Building Better CMOs
Building Better CMOs
Esther-Mireya Tejeda (Anywhere Real Estate) Transcript
Greg Stuart: This is Building Better CMOs. Let's get back to my conversation with Esther-Mireya Tejeda, the CMO of Anywhere Real Estate.

So, I trained as an economist. The basics of an economist was based on what a rational man would do. And I think it was like the last class I took in university when they said, "Oh, by the way, there's no such thing as rational man." I'm like, "WTF, what do you mean?" It really upset my whole world. And then the more I get around in the world, I'm going, "Okay, I get it now. There is no such thing."

EMT: Just think about that from an anecdotal perspective. How many times do you see people making totally irrational decisions?

GS: Are we talking about my friends now? I thought we were talking about...

EMT: We're going to talk about my friends. We can talk about me. How many times have I made decisions that are just not reasonable, but they make me feel good at the time, and so I'm going to go ahead and do it. We see that with aspirational customers all of the time. We see aspirational customers, especially in luxury—

GS: Especially in real estate. Especially in real estate. Oh, my god, it's got to be the most irrational thing.

EMT: And the thing about it, why this is so fascinating in this role and introducing neuroscience and emo-graphics in this particular setting—

GS: Neuroscience, we're going to come back to that. Okay. Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, why it's exciting. Go ahead.

EMT: Well, it's because we have historically thought about things like financial services and housing, real estate, as truly rational industries. Where a customer is coming in and thinking with their brain and looking at their budget and making hard choices based on their reason. But we see time and time again, customers going into a house that's out of their price range, that's out of the zip code that they're looking for, that doesn't meet any of the criteria that they have listed. But they walk into the house and they imagine their kids playing in the backyard, or they imagine Christmas dinner in this dining room.

GS: Totally.

EMT: And it goes out the window, and suddenly they're in love with the house and they start using words like, "This was love at first sight. I love this house, I need this house." And suddenly the reason goes out the window, and now they're driving completely on emotion. And so what is that? And that is the thing that we all—and whether you're in real estate, whether you're in auto, whether you're in CPG, it doesn't matter. That is the marketing gold. We need to understand that better.

GS: Well, listen, we said earlier that being a real estate agent is as much being a psychologist for somebody and stuff. I love your other point, too. By the way, this is going to come up in our next sort of section of this episode here, when I talk to you a little bit as I mentioned.

But you know what? I actually have a psychologist, PhD psychologist, on retainer to me and the rest of the company, senior execs mostly. The idea is I use him to just check my thinking, that I'm being as thoughtful... I'm trying for rational, although I know we've dismissed that, but it's to check my thinking. On what basis am I making this decision? Am I making that on the right basis for the decision I'm making? Am I going to have the outcome? Because you're right, my mind tricks me and says, "This is what I need." It's not really what I need, or I misread the situation in some way because, I don't know, my dad was mean and my mother was whatever. It doesn't matter. I don't care where it all comes from, who cares? Let's not get into that. But it's like that's the idea, I need to process. Or I'm pissed off, I'm annoyed or whatever emotional state I have going on. In business, I do need to make better decisions than not. I mean, obviously. So yes, that's why I have him around, for that very same reason.

EMT: I love that.

GS: I should take him for a house hunting, but I already said I'm not changing houses again. So bring the neuroscience side into the thing, because MMA has done a lot of work around neuroscience. I'd like to even do more. So tell me how that plays in when you're doing some of your, I guess, advanced work in the marketing insights analysis that you're doing.

EMT: Well, I think this is the frontier of customer insights. I think everyone should start thinking about emo-graphics.

GS: A lot of people agree with you on that.

EMT: Yeah, and I think everyone should start thinking about emo-graphics and using neuroscience to understand customers and to do segmentation work.

GS: Can you give an example of the why? Where did you go, "I thought it was this, but it turned out to be that"? Do you have an example of where you captured that, and then how you got there would be interesting.

EMT: Like I said, we're doubling down on neuroscience. So this is all neuroscientific research. This is not focus groups and surveys which, in my opinion, is post-rationalized opinions from customers.

GS: Post-rational consumer decisioning. Okay, I got it. I didn't know that.

