Leadership Edge with Tara McRae of Tom Brady’s & Alex Guerrero’s TB12
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara McRae, CMO at Tom Brady’s and Alex Guerrero’s TB12. Tara has more than 20 years of brand management, marketing, e-commerce and business strategy experience in the athletic and lifestyle industries. Most recently, she was CMO of Clarks, where she reinvigorated the footwear brand by strategizing their first-ever coordinated global campaign with celebrity ambassadors. McRae also grew Clarks’ consumer base through collaborations with fashion and entertainment brands such as Supreme, Kith, Tibi, Patta and Wutang. Before Clarks, McRae spent ten years at PUMA, where she held several roles across sports and US marketing teams, strategic planning and brand management, eventually taking over as SVP of Brand and Marketing. At PUMA, she oversaw pivotal marketing programs such as the launch of PUMA Golf, the partnership with Women’s Professional Soccer and The Puma Lab Powered by Foot Locker. She brought to life ambassador partnerships with Fenty and Meek Mill. McRae began her career in marketing and media planning for Bose. Recognized across the industry, McRae was named in 2015’s Top 50 Women in Brand Marketing by Brand Innovators, followed by the Top 100 in 2016. That same year, and the following three years, she was included among Footwear News’ Power 100 Most Influential Designers, Influencers and Leaders in the Shoe Industry.
About TB12: Inspired by Tom Brady, their goal is to help you do what you love — better and for longer. To change the way you prepare, perform, and recover.
Thank you for joining us Tara! Can you tell us what brought you to this specific career path? I have always been drawn to advertising — and even used to tear out my favorite advertisements from magazines when I was a kid. When I went on to study communications during my undergraduate years, I just fell in love with my marketing courses, and that experience built on this inherent passion I had for the craft. It is a dynamic career path in so many ways — from developing big-picture marketing strategies to the details of what creative will connect with the consumer to which channels influence action. Every new challenge reminds me of why I love it so much.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you first started? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? Oh wow, I am sure I made a ton of mistakes. I can’t think of one in particular, but I will say that I make mistakes all the time.. I am a firm believer in trying new things all the time. We will make mistakes and some things will fail, just fail fast, learn from it and keep going.
Can you identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that? My tipping point for success was when I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a risk. I threw my hat in the ring years ago for a role I knew I didn’t have the level of experience they were looking for. But I also knew I would work harder than anyone else in the mix. They took a chance on me, and it paid off for everyone. I was nervous at the start, but I found great success in the role.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? Our brand promise says it all. We want to help people do what they love better and for longer. When I first met our co-founders Alex Guerrero and Tom Brady, they both had amazing responses when I asked them about the brand, our direction and ultimately, why TB12 exists. Alex said to me, “we opened our Foxboro Performance & Recovery Center with the sole purpose of helping people…. bring what we had learned to others.” When I asked Tom about future direction and aspirations, he told me that “we always put helping people first.”’ Everything we do ties back to helping people achieve their peak performance no matter what stage of their active life they are in. Everyone talks about wanting to be a purpose-driven company, and TB12 truly is.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people? We sure are. Tom trains at the speed of sport — and we work at the speed of sport! Everything we do aims to help people, and that is an ongoing pursuit that we’re constantly working on.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout? It is all about finding balance that’s right for you. As hard as I work every day, I also ensure that I have a good amount of family time and some time for ‘me’.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? I would need a whole chapter to answer that question — it’s a long list! I have been so incredibly lucky to have worked for and with so many incredible people throughout my career. Managers, colleagues and team members have all helped me get to where I am. Nobody does it alone. I seek out mentors everywhere I go and am a sponge — constantly in learning mode on how to be better at everything — leadership, management, teamwork, etc. I also have an amazingly supportive family.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much? I loved the Absolute Vodka city ads. I used to collect all of them when I was younger. I loved the simplicity of the concept, the creativity of it, and the fact that they embedded themselves into the culture of each city to bring the creativity to life.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas. Every campaign is different as they are all based on what the objective is, but I will say that regardless of the business and brand objectives mapped out, a campaign must get people to ‘feel something’ and/or want to actually ‘do something’. I am all about evoking emotion and action. In today’s scroll and swipe landscape, you have a shorter amount of time to capture that attention, so it is a much different challenge than it was when I first started in marketing.
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going? Consumers are so much more in tune these days with the greater purpose and behavior of companies. I think the truer and more transparent the marketing approach is, the stronger it will resonate with the consumer.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers? There are so many great tools out there for small, medium and large businesses. Also, there is an abundance of freelancers that can aid small businesses — more so today than ever before. The one thing I would give advice on is to be consumer focused. Consumer insights are key — whether very formal and integrated into the process or just spending dedicated time speaking with them. A ‘push only’ model just doesn’t work these days.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills? I love studying my brands. Podcasts and Books are also top of my list. I am a huge fan of How I Built This and Business Wars podcasts. For books, there are far too many. Shoe Dog and Onward are two of my favorites from some of the world’s most iconic brands. Hooked and Baked In (although older), are always two of my go to product and marketing books. HBR is often a go to for me. Also, Exponential Organizations is a great one I read last year that had a major impact on the way we looked at evolving Clarks.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? KINDNESS. I think it is an underrated skill in the business world. I have very high expectations of myself and my team so we all work really hard together, but I always put kindness first.