8 questions with Zoom CMO Janine Pelosi
As Hottest Brands go, it doesn’t get much hotter than Zoom, whose daily active participants grew thirtyfold between December and April to 300 million. Zoom vies with masks among the key cultural touchstones of the pandemic.
So what could be more pandemic-appropriate than interviewing Zoom Chief Marketing Officer Janine Pelosi over Zoom, which Ad Age did. And what could be even more appropriate than—at the exact moment Pelosi began explaining how Zoom became the market leader even before the pandemic because it was built for low bandwidth—her feed freezing for 20 seconds?
Here, she explains how that maybe was a problem with construction outside her home, and other intricacies of how she manages a brand whose biggest issues include just keeping up with capacity demands and security concerns.
Hear more from Pelosi and other marketing leaders who are building buzz—including Heidi Cooley, head of global marketing at Crocs—at Ad Age's Inside America’s Hottest Brands virtual conference on July 28. Reserve your spot here.
How many hours a day do you spend personally on Zoom?
I’ve gotten this question before and tried to calculate it. I think these days it’s safer to say I’m sleeping in my office than working at home.
I was someone who was very much an in-the-office person, going five days a week. Remote was not something I was used to. Now I feel it’s so great. The 9 to 5, or lines between your professional and personal lives, were starting to blur before all this, but now they really are. So I have no problem taking an hour in the middle of the day to spend with my daughter.
What’s the role of marketing when Zoom is straining at the limits of capacity anyway?
Early on we made the decision to support education and provide resources to schools, K-12. At this point it’s over 100,000 schools, 23 different countries that we’ve provided free services for. We knew that we had to be focused in on supporting our customers and users of our product. And so I said this is not going to be a time for sales and marketing. A lot of well-known tier-one celebrities have been using the product. All of that has been organic. We have not been doing paid sponsorships. When you’re going through any tough situation as a company, and this is a tough time for humanity, it’s not a time to focus in on sales and marketing.
What did you do prior to the pandemic that worked?
Over these past five years we’ve been known to do a lot of out of home. We invested heavily in things like sports partnerships, billboards, radio, airports all around the globe. We also have a viral product by nature.
Why, even before the pandemic, had Zoom become the predominant videoconferencing platform?
When I think back to when Eric [Zuan, CEO of Zoom] started the company and the basis of the product, it goes back to the way it was architected. It was architected to work well in low bandwidth environments. [At this moment, her feed freezes for about 20 seconds].
You’ve got to love the irony here, right?
Oh, how funny. They’re doing some stuff outside, so I wonder if something happened. … Anyway, to continue, I would say it’s those three things: Working in low bandwidth situations, being mobile-first, and the video. If you look at others in the market, they weren’t built for mobile, and they weren’t built for video. So now you look at the use cases today, the video is so needed, given that need for human connection, low-bandwidth environments, and we’ve never stress-tested the consumer internet the way we are today.
Zoom has become part of the cultural fabric. As a marketer, is that welcome, and is there a way you ultimately will work that into your marketing?
As a marketer, it’s definitely welcome. As I think about where the brand goes and how we support all these new use cases, I’d be lying if I said I had it all figured out. What I do know is that things aren’t going to look like they did in the past.
As lockdowns subside, will people continue to use Zoom as much?
I do believe the adoption of technologies that allow you to be effective wherever you are, whether home or anywhere else, is a trend that will stay. I have a friend who lives in the Bay Area who would go up to Seattle twice a week for meetings. And he’s just going, “That will never happen again. Why was I ever doing that to begin with?”
There are certain companies that are saying that if their employees want to be remote permanently, they can. We would not have seen that six months ago.
You described yourself as a very “in-the-office person.” When the world goes back to normal, do you see yourself wanting to spend as much time in the office as before?
My gut reaction says no. But I miss my colleagues. Human nature is to be with others, so finding that balance is going to be critical.
Zoom has come under a lot of criticism on privacy, attention tracking and data security. How well have those things been addressed, and do they present any risk for retaining customers?
The best way I can describe that is what I said earlier about who we are as a company, being transparent, working with urgency and listening to who you are as a customer. Those are things I think we have displayed well going through challenging times. I do believe my advice for any time, going through crises, is don’t change who you are, personally or professionally. We’ve operated with those values, and I think the public has appreciated that we’re not always going to be right, but we’ve operated over the years supporting very different use cases than we see today. In any tough situation, I think people look at how you respond vs. what the situation actually was. We stuck with our values and I think did the right thing.