Marketing’s own femme fatale Julie Roehm is back

So Julie Roehm (pictured), femme fatale and arguably the only larger-than-life personality left in marketing, has managed to land herself a proper job again – as VP marketing at global software company SAP.

Unlike Jodie Fisher, the ‘marketing consultant’ who brought down HP CEO Mark Hurd, Roehm really is a high profile marketer. Glance at her CV (conveniently at hand on LinkedIn) and you will see that the past five years positively teems with starry advisory roles. Look a little further down the list, and you will note that she has held down some pretty senior marcoms appointments too, at Ford, Chrysler and Walmart. No trumped up ‘meeter-and-greeter’, no former reality-TV starlet, no bimbo she.

One thing – apart from the bottle blonde big hair – that Fisher and Roehm do have in common, though: they are both tireless self-publicists.

To give the flavour, here’s an extract from Roehm’s personal website, written by an uncritical admirer at Hallmark:

You immediately know she is courageous, brave, in command. When I tell her this, she smiles that trademark Roehm smile, mix of fine intuition, confidence, fierce focus and remarkable intelligence. “Fearlessness is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let fears run you…that’s a favorite from Arianna Huffington.”

Clients seek her because she’s a warrior with a guru-like ability to feel and predict what makes consumers need, not want. Believe, never doubt. Buy, not browse. Rev up, not idle.

Notoriously unafraid of controversy and a good, clean fight for the right, Julie is an intrepid, yet infinitely calculating innovator.

Strip away the cringeworthy, obsequious tone and you can see why Julie would be highly attractive to a client suffering from lack of image self esteem; and, equally, why she might be a bit of a nightmare to work with.

The “notoriously unafraid of controversy” bit refers, of course, to the only reason Roehm is known this side of the Atlantic. Her last full time marketing job was as senior VP-communications at Walmart, from which she was ignominiously fired after nine months. Walmart’s idea of conduct unbecoming might seem absurdly straitlaced in this part of the world. Nevertheless, Roehm knew what she was doing when she allowed herself to be so extravagantly lionised by the Draft FCB top team flaunting their (oh so temporary) $600m account win; and even more so when she engaged in an ‘inappropriate’ email correspondence with her sidekick Sean Womack.

Roehm simply doesn’t know what reverse gear is. Absence of fear stood her in good stead during her marcoms years in the motor industry, where some saucy ad ideas – like men standing around in urinals talking about the length of their trucks – actually managed to shift metal. But it ended up making her more ‘famous’ than the brand she represented. After the Walmart episode she was unemployable for five years, though she made a good fist of going freelance.

Will things work out better at software infrastructure company SAP AG? Leopards and spots come to mind. SAP ought to know what it is doing: Roehm has already worked there as a consultant. Then again, the same could probably have been said of Walmart, with which SAP shares some repressed, correct, organisational values. I also wonder whether La Roehm’s personality is too big for the fishbowl world of B2B – a source of potential frustration for both sides.

Of one thing we can be tolerably certain, though: existing ad agencies need to be on their creative mettle. Watch out Ogilvy, which has held the global $100m SAP account since 1999. A review is sure to be on the way.

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About Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith is one of the most incisive and knowledgeable commentators on global marketing. He was a long-time editor of Marketing Week during the period when it was the UK’s leading marketing, media and advertising specialist publication. Visit Stuart Smith Blog.

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