The Customer Comes First: Leveraging Tech and New Media for Integrated Strategies, a Q+A With Lauren Scrima, VP/Head of Marketing at New York City FC

March 13, 2024

In the disorientingly fast-changing world of marketing, it’s extremely important to make sure that you are creating a feedback loop between data and creativity. Marketing is the blend of art and science, and few people understand this as well as this week’s podcast guest, Lauren Scrima.

Lauren is the VP of Marketing at New York City FC. Her transition from studying political science to running multi-platform brand marketing departments symbolizes the necessity for marketers to be agile, adaptable, and continuously learning. Adaptability is particularly critical as this field is ever-evolving, the engagement platforms rise and fall and consumer engagement paradigms shift almost daily. “How are we different?” is a question that must be asked and realized on a daily basis.

Before we dive in, check out the full episode here:

Lauren started her career at the prestigious New Yorker Magazine as a sales associate before jumping over the brand side at Dr. Pepper Snapple, and later, the alcohol behemoth AB InBev. Each step in her journey gave her unique insights — from grappling with the emotional connections essential in marketing to the significance of data-driven strategies in sculpting compelling, unique brand narratives.

Today Lauren is at New York City FC, and has been tasked with elevating the little known soccer brand in the highly competitive US sports market. She went gung-ho into influencer marketing and platforms like TikTok, underscoring her ability to adapt to new mediums and strategies. Her time at New York City FC has showcased her penchant for keeping creativity in marketing, while balancing it with an acute awareness of data to inform decision-making, resonate with audiences, and drive impactful brand engagement.

We had a great time with her on the ‘How the F**k Did You Get That Job’ podcast. You can read a lightly edited version of the interview below and listen to the full interview above.

Q: What inspired your transition from a political science background to a career in marketing?

As an NYU student majoring in political science, my initial career aspirations were driven by a desire to make a significant impact on the world. I was deeply influenced by the contentious Bush vs. Gore election in 2000, and my dad, a politics enthusiast, played a big role in nurturing my interest. But as I delved deeper into the field, I realized the career paths in politics didn't resonate with my aspirations for dynamic and creative impact.

My pivot to marketing wasn't instantaneous; it was a journey marked by introspection and chance. My stint at the New York Public Library as a development associate was pivotal. I felt stifled, constrained by red tape, and demotivated. It was a realization moment for me - the need for a faster-paced, more stimulating career.

The actual shift happened at The New Yorker. Thanks to a friend from NYU, I landed a job in their sales department. It was a whole new world for me. I was literally at the bottom rung, but it opened my eyes to marketing. Being part of sales pitch meetings, interacting with brand marketers, and understanding their strategies and business acumen – it all fascinated me. I realized that marketing offered a platform where I could still make a meaningful impact, but in a way that was more aligned with my creative and strategic inclinations. It was a discovery of the power of the private sector – a blend of storytelling and message delivery, but in a very different vehicle than politics. That was my 'aha' moment, and it set me on the path to a career in marketing.

Q: Having worked at The New Yorker, Dr. Pepper Snapple, and now New York City FC, how have these diverse experiences contributed to your overall marketing strategy?

At The New Yorker, I got my first taste of high-level marketing, learning about strategic client handling and storytelling's importance in marketing. This foundation was crucial as I moved to Dr. Pepper Snapple, where I embraced the challenge of growing brands in a declining market. I learned about the emotional aspects of marketing and the significance of branding in product differentiation.

Transitioning to AB InBev, there was a culture of taking bold marketing strategies that shaped my approach towards being more aggressive and innovative, especially with new technologies. This contrast in company cultures gave me a much broader understanding of different market approaches.

With New York City FC, the key challenge was unifying various marketing initiatives into a cohesive strategy. The lessons from my past roles kind of all converged here, and I learned the importance of an integrated marketing approach. Balancing retention strategies with attracting new fans was the goal, and I drew upon my previous experiences to address these challenges effectively.

These experiences have all taught me about the emotional connections in marketing, the need for bold and innovative strategies, and the critical role of an integrated approach.

Q: In transitioning to sports marketing with New York City FC, what unique challenges and opportunities have you encountered compared to your previous roles?

