Before being named DocuSign’s CMO, Brad Brooks says his research around the brand showed it was very much focused on the company’s business benefits, but lacked an emotional appeal.
“I had my own experiences with DocuSign, but wanted to validate what I was feeling and what I thought the brand was missing at the time,” says Brooks, “The brand, and the marketing of the brand, very much focused on the tangible business benefits and ROI of using DocuSign – the increased speed, security, and compliance; the positive impact on revenues and expenses; and the improvements in the end user experience – all of which were profound for just about any brand. But it was missing the emotional pow.”
Now, as DocuSign’s CMO, Brooks says his biggest initiative is bringing the brand to life.
“It’s an incredible statement to the significance of DocuSign and the power of helping people and businesses make every decision, approval, workflow and signature digital so that they can ‘DocuSign and Go’ to get on with life and business,” says Brooks.
Brooks came to DocuSign with more than 25 years in business leadership positions across several industries. He has managed major technology brands like Microsoft Windows, led operations and logistics for Maquiladoras on the Mexico border, and even negotiated content rights with Hollywood studios in California and broadcasters in Japan.
A graduate of California State University, Brooks earned his Masters in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Management.
What mobile device can you not live without?
My post-professional life goal is to go back to living with no mobile devices again. I don’t like what they have done to physical human social interaction in the last decade.
But, for now, it’s my iPhone and my Microsoft Surface.
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Twitter, it’s the way I discover and keep tabs on trends in the marketplace.
Other favorite apps include Flipboard for news aggregation as it really personalizes my morning newspaper and Waze – it’s an absolute lifesaver. I commute into San Francisco from the south bay and it has changed the way I drive. The app is better than any on-board navigation system in your car since it pulls in the wisdom of the crowds on how to navigate through traffic.
And, of course, I would be remiss as the head marketer at DocuSign if I didn’t mention the DocuSign App. It’s built natively in iOS, Android and Windows (across all the devices I use), and available free within the respective app stores. I use it multiple times a day.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Flipboard and Techmeme – Flipboard gives me the headlines, and Techmeme gives me the quick, no frills aggregation of what’s trending in tech.
Take me through your typical workday.
Lots of 1:1 engagement with the team and colleagues. I do try to keep “open door” hours most days, in which any of my team is welcome to pop in and have a conversation. I try to limit both number and size of meetings. Sharing of ideas is important, but large meetings are usually a poor way of accomplishing that task.
I intentionally block out specific time for email, and reserve “think” time in my week.
Customer engagement time – whether in our Executive Briefing Center, calls, dinners, or pouring through research results – is always my favorite way of spending my day.
Getting time to talk with our product leaders and many of the engineers I have built relationships with since joining is my next most favorite use of time. Their creativity and passion about where to go next is infectious.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
Making the move to DocuSign and leading the company’s brand into the future.
What has amazed me about DocuSign is that in addition to all the very tangible business benefits you’d expect around ROI, security and compliance, and customer experience, there’s an emotional component to DocuSigning – to that moment you close on your first house, lease a new car, sign off on the financial aid for your child’s college education – when you can do it quickly, easily and securely from anywhere, anytime, on any device with DocuSign.
When you wear a DocuSign hoodie, random people literally come up to you in public and hug you and say thank you. It’s incredible.
What does your office look like? Any sentimental items you can tell us about?
My work office is fairly Spartan. I don’t have a lot of paper, don’t need it at DocuSign; and I have no sentimental items. As a matter-of-fact my colleagues tease me as they tell me it looks like I could move out in five-minutes if required. Being a CMO that is willing to take risks, that’s always a possibility.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
Only 20-30K, it’s been a light year for travel. This year the most interesting place was London. While I’ve been there several dozen times over my career, this last time was for our annual user conference at DocuSign called MOMENTUM.
The company “grew up” with this last user conference, and the amount of pride I had in the company and my team for the event that was delivered was the best feeling I’ve had professionally in several years. It set the bar for our next London user conference which will be in early June of this year.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
As a rule, I sleep pretty well at night. But if there was one area it would be people. Always about the people.
