Greg Kihlström: Founder & CEO of Carousel30

My NativeAdvice:

Greg is founder and CEO at Carousel30, a Washington, DC-based digital agency. He is an award winning creative director and digital strategist who has worked with top brands, including AARP, Ben & Jerry's, Geico, MTV, Starbucks, The Nature Conservancy, Toyota and United Nations.

Greg has received awards including Webby Awards, ADDYs, among others. He is President of the Board of Directors of the DC Ad Club and serves on the National Board of Directors of the American Advertising Federation (AAF). He is also a regular contributing writer to Search Engine Watch and iMedia Connection, and frequently contributes to other industry publications.

How did you get into the Advertising industry?

I started working at a Tech startup back in the late nineties and fell in love with digital marketing. Even though it was in its infancy, I always saw the potential for marketing and technology to allow great stories to be told and great experiences to happen.

Tell us about Caorusel30. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

Carousel30 was founded in 2003, in the very early days of social media and as the Web was taking shape. The company was inspired by the idea that new methods of communicating and interacting with brands would allow exciting things to happen. In the early days, we aspired to be a great “digital” agency, but as time has progressed, we’ve seen the concept of the purely digital agency give way to a new world where smart agencies need to think beyond channels and tactics and approach things from the mind and the experience of the customer. Because the consumer is on multiple devices during the course of a day and can have many different types of interactions with a brand, we have to challenge ourselves to think outside of a strict definition of “digital” or “traditional."

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Caorusel30's success?

Although Carousel30 has grown over the years from a few people to a much larger team, we still rely on the community around us, whether that is the marketing and advertising world in our hometown of Washington, D.C. or the larger thought leadership community where we contribute through writing and speaking. We also have great technology partners that range from small niche companies to Adobe or Google, who help us achieve our clients’ goals.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

The convergence of marketing and technology has taken many forms over the years, whether it’s the emergence of big data, or the ubiquitous nature of mobile, or how the Internet of Things will soon come to dominate our lives. It is important that we understand their importance to consumers and how they impact the decisions that our clients make. We will never allow trends to distract us from a solid strategy, but we have to understand and identify the best tools possible in everything we do.

Life Motto?

"Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should." There are too many possibilities in life, but not enough time or resources. Never confuse having the talent or ability to be able to do something well with the belief that it must be accomplished. Eyes on the prize, whatever that is for you.

Your greatest success as Founder/CEO of Caorusel30? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

There are really three things that come to mind: 1) The greatest successes at Carousel30 have been when my employees and clients have had big wins. Being awarded in the Corporate Culture Awards last December meant a lot because I’ve spent a lot of time, effort and thought in trying to create a great place to work and make great things. 2) Being recognized by several other national and international awards like the ADDYs, Webbys, and a few others for our work is also great third party validation that we are doing something amazing for our clients. 3) Having a platform to share our thoughts and give back to the larger marketing community through speaking, writing, and industry organization leadership is an honor as well.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

You learn more from mistakes than you ever will from success. Failures make victories even sweeter, and help you learn ten times faster. No one who has been truly successful has had a completely smooth path to the top. 

Describe the ideal experience using Caorusel30.

While we started as a “digital” agency, we love to work on campaigns and experiences that utilize multiple channels and tactics to accomplish a goal. That being said, we are great at focusing on a large website project or on a specific social media campaign. Even in cases like those, we pride ourselves on thinking outside the silo that we’re working in and making sure we understand how what is being done fits into a larger picture.

How do you motivate your employees?

We do a lot to create a culture that fosters collaboration, creativity and overall happiness. I know it’s working because we have been rewarded in several ways, including being a recipient at the 2015 SmartCEO Corporate Culture Awards. Our values are written on our walls so everyone knows what we stand for and what it means to be successful at Carousel30. In addition, we have many perks which vary from work at home days, to quarterly company retreats that allow us to get to know each other better. We also take on a pro bono client each year that helps us have a project that we can truly feel great about because we know it’s helping an organization that is in need and that does great work for the surrounding community.

What's next for Caorusel30?

Carousel30 will continue to grow and expand as an agency and in the way we serve our clients. We’ll continue to work with more national and international brands and expand the work that we do and services we offer. We also will continue to lead in our industry by giving back through thought leadership and contributing our time to help make the marketing industry as a whole get better.