Dee Mc Laughlin

Dee Mc Laughlin, SVP Global Brand & Creative, Capital Group/American Funds, admits she’s made job change mistakes over her career – “plenty of them,” she says.

“It’s about knowing your strengths and asking the right questions before you go into an industry,” Mc Laughlin said, as she led a CMO Club Virtual Roundtable, Moving from Disruptor to Iconic Brand: The Difference in Marketing Approach and How to Switch Industries Gracefully.

Now 18 months into her tenure with Capital Group, Mc Laughlin said spent a year in discussions with Capital Group prior to taking on the role.

While at Forever 21, as she contemplated her next move, that she thought about the challenge of being in an industry that was being disrupted, such as health, finance or education.

When Capital Group called her, she thought the 85-year-old financial company wasn’t going to want to be disrupted, but it turned out that’s exactly what they were looking for.

Weighing her values and doing her homework

Mc Laughlin embarked on some in-depth research at the same time she began her conversations with Capital Group. She talked with a recruiter who gave her valuable advice: “you need to know what your non-negotiables are.”

The standards like a challenging role and competitive salary came to mind, but as she thought more, she realized it came down to values.

With that in mind, Mc Laughlin had a number of what she calls “backdoor” conversations about Capital Group, and other organizations she was considering –talking with those in her network who either worked at or had knowledge about the company.

“I wanted to make sure the next place I went into was everything that they said they were, and that I had the proof,” she said.

Changing industries: finding similarities and differences:

“As marketers, you can market anything,” she said. “I’ve always believed in that, as long as you keep your skillset up in both traditional and digital.”

Mc Laughlin said similarities across industries include:

  • Client-centricity
  • Creating and maintaining a simple message
  • Challenging how a company has done things in the past

Shifting industries is about understanding your comparable skillset, she said. With finance, it’s all about rethinking the role of money in our lives.

“Money is incredibly emotional,” she said.

Where her previous role was about making someone feel like a fashion icon, it’s now about people planning to send a child to college or retire well. All of those decisions are emotional decisions, she said.

While the marketing principles are the same as before, she did point out there are differences. Compliance is an issue in the world of finance, for example. It’s taught her to have patience and move at a slower pace.

“There’s limitations, but it makes you more creative,” she said.

Understanding culture change

Mc Laughlin also talked about the cultural changes she found at Capital Group.

Where she was used to people openly telling her when they were unhappy, things were more subdued at Capital Group.

She’d present at meetings where participants would signal they understood, and sometimes ask a few questions, and Mc Laughlin said she assumed the meeting went well.

“This was the flip side of that (value of) respect,” she said. “People don’t tell you out of respect for the individual that they totally disagree with what you’re saying.”

Instead of calling each other out in a room full of people, colleagues discuss the matter privately at a later time, she said. As a result, she had to learn to read between the lines. Mc Laughlin said she worked with a coach during her first year on the job to help her make that shift.

Finally, her transition to an organization that was still coming to understand branding, and still viewed marketing as “print brochures” resulted in Mc Laughlin becoming part marketer and part educator.

With a data-driven document on hand, she regularly presents to various teams throughout the organization and is getting back to basics on branding. But it’s something Mc Laughlin was prepared for.

“I knew part of my role here was going to be educational,” she said.