As Autodesk Taps Into Star Wars, CMO Dara Treseder Reveals Her Playbook for Connecting to Culture

Explaining how she gained trust among her stakeholders

Leaders from Glossier, Shopify, Mastercard and more will take the stage at Brandweek to share what strategies set them apart and how they incorporate the most valued emerging trends. Register to join us this September 23–26 in Phoenix, Arizona.

First, The Walking Dead. Later, the Oscars. Now, Star Wars. Design and make software brand Autodesk is tied to an embarrassment of intellectual property riches, and its marketing is leveraging this to reach potential customers.

Autodesk software is used to design elements of high-profile pieces of entertainment, including at Lucasfilm and Disney to bring the Star Wars universe to life. Now, Autodesk is telling that story in its latest campaign, which kicked off on May 4, the unofficial Star Wars holiday, and will run through the debut of Disney+’s new show The Acolyte.

As part of the 60-second ad, Autodesk released never-before-seen footage of the development of Pip, the newest droid that will appear in The Acolyte. Ads for the campaign will air across Disney and Hulu, and will be supported with programmatic buys and paid social content.

Additionally, fans can design their own droids using a free trial to enter into a contest to get their droids displayed at Lucasfilm in San Francisco or Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif.

It’s part of CMO Dara Treseder’s plan to bring the B2B brand to consumers by thinking like a B2C brand, making genuine connections with consumers using pieces of culture its target audience adores. But once a potential customer is hooked, Treseder’s team has potential customer journeys mapped out, with content designed to move people through the funnel.

Treseder spoke with ADWEEK about Autodesk’s full-funnel marketing plan and how to gain the trust of her company’s stakeholders in order to build a marketing organization that services the business’s needs.

“The emotional investment that people have in B2B products is massive. The impact, not only for them, but for their teams and their companies is massive,” Treseder said. “Deepening that emotional connection is very powerful, it’s very important, and that’s been a big part of our strategy.”

Tapping into Star Wars culture

Reaching fandoms that intersect with a marketer’s brand is an effective way of building brand loyalists. For Autodesk, which has numerous IPs it can tap into due to its penetration in entertainment, that meant figuring out which shows or movies engineers and designers gravitate toward.

Star Wars jumped out, giving Autodesk a chance to “celebrate this audience by giving Star Wars fans a chance to design their own droids,” Treseder said.

When Star Wars fans land on Autodesk’s website, Treseder’s team has built out a content plan to capture emails and other information to gauge where someone’s consideration for purchasing Autodesk’s software might be.

“We call it brand to demand,” Treseder said.

Trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets.

Dara Treseder, CMO, Autodesk

The team has spent almost two years getting it “down to a science,” according to Treseder. The demand campaign contains elements of education, consideration and nurturing for those customers who aren’t ready to buy, but Autodesk wants to stay close to them via a content plan until they are ready to convert.

And it’s working, based on several key metrics that Treseder stresses measure business results and not marketing results. In an age when traffic to webpages is dropping, Autodesk has sustained a 5% lift, with 90% of traffic to its campaign landing page coming from new visitors. This has translated to nearly 55,000 business leads.

Building Autodesk’s marketing culture

Marketing is in the DNA of Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost. He moved in and out of marketing at Autodesk during his 27 years at the company, and his final role before ascending to the CEO position was as chief marketer.

Treseder said Anagnost understands “what it means to be successful as a CMO. And so I have the autonomy and the decision making authority to do the job.”

Getting to this point meant laying out her vision from the start of her Autodesk tenure 20 months ago and immediately executing it. “I like to say I’m stubborn on the vision, but I’m flexible on the details.”

Within her first month, Treseder’s team launched a Walking Dead campaign as the first foray into connecting the brand to culture and entertainment.

Treseder has focused on speaking her stakeholders’ language. That’s getting on the same page as her CEO, COO and CFO, explaining “how marketing is in service of the business, not just marketing in service of marketing.”

She’s found it’s important to explain the full timetable of a campaign in order to avoid knee-jerk reactions when the results don’t immediately come (think Solo Stove’s assumption that a brand awareness campaign in December would immediately sell fire pits).

“What are your leading indicators and your lagging indicators, and you have to set that up front early because you don’t want things to be killed before the lagging indicators can show up,” Treseder added.

Ultimately, it’s also easier to get buy-in when the results are there. Autodesk’s most recent quarterly revenues are approximately 15% higher than the last quarter before Treseder started the role in October 2022.

Enjoying Adweek's Content? Register for More Access!