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229: USAA’s Tony Wells on Marketing & Diversity

Tony Wells, Chief Brand Officer at USAA

On this 229th episode of “Marketing Today,” host Alan Hart interviews Tony Wells, Chief Brand Officer at USAA.

We begin with an inside look into Wells’s basketball days playing alongside David Robinson during The Naval Academy’s magical Elite Eight Run. Wells then dives into his unique transition into the corporate world from his military service. “I love this idea of engaging with consumers or members,” Wells says regarding his attraction towards the marketing function. After a handful of positions at various top companies, Wells found his home at USAA. “One of the challenges in marketing…is you want to talk to everybody. We’ve been able to narrow this thing down to those who have served.”

We then discuss how and why USAA has brought the function of Diversity & Inclusion under the organization that Wells runs. Wells describes how important it is to the company’s future branding because “the pie can get bigger and deeper for everybody when we all seek to win and live and succeed together.” Wells believes that if you can put your ego aside and know your role, you can help your team achieve something greater than individual success!

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Tony had the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament alongside NBA HOF David Robinson. 1:32
  • Committing to The Naval Academy was inspired by a plethora of factors. 2:55
  • You have the option of going to The Marine Corps out of The Naval Academy, and that’s exactly what Tony did. 3:54
  • Making a transition from a career in military service to the corporate sector 4:42
  • USAA is a brand with a purpose, which made Tony feel at home when he started there. 6:02
  • Tony’s success can be partly attributed to his ability to speak the same language as those in his company. 8:20
  • A promotion to Chief Brand Officer has changed Tony’s role in the company, though the storytelling has stayed the same. 9:39
  • USAA was formed almost 100 years ago by 25 officers and has experienced a plethora of changes along the way. 10:50
  • Tracking a wide range of metrics has allowed USAA to stay connected with its members at a personal level. 12:27
  • Customer satisfaction is based on so much more than the numbers. 13:26
  • Due to being a member-driven company, USAA has given back massive dividends to its members during the pandemic. 14:25
  • COVID has forced all companies to change their marketing techniques, and USAA decided to focus on the things that mattered. 15:53
  • Remote production has been a challenge but has allowed USAA to learn about its capabilities. 17:51
  • Diversity & Inclusion has been brought into the marketing side of the company, which is unusual in large corporations. 19:15
  • It only makes sense that D&I be included in the branding and marketing of a company. 21:40
  • Tony’s bad and good experiences as a black male have helped fortify his diverse mindset in the boardroom. 23:57
  • People want to be their authentic selves at the workplace, and Tony is trying to promote that. 26:22
  • Uncomfortable conversations need to be had so that everyone has an opportunity to be successful and included. 29:08
  • Technology has caused the marketing and branding space to undergo a dramatic change. 31:39
  • Tony’s experience playing basketball taught him the importance of playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back. 34:00
  • If Tony could go back, he would take more risks on his way up. 35:20
  • Environmental Societal and Governance (ESG) are only going to become more important to consumers in the future. 37:51
  • The pandemic has forced a digital transformation and could shrink the number of brands in various spaces. 38:58

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