Jackie Jantos is Bringing Brand Ethos to Life at Spotify
The Innovator: Jackie Jantos, Vice President of Brand and Creative at Spotify
Innovation Superpower: Disrupting the music industry by leveraging the power of her global brand to contribute to real positive change.
You probably didn’t know that Tokyo-raised Jackie is a huge fan of Aquarius, the drink.
Tell us about your current role and responsibilities. Why did you choose to join your current company?
I lead a team of almost 100 passionate marketers and creative people at Spotify. We are responsible for defining and communicating the value of Spotify, and shaping the experience people have with the brand. Our work spans marketing of the brand, product features, premium service, and unique content and artists on Spotify. We're proud to have built an incredibly talented in-house creative team who develop and execute the majority of our creative programs and experiences.
I joined Spotify five years ago, with the awesome remit to build the brand. To do this, and to work alongside our talented teams at Spotify has been the opportunity of a lifetime.
What current developments in marketing are most inspiring to you? How will they affect the future of marketing?
I’m most passionate about the power of global brands to contribute to culture, and to contribute to positive change. This certainly isn't a new idea. But, historically, brands have been able to communicate about ideals like inclusion, or connection, or equality, and not always behave, as companies, in inclusive and fair ways. Today we are woke! I love the realness people expect from brands, and the ability for almost anyone to call out brands whose messages are not in accordance with their company’s behavior, culture, and policies. Which makes marketing so much more today than finding audiences and selling them something.
What are you working on now that you think is innovative?
I'm most proud of the programs we’ve created that include real opportunities for people. For example, ‘I’m with the banned,’ and ‘Black History is Happening Now.’ 'I'm with the banned' is a program we developed following the 'travel ban' in the US in 2017, to bring 6 artists from the 'banned' nations together with 6 US artists to collaborate on music. Some of these songs charted on Spotify's viral charts, and artists like Moh Flow, from Syria, who collaborated with Pusha T, went on to perform their song long after the collaboration we facilitated took place in Toronto.
Another program, 'Black History is Happening Now,' rejects the idea that Black history should be relegated to one month, in February, and curates an ongoing hub on Spotify for collaborating artists, like Janelle Monae and Pharrell, to share what Black history means to them. Supporting this program are employment and educational opportunities for members of the Black community, like a fellowship at Spotify, a training 'bootcamp' for women of color podcasters (for which we received 18,000 applications in one week!), and an opportunity for women of color in creative fields like film to contribute to the effort. These are the sort of programs that require today's marketers to get real, to provide substantive opportunities that bring to life the ethos and values of a brand far beyond communication and advertising.
Tell us about your career path and how you ended up where you are right now: What big learning moments have you had in your journey? Did you have any notable mentors?
I started my career at Ogilvy. I wanted to be a writer but navigated into the new business team and spent most of my 7 years at Ogilvy there, eventually leading that team. Having broad experience, thinking about many different brands and categories, and being a sponge to learn from the senior leaders around me was an incredible start point for me. Being humble and hungry, and knowing I was the least experienced person in the room and leveraging that to learn and grow was huge for me.
All of the leaders of Ogilvy were there, many of whom are now running that organization. David Fowler, a creative legend, was my first boss; he gave me a masterclass in defining the soul of a global brand and bringing it forward. We launched 'beyond petroleum' for BP that year - which was really the first time an oil company leaned into its impact on society.
Patrick Keyes, the longtime new business lead at Ogilvy, taught me to write and speak, and reminded me how much more I had to learn in the humblest of ways. He was a mentor who pushed me to be smarter, clearer, better.
The second notable chapter of my career was working in the global 'creative excellence' team at Coca-Cola, for Jonathan Mildenhall. Jonathan's belief in the power of creativity, and bravery, is unrivaled. He's unrelenting in his pursuit for defining a brand's human purpose. His courage and energy is contagious, and everything I learned about fighting for an idea that matters, and empowering and supporting brave creative people, comes from him.
Tell us about your teams. How do you pick and develop the talent on your team? How do you ensure there is collaboration?
I am so lucky to be surrounded by such incredible talent - both in my peers across Spotify, and in our own Brand and Creative team. The most important aspect of our team at Spotify, to me, is creating a culture where creative people can be successful. We focus fairly singularly on the work and the ideas we are putting into the world. Much of the work we do celebrates artists and music. Naturally those push and shape culture at large. So people who want to do that, and contribute to brands who want to do that, are attracted to Spotify and joining our team. We are making a lot of work right now. And we value fresh and different voices contributing to that work. We debate a lot. We challenge our own beliefs. We are always balancing caution with courage. "Be hard on ideas, be gentle on people." I love that mantra.
What one thing do you need from your CMO to help you be successful?
Trust. In a world of immediate response and troves of data, culture does not change overnight, and sustainable brands are not built overnight. As brands look to be meaningful to people they must connect with culture. That takes nuance, instinct, bravery, and considering ideology, philosophy, and experience. And moving very quickly. There is not always the opportunity to declare the business case before taking action!
What advice would you give to marketers who are just starting their careers?
It's important to just start. Don't overthink the perfect job, at the perfect company, with the perfect people. It's hard to judge all of that when you're just starting out... because you know very little. And that's an awesome place to be. Be humble. Be open to learning. Be useful.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
As power structures of centuries past begin to fall... There is a lot of change to come. I love the opportunity for purpose-driven brands to add value to the lives of people as we create that change. I have absolutely loved building a brand from the beginning at Spotify. And hope to do more of that for other change agents. In my five years at Spotify, I've also built my own family. Today my boys are 2 and 4 years old... all I can say is that five years from now I hope to have more restful nights and even more energy! The struggle is real!
Favorite place to vacation? Right now - Cape Cod. Simple. Easy. A ton of family around us.
If you were a superhero, what would your special skill be? Warping. So much time saved! #SuperMario
Name something that most people don't know about you. I grew up in Tokyo. I'm eternally hunting for Aquarius. The drink.
If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be? A bed & breakfast owner / host
What's the best thing you've read/listened to/watched recently? The Good Fight - guilty pleasure, and powerhouse, dimensional women. Amen.