Linda Craenen is Vice President, Marketing of First National. In this interview, we ask Linda to elaborate on her role and how it supports the company’s success.
Linda, you lead the marketing function. What are your responsibilities?
The marketing team works closely with First National’s business lines. Our role is to understand goals, strategies and the personality of each element of the business in a way that allows us to accurately express the voice of First National. We’re responsible for looking outward to help build and present the brand in language that resonates with our clients and partners. At the same time, we’re internal storytellers, playing back the brand to everyone on the First National team. There has to be a strong connection between our internal and external voice for the brand to be conveyed in an authentic manner.
From a tactical perspective, how do you tell the story?
Our team manages external-facing communications including the website and all social channels. Internally, marketing is deeply engaged with corporate communications and works closely with human resources, origination, servicing, administration and IT. I think marketing is the best team to be on because we touch all aspects of the business with support from the leadership team.
You joined First National in 2014. What brought you here?
At that time, our Commercial division embarked on a project called Rethink. As the name suggests, it was an effort to reimagine how they approached the market. I was attracted to the challenge. What’s more interesting is why I was hired because I didn’t have a financial services background. In fact, I came from a totally different industry. Since the goal was to embrace completely different ways of thinking, my experience was welcomed.
What did you do before First National?
I’m a career marketer. I served at TELUS for 10 years. I held Director-level marketing roles in various areas – national and regional – including the Premier Sales Organization, Enterprise Markets, Small Business Markets and Central Region. I’m grateful for my time at TELUS. It was a marketing machine and they created absolutely brilliant business plans.
Did you take marketing in school?
I have an MBA from McMaster University where I did co-op terms in marketing with technology companies. That was a great experience that involved working with some amazing business leaders. My final co-op was with a telecom competitor to Bell, which led me to Bay Networks, and on to Netcom Canada in 1995. Netcom was subsequently sold to AT&T Canada and I was recruited to join TELUS.
You work with creative marketing people. What are your goals as a leader?
I have a personal why statement. My pledge is to build a strong marketing team. It’s critically important for me to mentor my colleagues, support them and encourage them to be their best. We have a culture of warm intensity in marketing. There is the warmth of a collaborative team mixed with an intensity to excel, to become great marketers.
Looking forward, what goals have you set for your team?
We intend to demonstrate, through stories, the strength of First National internally and externally. We are a premium brand and we want to convey that to our audiences. Commercial and Residential have different audiences and we need to tell their stories differently. For Commercial, the brand rests on the idea of empowerment. The Commercial team is comprised of empowered, expert advisors who are well equipped to help their mortgage clients. For Residential, the team rallies around owning the moment and the outcome, which is a powerful statement of accountability to mortgage clients and our mortgage broker partners.
Is there an overarching or corresponding corporate statement?
Very much so and we encapsulate it in four words: It’s In Our Nature. This phrase serves as a platform to tell the story of what’s in our nature as a growth and service-oriented business that thrives on teamwork, collaboration, sustainability and family values. It’s In Our Nature was inspired by the acorn that is a fixture of First National’s visual brand identity and is a way for us to open a dialogue by expressing our corporate DNA.
First National is a proven, dynamic business with a three-decade track record and a goal of providing great products and services to Canadians and their mortgage advisors. It’s a wonderful Canadian success story built on entrepreneurship that is now entering its next chapter of growth and achievement. As a marketer, I couldn’t ask for a better corporate story to tell.