Advancing Life & Work

Human Element: Marissa Freeman, Chief Brand Officer, HPE

Can you share a bit about your journey?

I wasn’t always a “client.” For the first half of my career, I worked in creative agencies – BBDO, Deutsch LA and DDB. While I consider myself a business person and strategist first, I have always gravitated towards the creative side.  When my husband and I started our family about 10 years ago, I started thinking about making the jump to the client side. It was my agency experience running the DIRECTV business that gave me the opportunity. I was recruited for the SVP of Marketing position at Time Warner Cable.  It was a tough gig, but a good training ground for “corporate,” and I had some fun working with the big sports and entertainment properties.  The role gave me a solid foundation and helped me land the coveted brand job at HP, now HPE.

Marissa Freeman, Chief Brand Office, HPEMarissa Freeman, Chief Brand Office, HPE HP split into two distinct companies, I got to stand up 2 brand teams, relaunched HP as a new entity and then launch a completely new brand, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. I chose to stay with HPE and live the purpose of advancing the way people live and work.  It’s an amazing culture; and there is always so much to learn. Technology is changing incredibly quickly, and the human stories around that progress are what make the job meaningful and exciting.

What is a typical day, week like? Who do you engage with and why?
A typical day for me is one full of meetings – with agencies reviewing creative concepts; with designers working on a new installation in our headquarters’ lobby; with brand strategists naming new products and solutions; with media leads looking at quarterly performance; and with direct reports, doing the heavy lifting of budget, finance and strategic planning - never a dull moment.  This job also offers me a platform to make some positive change in the industry, like leading a Women in Technology panel where I share what HPE and others are doing to include and promote more women in the workplace; or to evangelize our work around the Circular Economy that is helping our customers with their sustainability efforts.  And then I go home, eat dinner with the family, check the homework, watch “This is Us”, walk the dog with my husband, and fall asleep.

How is marketing in tech different than in other industries?
It is not. People do business with people – not companies. They make decisions with their hearts and their minds, and we need to engage both.  If you have a solid strategy, it comes down to great storytelling – and brilliant execution.  I have worked in just about every category, on brands like Gillette, P&G, Direct TV, Staples, Coty and Speedo, to name a few.  The business rigor and ways of looking at problems is all transferable.  That experience, plus the strong leaders I have had the good fortune to work with and learn from, help me every single day.

What campaign or program are you most proud of?
If I look at our creative over the last three years, it really stands out.  It’s different from our competitors’ - it’s very human in its approach and is often humorous.  Importantly, our customers relate to it, and respond to it.  We have brilliant agencies on our roster, they challenge us and we challenge them right back.  It’s a creative and smart group and we have fun.  I am also incredibly proud of our brand identity work.  We have created a symbol, “The Element”, which has evolved to become a vessel for communicating innovation, creativity and purpose. And it is worn proudly by everyone at HPE.  Finally, I am most proud of my team.  Watching them grow and take risks has been the most rewarding part of this job.

What trend(s) do you see, that will have a significant impact on the way we advertise?
We know that 70- 80% of research on products and solutions happens before customers even speak to a sales person.  They read articles and reports, watch videos, visit peer communities, and do product comparisons. Understanding where they’re looking and what they are looking for, allows us to meet them there with the right content.  We have an incredible team of people who work in marketing analytics, media and social media who are way out ahead in terms of AI/ML in programmatic and audience based targeting. We’ve built quite the enviable tech stack. Bottom line is that we need the right message in front of the right person. Data is what helps us make those decisions.  It’s not all about the ad tech, but that does give us an advantage.

Don’t be afraid to do something you have never done before


Any advice you’d like to leave us with? 
“Don’t be afraid to do something you have never done before.” If there’s a choice assignment on the table that you don’t yet have experience with, but you think you can do it –raise your hand!  Have confidence and give yourself that opportunity to grow. 

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Any personal opinions expressed are mine, and not official statements on behalf of Hewlett Packard Enterprise

About the Author


Passionate marketer and social advocate.