Starting from an engineering background, Liz Hamren began her career on the product side at Microsoft. But when she moved into product management for the startup handheld computer maker OQO, she found that no one was taking charge of marketing. "We didn't have a brand or a website; we needed a whole marketing strategy," she says. "So I learned how to do it."
Today, following successful stints at Aliph/Jawbone and Plantronics, she serves as VP-marketing for Dropcam, a cloud-based video monitoring service that was recently acquired by Google's Nest Labs. Dropcam combines communications and security: After setting up a Wi-Fi Dropcam camera at home, customers can access secure streaming video, activity alerts or two-way talk on their mobile phones—enabling them to keep an eye on kids, older relatives or pets, or to examine an empty home while traveling.
Ms. Hamren is a Digital Trailblazer for her success in bringing new consumer products—and product categories—to market with sophisticated digital advertising strategies.
Q: As a Digital Trailblazer, you're doing outstanding work to further digital marketing. Tell us about a moment in your career that was pivotal and why it affected you so strongly.
Ms. Hamren: When I was a program manager at Microsoft, my boss decided to leave and promoted me into his job. It was crazy: I was the newest and youngest member of the group, not to mention the only woman. Looking back, I can't believe he did it. It was scary and exciting and even more crazy when I look at in hindsight. All of a sudden I was managing a team and multiple products. You see more young managers now, but in 1995 it was pretty rare. It changed the trajectory of my career and what I thought I could accomplish. I worked incredibly hard to make sure I lived up to what he saw in me, and I am forever grateful to him for giving me that chance.
Q: Marketers often ask what they need to know to do a better job in digital. To stay on top of the rapidly changing digital arena, do you have any daily or weekly habits or practices that keep you in the know?
Ms. Hamren: The first thing for me is sharing ideas with a set of people who I know and have worked with or collaborated with. Having a network of folks in similar jobs and industries can give you great ideas and insights from other CMOs and marketers who are undertaking similar efforts.
The second thing is continuing to be a consumer myself. I buy everything online, sign up for every email list, for brands doing interesting things. That gives me a chance to see as a user what's working and not working. For a while I cleared out my cookies, but then I turned cookies back on. I want to see what offers come, who is retargeting me, what people are doing on mobile. I want to be marketed to by other folks.
And finally, the third part is really making sure that I am up on the latest technologies in the news.
Q: Can you name a marketer or business leader who you admire?
Ms. Hamren: From a marketing perspective, the individuals who have helped me are folks I have worked with. But there are certain brands out there which I think really connect with consumers and do a great job using digital—like Virgin America, Uber and DonorsChoose.
Q: How important are digital marketing and an effective data strategy in identifying new potential Dropcam customers? Has that been more important because Dropcam is creating a new brand category?
Ms. Hamren: That is why digital is so essential for us. The biggest challenge for us in the beginning was that people loved the product, but no one knew who we were. That's where we have found our relationship with Quantcast incredibly effective—using digital to prospect for new customers. With Dropcam, once you know about it, you want it if you have anything you care about at home—whether it's a baby, a pet or valuables. You want that peace of mind and security.
Q: Display advertising gets a bad rap from many people in marketing. What is the secret to using digital display ads effectively?
Ms. Hamren: Digital display has been very effective for us. But it's a classic right brain/left brain situation. There has to be an equal focus on the analytics and the creativity: What do we want to tell people and how do we want to talk about our product, as well as looking at what works and what doesn't. We have seen great success in finding potential Dropcam customers online and getting them interested with display.
Q: What parts of your marketing strategy keep you up at night?
Ms. Hamren: We always worry about getting that perfect optimization of mix and spending. That is the thing I worry about.
Q: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Ms. Hamren: I don't remember who told me this, but it stuck with me: Play to your strengths and hire your weaknesses. I focus on those things I am good at and try to get better at them, and then hire my team to address my weaknesses. It's actually great from a development perspective; people on your team end up feeling a great sense of ownership about their roles.
About the Sponsor
Today's trendsetters are also today's digital leaders. The Digital Trailblazers Series profiles some of the industry's most visionary digital executives—those pushing the boundaries in digital marketing. For more on this series, including intelligence and insights from Quantcast, visit the Digital Trailblazers Hub.
Quantcast is a technology company specialized in real-time advertising and audience measurement. As the pioneer of direct audience measurement in 2006, Quantcast has an in-depth understanding of digital audiences across the Web, allowing marketers and publishers to make the smartest choices as they buy and sell the most effective targeted advertising on the market. More than 1,000 brands rely on Quantcast for real-time advertising. More information is available at www.quantcast.com.