Being intellectually curious is a fantastic way to launch a career. Just ask Mariela Ure, chief marketing officer at Universal Studios Hollywood. She began her career as an entry-level intern at Disney World nearly thirty years ago where she quickly learned she had access to one of the top entertainment marketing teams in the world—and she wasn’t shy about asking them questions. “I’d talk to the marketing manager to understand how they made marketing decisions,” Ure says.
She ended up landing a full-time job at Disney as a marketing manager, where she spent the first decade of her career soaking in a world-class education on the fundamentals of marketing. “I learned sophisticated brand management strategies that I still rely on to this day,” Ure says. Disney also gave her expertise in customer-relationship marketing—a fledgling trend at the time—as well as marketing analytics and the importance of aligning marketing with the customer experience. “Seamless integration between marketing and the guest experience is critical to elevate a brand,” she says.
After leaving Disney, Ure made it a point to gain exposure to a wide range of marketing disciplines, including advertising, TV production, segmentation strategies, and digital marketing. During the nine years she spent at Bank of America, she worked in various marketing functions—including customer relationship marketing work—and ultimately rose to the level of senior vice president of brand marketing, focusing on the bank’s corporate social responsibility efforts.
Later, she transitioned to work for Wells Fargo, which at the time had acquired Wachovia and needed to develop a national Hispanic segment strategy. Her work was instrumental in the bank’s ability to increase market share in the Hispanic market nationally. “In senior executive roles, you’re challenged with solving business problems or pursuing business opportunities,” Ure says. “To accomplish this, it is important to have an understanding of a wide range of levers accessible to you to help a business grow.”
These collective experiences paved the way for her current role as head of marketing for Universal Studios Hollywood, one of the biggest entertainment brands in the world. A former Disney manager recommended her for the job, and she was hired in 2018.
As chief marketing officer, Ure’s main mission is to efficiently drive profitable attendance at the Hollywood theme park, which she and her team of more than one hundred marketers accomplish in a number of ways. One strategy involves devising and executing national marketing plans to raise awareness of new attractions, like the new Jurassic World ride that opened in 2019.
“That campaign was extremely successful,” Ure says. “In addition to achieving the business goals, the marketing campaign was well received by the press and fans. It also received an outstanding response in terms of social media and views.” Now, her team is focused on marketing its newest ride The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash which opens at the end of March 2020.
“Seamless integration between marketing and the guest experience is critical to elevate a brand.”
Under Ure’s leadership, her team also plans and executes a series of unique events designed to drive attendance and engage visitors. In 2019, Universal Studios Hollywood launched its first Running Universal event, which gave runners (and walkers alike) an opportunity to experience the theme park and the surrounding movie studio in a new way. This March brings another new event to the theme park: Bravo’s Top Chef Food & Wine Festival, which will include food inspired by the hit television show, live cooking challenges, and panels featuring show alumni.
“We’re part of the NBC Universal portfolio of successful brands and it is rewarding to partner with them and combine our assets to bring our guests unique experiences that only we can deliver,” Ure says. “The Top Chef event started with a strong partnership with Bravo, and it made sense to leverage the combined brands to create a food and wine event unlike any other. The inclusion of their chefs and talent helped to create a totally unique event that combines what made Top Chef successful with the unexpected thrills guests only experience at Universal Studios Hollywood.”
Ure says she is relentless in her pursuit of delivering value for Universal Studios Hollywood, but she also credits her team with her success. “I work with some of the best marketing professions in the industry. In leading my team, I use three guiding principles: develop strategies grounded on data and facts, not personal views; collaborate with others because it’s always better than working alone; and strive to elevate performance with empathy and care for others.”
For those pursuing a career in marketing, Ure has one simple piece of advice: prioritize learning. “It’s critical to find ways to gain knowledge and skills in every job,” she says. “To achieve success, find professional growth and increase responsibilities—it is critical to take knowledge you’ve acquired at one job and bring it with you to your next role. You need to prioritize more than just the job title and how much you’re getting paid.”
Reflecting on her best professional experience, Ure says it was the unexpected that challenged her the most. Earlier in her career, because of a merger at Bank of America in which her job was eliminated, Ure was offered a role in media planning and buying, which she knew nothing about. Instead of running from the opportunity, she seized the moment.
“The company invested in me, provided training, and allowed me work at a media buying agency for a short period. I stepped outside my comfort zone and took a risk . . . and that risk paid off. I was willing to admit I didn’t know what was required of the job, so I learned and later used my learnings to make significant contributions.”
GSD&M congratulates Mariela Ure for being among the most accomplished Hispanic senior leaders in the nation. We are a proud partner to Mariela and the rest of Universal Parks & Resorts. GSD&M is a creatively driven, full-service agency in Austin, Texas, that believes in ideas that make a difference. GSDM.com