Although she leads US marketing for one of the world’s most celebrated electronics companies known for high-tech hardware such as AI-enabled refrigerators and robot vacuums, Michelle Crossan-Matos (CMO, Samsung Electronics America) makes sure her work is thoroughly informed by an appreciation of the human factor in marketing, not just by data. At the 2021 Future of Marketing Leadership Conference, presented by the Center on Global Brand Leadership and the ANA Educational Foundation in partnership with the Marketing Association of Columbia, Crossan-Matos described how over the course of her career, she came to trust in her intuition as a marketer – a skill that she now brings to her leadership role at data-obsessed Samsung.

“Intuition, I think, is a superpower of all marketeers. […] You’ve got to be data-centric first, […] but you need to have quiet time, and you’ve got to read the room, read your people, read your consumers, and feel what they’re feeling.” In her talk, Crossan-Matos described an example early in her career when she was working on marketing for a skincare product whose target consumer was 20 years older than her at the time. Although it was hard for her to put herself in the shoes of their target consumer, Crossan-Matos asked herself, “Who do I love that is like the consumer I was targeting?”

For Crossan-Matos, that person was her sister-in-law, a multitasking and budget-conscious mother of four. “Being able to love your consumer with empathy, and being able to have quiet time with a bit of mindfulness, it’s amazing the ideas that will come to you. So have your data – but understand your superpower is in your intuition.”

At Samsung, Crossan-Matos' human focus is not just limited to putting herself in the shoes of consumers. Speaking about how to successfully market consumer products, she said “I would argue it can’t just be consumer insight – you need to think about all the other stakeholders that actually make a product successful in market.” In Crossan-Matos' case, that means a special focus on media and internal employees, who ultimately are potential evangelists for a company’s products. “When you’re creating your concepts and doing your research, think about what will trigger media to write about you, and what will trigger your employees to be proud to be a part of your company,” she advised.

Crossan-Matos' human focus also extends to her leadership philosophy. A seasoned manager who has led teams in many geographies and cultures throughout her career, Crossan-Matos said that because her employees’ wellbeing is of paramount importance to her, she seeks to lead by example – for example, she doesn’t send emails late at night or work at events, and she is known to insist that employees take a full hour for lunch.

Of leading by example, Crossan-Matos said, “That means sometimes tough choices for me. That means sometimes, I might need to delay a deadline.” But this human focus is completely worth it to her as a manager, “because I believe in the power of my people when they’re really open to the world,” she said. And in particular, Crossan-Matos believes that as marketers, her team needs to be inspired by the world they’re living in. “You need to be able to have time to watch Netflix, to see pop culture, to go to a concert, to go to the latest party, to see the latest influencer. You can’t be heads down. As a marketeer, you cannot be.”

For more of Crossan-Matos' thoughts on marketing and leadership – including topics such as sustainability, bridging silos in the organization, the “metaverse” of the future, and why she recommends taking a job in a country where you don’t yet know the language – check out the video of her talk at the 2021 Future of Marketing Leadership Conference.