The CMO Files: Omer Malchin, Reali
Name: Omer Malchin
Job title: CMO
Location: San Mateo, California, USA
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Israel, and spent a good portion of my childhood in France and Belgium. My formative years in high school were spent in Israel. I was in the Army Intelligence for 4 years, and then did my undergrad in Israel. After that, I moved to the US where I got my MBA and started my career.
What was your first job?
Renting tapes from the back of my car in Israel — “mobile Blockbuster”. My first real job after the Israeli Military was at Telemundo in New York, with a junior role in the marketing department. It was also my orientation to working in the US.
What was the first product you got really excited about?
I tend to like products that are tangible. I still remember the Citroen DS as this futuristic car that I loved because it had a unique, classic look, but it was also considered high tech. It was able to elevate itself once you had the car on, and at the time, that was super advanced. Later on, I remember being excited about bikes, not because I am a hardcore biker, but bikes have something very unique, combining the steel frames, the gear mechanism, etc. Specifically, I remember my first Raleigh Chopper. It looked different than anything else and the experience riding was very different. The Sony Walkman was another product that I remember as a game changer at the time. If I’m thinking about technology, Yahoo Messenger was a software product that I was very excited about because it allowed me to communicate with people in a new and very seamless way, that I couldn’t before. And these days, Reali excites me. The possibility of changing archaic ways of buying and selling homes via an innovative user experience and talking to customers the way they expect to be treated is great challenge. So depending on when and where, I can remember a few different products that I was really excited about. Of course today, everything moves faster and you almost can’t go a week without a new product or service coming out — many of them are desirable — but often with less longevity.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
The one person who affected my career the most is Solly, my wife. She is the one that pushed or allowed the opportunity for me to leave New York and move to Penn and get my MBA, which didn’t look as exciting to me at the time. Making that choice and getting my MBA helped me understand what it meant to be in business in the US. Also, Tony Foglio, CEO of Paddington (a Diageo company), taught me how to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive within a larger company. To this day, I thank him for not approving a larger team for me. By doing that, he kept me focused on what matters most, avoiding red tape and bureaucracy and leveraging the resources of a large company but acting as a mini CEO of my own brands, and bringing resources as need be, versus dealing with a lot of logistics.
Later on, when I was in Palo Alto working as the VP Marketing of Netflix with Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph the company founders, I learned what it was like to work in a real start-up. At the time, we were fifteen people or so, and we had to tackle large problems as a small team, understand metrics, take risks, and execute against a bold vision. I apply my Netflix learnings to my current role.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I have to say my family and my four kids are my greatest joy. They keep me grounded and influence my thinking every day. Other than that, the fact that I have spent time on both sides of the table — as both agency and client — has given me insight into how the creative and strategic process works from start to finish, and how to avoid common pitfalls. Lastly, starting in marketing when analytics was not a part of the daily job, and moving into today where metrics is key, allows me to think about brands, identity and positioning in a less constrained way, while still being able to link the work back to business performance.
What has been your biggest mistake?
It is hard to say, I have made so many, and I am making them all the time. Perhaps, not following my gut at times, although it can be wrong as well. There is not one mistake that I can point to, but of course there are many things that I would do differently. I can think of ways to communicate better with people around me. I find that I need time to think on my own, and that comes at the expense of interacting with others.
What is your greatest strength?
The type of work that I like and that I flourish in is when there is a requirement for both creativity and analytics. I thrive when there is an opportunity to do something creative and different, but at the same time always remembering what we’re trying to achieve and do work that is not just award-winning, but also moving the needle in terms of the business needs. When those two come together and when creativity and understanding and insight of the business go together, this is where I feel like I do my best work, and it’s what I enjoy. At Reali, I’m able blend creative work, UI, new ways of doing things and looking at how this is making a dent on the business on a daily basis.
What is your biggest weakness?
There is always this feeling of there being so much to do with so little time, and it makes me very cautious about how I use the time that I have. As a result, I can sometimes be overly cautious about my time, opting to communicate via text and email, at the expense of face to face communication. While that balance is important, I’m sometimes a little too one-sided when it comes to finding time for on the fly dialogues.
What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?
There is a genre of marketers who were born into analytics, growth hacking, KPI’s and measurable objectives, which I think are important, but sometimes the brand story and the “soul” of what marketers are trying to do with the brand and product is neglected. Measuring everything and deploying analytics is important, but if the starting point is mediocre, then you can only work on a mediocre brand or value proposition. If you rely too much on just measuring, A/B testing and researching, without a potentially extraordinary essence, there is a risk that you’ll never get your company and brand to its full potential. And we also need to remember that everybody is optimizing, so all your competitors are doing the same thing, the same data is available for everyone. So, innovation, creativity and thinking outside of the box are critical. Only after you have that piece, do you want to rely on analytics.
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