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Kimberly Williams...CMO creating magic and opening doors for opportunity

The influence of black women should never be underestimated. Black women are go-getters, innovators, and trendsetters. When they see the need for change, you better believe they are 10 steps ahead of everyone else, trying to figure out what moves need to be made in order to make a positive impact.

Kimberly Williams is a Chief Marketing Executive who is living her dream of helping brands and companies bring their visions to life. As a black woman in a high-profile career, Kim sees and understands the need for diversity in spaces where the black point of view is often overlooked or completely forgotten.

Change is a gradual process that requires dedication and a willingness to share knowledge with the next generation to ensure a lasting impact. Kim, in her role as the Chief Marketing Executive at Usher's New Look Foundation, is doing exactly that. The foundation aims to transform the lives of under-resourced youth through a comprehensive program that cultivates young, passionate, and globally-minded leaders. However, Kim's mission for change doesn't stop there. She has also established her own non-profit organization, Code Kids Rock, which aims to provide underprivileged youth with exposure to technology.

W4TC had the privilege of learning what it takes to be a successful and impactful CMO, the importance of mentorships, representation in marketing, and how diversity is an important factor when it comes to change. After all, where there is a woman, there is magic. 



Kim, I love your quote, “If you’re lucky enough to work in advertising, you get to dream for a living.” Kim, explain to us what it means to be a Chief Marketing Executive and why you describe it as living a dream.

As a Chief Marketing Executive, I am truly living the dream because it allows me to immerse myself in the art of crafting innovative ways to connect with people and promote products or services. Marketers have the unique privilege of blending data-driven insights with creative expression, which I find incredibly fulfilling. As a CMO, I cherish the endless possibilities for ideation and collaboration, always striving to harness the collective creativity of my team for the greater good of our mission.

Kim, now that we know a snippet of what you do on a daily basis, what encouraged you to explore marketing as a career path?

Exploring marketing as a career path stemmed from my observation of a lack of representation for people of color in advertisements and ad agencies. Transitioning from the news industry to pursue a master’s degree in advertising, I was driven by a desire to be a catalyst for change—to ensure that individuals like myself were authentically and beautifully portrayed in marketing campaigns. Throughout my career, I've prioritized strategy and account management, working closely with creative teams to ensure diverse representation. Being a decision-maker allows me to advocate for inclusivity and authenticity at every level of the marketing process.

Kim, you have worked with several high-profile companies, such as Coca-Cola and Verizon. What do you require from companies before putting your reputation on the line?

Before collaborating with companies like Coca-Cola and Verizon, I prioritize a thorough onboarding process. This involves immersing ourselves in their business goals, understanding their offerings, and familiarizing ourselves with the metrics for success. For me, the key to successful client engagement lies in our ability to not only understand their challenges but also to creatively approach problem-solving, leveraging our expertise to add value from unique perspectives. It's this commitment to understanding and innovating that ensures I confidently put my reputation on the line for each collaboration.

When it comes to appealing to the needs and wants of future customers, how important of a role does marketing play in the success and longevity of any company or even with personal branding?

Marketing plays an indispensable role in the success and longevity of any company, as well as personal branding. It's not just a soft skill; it's a strategic imperative. As marketers, we delve deep into understanding business operations, financial implications, and consumer behavior to craft effective strategies that drive revenue and propel brands forward. Our ability to connect businesses with consumers is pivotal in achieving their financial objectives and sustaining growth in an ever-evolving market landscape.

Kim, in your opinion, what does it take to be a successful Chief Marketing Executive?

To excel as a Chief Marketing Executive, it takes a combination of curiosity,

resilience, and a willingness to take calculated risks. Successful CMOs understand the diverse needs of their organization, make informed fiscal decisions to drive positive ROI, and adeptly navigate the creative process to seamlessly align brand strategy with execution. It's about striking a balance between strategic vision and hands-on leadership to drive tangible results and foster enduring brand success.

We have all seen some popular brands roll out advertising that could be considered questionable, making us wonder who was in the marketing meetings and agreed to the plan. Can you let us know how important it is to have a diverse team when trying to appeal to a demographic that you may not be familiar with?

Having a diverse team is absolutely essential when trying to appeal to demographics outside of your own experience. Unfortunately, the advertising industry has historically lacked diversity, particularly in leadership roles. As someone from a minority background, I've often found myself in situations where I've had to course-correct culturally insensitive discussions and creative concepts.

However, there's been a positive shift as clients increasingly recognize the importance of culturally appropriate work in understanding their audiences more deeply. Nonetheless, there's still much progress to be made, and advocating for diversity in advertising and brand marketing teams remains crucial for creating authentic and resonant campaigns.

Are there many Black Women in Marketing? If so, how important are our voices in those spaces? If not, how can the industry make space for us?

