Marie Chevrier Schwartz, the CEO and founder of Sampler, is an entrepreneur with a marketing background who has built a technology platform for product sampling. The company’s network reaches over 50 million consumers in 24 countries and serves some of the world’s largest brands like L’Oréal and Unilever.
In 2022, Marie was named the Marketer-on-the-Rise and inducted into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends, run by the Toronto chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA Toronto).
As part of its mission, AMA Toronto celebrates the leadership achievements of professionals like Marie to promote excellence, provide inspiration, and empower the leadership potential of its members across the marketing community.
What does it mean for you to be inducted into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends as the 2022 Marketer-on-the-Rise?
It’s an incredible honour to be recognized as the 2022 Marketer-on-the-Rise by AMA Toronto and welcomed into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends.
My initial insight for Sampler came to me when I was a bright-eyed student working part-time as a brand ambassador for an experiential marketing agency. At the time, I used to hand out free product samples in grocery stores at random and always thought there had to be a better way to make this process more targeted and measurable. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have the opportunity to turn that insight into a company that works with the largest brands across the world and delivers millions of samples each year.
I do hope my career is an example that can inspire other marketers to trust their gut and bring forward their innovative ideas within their organizations, or to take the leap into entrepreneurship as I did. Thank you to AMA Toronto for this honour and to Sampler’s team for continuing to push the industry boundaries.
What is your greatest leadership accomplishment in marketing, and why are you proud of it?
Getting started is my biggest accomplishment. It might sound easy to take the first initial steps but identifying a problem and finding a real-life solution to solve it requires a lot of courage from an entrepreneur. I’m so proud I didn’t walk away from my dreams and that I brought them to life.
I’ll always remember starting that blank PowerPoint deck. Whenever things have gotten hard throughout my journey – I look back to that moment fondly for perspective. If I had the courage to start from nothing, I should have the courage to solve any problem that comes my way now when I have so many amazing resources at my fingertips.
What is one brand that is getting marketing right today and why?
I’m really impressed with the Mid-Day Squares team. Though they have developed an incredibly tasty functional chocolate bar that sells itself, the brand that they’ve created around it is what makes people LOVE it.
Their team spends a disproportionate amount of time creating deep relationships with all their stakeholders but especially their consumers. Through relatable online content, the company invites everyone to dive into their incredible but challenging journey of building a brand.
We live in a time where content is king, and while many brands have been focusing on hiring external vendors or influencers to tell their brand story, the Mid-Day Squares team does it in-house, and invites us into their journey in a truly unique way.
What innovations or trends have surprised you over the last year in marketing?
Conflicting trends are the name of the ‘game’ right now. There’s never been a more confusing time to be a marketer, we are encountering so many opposing tendencies.
The first one is about digital advertising and its decreasing effectiveness. At first glance, it might make sense to invest in a first-party data strategy. But at the same time, a growing number of people are getting concerned about their privacy; thus, it’s not clear if they sign up for a brand’s newsletter without a proper incentive.
Second, e-commerce is growing and many organizations had shifted their teams to focus there, we’ve learned that the shift is not happening as fast as we projected last year.
Third, retail media networks are popping up everywhere and can help advertise closer to a point of purchase. But at the same time, retailers are launching private label brands that are competing with brands.
Fourth, consumers want to go back to in-store shopping, but the current supply chain is a mess and there’s not enough stock on the shelf.
Considering the market is ever-so-dynamic, I believe only one thing matters: a direct and deep relationship with your customers. The market will continue to evolve, but if you can connect with your clients directly and keep two-way communication, you’ll be uniquely positioned in the market.
How do you describe your leadership style? Why has it worked for you?
I believe that my team would describe me as transparent and hands-on. Throughout our journey, I’ve realized that arming your team with the information they need to have an impact is the most important thing. By being transparent about challenges and opportunities you’re arming your team with the tools required for them to make powerful decisions and trade-offs on where they should be spending their time. While I can’t be part of every conversation or project anymore, I love when I get pulled in to support a big proposal or brainstorm from time to time.
What excites you most about being a leader during this time?
As a leader, I am most excited about how Sampler can help brands solve some of their largest challenges by effectively getting their product into the hands of the right people. To me, the largest opportunity for marketers is to lean into the power of personalized relationships between people and their brands. I’m excited to be at the helm of a company that can execute that during a time when that solution is needed more than ever.
What’s the best business advice you’re received over the course of your career, and why was it important to you?
Build a team that fills your gaps. I’ve been so lucky to work with some of the brightest individuals in the industry. By understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses we’ve been able to grow each other and our company exponentially.
Who has inspired or influenced your career path? How has mentorship played a role in shaping your career?
My grandparents were entrepreneurs, my father is the most hard-working person I’ve ever known, and my husband is also an entrepreneur. I’ve always been surrounded by hard-working people. Throughout my career, I’ve had several mentors but the most influential people in my life have been my peers and family. In fact, many of my peers are now like family to me. What I’ve realized is that what I’ve needed most during my journey is a wide set of perspectives. I’ve been lucky to be able to pick up the phone and ask numerous people “How would you deal with X?”.
How well is the marketing industry succeeding in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in Canada? What can it do better?
I think we’re far from the days of “Mad Men,” but we have to keep on pushing. It’s been proven time and time again that diversity of thought is a huge competitive advantage. I think we need to continue to promote diversity in our organizations and our suppliers or partners as well. The reality is the companies that prioritize diversity deliver better marketing.
What is one thing you would like to change in marketing or your industry to make it a better place to work?
I think that in all industries, it’s an important time to prioritize the mental health of our teams. Aside from all the unexpected pressures of business, our teams are dealing with a ton of concerns. Everyone has been through a pandemic, a tense political climate, and a financial crisis.
While we should be prioritizing mental health for multiple reasons, including our moral responsibility, the reality is that not providing a safe place to discuss or deal with the emotional toll of these pressures hurts businesses too.
It’s Incredibly difficult to be creative when you have other things on your mind. Many of our teams are dealing with things at home and then asked to come up with a creative tagline an hour later. I’d like to see all industries normalize the importance of supporting teams’ mental health.