The most significant challenge was raising awareness and expanding our fan base in a highly saturated New York sports market. Unlike my past experiences where brand recognition was already established, New York City FC needed strategies to increase its visibility and fan engagement in a city dominated by big, long-established sports brands.

One of the opportunities was tapping into the power of influencer marketing, particularly on platforms like TikTok, which was unexplored territory for New York City FC. This approach really helped address our main challenge: building awareness. The data-driven approach from my previous roles helped here too, as it allowed us to monitor and adapt our strategies to maximize reach and impact.

Another big opportunity at New York City FC was the passionate and loyal fan base. Unlike larger teams where fan retention can be a challenge, New York City FC's fanbase was a strong foundation to build upon. This enabled us to focus more on broadening our reach rather than on just retaining. So, while the challenges were unique in sports, they opened doors to new, creative marketing strategies that leveraged the club's position in the New York sports landscape.

Q: How do you balance creativity with data-driven decision-making in your marketing efforts?

In marketing, striking the right balance between creativity and data-driven decision-making is essential. Throughout my career, I've learned that both elements are crucial, but they serve different purposes.

Creativity is at the heart of engaging and resonating with your audience. It's about crafting stories and experiences that captivate and stick with them. Creativity plays a big role in differentiating our brands and making a lasting impression, whether that was creating compelling brand narratives at Dr. Pepper Snapple or more innovative campaigns at AB InBev.

But creativity without data is like shooting in the dark. Data provides the insights needed to understand your audience, tailor your message, and measure effectiveness. It informs where, when, and how to engage with your audience. In my current role at New York City FC, data has been instrumental in identifying the most effective platforms and strategies for our marketing efforts, especially in terms of digital and influencer marketing.

The synergy of creativity and data is what leads to successful marketing strategies. Creativity drives innovation and connection, while data ensures relevance and impact. In my approach, I always look to fuse these two elements, using data to inform creative decisions and leveraging creativity to bring data-driven strategies to life

Q: From your perspective, how has the dynamic between brands and marketing agencies changed over time, and what qualities do you look for in a successful agency partnership?

The relationship between brands and agencies has certainly evolved over time. Early in my career at Dr. Pepper Snapple and AB InBev, working closely with agencies was a regular part of the job. We always began by looking for the best in the business, but beyond that, it was crucial to find agencies that were willing to be truly invested in our brand and act as an extension of our team. We sought partners who weren’t too big, in the hope that they could dedicate enough time and resources to understand and align with our brand’s needs.

In my current role at New York City FC, I work with agencies much less. This shift reflects a broader industry trend where many brands are bringing capabilities in-house, especially as digital and social media marketing have become more integral to our strategies.

For me, the key qualities in a successful agency partnership are creativity, commitment, and a deep understanding of our brand’s ethos. Agencies that can offer unique perspectives and are willing to go the extra mile in their partnership are more likely to help us achieve our marketing goals. It’s about finding that perfect intersection of skill, creativity, and a willingness to collaborate deeply with the brand.

Q: Where do you see the future of marketing heading? Specifically in terms of integrating new media and technology with the goal of increasing customer engagement and building a strong brand.

From my experiences, I've seen firsthand how technology has transformed marketing strategies. We're now able to leverage data analytics and digital platforms in ways that were unimaginable just a decade ago. These tools help us understand our customers better and create more personalized, engaging experiences.

Like I said earlier, at New York City FC, we've embraced platforms like TikTok to engage with a broader, younger audience. The rise of such platforms shows a shift towards more interactive and creative forms of marketing. The key is not just about being present on these new media platforms; it's about using them to create content that resonates and connects with your audience in a meaningful way.

Another aspect is the increasing importance of customer data to inform strategies. The ability to collect, analyze, and utilize customer data effectively can significantly enhance how we engage with our audience and build strong brands.But it's crucial to balance this with the need to respect customer privacy and trust.

I believe we'll see more immersive and experiential marketing, driven by technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies can create unique brand experiences that are more engaging and memorable. Imagine being able to virtually attend a soccer game or interact with your favorite players through AR experiences.

The future of marketing lies in the seamless integration of creativity, new media, and technology, all while keeping the customer experience at the core. It's about leveraging these advancements to build strong, lasting relationships with consumers and continuously evolve our strategies to stay ahead in this ever-changing landscape.

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