Marketer to Watch: Matthew Melander of Direct Auto and Life Insurance

Matt Melander, Director,
Digital & Social Media,
Direct General Auto
& Life Insurance

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Matthew Melander, Director of Digital and Social Media at Direct Auto and Life Insurance. He is a Future CMO Club Founders member, and was excited to share his personal journey, the lessons he’s learned along the way, and his thoughts on the new breed of CMOs that we are seeing today.

1. What was your first (or favorite) job you’ve had?

One of the most influential companies I’ve had the good fortune of working for was very early in my career, at TiVo. I had the opportunity to work and learn from many clever people, including the VP of Marketing, VP of Sales, VP of Operations, IT, Development, Controller, and especially my Director. By being exposed to people in different parts of the business, I was able to develop a very holistic understanding of general operating principles. My experience there has carried me through my working life and I am so appreciative of the people I met and the opportunities I was given.

2. Can you name an “inflection point” moment that helped prepare you for your current position? 

My first big failure was at Supervalu, when I tried to sell social media to executive leadership for the first time. It was my first meeting with a Fortune 100 CEO and we were given 15 minutes to present a social media strategy with another 15 minutes for Q/A. After the presentation, he was very polite and thanked us for our time but said he didn’t think that their customers were going to be there yet.

A while later, he was replaced by a new CEO and we were again given the opportunity to present. This time, we brought as many “hard” metrics as we could, learning from our previous failure. In addition to customer service metrics, I also provided real examples of the dialogue and insights we were able to pull from social. 

We were given the same 15 minutes of talk time and 15 for Q/A, but it was a completely different show. We ended up talking for over an hour with the executive leadership team and were given the green light. That was personally one of THE pivotal moments that launched me full-time into social and digital.

3. How has marketing changed over the last five years? What trends are you excited about right now? 

The incredible shift to digital has been very exciting to me and - from what I see - it is also one of the biggest shifts over the past five years. I saw in a recent eMarketer article that digital spend was predicted to overcome traditional TV spend in 2017. This would be an incredible milestone and one that those in the industry need to take note of.

Like many other marketers, I have also been trying to stay abreast of the onslaught of articles about video. Meanwhile, I’ve been watching how my daughters are consuming this content and trying to imagine what this means for them and the future. My girls watch clips of other kids playing with their same toys - or reviews and unboxing videos. Some of these are just kids or other individuals publishing content. My kids are future consumers who are being conditioned to basically watch product videos for entertainment. To me, that seems like a huge opportunity for brands.

4. Name one CMO or Head of Marketing who impresses you today and tell us why.

You mean besides my current CMO, right? Just kidding…I actually think CMOs in general have really stepped up their game over the past five years, so it’s difficult to pick just one. Through the multitude of marketing data projects that are happening at enterprises, CMOs are often the most connected executive to the consumer and the business overall. With all of these projects that they are undertaking to give their organizations a competitive advantage, CMOs are given an advantage in that they are learning the business at a whole new level. They are now being seen as more than just “brand stewards,” but as leaders in the boardroom - developing real strategies that are moving each of their respective businesses forward with real results.

Think Scott Keogh or Michelle Peluso: both great CMOs - and now CEOs - at two very impressive organizations. They are the new breed of CMO who is not just a marketer but also a chief or leader, which is really what impresses me about CMOs today.

5. Name 1 or 2 characteristics that you think are invaluable for a marketer in today's ever-evolving world?

An unquenchable thirst for more - more knowledge, data, insights, information, challenges, opportunities and success.

6. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote?

I just do my best to be a leader and asset wherever and whenever I can. Once I’ve hit what I think is my personal best, I then re-challenge myself to do even better and keep pushing forward.

7. Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?

I see myself as a senior leader at an organization that is considered one of the best - if not THE best - in their industry. Much like the CMOs described above, I want to be seen as a leader who is contributing to the organization in a way that elevates the organization holistically and drives the organization forward.