OZY: Can This Digital Whiz Make Marketing Authentic?

An excerpt from an interview with Cindy Gustafson. Written by Steven Butler, Senior Writer, OZY

Hate your body? Cindy Gustafson’s got something for you. During the Oscars last year, on a day when intimidatingly beautiful women were all over TV and social media, Gustafson, managing director at marketer Mindshare’s Invention Studio, organized her troops to fight back against the wave of negative expressions and self-doubt that proliferate on social media about body image … for a well-paying client, naturally.

When a woman named Rhian tweeted out “Really hate my body shape” on the morning of the awards, it took just four minutes for a computer algorithm to suss out that a woman — somewhere in the world — was complaining about how she looked, and for a real human to send a return tweet: “Try to say something nice about yourself today.” The message continued: “You are beautiful, Rhian. #SpeakBeautiful & it can sink in.” Although an actual person crafted those words, it was signed by Dove, the beauty and grooming products brand, as part of its #SpeakBeautiful campaign. And whether you think it’s creepy or cool that a for-profit company is playing Twitter shrink while trying to sell stuff, the impact of the campaign was notable: “We have seen a significant impact in the conversation about beauty online,” says Jennifer Bremner, Dove’s director of marketing. By Dove’s measure, negative body and beauty conversations online fell by almost 63 percent at the 2016 Oscars, compared to 2015.

That’s the kind of stuff that has Gustafson, a marketing industry veteran at 36, pulling in industry awards that you’ve probably never heard of — Cynopsis Top Women in Digital, American Advertising Association’s Hall of Achievement (she’s an inductee) and Adweek Media All Star. Her ultimate quest? To turn “real-time insights into real-time actions,” she says. “The speed at which culture moves waits for no brand, no person.”

“She figures that much of cultural life can be reduced to familiar themes.… And because these moments can pass quickly — in hours or days — they need to be anticipated.”

She’s a bundle of fast-talking energy. I met her at Mindshare’s Midtown Manhattan office. She’s tall (taller than my 5′9″ anyway) with long, wavy blond hair. She wore snug black leather pants and a black and purple blouse, with plenty of gold jewelry. She has a kind of raw athleticism about her and, indeed, she traces her business acumen to lessons learned on the playing field in junior and senior high school days in upstate New York, including varsity basketball, soccer and softball. “The industry has so many dynamics that are a reflection of sports and teamwork and competition and different forces coming together for the greater good,” she says. She runs, six to eight miles through the streets of Hoboken, across the Hudson River, in the early morning and plays golf. She won’t tell me her handicap. “Not braggable enough,” she says, laughing.

Read the rest of the interview on OZY: http://www.ozy.com/rising-stars/can-this-digital-whiz-make-marketing-authentic/67808

Posted on April 7, 2016 .