Northwestern Mutual’s first ever CMO is focused on creating a data-driven marketing strategy
Get to Know Northwestern Mutual Chief Marketing Officer Aditi Gokhale.
In May of this year, Aditi Gokhale was named Northwestern Mutual’s first-ever chief marketing officer.
“My role is interesting in that I’m the CMO of Northwestern Mutual and LearnVest,” says Gokhale, “I actually joined the organization nearly a year and a half ago as CMO of LearnVest, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual.”
As CMO for both organizations, Gokhale says she is focused on strengthening Northwestern Mutual’s brand, while expanding engagement with clients and prospects
“I’m also focused on listening and making sure that our most important constituencies — our clients, financial advisors and employees — share what resonates most with them, what can be improved, and how they think about our brand and its future.”
Gokhale says she is a very data-driven person and that one of her biggest priorities is designing a comprehensive marketing strategy built around what the data is telling her.
“Digital marketing has been an integral part of my career for the last 17 years,” says Gokhale. The CMO earned a Bachelor of Science from MIT and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Prior to her role at Northwestern Mutual and LearnVest, she served on marketing teams for a number of leading brands, including Shutterstock, American Express and Nutrisystem.
What was the first thing you checked on your phone today?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
I’m always using my Gmail app.
What was the last thing you shared on one of your social networks?
My last post on Facebook was a picture of me and my family at the US Open. We are a tennis-crazy family. My extended family is spread out all over the world, so I love to keep them up-to-date on what we’re doing in my hometown of New York City.
Take me through your typical workday.
No workday is typical! I travel frequently to Northwestern Mutual’s HQ in Milwaukee since I have teams both in New York and Milwaukee — I’m constantly working on the go.
It’s usually a combination of meetings, but I try to keep all meetings very active and goal-oriented. Whether we’re going over a presentation on our SEO strategy, talking budgets, creating a hiring plan, etc., the objective is always to use meeting time for problem-solving or decision-making if needed. Lots of action and we’re focused on removing bottlenecks and hurdles.
Between meetings, I’ll respond to as many emails as possible and call or FaceTime my son to check in and see how his day is going.
How much of your work-time is actually completed in your office?
I’m a mom, wife and executive, so my lines are pretty blurry between work and home because of the nature of my job and how I like to operate. When I’m at the office I’m very focused on work, but I’ll also take time to check in on my son.
When I leave the office at the end of the day, I will shut down my computer and spend time with my family. Once my son is asleep, I catch up on emails and respond to anything that’s urgent.
What’s your work-space like? Any favorite sentimental items you keep in your office?
Our office is different in that we have a totally open floor concept. So we need to keep things minimal and organized.
The sentimental items I have on my desk are drawings my son made for me over the years. One such drawing is that of superhero — he loves superheroes — and the other is an illustrated letter that he wrote to me when he was four years old.
It was about how he wanted to be like me when he grew up. At the time, he thought I was a lawyer at Nutrisystem! I wasn’t a lawyer, but it was so sweet of him and a reminder of what he was like at that age.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
Making sure my team is satisfied in their roles and they understand what is expected of them to deliver on our goals. I strongly believe that you’re only as good as your team, so I want to ensure that I make an effort to retain the people I have working with me.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled for work?
I love traveling. I feel like in my past life I was a travel and leisure editor roaming around the world. I love exploring new places and learning about new cultures.
When I was at American Express, I was fortunate enough to travel to Egypt for 10 days with four of our top clients and their families. My boss was supposed to go and at the last minute he couldn’t make it. I jumped at the chance immediately.
I loved that we were able to create this truly unique experience for our loyal clients and that I could interact with them, get their feedback in real time, and enjoy a place that none of us had ever been to before. That type of opportunity doesn’t come around often.
What has been the most pleasantly surprising thing that’s happened to you in the past year?
Professionally, I have been truly fortunate in the way that I have been welcomed into the Northwestern Mutual family with my new role. I’m happy about it — from the financial advisors to the leadership team and everyone inviting me in with open arms. It says a lot about the company culture and values.
From a personal standpoint, my son is at that age (10) where he is no longer a baby, and it has been surprising to see how much he’s changed. He talks like a little adult now. That shift was a little bit of an “oh my gosh” moment. Now we are having spirited conversations around politics, science, sports and culture.
What marketing leader do you most admire?
A close mentor of mine is my previous boss, Dawn Zier, Nutrisystem’s CEO. She’s someone who really understood me as a leader and an individual.
We had great work chemistry. She was not a micro-manager, and showed empathy in situations where it was needed. She was also assertive when it came to getting results, and never wanted us to settle for something that was just okay.
On a personal level, she is a great mom and a wonderful friend. She’s the person I turn to when I’m seeking advice. I trust her and respect everything she has built!
How do you de-stress or clear your head when you’re away from work?
I have recently started running or going for a brisk walk first thing every morning or at the end of the day. This gives me my “me” time to engage for the rest of the day.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
Music has always been a really big part of our family. My grandmother was the first woman in Asia to start an all-women’s music institute.
She has always been a major role model for me and the reason why I started to train as a classical instrumental musician at age seven. I even performed on TV shows in India when I was younger.
Why did you go into marketing?
It was more of an organic evolution versus a decision I made when I was first starting out in my career. I took on general manager roles where I had marketing, strategy, customer experience, product development and other functions under me.
I was really drawn to marketing because it’s something that requires creativity and a data-driven approach. I get to use both sides of my brain to create something unique. I also love that marketing allows me to connect with customers and understand what they need and want from a brand.
What did you want to be when you were young?
So many things… it ranged from an astronaut to being a Bollywood actress!
What’s the last thing you read that impacted how you think about marketing?
I recently read an article about the fact that less than 50 percent of millennials and Gen Xers don’t want traditional television.
We all know the push is to digital — the media landscape is more fragmented than ever, and consumers are viewing things on different devices — this insight reinforces the need for marketers like me to rethink our media and creative strategy.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign caught your eye recently?
Volvo’s ad campaign comes to mind as the most recent because it has great storytelling and they leverage all channels to communicate what they need to.