The representation of Black women in marketing varies depending on the geographical location, with cities boasting higher diversity typically offering more opportunities. Our voices are invaluable in these spaces as we bring authenticity, fearlessness, and a unique perspective to the table.

To create more space for us in the industry, it's crucial for companies to actively prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives, implement equitable hiring practices, and provide mentorship and support programs to nurture Black female talent. By fostering an inclusive environment, the industry can harness the magic and contributions of Black women in shaping impactful marketing strategies and campaigns.

If you had to pick one campaign that you were proud to be a part of because the msg made a positive impact on society, what would it be?

One campaign that stands out to me for its positive impact on society is the project I collaborated on with Walton Isaacson for PNC Bank. This campaign aimed to drive brand consideration and promote financial literacy among the Black community, including HBCU college students.

We put great effort into ensuring the messaging resonated authentically with the audience while also portraying their thriving environments accurately. Every detail, from casting choices to cultural nuances, was meticulously considered to create ads that both respected and celebrated the community we were reaching.

The multi-channel campaign is called “Tides of Change.”

So, I have to be honest: even though I've been a Usher fan for many years, I never knew that he had the “Usher’s New Look Foundation.” UNL was founded in 1999 and basically caters to underserved communities and youth to help them graduate high school and college. The program also places significance on important life skills like financial literacy. Can you tell us how you got on broad as the CMO and how this Nonprofit aligns with your personal goals?

My journey with UNL began as a volunteer following my departure from a demanding role as a Strategy Account Director. Seeking a meaningful outlet for my skills, I connected with Careshia Moore, the President & CEO, who shared her inspiring vision for UNL.

I dove in headfirst, laying the groundwork for marketing, communications, and partnerships. Over the years, my role evolved from volunteer to consultant, eventually leading me to serve as the CMO. Aligning with my personal goals of using my expertise for impactful change, I'm grateful for the opportunity to contribute to UNL's mission of empowering underserved youth and fostering crucial life skills like leadership development.

Kim, how important it is that you mentor underprivileged youth to encourage them that they have endless opportunities when it comes to careers, even those they might not necessarily have knowledge of, like working in tech.

Mentoring underprivileged youth, particularly in industries like tech where opportunities may seem out of reach, is crucial for fostering diversity and inclusion. Many young people of color lack access to educational resources that expose them to various career paths. As someone who has been fortunate enough to succeed in my career, I believe it's my duty to give back and empower others by sharing knowledge, providing guidance, and opening doors to possibilities they may not have considered otherwise.

What were you seeing through your works with the youth that pushed you to co-found “Code Kids Rock?’

My motivation to co-found Code Kids Rock stemmed from a personal experience when I couldn't find an affordable tech education program for my daughter. Witnessing the exorbitant costs of existing programs, I recognized a glaring gap in access to tech education for underprivileged communities. 

Collaborating with my co-founder, we developed a curriculum tailored to these communities, providing resources and opportunities for youth who lacked internet access or computers. The digital divide is a stark reality in America, and through initiatives like Code Kids Rock, we're working to bridge this gap and empower youth with essential tech skills for the future.

Why is tech so important in today's age?

In today's age, technology plays a pivotal role in shaping our society and driving progress. From enhancing our problem-solving abilities to revolutionizing how we communicate and interact with the world, technology empowers us to innovate and achieve greater heights.

The rise of artificial intelligence underscores the importance of staying informed and adaptable, as it increasingly influences various aspects of our lives. Embracing technology enables us to stay agile, evolve with the times, and seize opportunities for growth and advancement.

How can parents like me who have kids who are tech savvy introduce them to seeing tech as a possible career and not just viewing tech as having the latest gadgets?

Introducing children to the potential of tech careers goes beyond simply showcasing the latest gadgets. Parents can foster a deeper understanding by exploring the course offerings of leading universities like GA Tech, Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, as well as observing where venture capitalists are investing. 

Encouraging children to focus on problem-solving and understanding how technology can be leveraged to address societal challenges helps them recognize the vast opportunities within the tech industry. By nurturing their problem-solving skills and highlighting the impact tech can have on shaping the future, parents can inspire their children to consider tech as a meaningful and rewarding career path.

Mentorship is very important so what advice would you give a young person looking to begin a career in marketing?

For aspiring marketers, I advise taking the time to explore the diverse array of opportunities within the field. Whether it's working on corporate brand teams or at advertising agencies across various departments such as Account Management, Strategy, Creative, Production, Project Management, Finance, and Analytics, there's a role to suit every talent and interest. 

Particularly, roles in Account Planning and Analytics offer a blend of numbers and behavioral science, which are increasingly vital in driving the success of brands and advertising campaigns. Understanding your strengths and passions will guide you towards a fulfilling career path in marketing.


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