Dirk V. Herrman

Monday, April 25, 2005

Position : Senior vice president and chief marketing officer, AvalonBay Communties Inc., an Alexandria-based company that develops, redevelops, acquires and manages apartment communities. AvalonBay owns or holds interest in 148 properties, including 42,810 apartment homes in 10 states and the District.

Career highlights : Vice president and chief marketing officer, AvalonBay; vice president, brand marketing, Fruit of the Loom; director of brand marketing, tobacco division, RJR Nabisco; account director, Foote Cone & Belding Advertising; account supervisor, Tatham-Laird & Kudner Advertising; supervisor, media planning, J. Walter Thompson Advertising.

Age : 45

Education : BS, communication studies, Northwestern University, including year spent studying fine art at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and Institudo de Allende in Mexico; certificate, Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies, Northwestern.

Personal : Lives in McLean with wife, Lucy, and their sons Jake, 18, and Nathaniel, 15.

How did you get to where you are?

For me, it goes back to the process. I started in advertising and spent 10 years really focused on what consumers are all about and what drives their purchase behavior. I then moved to the marketing side of the business, which is sort of taking it to the next level, developing products and services that meet customer needs.

In advertising, you don't make products. You make commercials. And in marketing, you have the opportunity to make physical products that someone wants to buy. What has been successful for me is taking that focus on customer response and leveraging that into new product ideas for consumers.

I think: How can I add value to the company, to the product, to the customer? What I often say to folks that work for me is if we're not having fun, something is wrong. We're not doctors. We're not doing brain surgery. We're marketing people. We need to be creative and constantly think of new ideas. That has led me to be more of an "intrapreneur," meaning you are an entrepreneur inside of an existing company. . . .

At RJR, for example, I sold a concept of creating a company inside a company. It was called Moonlight Tobacco, a micro-brewery of cigarettes. It was a company with unique art-driven concepts, art-driven packaging. Doing that inside a company is what is unique. I've done that several times and have succeeded.

This entrepreneurial spirit often leads me to get involved in things that are not necessarily pure marketing. At AvalonBay, for example, I drove a whole customer service initiative within the company. I also helped reshape the mission statement to make it more customer-focused. While I had not worked in a real estate category prior to joining AvalonBay, my background in more traditional consumer products like Head & Shoulders, Mister Clean, Coors beer, Fruit of the Loom, Salem and Camel, enabled me to bring a fresh perspective.

-- Judith Mbuya

© 2005 The Washington Post Company