Paul Imhoff has a history of creating captivating brand stories, from his time at Saatchi & Saatchi and ESPN Magazine, to his current role as a Director of Marketing Communications at Hyundai Motor America. Paul took the time to speak with us on his career journey, and the importance of understanding your company’s core values.
What skills do content marketers need to have in order to be successful?
Three things: they need to be agile, they need to be intuitive and they need to be responsive.
For example, stories can come in and if I'm not responsive to them, then I’ve missed out on a big opportunity. When you come across a spectacular story, you have to be agile enough to quickly pull the trigger. And you also have to harbor the intuition of what’s going to really speak to your audience, and get them to think differently about your brand.
As long as you have those three qualities, you’ll not only be a good marketer, but a better judge of great content as well.
How did you get to where you are today? Can you briefly take us through some key moments/decisions in your career journey?
I really cut my teeth in the automotive space as a Management Supervisor at Saatchi & Saatchi, working on Toyota. I worked closely with strategists and creatives, and honed my understanding of brand building, as well as launching new cars and services.
I then went over to the sales side working with ESPN Magazine. Talking with the writers and many of the publishers, I saw how to tell a great story from the media side, and what other brands were all about.
Later on, I worked at Fisker Automotive as a global brand director. I launched their product across four continents. I learned how to think globally and how to approach messaging across countries. Hyundai is now one of the top five automakers in the world, so that insight helped me greatly in my current position.
Then, at the Apex Agency, we worked with Lexus on communicating their brand story to their employees, and I learned what it takes to create a successful internal campaign.
Finally, I spent some time at a company that did YouTube attribution trying to get into the automotive space. Understanding early on how to get in front of the right people with your message, especially in the YouTube space, really helps me succeed in my job. Overall, all these experiences have molded me into the person I am today.
What are your career goals for the future?
Honestly, I'm blessed to be at a company that is growing so well. It's producing bold, new products and that gives us the leeway to do new things. We’ve always had that mentality of being the challenger brand. And even though we're one of the industry leaders, I don't think we'll ever lose the focus of being a challenger. Because we take risks and know that it's okay for us to fail.
If I could stay at Hyundai for the rest of my career, and be a CMO, COO, or even CEO one day, that would be my aspiration. This brand is poised to make a big move upward in the U.S. and I feel really blessed to be here.
Do you have a specific experience where you wished that your brand or your industry had done something differently?
At Hyundai we'll do programs that might be a risk. Sometimes we work with a partner that says they can make something happen, but the technology behind it doesn't pan out the way we want it to. That can be very disappointing, but in order to be innovative and stand out you have to try things that haven’t been done before.
What is the single best piece of advice that you have for content leaders as they grow in their careers?
Know your brand. Go back to its roots. What was it founded on? What was the belief system that the whole company started from? When you know the answers to those questions, you can build your brand organically. Because now, your lens is that much tighter and focused on those answers.
There's no CEO or founder that would dispute content that you're producing based on the company’s foundation and DNA. That's where authenticity comes in. When you know what’s at your core inside and out, you'll produce great content that's going to ladder up to that.