EMT: That's correct. This is going before that moment of rationalization, where you have thought something and then you convinced yourself that it was a rational thought. And so we use quite a few methodologies, and I do work with neuroscience teams to help me conduct and scope this research. This is all, I think, very progressive and certainly cutting edge. And I'm excited to be on the frontier of this. I think it's the right direction for the industry, and definitely the right direction for real estate being that it's such an emotionally driven business. So to give you an example of some of the types of insights that I have been able to pull, there are actually a variety of unconscious emotional personas when it comes to housing, right?

GS: Okay.

EMT: There are, for example, folks that are in the anxious category. And so housing for them is about finding stability and creating roots and feeling secure in something. And so their approach to home and housing and real estate has an anxious undertone to it. And that anxiety, you'll see coming out in how they approach the process, how deliberate they want to be about their project management. They're probably planners, they're probably over organized. They probably have lists and checklists, and things of that nature.

And that all comes from having an anxious persona, an anxious unconscious profile. Now, this is not a customer that's ever going to say, "I feel anxious about housing. I feel like I need stability and roots." And they may not even be aware of it, frankly, but it's something we've uncovered through neuro. There's a different type of persona—and there's a variety of this, but I'll give you two that are really different to give you an idea of what I'm talking about—who is all about achievement. And this is a person that wants to feel validated, and this is a person that wants to feel successful and they want to feel like they have won.

And so for that person, housing is a notch on the belt, an accomplishment. It is something to be proud of. It is a mission that is part of a life plan. So they approach the whole housing process, the search for the agent, the search for the home as almost a self competition. Like, "How can I outdo myself? I can do better. Can I do better? What's the biggest, best bang for my buck that I can possibly get?" And it takes on a really competitive edge, and it's less about the home and it's less about the security or the family or the warmth or the whatever. It is more about the pride. And so again, that's not a person that's going to come out and articulate that, but it is an unconscious emotional driver that is going to affect the way they think and approach and process the whole transaction and the business of buying a house. And so here are two different people with two different unconscious emo-graphic personas that would require a completely different customer experience in order to feel satisfied and to feel good about their experience.

GS: A whole different objective. By the way, you just described why I own a house in New York City, because I'd walk the streets of New York City going, "How do people buy whole houses here? That's so rare. How do you get one of those?" And I think for me, it was just, "I want to own a house in New York City someday." It was on my vision board apparently.

EMT: Right, right.

GS: That's very funny. It would be totally that. Roots, whatever. Secure, I don't care. Whatever. Yeah, that's very funny. I love it. So listen, that's actually really interesting. But I think part of the more complex dynamic is how do you then bring that to life? How would you then talk to people individually? Do we even have the MarTech stack that lets us do that now, or are we just at the very beginning of trying to figure that out?

EMT: This is where we need to do the hard work of connecting. So just having the emo-graphic segmentation is not going to be enough. Just having the demographic or a psychographic segmentations are not going to be enough.

GS: Yeah, there's two different people getting the same kind of message, so we're creating confusion if maybe nothing else, right?

EMT: So we actually have to subsegment those emo-graphic personas, profiles on demographics, and we have to subsegment them even further on psychographics. So we get to probably more personas, but they're more precise.

GS: Oh, okay. Okay.

EMT: And then when you have more personas that are much more precise, then you can take those cohorts and create individual marketing strategies, inclusive of messaging, inclusive of creative, inclusive of really all of the touch points, even channels that you're activating against, that work better for one comprehensive persona versus another. The other thing is this shouldn't just be fueling your marketing strategy, this should be fueling your customer experience, customer service strategy. It should also be fueling your product strategy. What products you should be building for whom, and what the experience should be within the product.

GS: Totally.

EMT: This is not about just marketing, this is really about knowing your customer and creating business strategy that is responsive to, and reactive to, the reality, the complexity, the diversity of a fragmented customer base. And that's what this is all about. And I think where we struggle, especially in times of economic challenge, and I know there's been a lot of layoffs. We see it all the time on LinkedIn. Just this week, I know there were some pretty significant layoffs at a couple of big companies.

GS: There's been a lot in the news.

EMT: There's a lot in the news around this. And so I think in times of economic pressure, marketing tends to double down on the most generalized strategy that it can get away with. And what ends up happening is we waste a ton of money. Because like I said, I think I said it already, but one-size-fits-all is one-size-fits-none. Now you're just wasting money. It's smarter to spend less and be more precise than to spend more and try to spray and pray. And this is really what adding this additional layer of data around your customer can help you to do; it can help you to become more granular.

