LinkedIn, I am not very active on twitter (though I know I should be!).

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Originally published at medium.com

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