The Huffington Post: Women in Business Q&A – Cindy Gustafson, Mindshare North America

by Laura Dunn

On the heels of her induction into the AAF’s Advertising Hall of Achievement last week, check out this Q&A in The Huffington Post’s Women in Business series with Mindshare’s Cindy Gustafson, Founder and Managing Director of the Invention Studio. Read on for her thoughts on leadership, business challenges, planning for agility, and more.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I spent more than two decades playing team sports. Sports teach you to be competitive — with your opponent, and with yourself. You learn your strengths and weaknesses and, based on that, how to work with others for the greatest results. You figure out how to anticipate what your competition has planned, and stay two (or more) steps ahead. You learn that without discipline and dedication there is no success.

Additionally, I grew up surrounded with a balance of science and art. My father was an analytical engineer and my mother was a classically trained musician and instructor. These juxtaposing forces, which complemented each other so perfectly, directly influenced who I am and how I like to approach my work.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Mindshare?
I got my first taste of the advertising industry while at Chiat Day on the west coast. I then moved on a bit later to BBH back in New York. Both agencies made me realize the importance of creative and media working together. And not just saying it – but doing it. The two are not separate and if one isn’t obsessed with the other, you cannot build a brand that’s culturally relevant.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Mindshare?
Elevating the importance of media as part of a brand’s marketing efforts – and pushing the boundaries of what people and clients expect from media agencies – has been particularly rewarding.

Sometimes it means designing an incredibly unorthodox strategy, like we did when debuting Magnum ice cream in the U.S. Our launch approach was marked by throwing standard CPG guidelines out the window; instead we adopted marketing principles from the world of high fashion and blockbuster movie premieres. Or, recently, we helped Dove address the evolution of self-esteem drivers in women and young girls by designing a partnership between the brand and Twitter that encourages women to be more positive when tweeting about beauty and body image. Our goal is to always create ideas and approaches that push brands to think differently; to use media in unique ways that drive cultural impact and business results

Probably the biggest challenge has come about recently: getting brands to move at the speed of culture across ALL of their marketing efforts. There has been an age-old lag between planning timelines / campaign development and the pace at which the cultural zeitgeist moves. Designing a method that systematically harnesses the power of marketing moving at the speed of culture has been a labor of love for me. We call it Planning For Agility. This proprietary process has really started to get brands on their front foot to adjust their paid marketing efforts — the live campaign itself – around moments that happen in culture and map to a brand’s DNA and campaign idea. Coupling this strategy with The LOOP – our operating system — enables us to understand insights in real-time and turn them into real-time actions. We’re getting brand to be more adaptive every day, but the industry still has a long way to go.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in your industry?
Do it. Do it without hesitation and with as much energy and passion as you’ve got. The pace is fast and the pressure can be intense, but it’s an industry filled with intriguing, eclectic, fun, intelligent, and curious people. They make the ride worth it every day. They push you, they teach you, they frustrate you {on rare occasions}, but inspire you always. It’s an industry that offers truly new experiences every single day. Do it.

There’s more where that came from. See the rest of Cindy’s interview here: