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247: Forget 2020? Party City and Julie Roehm have made the best of it and more

Julie Roehm, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer, Party City

On this 247th episode of “Marketing Today,” host Alan Hart speaks with Julie Roehm, the chief marketing and experience officer at Party City. More than most, Party City had to make a massive pivot in response to the pandemic, as parties became all but outlawed.

We start our conversation talking about Roehm’s unusual path to where she is today, actually beginning with a degree in environmental engineering before moving to finance and ultimately marketing. Roehm then explains how each industry taught her to view challenges “as opportunities rather than an obstacle.” Next, Roehm dives into the beginning of her marketing career at Ford Motor Company, stating, “that’s where I started to get the taste for this out-of-the-box, different way of thinking about marketing.” As she made the jump from company to company, Roehm stayed true to her No. 1 rule, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

We then discuss the challenges presented by the pandemic to her current company, Party City, during a time when “pandemic and party were not synonymous.” Roehm explains how she was able to set up a same-day delivery service with Hertz in just eight days as her team made an attempt to “get people to see celebration around every corner.” People need something to be happy about during the pandemic, and Party City is trying to give it to them. Finally, Roehm talks about the importance of knowing “yourself and the kind of environments you’re going to thrive in!”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Julie created The Conversational Podcast in her free time after she successfully flipped an auto body company. 1:27
  • Throughout her career, Julie has been able to know some incredibly successful people on a personal level. 2:26
  • Julie’s Holy Shit moments have given her direction throughout her life, leading to her greatest success. 3:18
  • Born in the Midwest as the oldest child, Julie’s family moved around a lot before attending Purdue for college. 5:22
  • Upon finding out that engineers were paid well, Julie decided to go into engineering at Purdue. 6:26
  • After her first year in college, Julie chose civil engineering to buy more time to figure out what she wanted to do. 7:00
  • Julie ultimately chose environmental engineering and being accepted into a co-op program. 8:36
  • During her time in the co-op program, Julie learned that she did not want to be an engineer, but she did want to be a businesswoman. 9:10
  • Once she began attending business school in Chicago, Julie worked for American Airlines as an intern in the New Business and Marketing area. 9:55
  • Julie ultimately chose to work in marketing for Ford Motor Company right out of business school. 11:05
  • Back in 1999, Julie helped launch the first Ford Focus in the United States. 11:36
  • After Mercedes bought Chrysler, Julie made the jump and created the Grab Life by the Horns campaign. 12:00
  • Spending under a year at Walmart, Julie decided to start her own consulting company that lasted for five years. 12:56
  • Julie was excited to work as CMO for Abra Autobody & Glass because of the incredible culture that had been built. 14:00
  • After flipping Abra, one of the board members extended an offer to Julie to come to Party City. 15:50
  • Before agreeing to join Party City, Julie made sure to spend time with the executive board to make sure the correct culture was there. 16:33
  • With enough skills, training, and confidence, you can do anything, but the culture will be what ultimately launches you to success. 18:10
  • Party City Holdings Inc. designs, produces and manufactures around 80% of what is sold in Party City. 19:00
  • When the pandemic hit, Julie’s team adopted the fail fast forward strategy to thrive during a time where parties had disappeared. 21:03
  • Utilizing Hertz, Party City started its same-day delivery service, something that was vital to the survival of the business. 23:15
  • Julie’s team went deep to understand the customers’ needs, focusing on virtual celebrations and parties. 24:20
  • Once summer hit, Party City created camp itineraries for their customers who had jobs and kids at home. 26:07
  • Party City leaned in heavily to influences, how-to videos, and other forms of content to make fun accessible and easy. 27:00
  • Now, we all have a language to celebrate with others that aren’t in the same room as us. 28:50
  • Party City celebrated the end of 2020 with its “F U 2020” campaign, that being Forget You 2020. 30:10
  • In 2021, many people and organizations look to redo or blowout in honor of missed celebrations from 2020. 32:27
  • The role of digital services in the shopping industry has exploded as a result of the pandemic. 34:39
  • Party City has positioned itself well to succeed in the post-pandemic world with many locations and a solid online presence. 36:36
  • Julie attributes her childhood of constantly joining new schools and making new friends to her success in multiple industries. 39:00
  • Looking back, Julie would trust her gut more when prioritizing culture over strategy. 41:47
  • Big tech, pharmaceuticals, and environmental protection are three areas that Julie is interested in moving forward. 44:43
  • For Julie, experience is just what marketing is now, whether from the customer or the employee. 47:28

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