Julie Roehm is a paradoxical professional. By profession, she’s an exceedingly successful, detail-oriented marketer, but by habit she’s a jack-of-all-trades generalist. She’s worked and succeeded in the highly specialized worlds of finance, automotive, entertainment, e-commerce, and tech. Unfazed by the challenge of grasping nuance and complexity quickly, with each opportunity she has demonstrated granular knowledge and a deep understanding of customer needs. One firm called her their “best athlete,” and the range of her job titles over the years — from civil engineer to chief storyteller to chief information officer to chief marketing officer to chief experience officer — is a testament to this characterization. Roehm, with her vast array of interests, atypical background, and uncanny instincts, couldn’t help but be a pioneer and a trendsetter in the world of marketing. And through it all, she fearlessly trusted her gut instincts to achieve astounding accomplishments.
“There’s a difference between fear and between just feeling like it’s not right — and feeling like it’s not right is the one I think you should listen to,” she advised. “Fear is something you have to decide, is it worth overcoming and is it a matter of courage or is it a matter of ego/stupidity?”
Roehm attended an all-girls Catholic high school, graduating near the top of her class. A penchant for math and science led her to Purdue University in Indiana, where she chose a civil engineering degree with a major in environmental engineering. This felt like a good fit for her skill set, but during an experience in a co-op program with Bristol-Myers Squibb, she found that she loved attending meetings and asking higher-level strategy questions — interests beyond the typical purview of a civil engineer. Roehm followed this newfound curiosity about business strategy all the way to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where she got her MBA. After completing an internship with American Airlines, she was invited back to the company but chose to take an offer from Ford Motor Company instead.
This first official full-time marketing role launched her career. She helped set up Ford Motor Company of Korea, interviewing customers, homologating (engineering vehicles to meet country specifications) cars, and honing strategy. She was then asked to head up brand management for the Ford Focus in the United States, which launched in 1999 and was a huge win. Other firms began to take notice. In June 2001, Roehm accepted an offer from DaimlerChrysler and was put in charge of resuscitating the Dodge brand. Her approach to this challenge would eventually become her signature: she found a way to tell a compelling story. For Dodge, it was all about heritage. “I think it’s time to dust off the DNA of this iconic brand,” she said about her campaign strategy at the time. “This isn’t about recreating. This is about letting the brand shine through.” From this came the return of the Hemi engine, a partnership with classic rock band Aerosmith, and the iconic tagline “Grab life by the horns.”
Julie Roehm was officially the marketer to beat. She helped turn Chrysler profitable with the 300C, a luxury performance sedan that led the likes of rapper 50 Cent to leave her appreciative voicemails. Fortune 500s like Discover Card came calling, but Roehm soon figured out that culture was really important to her, specifically a culture of turnarounds and transformations. She started her own strategy consulting firm, helping to turn around the fortunes of companies of all shapes and sizes.
After a few years of leveraging her expertise in these boutique circumstances, a serendipitous conversation launched the next phase of her career. And after commenting to multinational software company SAP’s CEO in passing that she wasn’t very clear on what SAP’s role was in supporting various brands, he asked her to be his chief storyteller. Julie Roehm was officially in charge of crafting SAP’s image, and she combined a customer-centric vision with digital tools to do just that.
After an outstanding run with SAP, Julie Roehm was recruited by a close friend to join ABRA Auto Body & Glass to be her CMO and CXO. For some, the move from a world-renowned company like SAP to a 600-odd collision shop located mostly in the Midwest would feel like a step down, but for Roehm it presented an exciting turnaround challenge. Once there, she quickly figured out the pain points for customers — communication and lack of transparency in the car repair process. “There was some more transparency that a digital evolution could offer,” she said. And so she built a wholly new digital experience for customers and improved EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) by $80 million to $100 million. When the company was sold at a profit to its largest competitor, she was asked to stay on and assist with the merger — another transformation for Julie Roehm.
Roehm’s next venture was with Party City as its CMO and chief experience officer. There, she looked into the future once more, building up the firm’s digital tools and omnichannel marketing. In that role, she helped the company pivot to a delivery model during the pandemic. Currently, she serves on the boards of several firms, where she continues to share her expertise and distinguish herself as a thought leader.
What sets Julie Roehm apart as a marketer, as demonstrated by her countless triumphant campaigns, is her willingness to really listen to the customer and refuse to be blinkered by her own biases or interests. She jumps in with her sleeves rolled up — joining call center calls, selling products directly, interviewing people individually. Her “best athlete” designation is a fair one. Julie Roehm plays to her strengths, and in doing so, she improves everyone around her.