In tech, the only asset that matters is the human asset. They walk out the door every night and if/how they choose to come back the next morning is the difference between companies that are winning versus losing in the market.
Keeping employees motivated, challenged and operating at their best is, and will probably always be, the work thing that I think about most outside of work.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
The Bill Gates-Jerry Seinfeld ad campaign. We were looking for a way to “re-introduce” a brand voice back into the market for Microsoft and Windows after being absent for the most part for nearly a decade.
The thinking was that we needed to do something to get people talking about us again, that jumping straight into a product oriented ad campaign was too abrupt and might backfire as this was the time of Apple’s “PC Guy” campaign. We needed to humanize Microsoft and Windows more, and wanted to make light of the “nerd” image that our competitor was vilifying quite effectively at the time.
If you like Seinfeld’s humor, they were hilarious, and Bill showed his comic genius (not just his normal everyday genius) in those spots. But we ended up getting tagged pretty hard by press and pundits as confusing the market with the ads, which were really “about nothing” and that was the purpose. The intent of creating a likable, relatable brand image of Microsoft Windows was somewhat lost in the noise of the feedback with the most connected and loyal customers of the brand at the time that just wanted a counter defense to the Apple ads.
Members of the team, the agency, and I still debate the merits of the limited run campaign over beers every now and then. It was a risk and it did not pay the way we expected. The strategy was right, and although we may have “failed” to achieve all that we wanted, we all learned a great deal through that experience and every one of those people involved has gone on to amazing careers, because they all have continued to make big bets and take risks.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
Mike Sievert, COO T-Mobile, taught me the secrets between what is good marketing and storytelling and what is GREAT storytelling and marketing.
Bill Veghte, Former CEO at Survey Monkey, pushed me to think big, REAL big, world changing BIG. I learned about accountability and honed my abilities and confidence in standing up to and making the big decisions.
Kevin Johnson, COO at Starbucks, taught me about what interpersonal leadership gravitas really means. He blends who he is on a personal level and professional level so seamlessly, and he creates amazing personal bonds with his teams because of it.
Steve Sheldon, former professor at USC and since passed, made me realize in my late teens that coming from a very small town and very modest background was not a weakness to overcome, but a strength to embrace and that my only limitation was my own perceptions of reality.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Have conviction and a passionate point of view. I constantly push people to have and express conflict – it makes us all better at our jobs, and as a leader, it gives you a chance to see different perspectives, which is oftentimes better than your own.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I have very few surprises. I’m a simple kind of man. What you see is what get, it makes life and work much easier that way.
Why did you go into marketing?
I was asked to change roles. A product leader came to me one day and asked if I would “jump the fence” into marketing from product because I had a knack for taking the more complex and detailed discussion of engineers and bubbling it up into words and images that all of us can better relate to and understand.
As one person once said, “Brad, the market speaks English, the product teams speaking engineering Swahili. You have a gift. You speak both languages fluently. We need you to translate the magic that is being done so the world can use it.”
That was all the motivation I needed to go try it out.
What other career would you like to try and why?
Marine biology – I had every intention of having a double major in biology and business in my undergraduate studies. I love the biological sciences. I ran out of money and time to achieve that goal.
If I ever get to the point where I no longer need to work for a living, I might very well go back and give it a shot.
What’s the last business book you read & what did you think of it?
“Creativity Inc.” by Ed Catmull on the Pixar story. I’m constantly looking at ways others have tapped into the magic vein of creative insight and sustained it over time. It was good, but my current favorite on the subject is “Imagine” by Jonah Lehrer.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
The #Likeagirl campaign. Having two wonderful daughters that are both brilliant and fantastic athletes, I get goosebumps on the back of my neck with those spots.
The Always product is not targeted to me, but the sentiment and emotional connection it drives has made the brand something much bigger than the product. It’s freaking awesome when you tap into that insight and connect it to a brand.
They have reminded me of what I need to keep doing to be a good dad for my girls and that is magic.