GS: You know what, Esther Mireya, I got an idea for you here. This is actually really interesting, and I realize I'm pitching you something here in the process of the actual episode itself. I think what you're onto is phenomenally interesting, and I hear you about sort of this cloud of the times. And there's a lot of marketers I hear lately who are really moving to the cultural dynamics of the environment at hand. They use it often as an attention getting, sometimes to be sort of more relevant at the moment. But even that's missing the point because what's happening with the economics dynamics is there is still a very big class of people, who are in the higher echelons, who are not feeling that same sense of anxiety that other people are feeling.

EMT: Oh, absolutely.

GS: So you still should be talking achievement to those people. Just if I take your quick personas, but this anxious roots thing maybe exists someplace else. And so, you're right. We really are just missing a point. Okay, here's the thing. The MMA has been doing some work. We call it the Consortium for AI Personalization. Here's basically what happened. A guy named Rex Briggs, who was running the stats in the country on COVID vaccine adoption and the death counts. He was the guy, and he did it with Brown University, where you went. Brown University, maybe Harvard, but CDC was involved, the Ad Council was involved. And he was the guy doing it. What he found is that in order to get vaccine adoption, you had to personalize the message. That having a broad, "Hey, you got to get vaccinated," didn't work anymore. It was over. Those people have been taken out of the mix. You couldn't get anymore.

And as a result of his research and the work that he was doing, the work that he did to personalize, he figured out that he did save 3,500 lives. This is serious shit. And we're now doing a series of studies right now. What we're doing is we're not using any first-party data, we're doing it off a contextual signal. And that came from the work he did in vaccines. It's health stuff, you can't know people for health. It's very challenging. So his theory was, "Well, what I used to do contextual," and that's how he saved the lives. And now we have found that using contextual information and AI—and I can tell you he's using techniques, I wouldn't have any idea what they are, but it's called one-hot encoding and K-modes clustering—as a way of targeting something that us marketing people never even heard of, and what he's doing there is personalizing the message. We have seen performance of ads go up 3X, 195 percent.

EMT: I believe that.

GS: Well, one of the studies, back to your personalization thing. One of the things he found is that generally, on average, the female voice... He was doing an audio, too. He found female voice was better than male voice. However, this is really funny. The male voice worked better in mostly Southern states, Michigan, and Utah. Patriarchal societies is what our guess is. We don't know for a fact, but we couldn't have written a thing and said, "Hey, go after men-dominated, oriented populations." We didn't think of it. The male voice also worked better after 10:00PM. I suspect there was a sense of security and safety that it provided at some level, I'm guessing. I don't know exactly. But we found all these cohorts. You know what'd be really interesting is to take your work and let the AI go find a cohort. Don't try to guess, because I don't think we could ever guess.

EMT: Well, that's exactly the future of this, because this has to be unlocked through AI.

GS: It has to be.

EMT: AI is what's going to take all of this to the next level. And I still haven't figured out how that connection is going to work, but it's something I'm very much thinking about.

GS: We know how to do it. Let's you and I talk after this, because I think it'd be interesting to take your thesis and your learnings and take it into this environment and see what it means. Because you're right, it's the same problem we have. I did psychographics a lot of years ago. We used it in new business presentations, never talked to the client afterwards about it because we couldn't execute. It just was pointless. It just didn't make any sense. It was interesting for new business, but it didn't help us when I was in the agency business.

Very interesting. So the second part of this is that I think there's a lack of understanding, appreciation, whatever you might want to call it, or maybe just exposure, we'll say, to what it means to both get to the C-suite and to stay there. And in some regards, maybe how the game's played differently. And I just think it would be good for other CMOs, and those who have aspiration to be at a senior executive level to understand. By the way, you mentioned to me earlier, your family has psychology degrees in the family, so this sort of runs. So I think this is going to tie to something. What has been your experience, what advice would you give people trying to get to that next level, or to be prepared for? Or why it's different?

EMT: I love that question because I think one of the biggest disservices that we do to upcoming talent is to allow them to believe that just being excellent marketers is what's going to get them to the C-suite. I'm here to say, that's not the game. You're not playing the game. So I used to think that the more senior I got and the higher up the ranks I got, and I thought this early in my career, the more kind of independent that I could be. I would be able to make unilateral decisions. I would just make my own choices. I wouldn't have to worry about what other people are thinking because I would be the, quote-unquote, boss of things. And I laugh at that now, when I think back to my 22-year-old self in my cubicle, like right out of college thinking, "I just can't wait to be in the C-suite so no one can tell me what to do."

