Marisa Thalberg on the Future of Branding

Marisa Thalberg, Chief Marketing Officer at Taco Bell and President of Executive Moms, is paving the way for young women and working mothers at the executive level. Working for one of the largest fast food corporations, Marisa offers a fresh female perspective on branding.

According to Marisa, marketing food will never go out of style. Food is, of course, a necessity, but it’s also a fundamental desire, and the ultimate indulgence. Working at Taco Bell couldn’t be more fitting for her forward-thinking personality. Taco Bell is not only delicious, affordable, and fast, but it’s also creative and innovative – an essential ingredient for a company’s success.

Much of our conversation with Marisa focused on why it’s important for brands to be in tune with consumers and the pace of change in their industries. However, Marisa believes that certain factors, such as the fundamental interests and needs of people and their consumption habits, will remain the same. For her, delivering on consumers’ practical and emotional needs should be central to marketers’ strategies.

It’s also integral for a brand to be in tune with technology. Since tech is constantly changing, it’s important for them to incorporate new business models that tackle as well as adapt to those changes. “It’s important to think through where is the right place to have a human touch and where is the right place to have technology – and, how those two things interweave,” she explained. 

The more a brand feels like a friend, the more successful it will be.

While marketing plays a large part in Marisa’s life, her role as a mother is also significant. In 2002, Marisa started Executive Moms, an organization “born out of a desire to enjoy a fundamental sense of community” as a new mom. “Executive is a serious important high flying word, and mom is a warm and friendly word. And the idea that you embrace each of these identities with pride, as opposed to feeling like they are at odds with each other, felt like the journey that I was on.”

The hope of Executive Moms was to enjoy and share nugget-sized yet fabulous content among female peers. “It’s all about embracing both being an executive and being a mom…If you believe you have a career over a job, then you are an executive mom.” Executive Moms has become an important platform for women to speak openly and positively about their circumstances; it’s one of the earliest online communities that that sought out to engage and embrace the female perspective.

Through her efforts with Executive Moms and throughout her entire career, Marisa – a role model both at home and in the office – hopes to dispel the media’s myths and stereotypes about women. She strives to change the way working mothers are portrayed in popular culture. She noted that pop culture often represents working moms as self-indulgent and selfish. “The media and popular culture has to do a better job of portraying moms, and particularly working moms, in a much more honest and inspiring way… What I would really like to see is positive portrayals of working moms, real working mothers.”

She also noted that, today, more women are starting to take on breadwinner roles and that it’s exciting to see this change – so the media needs to keep up and make their representations more accurate.

Being a mother of two daughters, Marisa encourages young women to actively participate in society, and more importantly, in the workforce. She believes that mental agility, good judgement, curiosity, and intelligence about a variety of topics to be crucial characteristics for young women to develop. It’s also about leveraging education, becoming a critical thinker, and being adaptable. “If you can put things together and see things in a new way,” you will thrive.

At the end of the day,  she says, it’s all about connecting the dots. Good business sense, an understanding of consumer habits, staying up to date with innovation and tech, and being a proud and good mother can all be interconnected, and, once they are seen in a holistic and positive light, success is attainable.

the author

Emily Empel

Emily Empel is Head of Futures at Idea Couture.

the author

Erika Streisfield

Erika Streisfield is an editorial intern at Idea Couture.