The CMO Files: Omer Malchin, Reali

What keeps CMOs awake at night?


Name:  Omer Malchin

Organization: Reali

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.

Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
I would say “be relevant, but get noticed” is key for anything that I am dealing with. One doesn’t go without the other. Staying relevant to your customers is important, but if you’re not doing it in a noticeable and creative way, relevancy will go away over time. Getting noticed is not only fun, but also important to survive. But if it’s notice for the sake of being noticed, without thinking about what your customers really want, this will become a novelty.

Things that make me squirm - hearing “let’s have a meeting.” I feel that sometimes more of the time that I need to do my job is being taken by meetings, and I always try to consider what the best use of my and my team’s time is. Sometimes you fall into this cycle where you end up having a bunch of follow up meetings or meetings about the meetings you had, and I always worry about that. I’m concerned that it might leave me with less time to do what matters.

What makes you stressed?
I’m all about agile marketing and development, this is how we work at Reali, but at the same time, I have a tendency to try to do things that are as perfect as they can be. And agile, by definition, goes a little bit against that since the method basically means that we’re placing high level design with frequent redesign - high level output with dynamic, even if imperfect output. So this sometimes goes against my natural instinct to do things perfectly right. It is something that stresses me, but I deal with it and always evaluate when agile makes total sense and in what cases it shouldn’t apply.

What do you do to relax?
During the workday, I often like to leave the office and walk. This reinvigorates my brain and by the time I come back, I’ll usually have 2-3 new thoughts or ideas. The gym or a quick run is another good escape. Other than that, my family always has an amazing effect, regardless of what’s going on at work.

What is your favorite song?
I don’t necessarily have a favorite song. I have many songs that I like and they change quite often. There are some songs that are always go-to for me in French, English and in Hebrew. For example, “Ne Me Quitte Pas” by Jacques Brel goes back to my childhood, and on the other end of the spectrum - “Can I Kick It” from A Tribe Called Quest, a little bit of retro hip hop that I’m always happy to listen to. I’m influenced by my kids’ music and I try to keep up with them, so the genres here would be widespread, anything from Travis Scott to my daughter’s latest favorite, “If You Were Mine” by Jamie Woods. We like to exchange music with each other via text. Another song I’ve liked recently is by Michael Kiwanuka called “Cold Little Heart”, which I learned about while watching Big Little Lies. I’ll save you from the music that I like in Hebrew, but as you can see, I like a lot of different things.

Which book taught you most?
At the time, I really liked the book called The Experience Economy. It had an impact on my thinking and approach to brands and their value beyond just a product or a service.  I know there is an updated version of the book which is on my to-do to read.  Good to Great is another book that taught me, via examples and use cases, the disciplines of how to get to great and differentiating.  Finally, The Design of Everyday Things helped me think about what things don’t work and how things should work, and although this has to do with design and product design specifically, it has an impact on anything that I’m working on and creating on an ongoing basis.  Consumers today expect things to work properly and have a satisfying user experience - this book is a good reminder on how to make things work.

Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
I follow the Golden State Warriors, but I was a fan before they were as popular as they are now. I started following them as a way to have a good time with my kids and bought some season tickets, back when no one wanted them, and it was a way for us to be together for a few hours and share a good experience together. We’ve been fans ever since and still go to games together. I’m also officially a Tottenham Spurs soccer “fan”, but I know little about them. The only reason I am following them is because my kids watch soccer together, and I wanted to be a part of it. So I picked a team that isn’t one of their own teams.

Which country would you like to work in?
I’m happy where I am, but here and there I fantasize about waking up somewhere in Italy and going to work after having a small latte in the morning and having a long lunch in between meetings. And as an Israeli who never worked in Israel, doing that at one point is an option as well.

Which company do you think has the best marketing?
The challenge to this question is to answer it without saying Apple or Tesla. I really like Adidas, mainly because they are relevant to so many people that are so different from each other. You can for example see their shoes worn by trendy hip hop celebrities, professional athletes, people at the gym, and so on. It’s also a brand that was able to sustain and survive over so many years. Then there are other brands that I think are doing a great job these days.  Airbnb for example built a brand that makes people open up their homes to strangers and be a real alternative and sometimes a better alternative to traditional hotels and/or bed and breakfasts. Not only that, they did it through trust, a brand that is modern and a contemporary experience. Another company is Slack. Since this is a tool that was built for internal use, and through credible marketing and belief on what they are trying to solve, they were able to make themselves relevant and a Silicon Valley darling very quickly. Teams and companies suffering from issues around communication, information overload, and managing groups and tasks can relate to Slack’s story and value proposition. They’re not the first to try to do it, but the way they did it from a brand perspective was authentic and creative, and their product (mostly) works.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2