GS: I love the independence of that. However, what'd you find out?

EMT: Well, come to find out, the more senior that you get and the closer to the C-suite that you get, and eventually in the C-suite, the more interdependent your work becomes. Because once you get into a C-Suite role, or in a senior executive role, you are stewarding a business. So it is less about your functional expertise in your area. It is about your ability to collectively steward that business as the C-suite. And so, you find yourself in an environment where there's a lot of decisions made by consensus. There is a need, absolutely, to get alignment and to socialize what you are doing, why you are doing it, how it works together, or not, with other leaders in the C-suite. And it is all about playing nicely together, or not nicely, but playing together in a way that is symbiotic, choreographed, and makes sense in the sandbox, in the C-suite sandbox.

So it is the farthest thing from making unilateral decisions and sort of being the boss of things that you could ever imagine. It requires so much team thinking, flexible thinking, people skills, soft skills, leading selflessly, and really primarily putting the best interests of the business, and the people in the business, at the center of all of the decisions. As opposed to your expertise in your subject area, whether that's marketing, whether that's legal, whether that's finance. And so that's a surprise, I think, to a lot of people who are coming up, and it's something I think we need to be much more transparent and vocal about, to help more people get into the C-suite and stay in the C-suite for longer amounts of time.

GS: We've done a lot of work in marketing organizations with a bunch of teams of professors. I think it's the most interesting work I'll get to do my entire career. We have a saying, "You are no longer managing a function. You are managing a coalition."

EMT: That's right. That's exactly what it is.

GS: I'll give you the actual stats. On average, 38 percent of marketing capabilities don't sit under the office of the CMO anymore, 38 percent. It's crazy.

EMT: It is.

GS: And you really do have to work with everybody. Let me ask you a funny question. This is really a touchy one. I'm not sure you even want to answer that.

EMT: Uh-oh.

GS: Do you think we end up making better decisions or not as good of decisions sometimes, when we're making the mitigated committee decision? That's a tricky question.

EMT: That's a tricky question. I think that largely depends on the caliber and quality of the C-suite.

GS: Okay, okay. Yeah, you're right. Is everybody there for the greater good to do the right thing or not? Because you get a lot of political bullshit, yeah.

EMT: It is. And I think that's why having the right people, and the right culture in an organization is actually not fluff.

GS: Yeah.

EMT: And it's actually super, super important to the success of the business, because a healthy C-suite is going to make the right choices for a business. A toxic C-suite, questionable.

GS: I think the thing that I've learned to do, and hopefully learned to do well... As I stand back and look at it, in fact, I just had an episode here about an hour before I jumped on this with you. I find sometimes that when things don't feel aligned, they're probably not, and I need to roll back, and I need to roll back again. And if I can't get alignment there, I've got to roll back again. And I think I've, over the years now with my advanced experience, sort of figured out how do I get to hear that we're misaligned? First off, I've got to recognize it. Not to go, "What the hell you think?" It's not that. It's like roll back to a place, and then find a place that we go, "Okay, do we agree here? Oh, okay, we agree here. Okay, we are aligned here in the objective. Okay, let's go up a level. What about here? What about here?" I run a trade association; it's all about getting masterful alignment of an industry from people not from a common culture.

EMT: That's exactly what happens in every C-suite and every organization. I think that's a brilliant hack, if you will, of how to approach those relationships.

GS: What got you to understand that, by the way, so well? Was there a moment, an experience or something that happened that you went, "Oh, aha"?

EMT: I've been in a CMO role a couple of times now, and it is something that I have learned and continue to learn over and over again in every organization. And also every organization is a little bit different. So I have had the absolute benefit of having really great mentors and sponsors in my career, that have helped me to navigate really complex cultures. And to your earlier point, I've been in media, I've been in CPG, I've worked on global, big global brands in music and entertainment, and these are known to be complicated cultures to navigate.

GS: Very complicated. Yeah, they are.

EMT: So I have had the pleasure and the benefit of having really great mentorship and sponsorship throughout my career to help me to do that. And I also had the benefit of having a really great role model at home, through my mom, who was a CMO when I was growing up, so—

GS: Oh, you didn't mention that. That's so interesting. That's so funny. Okay.

