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Ally’s CMO, Andrea Brimmer

Ally's CMO, Andrea Brimmer

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Trendsetters: Ally's CMO, Andrea Brimmer, Shares Why Marketing is Not for the Faint of Heart. 

The Internationalist Trendsetters is written by Deborah Malone, founder of The Internationalist.

At the conclusion of her speech during the ANA's Masters of Marketing earlier this month, ANA CEO Bob Liodice asked Andrea Brimmer what advice she would impart to her fellow marketers.  Her answer was immediate: "Be brave.  We consume products we love and products that capture our imaginations. Marketing is not for the faint of heart.  You get great work by pushing. . . and trusting your instincts.”

 Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer of Ally, a leading digital financial services company, has certainly proved that she can create an extraordinary brand through a strong vision and a core mission that resonates with consumers.  While she calls her marketing process the "art and science of building a deep emotional connection,” she admits to being "laser-focused” on what customers want, as well as building the right relationship between customers and the brand.  "As marketers,” she emphasizes, "our job is to make people care.” Today, Ally's brand sentiment is at an all-time high.

 She joined Ally at the height of the financial crisis when the company faced intense challenges.  It was transitioning from its roots as a captive auto finance company and was launching the first-ever, online-only deposits franchise, Ally Bank. Andrea Brimmer was charged with creating Ally's first-ever unified brand campaign and worked to connect the dots between Ally's existing products and new offerings--at a time when people had to trust in sending money to the internet and banking in the palm of their hand through their mobile device.  She was able to shape the company's narrative and image by developing everything from the brand pillars and cultural framework, to creating the value proposition and delivery in the marketplace.  Under her direction, Ally emerged with a strong reputation as a "different” kind of financial services company, relentlessly focused on solving pain points that traditional institutions set forth.  

 In fact, she discussed at Masters of Marketing how the industry was ripe for disruption.  "We launched in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression--when no one was begging for another bank. And certainly no one was waking up in the morning exclaiming "I can't wait to interact with my bank!" So we thought about how to be a better bank. We didn't start with research, but talked as human beings at a business moment no one would ever forget.  We asked: What is fractured?  What is broken?  What don't we like?  And, most importantly, how do we solve for this customer pain—whether it's talking directly to someone 24/7 about my account to de-jargonizing financial terms and speaking to people like human beings. 'Ally' would come to be used both literally and figuratively.”  

The customer is at the core of who we are and everything we do.

In September 2016, Andrea Brimmer launched the first-ever unified brand campaign in Ally's history, called Do It Right, highlighting the brand's unique focus on doing things right for customers. The campaign not only aligned the full scope of Ally's financial services offerings under one mantra, it also reflected the company's culture and core values internally.  It began with a simple idea: check the ratings.  She recalled, "It was a brave moment for us. . . and we were okay with it.  After all, you wouldn't buy a product with a one-star rating, so why would you bank with a one-star institution?”  Do It Right has become a source of pride for Ally, resulting in the highest consumer brand sentiment and awareness in Ally's history.

For Andrea Brimmer, building a brand is about authenticity.  She asserts, "Don't SAY you're customer centric.  Do it.  Build love for the brand and keep the customer relationship strong.  And you must live up to the values of the brand in all that you do. We moved 2,000 people to Detroit as the city was going through economic mobility. It was a huge expense and a 20-year lease, but it helped the younger generation understand the legacy of city. We committed to being a solution as part of Detroit's rebirth. That doesn't have anything to do with marketing.”

As a company that truly obsesses over its customers, Ally also found a way to thank many of them on a very personal level by creating a new "Banksgiving” holiday during the bank's Giving Back Month. Ally granted wishes big and small– from $25 gift cards to $55,000 to help a customer who helps others.


"This time of thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to take a day to show appreciation to our customers and give back to them for their loyalty," said Brimmer. "We took our customer-centric approach a step further than usual to demonstrate to our customers our interest in them and the things they care about. We had a great time surprising these customers and putting a big smile on their faces during the holiday season."

Andrea Brimmer believes that people want to work at a company where values are important, so they can align with the way things are done.  In other words, culture matters.  She also accepts that companies need to do good in the world.  "It isn't enough anymore to just make money and take money; companies should have a purpose and leaders need to drive this purpose.”

Results prove that Ally is clearly "doing it right.” According to Brimmer, "Our customer satisfaction sits at around 95 percent while the average in the category is 30 to 35 percent.  If our brand went away tomorrow, we think people would care.  We're the fifth fastest-growing in the world, and we don't even have international operations. Our brand valuation in the past year has doubled.”


Today, Ally is a top 25 digital financial services company, with not only auto and banking products, but corporate finance, online brokerage and wealth management, home mortgage, credit card and insurance products. Despite its growth, the brand has remained centered around customers and contributing to their financial well-being.

Andrea Brimmer was named chief marketing and public relations officer of Ally Financial in 2015. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the company's marketing, advertising, public relations, market research initiatives, social media and brand management.

Prior to joining Ally in 2006, she spent 20 years on the agency side in Detroit, where she led the Chevrolet account and launched the iconic American Revolution campaign, as well as numerous product offerings.

Andrea Brimmer holds a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University. She is the recipient of the College of Communications Arts and Sciences 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award. She personally mentors several junior colleagues at Ally and college students from Michigan State University and Clemson University. She also participates in the Forbes CMO University Alumni Series, which brings successful marketing professionals to college campuses around the country to encourage young people to pursue marketing careers.

She also speaks honestly about the role of bravery in her career, and the importance of being brave enough to take risks, in order to reap rewards both personally and professionally.