CXO

Christine Ngo: Mountain Dew's digital marketing lead. Reader. Chef. Continual digital marketing student.

Mountain Dew's Christine Ngo tells TechRepublic about thinking like a dude and raising the bar on fan engagement.

Image: Christine Ngo

Christine Ngo starts her day trying to get in the head of the millennial male.

For the past year or so, she's led digital marketing for Mountain Dew at PepsiCo. It's a brand that's "unapologetically male," which requires a pretty specific voice in order to come off authentic in tone and form.

The main way she does that is by reading a lot, specifically the types of websites the audience reads. It's one of the first things Ngo does in the morning. The goal is to immerse herself in the audience.

Over the course of her career so far, Ngo's had to adopt more than a few new audiences to learn about. Young guys are just the latest iteration.

Ngo graduated from the University of Southern California San Diego with a degree in communication, and started of her career in public relations at Ogilvy PR.

"I lead digital strategy back when digital strategy was very new for brands," she said.

Shortly after, she went to Mekanism, a mid-size advertising agency, and lead their influencer relations management practice. But, instead of approaching influencers from an earned media perspective, she started brokering some of the first major brand deals between large brands and those digital influencers — it's a strategy more commonly employed these days by major brands.

After Mekanism, she moved on to bigger digital strategy roles at DBA and later BBDO. At DBA, she headed up the fashion division and worked with brands like Ralph Lauren.

"[It was] a very different world from where I started off," she said.

From there, she moved over to BBDO and worked with AT&T's youth initiative, which included a lot of branded entertainment online, as well managing the AT&T and American Idol partnership from a digital standpoint, for A&T.

Until that point, all her work in digital marketing had been working at agencies.

"I was starting to feel like I wanted to experience something new within marketing," she said.

So, when someone at PepsiCo, which was a former client, asked her if she'd ever consider working for a brand, she told them, "for the right gig, I would."

That "right gig" was leading digital marketing for Mountain Dew.

A big part of keeping up with the Mountain Dew audience is keeping up with the platforms and experiences they're getting interested in, and quickly. That spans from staying in constant contact with Twitter, but also always talking to small start ups.

A recent result of some of these conversations, particularly with digital agency Firstborn and also Oculus, is Mountain Dew's entrance into virtual reality.

One of them is called Dew VR Skate, and it takes the user skateboarding along with a couple of "Mountain Dew athletes," namely Paul Rodriguez and Sean Malto. There's also Dew VR Snow, which similarly puts users along side snowboarders Danny Davis and Scotty Lago. In addition, there's interactivity built into Dew VR Snow so users can do things like jump back in the experience and watch something again, for example.

They've taken the experience to places like snowboarding competition Burton US Open, but it's also available through places like Milk VR, which is Samsung's app for 360 videos.

Mountain Dew was also quick to dive into Periscope, the micro live streaming app Twitter acquired. As an early experiment, just a few hours after Periscope was announced, they livestreamed a graffiti artist working on a chalkboard, clad in Mountain Dew apparel, and for those users who engaged on Periscope, Ngo sent them Mountain Dew swag.

Ngo said it's part of an effort create a new, more immersive form of engagement.

"That's why we love things like virtual reality, because it's actually putting consumers into the experience. It's not just talking to them. That's why we're interested in platforms like Periscope. There's no rehearsals with Periscope, it's livestreaming, it's immediate, so nothing's more transparent than that," she said.

Whether it's making a quick decision about using a platform, or figuring out how to put Mountain Dew drinkers on a snowboard, the speed at which digital marketing moves is something Ngo feels is central to why she's interested in the field.

"I'm very thirsty to learn, so I feel like you could never be an expert in marketing, and especially not in digital marketing because it changes everyday" she said, "Being humble and accepting that you're always a student — it's something that I take really seriously."

In her own words...

How do you unplug?

"I love SoulCycle. When I unplug, I really unplug. I think that because I work in digital marketing, we try to move at the speed of culture and so, to be completely frank, during the week I am always on. I'm on whether it's on email or text message, or every social platform, but on the weekends when it's me time, I cook a lot. That's really relaxing for me. I love to exercise and I love to travel, and I think it's really important that when you decide to unplug, you really do it. So, my fiancé and I will put our phones in another room and just be together."

What do you cook?

"Vietnamese food. We're from the Bay Area and I'm Vietnamese by background and there's no Vietnamese food in New York, and so I took it into my own hands and learned how to cook it."

If you could try out a different profession, what would it be?

"I have thought about this before. I would actually probably want to produce films. I think I'd want to be a producer at a studio. I think my role right now is similar. It's storytelling and I really love to tell stories. As the digital marketing lead for Mountain Dew, I'm responsible for telling stories every single day about what this brand stands for. I feel like that's what making movies is all about — telling stories, and that's something I hold very near and dear to my heart."

Is there a website or social media account you read for fun?

"I read things every day, but what I take the most pleasure in personally is humorous Instagram accounts. It's a simple image, one sentence line, and it just brightens my day, so that's what I love to read really quickly."

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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