Dallas ‘Brand Stars’ Recognized by Adweek for Driving Business and Innovation

From emerging startups (Deep Ellum Denim, Hey Chica, OpenKey) to major global companies (AT&T, Southwest Airlines, Kimberly-Clark) Adweek rounded up the leaders shaping the future of Dallas.

Last week, Adweek released the results of its newest city spotlight, highlighting a place us locals know as a hotbed for starting and growing successful businesses: Dallas. In the report, the publication chose 23 people—dubbed “Brand Stars”—that they considered to be shaping the future of the region, while keeping it true to its Texas roots.

From “major brands to savvy startups,” the select few are said to be drivers of a city that Adweek calls one of the most dynamic hubs for business and innovation. According to the article, which was presented by Accenture Interactive, Dallas is home to 22 companies in the Fortune 500, making it an attractive and diverse marketplace full of opportunity. The winners were then honored with a local event to celebrate.

The article recognized a wide range of talent from a multitude of sectors, like retail, food and beverage, technology, and sports. Get a quick look at why each ‘Star’ was chosen, according to Adweek, or check out the complete list of attributes on the official website:

Allison Hannel
Director of Community Engagement, AT&T
Hannel joined the telecom giant over a decade ago, but in her current role, she is tasked with helping employees give back by donating or volunteering in their local communities. “AT&T’s corporate initiatives previously focused on specific causes, like education and the environment, for example,” Hannel told Adweek. “We consolidated our efforts and formed Together, an online platform to highlight employee stories on two websites that created a consistent identity and placed all talk of community involvement under one umbrella.”

Eric Bright
VP of Merchandising, GameStop
While the world of gaming changes with the times, GameStop is faced with the difficult task of adaptation. Bright is faced with having to “navigate the brand through a challenging consumer market” and trying to stay relevant as a brick-and-mortar store in the digital age.

Veronica Torres
Founder, Hey Chica
The Hey Chica Summit was held for the first time in Dallas in October as a Latina leadership conference. Created by Torres, the intent is to create a sisterhood of like-minded female leaders in the Texas business community. “I just wanted to be a conduit and connect and grow people and their brands to be their best,” Torres told Adweek.

Jonathan Clarkson
Managing Director of Marketing, Southwest Airlines
Clarkson boasts an impressive resume of marketing roles—PepsiCo, Pizza Hut, Dr Pepper/Seven Up—that led him to join Southwest in 2007. He currently focuses on the airline’s loyalty programs (like Rapid Rewards, a cobranding credit card with Chase), partnerships, and products.

Derek Dabrowski and Dave Falk
VPs of Brand Marketing, Keurig Dr Pepper
Falk has done marketing in food & bev. for over two decades, and currently serves as the vice president of brand marketing for tea, juice, and mixer categories at Keuring Dr Pepper. Dabrowski has been in the beverage space since 2007, and is currently tasked with “creating data-driven content to increase sales and effectiveness.”

Jeff Kauffman and Bennie Reed
Co-founders, Deep Ellum Denim
The dynamic duo opened their high quality denim store last year, but have seen explosive growth since then. They named their business after the neighborhood they know and love, even opening a storefront there with select hours. “There was no other place. We hang out here, we eat here, we get really drunk here,” Reed told D Magazine. “We’re committed to Deep Ellum.” In the future, the store hopes to add a shirt collection to its lineup of nearly 400 pairs of jeans.

Adele Weber
VP of Global Brand Marketing, Fossil Group
Weber is credited with leading Fossil Group’s movement into smart watches, telling Adweek: “It’s important to stay on top of everything and not lose sight of what is happening around us. We’re navigating a changing landscape. This challenge makes the job fun.” Prior to her current role, she led marketing for Fossil Group’s licensed brands, and held marketing positions at Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Pizza Hut.

Lincoln Stephens
Co-founder and CEO, Marcus Graham Project
Created back in 2007, the Marcus Graham Project is made up of a diverse group of professionals that are dedicated to developing the next generation of thought-leaders in the marketing industry. While working at Tracy Locke, an advertising agency in Dallas, Stephens realized how few people of color worked alongside him. “What I value most about this work is seeing the lives of the individuals we’ve touched,” Stephens told Adweek. “(MGP) is unified in a common theme of wanting to do good not just in careers but in life, too.”

Meredith Counce
Director of Brand and Strategy, Dallas Cowboys
Counce has headed the NFL team’s brand strategy for the past three years, shedding positive light on the Cowboys despite different controversies. She is credited with crafting everything from game-day videos, to seasonal celebrations, to transforming the Frisco headquarters into a place for fans to go year-round. “We always hope that our brand and our game can serve as a respite for fans,” she told Adweek.

