Marlo Fogelman is the founder of marlo marketing, an integrated marketing firm based in Boston. Marlo began the agency in 2004 with one staff member and four core clients including Starbucks Coffee. Over ten years later, marlo marketing has become a leading integrated communications agency, serving international, national and regional clients ranging from major hotel properties to national snack brands, international beverages, beauty products, senior living properties and urban development groups. In 2014, marlo marketing opened a New York City location on Madison Avenue to continue to serve and access its growing roster of national and international clients. The agency has won more than 30 communications industry awards including the Silver Bulldog Stars of PR Awards, Small Agency of the Year; Bulldog Digital/Social PR Awards for Excellence in Online Communications and PR News PR People Award. Marlo supports many non-profits and donates much of her time to pro-bono PR work. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Boston Public Market Association and the Boston Police Athletic League.
How did you get into the industry?
I literally fell into it. After graduating from Boston University Law School and passing the NY and MA bars, I decided I didn’t really want to practice law. Unsure of my next step, a friend saw a job posting in a legal paper for a PR firm and encouraged me to apply. Five hundred attorneys applied for that job and I was the one who got it. It makes sense, looking back, because even my “hobbies” at the time all centered around marketing and PR -- I just didn’t realize it yet!
Any emerging industry trends?
Sometimes it feels as if the whole industry is an emerging trend these days! Things are moving and changing so quickly, if you’re not on top of the latest & greatest marketing tools, you’re definitely at a disadvantage. That said, what I have come to learn is that it still comes down to solid strategy and execution, no matter what new tactics or resources are being used.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
I’ve found that the biggest challenge – and opportunity – in our industry is the fact that consumers now demand information packaged in a way that is at once impactful, entertaining and visually memorable more than ever before. That high bar forces us as marketers to be exceptionally more creative, and to produce work across all touchpoints that has a strong story, but also resonates more from a visual standpoint. This is the reason that I’ve nearly doubled the size of my creative team in the past year alone, adding in-house videography and photography to complement our clients’ narratives.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
I never had any aspirations of being an entrepreneur. It happened very organically. At my first job, I saved the Starbucks Coffee/New England account single-handedly. When I left that company after two years, Starbucks followed, so I have been supporting myself since very early on in my career. I had joined a small company with the idea of helping them grow; after a couple of years it became clear that the owner and I had philosophical differences on how to run a business, so I left in pursuit of my own path. Starbucks and a few other clients followed again, and I started marlo marketing. You could say that my inspiration really came down to the fact that I figured if I was going to work that hard, I may as well just do it for myself!
The vision for my business goes beyond my own company and into the industry as a whole. When I turned my back on practicing law, I figured at the very least I would no longer be the subject of the contempt and derision that lawyers deal with daily; I truly had no idea that PR & marketing people are viewed even lower on the totem pole! It truly has become my mission to prove that marketing can be done thoughtfully and strategically with an eye towards ROI. You’d be surprised by how often new clients come to me saying they’ve worked with other agencies who simply don’t follow through with that same mission.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
Last year we were approached by a 27-unit restaurant group with locations up and down the East Coast. They wanted to eliminate their internal marketing team and outsource marketing completely to us. We took on the challenge and essentially created an entirely new division of our company, above and beyond the core functions of PR, social and creative that have been our hallmarks to date. As the marketing world gets more splintered, we’re excited about our ability to continue evolving in order to offer clients a truly full-service solution to the challenge of figuring out how to market a business today.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
One of our guiding principles is to work only with partners in whom we truly believe. This roadmap has allowed us to focus our energies on building brands that we feel will have a lasting impact on their respective industries, and has freed us from feeling compelled to simply take on business for the sake of taking on business.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Without a doubt staffing has always been the biggest challenge, and it hasn’t gotten any easier as we’ve grown. We perform at an extremely high level and I’m often surprised when employees from other agencies come in and struggle with a steep learning curve against our expectations. Additionally, learning how to balance the needs and expectations of different generations in the workforce has been an ongoing area of focus and learning. The one thing I have found to work across all generations, however, is giving employees not only the tools to perform, but also the freedom in which to use those tools to succeed.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
For us, the ideal client is collaborative, responsive and not simply looking for yes-men (or women). If clients feel the same about what they seek in an agency, then we’re the perfect fit. Beyond that, clients tell us time and again how they appreciate our desire to be held accountable – and to hold them accountable in order to move the process along, too!
How do you motivate others?
People who succeed at marlo are those who are internally motivated to do an above par job for themselves. Does it benefit the clients and the agency? Of course! But this is truly an agency where you have every opportunity to completely control your career and work/life balance. People who understand how unique this is are the ones who truly thrive and so it makes it easy to motivate them because they quickly see that their actions result in their ability to control their own destiny.
Career advice to those in your industry?
It’s super cliché but, it’s the truth: Put your head down, roll up your sleeves and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way with a smile. So many people entering the workforce today expect to start at the top. No one has ever started at the top!