EMT: So I had a little bit of, again, some training and understanding there. And even still, even having all of that, it's a hard lesson to learn because you can learn it theoretically, but until you're there and you really see how it all works... And this is where having access to boards and getting on nonprofit boards, and understanding all of that, really helps you to get that picture and to understand that.

But for me, as a person who, in my constitution—and I recognize this about myself—I like to be in control. I like to call the shots. It is my instinctual disposition to move fast, make decisions, and kind of be on the ball. Having to learn to take a step back and have a collaborative team approach to things was a learned effort. And it's a learned effort that I make every single day that allows me to be able to grow my career and be in these roles. And again, think holistically about the business, not just about my function, my goals, my team, marketing, but the business and what is it that we're trying to do in our industry for the company, for the employees, and for the industries that we're in.

GS: I work with, obviously, a lot of C-suite executives of very big companies, and you get to figure out they got there for a reason. Okay, hard to stay there, but they got there for a reason.

I'll tell you what I noticed about you that's so interesting, and I usually don't comment like this, but you really have such an incredible sense of self-reflection that I think is what's serving you really well. And listen, you're lucky to have the background, because I think sometimes we think we can just take anybody from any background and put them in a more senior level. It's much more complicated than that. You really have to learn your way into those things. I think you can create a lot of disruption, hardship, and difficulty, and I don't know how you get around that. It sounds like you did that through mentors and people. Well, having great mentors is one thing you would've done, but also people would have seen something in you that they wanted to support, which kind of goes unknown. I'm sure that was a big part of your background here, so very interesting.

EMT: I appreciate that. I appreciate that. I do self-reflect a lot. I like to think of myself as a people-first leader, and so I think a lot about the culture I'm building, and I think a lot about the experience that I'm giving to people that are on my team or who are part of my organization.

I do believe that having a positive culture, it's really underrated. A lot of us think it's fluff, but it is the difference between having a successful business and not. And because we work so much, and we work so hard and many of us work so many hours, it's actually bad for your health and for your life if you're unable to create that balance and that fluidity and learn these lessons and have that objective perspective of yourself, and really be able to look and criticize yourself in positive ways and be in a constantly learning, constantly evolving mode. There really is no line right now, in my life, between my professional and my personal. It all merges because there's just so many hours in the day. I find myself doing everything at the same time. Creating that balance is super important, and I think it's also part of what I bring to the leadership table, and to, again, the relationship building and the collaboration and the team building and the alignment, which is what makes success or breaks success.

GS: Oh, my god. I see we're completely out of time here, and I wish I could go on and on with that. I think you're right. I think what people don't appreciate is that it's like they say about families and psychology, right? It's about the system. It's about the system and the relationships. And for myself, it's about the balance. I think I've spent an entire life trying to figure out what my combination, of whatever it is that makes me better, stronger, or faster able to fulfill on whatever goal I have in my life. That's a secondary sort of issue at some level. But the ability to perfect, to live against what that aspiration is, it's much trickier than people understand. And I think, by the way, I think it takes a shit load of help. Just FYI to those out there.

EMT: Yep.

GS: Yeah.

EMT: I'm with you.

GS: Okay. This is really the most interesting... By the way, one of the most interesting closes here. Eric is going to say something later, I know, about that. But really interesting. I really wish we... Maybe we'll have you back just to talk about the second part of Building Better CMOs. So listen, we can't thank you enough for doing this.

EMT: I would love that.

GS: Thank you.

EMT: Thank you.

GS: Thanks again to Esther-Mireya Tejeda from Anywhere Real Estate for coming on Building Better CMOs.

Check the description of this episode for links to connect with Esther-Mireya. If you want to know more about MMA's work to unlock the power of marketing, visit MMAGlobal. com. Or you can attend any one of the 30-plus conferences in the 15 countries where MMA operates. But really, write me at

Thank you so much for listening. Tap the link in the description to leave us a review. And if you're new to the show, please follow or subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeart, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find links to all those places and more at

Our producer and podcast consultant is Eric Johnson from Our project manager is Lili Mahoney. Artwork is by Jason Chase. And a very special thanks to Lacera Smith. This is Greg Stuart. I'll see you all in two weeks.

Recent episodes: