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McGuire: On the Job Training
Leads to Career in Marketing

January 21, 2014

The latter steps of Maureen McGuire’s path to Bloomberg are straightforward: VP of marketing at IBM, Chief Marketing Officer at Sears, and since 2009, Bloomberg’s first Chief Marketing Officer.

It’s the early steps in her career path are remarkable – a series of random events that, in hindsight, seem tailor-made to transform an aspiring Scottish school teacher into a senior marketing executive.

At 19, as part of her studies at Glasgow University, McGuire spent a year in Paris, studying and teaching English. The year abroad “opened my eyes to so many possibilities,” she recalls.

After graduation, McGuire put her teaching plans on hold and returned to Paris, where she applied for a job at the British Embassy. “They said ‘we can’t hire you, but why don’t you try IBM, it’s just across the street,’” she says. “And the kind gentleman from the British Embassy walked me across the street to introduce me.”

Days later, McGuire started in the office of the president of IBM’s European region, where she was an emergency replacement for the ill replacement for the vacationing third secretary. When the vacationer returned and announced plans to get married, McGuire moved into the newly open position.

The role exposed her to “a huge amount of knowledge across the board at IBM.” In the days before e-mail, she logged and summarized all the mail, dealt with executives as she administered the company plane, and helped organize an external advisory board of European luminaries.

McGuire applied to a new IBM exchange program between Europe and the United States, and was later assigned to the marketing communications group in the U.S. for a year. After rotating through speechwriting, advertising, events, and other disciplines, she returned to Paris to join the marketing group. A future CMO was launched.

In the early ‘90s, McGuire was head of marketing and communications for the PC business in Europe, and IBM was in decline. CEO Lou Gerstner’s efforts to turn IBM from a hardware company into a solutions company included hiring Abby Kohnstamm as Chief Marketing Officer; she, in turn, asked McGuire to come back to the States to build a marketing organization there.

It was the first of three marketing organizations McGuire would either build or rebuild. In 2005, after 30 years at IBM, she was recruited by Sears to restructure their marketing function and revive the flagging brand. There she learned about “the very fast pace of the retail industry, because you get your numbers every day, you know whether your stuff is working.” The quick moving environment was good preparation for Bloomberg, as was her exposure to social media marketing, where Sears was an early adopter.

Weary of commuting to Chicago from New York, McGuire left Sears after three years. As fate would have it, Abby Kohnstamm, her former IBM boss, invited McGuire to join her on a consulting project at Bloomberg. The duo designed a marketing organization for a company that had never had one, and began vetting candidates for the CMO role. “Dan and Peter decided after six months that I was a good candidate for that position,” she recounts.

At Bloomberg, McGuire started by building a team and rigorously analyzing the Bloomberg brand. She emphasizes that marketing is both an art and a science. “You start and finish with the science,” she says. A campaign begins with market research and insights from the sales force about the problems clients need to solve. “At the end of the process, you have to measure whether you’ve been successful.”

The art comes in the middle. “How do you take what you’ve learned to create marketing that surprises, delights, pleases – and works? You’ve got to get people to notice that you’ve done something, so the art of it is: how do you look at it from a different angle and make something that people will remember?” she muses.

McGuire’s priorities at Bloomberg include supporting the core terminal business as it continues to evolve, as well as helping drive the company’s diversification into non-terminal businesses. “In the past, we’ve marketed primarily to end users. Now we need to convince C-suite executives that we have the resources they need to help them run middle and back offices more efficiently,” McGuire explains. “People outside of Bloomberg think of us as a terminal company, but they don’t know our capabilities in areas such as data management, content management and distribution, and data storage for compliance purposes. We need to change their perceptions.”

Technology and Retail. Art and science. Consumer and B2B marketing. United States and Europe. “Coming into Bloomberg, many of the tools I had in my kit bag became very useful,” McGuire says. “But there are things about Bloomberg that are challenging and exciting and new, and I learn something every day.”

And a long way from teaching grammar to school children in Glasgow.