JC Penney’s Lyris Leos: “The best career advice I’ve ever received is Get out of your own way!”

Lyris Leos, Brand Marketing Strategy, Director JC PENNEY
Lyris Leos

#Portada14 speaker Lyris Leos’ diverse and fast-paced career has led to many successful traditional, digital, and emerging marketing and advertising strategies across general and multicultural consumers. Portada interviewed Leos who currently is Multicultural Marketing Director at JC Penney.  Leos answers questions about her love for retail marketing, career advice and more…

Leos joined JCPenney in 2007 and currently heads up the Company’s Hispanic Marketing efforts overseeing a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, total market approach. Lyris is a Newark, NJ native of Cuban and Ecuadorian descent. She lives in Frisco, TX where she enjoys family life with her husband, John, and 3 little girls ages 7, 3 & 1

Portada: What do you love about retail marketing?
Lyris Leos, Brand Marketing Strategy Director at JC Penney: “This business is so much FUN! As a department store, I get to deal with the latest fashion and trends in personal style and homemaking. As a marketer, I get to enact the common principles of the marketing mix – the 4P’s that we learned in b-school: product, price, place and promotion. What I love most about retail marketing is what’s at the heart of that mix – our customer – working everyday to understand the perceptions and thought-processes of consumers shopping our retail channels – both brick and mortar and dot com. At JCPenney, our marketing starts and ends with our customers in mind – specifically how we can organize ourselves around their needs and desires.”

How did you get to be a marketing strategy director for JCPenney? What career steps would you advice people to have a chance to occupy a similar position?

Marketer Interview: JCPL.L.: “Having joined JCPenney in 2007, I worked in a series of positions that, looking back, all led up to and prepared me for my current role. Taking those positions that ‘round out’ your career are very important to establishing your credibility in the organization and setting you up for success as a marketer. The best career advice I’ve ever received – and it keeps coming up over and over again everywhere I turn – Get out of your own way!…in other words, deconstruct the barriers we sometimes tend to put up for ourselves out of nerves or fear.”

In what way is marketing to the Hispanic population particularly challenging and interesting?
L.L.:“My career is rewarding specifically because of what this question asserts. There is no one group of customers living neatly in one “Hispanic” bucket. If there were, my job wouldn’t hold my interest for very long. We are varied and rich in our distinct customs steeped in our rich cultures. Finding those nuances to emotionally connect with our consumer is what keeps this space challenging and interesting – and therefore provides the grandest payoff when successful. At JCPenney, we strive to define and consistently support a culturally relevant narrative that genuinely communicates with this important customer base – our brand muse. What is the basis for this communication? Cultural intelligence – the Holy Grail for marketers going forward as fast as our demographics are changing. Keeping up with our ever-changing and growing consumer and their preferences is a must – regardless of ethnicity.”

Do you think a person needs to be Hispanic to be a good marketer towards the Hispanic population?
L.L.:“Definitely not. Building brands with a specific customer segment does not require a marketer to belong to that cultural group; however, I am a firm believer that you must be diligent and willing to invest the time needed to learn about their behaviors, motivations, and values that lead to building brands worthy of our customers’ trust and loyalty. ”