TJ Person
Founder and CEO, OpenKey
Openkey was founded in 2014 with the goal to provide a streamlined mobile key experience for hotel guests through its mobile app. The intent is to create a more seamless guest experience, allowing for an easy check-in system that saves time and resources. “OpenKey is one of the first in the hospitality industry to enhance the operators’ and guest experience within every hotel they exist in. The hotel industry has already begun to switch to mobile access, and the following is just beginning,” Person told Dallas Innovates back in 2016.

Veeral Rathod
CMO, Spence Diamonds
Most recently, Rathod served as the CEO of J. Hilburn, a custom-made men’s clothing brand here in Dallas. But in September, he moved into the jewelry space with his role at Spence Diamonds. Currently, Rathod has plans to relaunch the Canada-based retailer next year, with a major overhaul that includes a logo redesign, and new brand identity and website. “The brand’s hallmarks, like personalization (each engagement ring is hand crafted) and small-footprint, high-touch showrooms with open cases (for easy try-ons), will continue,” Adweek reports, “as will locating in mixed-use centers like West Village and Legacy West in the Dallas area.”

Adrian D. Parker
VP of Marketing, Patrón Tequila and Grey Goose Vodka
Parker joined Patrón Spirits back in 2013, a move that allowed him to be “central in the brand’s digital modernization around the world.” He told Adweek it was “an audacious journey to reimagine how luxury consumers engage with the spirits brands they love.” Bacardi Limited acquired the tequila maker earlier this year, and with that move, Parker took on new roles like leading digital marketing for Grey Goose Vodka.

Dave Reiseman
CMO, Gold’s Gym
Reiseman has been at Gold’s Gym for over 15 years, but perhaps his biggest role was helping the company through a major branding transformation—including starting to market to women. “Our goal was to evolve this iconic brand in a way that expanded appeal and changed perceptions, but that also was authentic and stayed true to the DNA of who we are,” he told Adweek. “This meant finding and attracting new customers, especially those who might not have considered Gold’s Gym in the past.”

Jennifer Herskind
CMO, Smoothie King
Last year, the Smoothie King HQ moved from Louisiana to Coppell, crediting DFW as a hub for the food and bev. industry. In-tune with the big move, Herskind helped lead the franchise into more lifestyle-based initiatives, like inspiring customers to be more healthy and active. “The biggest initiative since I arrived,” she told Adweek, “is the ongoing rollout of ‘Cleaner Blending,’ which adds more whole fruits and veggies while removing artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, added sugars, GMOs and high fructose corn syrup.”

Tim and Terrence Maiden
Co-founders, Two Wins Foundation
The Dallas-based Maiden twins founded the Two Wins Foundation back in 2005 with the mission to ‘make a difference’ by addressing socio-economic issues and investing in local organizations, programs, and initiatives. Next spring, the organization plans to launch the Rising Sons Initiative, a program through Cedar Valley College and Dallas County Community College District that will equip young men with the tools to become industry leaders.

Nancy Kelly
VP of Digital Marketing, Texas Instruments
“The leadership of the company believes in the importance of the internet, the impact that digital marketing can have on our business and how it is a critical channel to engage with our customers,” Kelly, an 11-year veteran of Texas Instruments, a tech company that designs and manufactures integrated circuits, told Adweek. “Not having to convince people that digital channels are the most effective way to reach our customers makes my team’s job a lot easier.”

Renee Adams
VP of Marketing and Customer Engagement, Excentus
Adams has only been in her current position for less than a year, but she’s already taken on some major roles: Working with Shell to boost engagement, developing new tech to increase sales, and deepening customer interactions. The two-decade marketing master shared with Adweek that she enjoys “‘being able to blend the analytical, technical and creative skill sets’ required in the customer rewards space.”

Darren Woodson
Founder and President, CounterFind
A Dallas Cowboy turned entrepreneur, Woodson founded CounterFind back in 2016. The startup is a subscription platform intended to help brands and licensors find and eliminate fake merchandise being sold online. Earlier this year, CounterFind received million-dollar funding from Deep Space Ventures, Green Park and Golf, and Blue Star Innovation Partners, which is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’s company.

Kara Gasbarro
Senior Director of Creative and Marketing, TGI Friday’s
Gasbarro has been in charge of TGI Friday’s campaigns for the past nine years, with her most recent project being the revamping of ribs. Right now, she’s working on a new branding platform to be pushed out in 2019. “Consumers have an abundance of places to choose from for social occasions involving eating and drinking,” she told Adweek. “That is why innovation is so important in my role.”

Sharna Heinjus
Global Marketing Director, Kimberly-Clark
Heinjus originally comes from Australia, where she was in charge of category development and trade investment for Kimberly-Clark. In her current role, she hones in on Huggies wipes, with much of her duties focused on product innovation. “I work with all of the markets across our world, which we’ve got emerging, developing, and developed markets trying to build the business of wipes,” Heinjus told Adweek.

For complete descriptions of how the Brand Stars were chosen, visit Adweek.

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