Over the past several years, Booth has invested significantly in many areas of concentration outside of the traditional finance field. The Kilts Center for Marketing is one of the great beneficiaries of that effort. In addition to sponsoring research and strengthening the marketing curriculum, Kilts invites top industry leaders to campus to share their experience with Booth students firsthand. Cognizant of the growing interest in the technology industry, the Kilts Center for Marketing invited an industry powerhouse that epitomizes marketing success and leadership in the technology industry: Gary Briggs, the Chief Marketing Officer at Facebook.
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In a room packed with first- and second-year Booth students, Professor and Director for the Kilts Center, Art Middlebrooks, sat onstage with Gary Briggs, a gentleman in a blue button-down shirt, khakis, and slightly revealed happy socks. Professor Middlebrooks discussed Mr. Briggs’s marketing journey, which took him from PepsiCo to Ebay, then Motorola, and now Facebook. Briggs claimed his impressive path was a result of “serendipity” and admitted that his initial thought as a Political Science major at Brown University was to go into government. Instead, this Kellogg alum ended up truly creating impact in the technology industry, and attributes his professional direction to his better half: “A huge part of my career is my wife… I married really, really well.”
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Now at Facebook, Briggs reaches over 1.1 billion people across the world daily, and he loves the impact of this reach. Facebook’s role in society, in his opinion, is to connect people to the things that matter, which is staying connected with friends and the world around them.
The challenge for marketing, however, is the changing consumer expectations in the developed world. Paraphrasing his favorite comedian Louis CK, Briggs highlighted that as a marketer in technology, you have to remember that the consumer believes that everything is amazing and always connected: consumers don’t remember a time not being connected to the internet at LTE speeds. Similarly, technologists can fall into that trap as well. One way to remind employees of how the large majority of the world experiences their products, Facebook enforces ‘2G Tuesdays’ that slows speeds down to 2G for all Facebook employees.
On the future of Facebook, Briggs looks forward to new technical features, such as the Watch, 3-5 minute short videos on Facebook, and the incorporation of voice functionality. He also highlighted larger strategic tactics to better connect people through small group messaging and further personalize the Blue App (mobile Facebook) functionality.
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Briggs spent four years after getting his MBA at Kellogg with McKinsey & Company, where he learned a crucial piece of advice. At McKinsey, he was forced to perform “driver’s analysis” on every case, but now admittedly constantly leverages this process of breaking each complex component into the simplest possible parts.
Briggs enjoyed the increased analytical rigor in technology companies as compared to his past experiences. He stated matter-of-factly that in the tech industry, you need to know the product to be successful: “Mark [Zuckerberg] is really the head of the product. If you look at Pepsi, the CEO of Pepsi used to be in Marketing, while the CEO of Google used to be in engineering.”
“Regardless of where you go, make sure you know the user, know the magic, and connect those two.”
He urges students to have deep product knowledge: to know the product really, really well. Being able to understand the product, the consumer, and the value the firm brings is a skill that transcends industry and function.
Gary Briggs presented his story, his view on the future of Facebook, and provided helpful advice to a room full of Boothies who see ourselves marketing in tech someday. His passions for his family and technology were evident. He pursues his passion for beer as a board member for Lagunitas, a Chicago-based brewing company. But most importantly, Briggs provided an impressive perspective into the importance of marketing in the tech space. And that kind of up-close-and-personal interaction with such a significant industry expert is invaluable to a group of students exploring their increasing interest in technology and searching for their place in this industry.