Alumni Spotlight: Jamie LaRose '14
by Geoff Larcom
Jamie LaRose was well into a successful banking career, working at the time with Bank of America in North Carolina. He'd already served in a variety of marketing leadership roles.
But he wanted more—more marketing expertise and a deeper understanding of his field. He had a tendency to go against the status quo by pushing traditional corporate boundaries and he knew that trait could help his career if he found the right niche.
A couple of catches however: He had a busy home life, including elderly parents to take care of and he wanted to keep working while he furthered his business education. So LaRose took his time thinking about graduate school option, exploring both online and classroom MBA options. He chose the integrated marketing communications program at Eastern Michigan University, a decision that accelerated his career in just the manner he hoped.
"I was really looking for the opportunity to round out my skill set," LaRose says now. "I wanted to make sure I could talk the talk and yet walk the walk. The biggest thing I learned was how to methodically develop a strategy involving multiple tactics across the digital and offline marketing ecosystem."
LaRose says the centerpiece of his EMU experience was a research project in which he and other IMC students put together a marketing plan for Domino's Pizza, earning third place in a marketing plan contest, the 2014 Collegiate Echo Challenge, that pitted hundreds of graduate business students from around the world.
The challenge was to create an integrated marketing campaign using all direct and interactive communication channels including Domino's-owned and earned media channels, social media, email, website and print, with a goal of increasing the number of orders driven through Domino's mobile app.
"That (experience) really validated the IMC program for me," LaRose says. "We had to build a compelling program from scratch. I honed my strategic capabilities which has helped me in my day-to-day work."
Meanwhile, during this time, his home life became even more complex. His parents passed away and he adopted a child. He would get up at 4:30 a.m., do his school work, go to work, then get home in time to be with his wife, Khristy, and son, Vincent. He eventually took some time off work to complete his degree and the flexibility of the IMC program helped a great deal as well.
Looking back, LaRose says he appreciates how so many of his instructors at EMU were full-time professors, compared to other schools he checked out. In particular, he credits professors such as Russ Merz for the rigor of their classroom material and the research involved.
In his present role, at Wells Fargo Bank in Charlotte, NC, LaRose manages a team driving product and segment strategies through numerous digital marketing channels for home lending products and services. His current passion is centered on the Millennial home buyer segment and the development of what he calls the Customer Journey Map—a deep dive into how Millennial customers are interacting with home lending products and, more specifically, with Wells Fargo.
"Looking through a strategic lens, how do we craft a better experience for Millennials looking to engage in the market?" LaRose asks. "It's thinking outside of the box. How can we build a better home buying journey for this highly mobile, channel agnostic segment?"
"You have to nimble and really try to understand the nuances of their behavior. We prepare to give them the best experience possible across all touch points and engage with them in different channels."
Along that line, the Eastern Michigan IMC program helped show LaRose how sales and marketing should coexist. Part of his role now is to work with sales teams to nurture and cultivate leads.
"Once we get a sales lead, we work to nurture that lead through a series of personalized communications," LaRose says. "Our goal is to move (potential customers) through the sales funnel more quickly. I play the role that tries to merge sales and marketing touch points together."
In addition to his regular job, LaRose currently consults and mentors—free of charge—a variety of start-ups and small businesses, helping them develop marketing strategies, including go-to-market plans, along with offering his insights in branding, product and sales tactics.
LaRose was recently honored as one of the nation's top young marketing executives in the "40 under 40" feature in the Direct Marketing News, being featured in the November 2015 issue of the magazine.
Now, more than a year after completing his work at Eastern, LaRose credits the EMU program for taking to the next level.
"I had been marketing my entire career," he says. "I was getting close to 15 years in the business, and was really looking for a way to broaden my perspective. The IMC program did just that and was really a worthwhile effort."