#50over50: Ellen Konar
The Person Behind Personality in my #50over50 list is as good with numbers as she is with understanding human perception. From market research during the Pentium processor flaw to creating a movement around Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In to photography; Ellen Konar has done it all!
In 1991, I moved to Intel Santa Clara from Intel Oregon to work in marketing. Intel was embarking on Intel Inside campaign and all of us were finding our ropes in the world of consumer marketing. For a company that had to strictly ration/allocate their product because the demand was way more than supply, the purpose of the campaign was not sales. We wanted to create a brand such that the customer would differentiate our product and specifically ask for it. And to create this emotional connect, we had to understand how the customer thought.
Dennis Carter was the head of Corporate Marketing and was a great strategist. As he built his team, he had to find someone who was best at their game to help with Market Research. Enter Ellen Konar. She spearheaded a discipline that was non-existent in Intel. Market Research is mathematics. It studies the behavior of the target customer and forms the basis for the campaigns that we create. Till then, for Intel, our customer was the corporation and we understood the few corporations that we managed and they knew us. Consumer marketing was a whole new ball-game where we were trying to connect with an audience who did not think about a chip that lay within a computer that they bought. We needed to know them well and Ellen made that magic happen. She built a bridge for match-making between Intel and its consumers. As this was a new turn in Intel’s history, this was a very crucial role.
Ellen built a department of these marketing scientists and played a key role in Intel becoming one of the Top 10 brands by 1995. I was working in the mobile-computing division and got to learn about testing of our ads/campaigns. We sat behind one-way mirrors and watched the consumers react to what we created and I was fascinated by this process. When the Pentium problem happened wherein the company took a huge beating for a flaw in the new chip that was being shipped, there was a significant amount of market perception that had to be managed. Ellen's team was at the forefront of actually measuring the negative perception as well as the turn around of that perception in the market that protected the Intel brand. Her role in bringing technology and measurement into marketing was what made her the first woman and the first marketing professional to become an Intel Fellow.
After Intel, Ellen went on to lead a key position in marketing at Google, working closely with Sheryl Sandberg. Then she went on to Facebook. She is the only person I know who was an integral part of creating three global tech brands. When Sheryl Sandberg wrote Lean In, she also created an organization that took the essence of the book and turned it into a movement across women’s groups around the world. Ellen played a key role in managing that organization.
After her adventures in the tech world, Ellen decided to reinvent herself as a photographer. She and her husband Steve traveled the world capturing beautiful images and participated in exhibitions showcasing their work. They also designed one of the most beautiful homes that I have ever been to, complete with tennis courts. They open the courts to the entire neighborhood so that they can use the courts. She has an amazing eye for detail that shows through in her work in market research, creative arts, as well as in architecture and design.
And as though all that is not enough, Ellen is now part of creating a powerful platform for a democratic candidate to contest in the 2020 US Presidential campaign. She said that she has not worked this hard ever, even the round-the-clock work during Pentium flaw might be only a fifth of what she is doing now. That’s what I love about Ellen – she is someone who is constantly reinventing herself and is always involved in projects of scale that have a huge impact on our lives.