Running an Agile, High-Impact Brand Team

A case study outlining the journey to building and maintaining a successful creative team that contributes to brand growth and demonstrates meaningful business impact.

Since 2017 I’ve been leading and building distributed design teams at KAR Global. KAR is a company name you may not recognize, but you would recognize all of its top customers. From dealer groups like Carmax and Carvana to the world’s most recognized automotive manufacturers like Ford and GM, KAR Global works with some of the world’s most influential automotive brands to buy and sell used vehicles online.

KAR Global grew very rapidly through acquisition in the previous 10 years before I joined. As a result of this growth, there were creative technologists, multi-disciplinary designers, developers, and copywriters on business unit teams all over the organization working in silohs. The teams had overlapping functions, request duplication, disjointed processes, and outdated or non-existent design systems.

KAR companies like ADESA and OPENLANE are some of the most established and trusted players in the automotive wholesale space. Because of this, the company’s B2B go-to-market strategy did not prioritize brand efforts, and in-house creative services operated as a production shop for the physical auto auctions instead of a strategic brand partner.

However, as scrappy digital automotive start-ups began to disrupt the wholesale space and win over customer market share, company leadership became motivated to invest in more meaningful brand strategy and creative support.

My directive when I joined the organization was to:

  • Enhance brand strategy and execution across an organization of 20+ subsidiary brands.
  • Audit and identify brand priorities and generate early wins to demonstrate value, and gain momentum.
  • Implement more efficient design processes and reduce redundancies.
  • Build a team that could scale and sustain a high volume of projects and brand objectives.
  • Improve creative team culture and belonging.
  • Align the creative team’s contributions to company goals.
  • Manage talent challenges and hire for identified gaps (full-time and vendor partners) to better support primary customers across the organization. Roles I’ve hired include developers, copywriters, videographers, email marketing automation specialists, UX/UI designers, visual designers, and agency partners.
  • Recruit brand ambassadors across the organization to help advance MARCOMM team and business goals.
  • Showcase the work. Present meaningful wins to senior and executive leadership to demonstrate the impact of team contributions to support future growth.
  • Evaluate everything with the mindset that there are no sacred cows. Continue to identify challenges through curiosity and collaboration, and work with cross-functional teams to continually implement better solutions for the company and its customers.

A creative team with clear roles, processes and organization-level brand systems that are sustainable and scalable as business needs change and grow. A team that supports each other, can work faster without unnecessary barriers and understands how their individual work contributes to department and company success.

  • Established brand guides and resources that support a consistent brand strategy.
  • Standard and automated project intake process, delivering a more complete and effective creative brief.
  • Centralized brand tools and file systems.
  • Ability to track creative team analytics, objectives, and projects with little to no manual process involved.
  • Faster creative cycles from brief to product delivery (~40% reduction in production time).
  • 50% reduction in creative team meeting volume.
  • Improved go-to-market strategy with cross-functional teams aligned on plans, priorities, and responsibilities.
  • More effective resource allocation and prioritization.
  • Weekly standups/huddles that don’t focus on workload, 1/1s, and clear role accountability.
  • Continuous learning opportunities for the team.
  • Early feedback and regularly celebrating wins.

Self-serve, centralized brand file system

My Role

Brand Ambassador
Brand Strategy
Creative Operations
Managing Creative RFPs
Organizational Design
Project Management
Team Management