L.A. Brand Stars: 15 Flourishing West Coast Marketers in Culture-Defining Categories

From fast fashion to Japanese cars

Los Angeles is a creative wellspring, new tech hub and startup incubator.
Getty Images

It’s easy to think that geography defines and limits Los Angeles. The metro area, after all, borders the Pacific Ocean and butts up against several mountain ranges at its sprawling suburban edges.

The nearly 4 million residents plan their lives around traffic patterns (avoid the 405 and no, your friend will not drive you to LAX) if they have any hope of getting from point A to point B, especially if the former is the San Fernando Valley and the latter is Santa Ana.

But L.A., as a creative wellspring, new tech hub and startup incubator, is a wide-open, carmageddon-free landscape, say Adweek’s first L.A. Brand Stars, who are thriving in sweet treats, fast fashion, skate gear, meal replacements, Japanese cars, theme parks, live concerts and other culture-defining categories.

Not pinned in by the tangled mess of highways and conventional (East Coast) practices, marketers have “the freedom to try and experiment,” which Honda’s Susie Rossick calls “infectious.”

Kia’s Saad Chehab, a few months into his first L.A. gig, is inspired by the wealth of artists, musicians, YouTubers, directors and creators. “I’m surrounded by all these people that I’ve always wanted to be closer to,” he says.

He sums up the environment for himself and his fellow Brand Stars like this: “We’re in the right place at the right moment.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Linda Chang, co-founder, Riley Rose/head of marketing, Forever 21

Bustle has called it “a candy-colored beauty dreamland” and publications from Teen Vogue to Racked are salivating over Riley Rose, a new lifestyle retailer spun off from Forever 21 that’s purpose-built for selfies and Instagram. Chang, who launched the Barbie-pink chain with her sister, Esther, calls it “an homage to the millennial generation.” She’s overseeing its growth, from its initial store in Glendale, Calif., to the dozen more sites and ecommerce planned this year. Chang, the Ivy League-educated daughter of Forever 21’s founders, has handled marketing as the fast-fashion giant became a $4 billion global brand, telling Fashionista the most valuable business lesson she’s learned from her parents has been “listening to the consumer.”

Ryan Immegart, evp, global marketing, Volcom

It’s not hyperbole for Immegart to say he has Volcom in his blood. He was the brand’s first sponsored snowboarder at 14 years old, later starting its in-house record label and heading its entertainment division, meeting his wife there and graduating to a C-suite job where he launched the recent “This First” campaign targeting the young demo’s “irrational pursuit of passion.” (Video views: 12.5 million.) He means to take Volcom from cult favorite to global player, “engaging more people outside our endemic world,” he says, like Georgia May Jagger, daughter of rock royalty who’s now a brand ambassador with her own fashion line that Immegart thinks will “help us expand our reach.”

Adam Grablick, CMO, Soylent

Grablick already knew how to market “polarizing” brands when he arrived at Soylent last summer, he says, having worked on Velveeta, Tang and Kool-Aid. His mantra: “Embrace the loyalists—they’ll have your back.” For the meal-in-a-bottle product, that’s been gamers and tech bros, who Grablick has reached via esports, an AI spokesbot and dark web offers, the latter two from recently hired agency Wieden + Kennedy. But the fast-growing brand (which is not people nor astronaut food) is going broader, with distribution in 125 7-Eleven stores, college campuses and groceries. Continued expansion, beyond its subscription service and Amazon sales, is a major 2018 priority.

Michael Dubin, co-founder, CEO, Dollar Shave Club

What’s your second act if your first included a $1 billion sale to Unilever, the biggest startup acquisition in Los Angeles County history? Dubin is creating more men’s grooming products and building on Dollar Shave Club’s skin-care, hair-care and shower lines, aiming to become more than a subscription service for low-priced razors. “If it goes down the drain in the bathroom,” he says, “it’s something that we want to be a part of.” The improv comedy-trained entrepreneur, who stars in the brand’s quirky ads, is eyeing international expansion next year and a deeper dive into content like its Mel Magazine, keeping the renegade sensibility intact, he says, since the company’s “freedom to create remains as limitless as ever.”

This story first appeared in the Nov. 13, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Recommended articles