5 Things I Know About Marketing – Rebecca Van Dyck, Facebook

Rebecca Van Dyck is VP of Consumer & Brand Marketing at Facebook. She has also held senior marketing leadership roles at such iconic marketing companies as Levi Strauss & Co., Apple, and Nike’s advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy. She spoke with Kevin Lane Keller in March; her edited remarks follow.


The wonderful quality of marketing is that it is based on the successful blending of art and science.

You can’t let one half of that marketing equation become too heavy. It really must be a balance of both ingredients. 

Being a very data-driven company is a blessing and curse. At Facebook, we know and can measure so much and we can get feedback so quickly. That does help inform us and make our work better, but we can't let that become too dominant. There is something to be said for instincts and the art of the process.

For example, we just finished a campaign in Japan to increase downloads of our app and the number of people using Facebook. We had a lot of awesome information about people who already use it and people who didn't: where they live and how to reach them and what they like and didn’t like about Facebook.

But when it came down to it, we couldn't just “paint by numbers” to get to the solution. We had to use our creative instincts. We worked with Wieden+Kennedy, our agency in Japan. The creative teams there struggled a little bit until the creative director said, “Instead of trying to make this campaign solve the business problem for Facebook, have the campaign solve a more personal problem for your friendships and your relationships.”

So, as they were developing the creative, we asked the creative teams to use pictures of their own friends and family. As soon as they did that, the floodgates opened up and we were able to come up with very personal and relevant messaging for the Japanese consumer. It was so personal; that was really great.


One of the most innovative things we can do is to ensure some consistency with our brand for customers.

There’s so much talk about being innovative, but I think that one of the most innovative things we can do is to retain some consistency for our customers. It's surprisingly hard for brands and marketers to do since we constantly strive for the next big thing and change, almost to a fault.

What I mean by consistency in marketing is the generosity that comes from just standing still a little bit for our consumers so that they get to really know who we are. 

At Levi’s, for example, the brand had grown to mean many different things in every corner of the world. One of the big tasks we had as a market organization was to reduce and trim that down and get one brand voice around the world. It was more important at the time for us to be consistent and to stay on the same track and use the same messaging for a while, although that didn't mean that we couldn't execute it in innovative ways.


The source of all wonderful marketing is the collective efforts from the many diverse people that make up your team.

I'm an athlete. I played soccer all through college, and my coach would always say that there was something different and good about each one of us. He would then try to figure out what to pull out all of us based on our individual strengths.

For example, I was really bad with my left foot and he's say, “But, Rebecca, you’re really fast. So, move twice as hard to get the ball onto your dominant foot and play that with strength.” Each of us had our own little special strength, but it was a collection of all of our strengths and even little quirks that made us a strong team.

I'm thinking about that team-building approach a lot right now. At Facebook, we’re in the process of building an in-house creative marketing department. We're bringing in different strengths in different fields and looking for the unique strengths in everyone and figuring out how to make that a positive to the team overall. I'm absolutely loving the process of bringing it all together.  

The more monosyllabic we become about who we are, the more boring the work is. We know that as a management technique, it can be dangerous if companies are all made up of like-minded people. Similarly, it is the diversity of skills, the diversity of background and genders and ethnicities that makes our marketing much more authentic and rich and interesting.

But it can’t be just a pickup game. There has to be strong leadership. That same coach in college would say that he could make the game bend to his needs. He could see the whole field and understand the competition, and adjust the game we played to achieve our main goal, which was winning.

At Facebook, an important part of the culture is that we are open and fluid and super-democratic. Historically, what that meant from a marketing standpoint was that everyone would share their work, but ultimately they would decide what they felt was the right thing to do. You had a bunch of people creatively solving problems their own way and it was admittedly kind of quirky and fun and interesting.

But now as we're growing and building this team, we've had to put in structured review processes and decision-making. Several teams may be working on the same problem, but only one solution wins at the end of the day.

Putting in some checks and balances is new culturally, but it’s important to provide that sharp point, that focus, and that leadership.


As a marketer, there is something to be said for working at founder-led companies.

I was fortunate to be doing Nike's advertising when Phil Knight was running Nike. I was also at Wieden+Kennedy at the time when Dan Wieden was running the agency. And I was at Apple when Steve Jobs was running that company. Levi's didn't have a founder around and we felt it. Here at Facebook, I again have the benefit of a founder-led company.

It is important for marketers to understand not only who the consumer is—but to understand where the company has come from and what its vision is.

When you work at a founder-led company, whenever you're in trouble you can look to that person and imagine what's going through their mind and why they built this company in the first place. That always helps ground us and bring us back to the product and brand truths.

At the same time, you can't just look back. It is super important to remember not only where you've come from, but also recognize who is the spirit that is projecting the intent for the future as well. 


With Facebook’s growth comes a great responsibility.

I've also been fortunate to work at companies in the past where marketing to the consumer is at the forefront of every conversation.

When I arrived at Facebook, however, consumer marketing didn't exist as it did at my other companies. It was a young company that was very busy making products, making software—certainly for consumers, but also just intrigued with the product creation process itself.

In the initial growth period for Facebook, a lot of product choices were about trying to get consumers to use it as much as possible. The end goal was altruistically good. Certainly the more content you have from your friends, the better it is for everyone. That's the whole promise of the product.

 But with such an emphasis on growth, we were often ahead of where the consumer was and what they were confortable with. Now we've matured, and we recognize we have a great responsibility.

We have a lot of people who are using this product. One of our marketing challenges is to show that we are going to be thoughtful and careful and generous and considerate with your experience and your information and your friends. That is our awesome and important responsibility to our community. 

 Five Things I Know About Marketing Series


  • 10/30/2015 by Mark Collins

    Please continue this series - it is excellent training at both the undergraduate and MBA levels!  Great content!

    Mark Collins
    Haslam College of Business

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