How Data Is Driving Zipcar's Explosive Growth

Three Questions With Auto Marketer and Ad Age CMO Strategy Summit Speaker Rob Weisberg

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Since joining Zipcar more than three and a half years ago, CMO Rob Weisberg has seen the brand grow leaps and bounds. The car -haring company is quickly expanding into new markets and offering its services to more U.S. cities and college campuses by the hour. It's also begun expanding into markets such as the U.K. and has its sights set on further overseas growth.

Rob Weisberg
Rob Weisberg

Mr. Weisberg, an agency veteran who's also worked at marketers such as Domino's, is at the forefront of Zipcar's marketing efforts. And his expertise comes with a hefty dose of data know-how. He's handled customer value management for Doner Advertising, and his resume includes a stint as Domino's precision-marketing director. At Ad Age 's upcoming CMO Summit, Mr. Weisberg will discuss his efforts in harnessing data to drive Zipcar's marketing efforts, how that data is applied and where it's making the biggest impact.

Ad Age : How did you get into marketing?

Mr. Weisberg: I went to University of Rochester as a psychology major, because I really had no idea what I wanted to do. My father had been a psychology major and became an attorney, my mother was a psychology major and became a computer teacher ... so I said, "Apparently if I'm a psych major I can do anything, and I'll just figure it out later. But my junior year I took my first marketing class and fell in love with it. ... I decided just having taken that one class to get a certificate in business management with a marketing concentration.

When I graduated, every single summer I had internships that had to do with psychology, so I was trying to get into marketing with no marketing experience. Basically, I went to a luncheon hosted by Bill Phillips, the former CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, and I sat next to him and peppered him with questions, and he recommended to me that [I] go work for a small agency ... [because] they throw you in the deep end. He said don't work for a big agency [at first]. ...I went to work for a small agency called Deare Marketing in New York. I worked there for three years ... and Bill's advice was spot on.

Ad Age : How has your experience in the agency world, as well as in the restaurant world, shaped what you're doing now at Zipcar?

Mr. Weisberg: The agency world I would recommend to anybody who wants a career in marketing. I think anybody should start there because the agency world affords you the opportunity to work on a bunch of different accounts in a bunch of different industries. So it really does give you a very broad view of marketing. You can take [what you learned] from a client in financial services and apply it to a client in the [fast food] space. ... It really does give you an immersion into multiple businesses and gives you the opportunity to learn marketing challenges from a unique perspective.

[My experiences] really helped me make my career at Domino's, and certainly what I learned along the way impacts everything I do at Zipcar. [It's] a rapidly growing company. We view ourselves as a technology company that happens to have cars. Our growth is by new member acquisitions, and a lot of that happens digitally. Ninety-nine percent of people become Zipcar members by applying online. ... The work I did at Domino's -- I launched online ordering ...a nd launched all their digital media -- certainly influences what I do at Zipcar.

Ad Age : Where in Zipcar's business has your use of data made the biggest impact?

Mr. Weisberg: Data actually influences every single thing we do. It's kind of the lifeblood of the organization. If you think about our business, as part of your membership, we're capturing your name, your credit-card information, and we know all about your usage behavior. So we know if you reserve online or on the iPhone app ... what time you scanned in and out. We have the full suite of demographics and profiles on all our members, which then informs all our media-planning and media-buying strategy. It informs our creative. It informs where we place our cars and which cars in which neighborhoods. It really impacts everything we do. It would be hard for me to single out one thing, when it truly does drive our business.

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