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Josh Grau (IMC04)

Chief Brand Officer at Yext
Josh Grau

Josh Grau (IMC04) is currently the Chief Brand Officer at Yext, a publicly-traded software company offering brands a suite of cloud-based search solutions. Prior to Yext, he served as the CMO of Wealthfront, a leading online consumer investing and banking solution, as well as the global director of marketing and content for Twitter, where he spent two years based in Ireland as part of the EMEA leadership team.

Josh has also held leadership roles in marketing at YouTube and ESPN, and was the associate head coach of the Northwestern women’s volleyball team in the early 2000s. He is an IMC faculty member at Northwestern's campus in San Francisco and also serves on the Board of Advisers for Medill.

Tell us about your career path. How did you get where you are today?

Career paths always look linear and well-manicured in hindsight, so my best assessment is that it has been one part pursuing companies and opportunities that really resonated with me, and one (big) part luck. As you start to grow your career you also grow your professional network and forge important relationships, and that has certainly helped open doors along the way.

What are your main responsibilities as Chief Brand Officer at Yext?

I oversee all things related to our brand, including brand marketing, communications and PR, content, social media and partnerships. 

How did the Medill IMC program prepare you for your job at Yext?

The IMC training teaches you how to take a step back and look at a marketing program with a 30,000 foot view so you can ensure it’s an integrated marketing and communications approach that drives the right outcomes. The program also taught me the value of storytelling. A brand or a product is really just a name, but when you build a story around it you give people a reason to care—and to buy.

How do you apply the IMC way of thinking that uses both art and science in your job?

I think the science part is making sure everything works together to drive the outcome we want. For instance, we depend on demand generation marketing to build our pipeline and drive conversion. But brand marketing has to help create the context and convey our point of view to help drive awareness and interest. Ensuring those different parts of the funnel are interconnected is key. In terms of the art, I think that comes down to the stories we tell. What do we want people to think, feel and do? That’s where things like brand positioning, brand voice and the overall brand story are critical.

What is a class or experience that sticks out in your mind and why?

I remember working on a client project for John Deere, and my team and I drive out into the country to a dealership to do some “test driving” and talk to real customers coming into the store to buy a tractor. Not only was it fun, but it was an amazing exercise in building empathy for people. Living in the city, I had a very specific view on who the customer was and why they would buy the product. But going out into the field was an enlightening experience that still sticks to this day. In the classroom, Paul Wang used storytelling in such a powerful way to teach principles of marketing and advertising. He used a children’s book in class one time, and that has always stuck with me. In fact, I used a children’s book as my through-line when I gave the Medill commencement address in 2015.

What advice would you give to someone considering Medill IMC?

When thinking about graduate school you really should look deeply at the curriculum, the faculty and unique learning opportunities—inside and outside the classroom. Back when I applied and was accepted, I was considering IMC and a traditional MBA. While the latter was more familiar, once I started looking more carefully at those elements it was obvious that IMC was going to give me the tools I needed to pursue my professional interests. It did that in spades, and I’m happy to be able to give back to the program all these years later.