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Get To Know: CMO & SVP Of Business Development For Sperry Top-Sider Chris Lindner
Part of Wolverwine Worldwide’s family of branded footwear, Sperry Top-Sider was founded in 1935 by Paul Sperry, an avid sailor and inventor.
During World War II, the brand’s boat shoe was named one of the official shoes of the US Navy. Sperry Top-Sider later became the lead sponsor for the U.S. sailing team, and is currently the official boat shoe for The Head of the Charles Regatta.
As Sperry Top-Sider’s CMO, Chris Lindner oversees global marketing and brand strategy for the iconic brand, in addition to e-commerce, licensing, and international initiatives.
Prior to this position, Lindner was CMO and senior vice president of global commerce for Saucony. While with Saucony, Lindner repositioned the brand with the launch of the “Find Your Strong” campaign, propelling Saucony to become the fastest growing brand in the running channel.
Before joining Saucony, Lindner spent 10 years at Nike in a variety of senior marketing leadership roles. As vice president of global marketing for Converse (a Nike subsidiary), he and his team won an EFFIE Award for the global launch of “Connectivity” and the AdAge Campaign of the Year award for their breakthrough “Love Noise” initiative in China.
During his career, Lindner also served as vice president of global marketing for Bauer (a Nike subsidiary) where he led a turnaround of the brand with a three-time EFFIE Award winning campaign that resulted in record revenue, profit and a No. 1 market share position in the category. Lindner also held marketing and product management roles at Rollerblade and Electronic Arts.
Lindner has been featured as a Top CMO by ExecRank, Social Media Marketing Magazine and the Forbes CMO Network. He is an annual guest speaker at The Wharton School of Business, and currently serves on numerous startup advisory boards.
Lindner graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
CMO & SVP of Business Development @ Sperry Top-Sider
- Age: 45
- HQ: Boston
- Hobbies: Family, Golf, Art, Triathlons & Travel
- First Job: Paper Boy
- Apple or Android? Apple
- First Car: Ford LTD aka “The Green Machine”
What mobile device can you not live without?
I can’t live without my iPhone. Period.
Can we take a peek at your phone’s home screen?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Two apps that I love: Flipboard to stay current on news, trends, ideas, and INRIX; it lets me know the fastest way into the office that day. Sounds practical, but it has saved me, literally, days in Boston traffic.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
Twitter – I love to stay connected to the business and marketing community, and I follow hundreds of our brand’s consumers. Many of them have become friends.
I use Instagram away from work; I love how visual and simple it is. I follow friends, brands, bloggers, artists, bands, interesting people. I love the creativity and getting inspired everyday.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Email during the week; Instagram on the weekends.
Take me through your typical workday.
Typical day is up early to work-out in the a.m. I like to sneak-out before my girls wake up. Then breakfast with Flipboard, WSJ, and Morning Joe to get up to speed on news.
My commute to work takes about an hour, and I spend it doing phone calls to get set for the day. Most of my day is full of meetings to help drive key projects and initiatives. I try to keep lunch for catching up on personal stuff or for meeting with colleagues and networking.
I love working on creative projects and key programs that make a difference in our business and push the boundaries of the category. Typically, I leave the office around 7:00 p.m. and do calls on my way home.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
My most exciting development at work has been changing roles and joining the Sperry Top-Sider team. It’s an amazing brand with an incredible story to tell.
The team is super talented, and even though we’ve grown to over $500M, we’re just getting started.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
I traveled about 75K miles in the last year.
My favorite trip was to Australia to work with our distributor. It was my first time “down under” and I loved getting immersed in the business and sharing ideas on how to build our brand. The restaurants in Melbourne, harbor cruise in Sydney, and run along Bondi Beach didn’t hurt either.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
The primary focus for me right now is refining the Sperry Top-Sider brand position, and keeping it exciting, inspirational and motivating for consumers around the world.
The brand has tremendous potential globally.
What does your desk look like?
I just moved in so my office is clean and organized, although a bit sparse. My favorite item is my desk, it’s made from a an old door from the building after a renovation. The legs are steel and were fabricated locally in the town next to mine.
I love the open area with plenty of room for everything I need at work.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
There have been so many influential people in my career. I think I’ve developed my leadership style by taking a bit from each experience along the way, positive and negative.
I was fortunate to have two early mentors who taught me the basics of marketing and product development, and modeled how to act with integrity. I benefited from having one of the toughest, most detail oriented bosses in the middle of my career.
I’ve been lucky to have some mentors who simply challenged me to figure things out myself without much direction. I hope I can mean as much to someone on my team as they all have meant to me.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Creativity, instinct, business acumen, the ability to surround themselves with smarter, cooler, more connected people than themselves.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I can lay down a mean karaoke version of “La Bamba” (in Spanish).
Why did you go into marketing?
Since I was a kid, I always thought that advertising was a cool career. One of my first career experiences was working on the Dinty Moore Beef Stew account at a Minneapolis advertising agency.
I’ll never forget sitting behind the glass in a focus group center watching a grown man come to tears over what beef stew had meant to his childhood. I was blown away. I fell in love with the idea of creating great work that could make a difference for brands.
Luckily, I’ve been able to move on from stew and into some exciting categories that were my passion.
What other career would you like to try and why?
Designer or writer, I wish I had the talent. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most amazing creative talent in the world.
The ability to take an idea and make it an inspirational product or piece of communication that can change people’s lives, drive a business, build a brand, is such an amazing thing.
What’s the last business book you read?
I just read GROW by Jim Stengel and loved it.
The central idea of the book is that the highest performing brands share the common practice of defining a higher purpose for themselves around improving people’s lives. They position their brands and build their businesses around a core ideal that drives everything they do – their product, communications, people and culture.
The most successful brand transformations that I’ve been a part of have all shared a similar approach. Stengel does a great job of breaking this down step by step with data, ideas, and case studies. I definitely recommend it.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
It’s World Cup time as I’m writing this so there has been some amazing work recently produced in time for the event. My favorite hands down was the Beats by Dre short film “The Game Before the Game.”
I was blown away with the work and loved the concept. It was beautifully executed, and showed insight into athletes and their relevance within culture. Phenomenal!