4 Questions for #WomenHeard Panelist Marisa Thalberg
Executive Vice President, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.
As executive vice president, chief brand and marketing officer, Marisa Thalberg is responsible for leading Lowe’s marketing organization and innovating new ways to inspire and engage customers. She also oversees Lowe’s corporate communications, community relations, and events planning and execution. Marisa joined Lowe’s in 2020. A globally recognized business strategist and brand-building innovator, Marisa is known for inspiring teams to take brands to new heights of consumer resonance, cultural relevance and business performance. She joins Lowe’s from Taco Bell, where she served as global chief brand officer, envisioning and leading the company’s evolution to a culture-centric lifestyle brand. During Marisa’s tenure, Taco Bell achieved record sales growth, the highest passion index among fans of any brand in the restaurant industry and was the second-fastest growing brand in the nation, following only Netflix.
1. What is some advice you can offer women looking to re-enter the workforce, and how can they prepare to make themselves stand out?
This topic came up quite often during my years most actively running Executive Moms. The reality is, all of the statistical data indicates that the more years a woman is fully “off ramped,” the harder it is to re-enter, especially at the equivalent earnings level. To mitigate this, look for ways to stay up on the industry, stay networked, leverage any non-profit work you are doing for the skills burnishing. Explore project or freelance work as a way to transition back. Don’t apologize for the break in your career – sell it and sell yourself! At the same time, be open to all different possible re-entry doors, as getting back in, just like getting in the first time, can be the hardest step.
2. What do you love most about the communications industry, and what is it that made you want to pursue it as a career?
When I was a child and I got the inevitable “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I would reply: “an actress, or a lawyer.” Some found that amusing. However I realize now that, even then through my child’s lens of careers, I was drawn to connecting with people, persuading, framing and selling ideas, crafting a sharp narrative that had impact. In college at Brown University I had a chance to be one of the news anchors at their nationally known commercial radio station, and my attention began to turn to broadcasting. (Not too late for my own talk show, right)? However through my final summer internship in advertising, I found that marketing brought together psychology, culture and business in a very exciting way to me. All these years later, being a storyteller in ways that surprise and genuinely prompt people to think, feel and act is at the center of what I love about this field.
3. What has been the greatest influence throughout your life, and how has this influenced you?
I like that you framed this question as “what” vs the usual “who,” and it makes me want to give a different kind of answer in turn. I believe my answer is that when life challenges or mere circumstances thrust me into new and uncomfortable situations, I have surprised myself so many more times than not by being able to adapt and find my own way to thrive. Whether that was at a young age, switching schools with wildly different environments, or switching industries and even experimenting with careers at various points (I did in fact leave advertising to try my hand at being a TV producer in my 20s), I learned that I can draw the connections that aren’t so obvious, and thereby find my unique competency with it.
4. Is there a particular book or film you’ve recently read or seen that has made an impression on you? Why?
I love to read (or listen to) books. I read a lot of what I would call topical fiction, with some good non-fiction mixed in, so it’s hard to choose one. Thus I will go with recency and give a call out to “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. It won the Goodreads awards for best fiction for 2020 so I finally took the plunge. The central theme is, if you had the chance to taste the infinite versions of lives you might have led had even one variable been different, what might you choose vs. the life you have now? It takes you on a journey that involves shedding regrets, gaining perspective and coming to understand what makes life really worth living.
There were also many quotable bits of philosophy; I’ll share this chess-related one which I liked enough to Tweet: “And even if you were a pawn – maybe we all are – then you should remember that a pawn is the most magical piece of all. It might look small and ordinary but it isn’t. because a pawn is never just a pawn. A pawn is a queen-in-waiting. All you need to do is find a way to keep moving forward. One square after another. And you can get to the other side and unlock all kinds of power.”