ThinkNW Marketing All-Star Profile: Rachel Thornton, CMO of Amazon Web Services

We’re pleased to announce our first class of ThinkNW Marketing All-Stars. Chosen by the ThinkNW board and executive team, this program kicks off a tradition of recognizing the unique marketing talent that drives our industry and region forward.

We asked our honorees to share a bit about their work, lives and what the Pacific Northwest means to them.

Here’s what Rachel Thornton, CMO of Amazon Web Services (AWS), had to say.

How long have you been in your current role?

Two years.

What do you value most in your work in this role, and what do you consider your biggest accomplishment in your current role?

Like many others, the pandemic has required my team to reimagine and expand on how we reach out to and engage with AWS customers. Typically, AWS hosts thousands of in-person marketing events around the world. When COVID-19 hit, my team had to pivot these events from in-person to virtual. Pivoting gave us the chance to really look at how we engage and educate our customers, how we connect with them, and how we all learn from each other.

In-person customer time is something we really value, and we love the opportunities we have for that at AWS re:Invent, our annual user conference held in Las Vegas. In 2019, the last year we did the event in person, we had 60,000 customers and partners join us on-site. For re:Invent 2020, in addition to pivoting to completely virtual, we decided to extend the conference from one week to three weeks, which gave us the chance to offer even more sessions and content.

Through digital marketing experimentation and thousands of hours of hard work, the team customized learning sessions to make them easier to consume online. We also leveraged video more than ever, utilizing internal networking channels and creating new session types to bring the in-person feel to an entirely virtual setting.

All said, we had 300,000 customers join during that three-week timeframe. The feedback from customers and partners was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, customers loved the virtual content and the ability to send as many of their teams as they wanted. In fact, many have asked us to continue offering the virtual format, hosting it alongside the in-person experience. The team did such a phenomenal job.

One of the greatest feelings of accomplishment I’ve had in my role is getting to work with such an amazing team. Their great work and creativity translate into great programs, content and education for our customers. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team will continue to learn from the past year and evolve to make re:Invent 2021, our 10th annual, even better for our AWS community.

What do you like to do outside of your work?

I love to spend time with my family and our basset hound, hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest. I am also an avid reader and love everything from history to murder mysteries. I am also a keen baker and love the chance to tackle a new recipe or invent one of my own.

My family and I also love watching some of the great sports teams we have in Seattle, and we are thrilled that we have a new hockey team, the Kraken. We went to the opening game at the Climate Pledge Arena, and it was great fun. It was also amazing to see the arena, and I love the Just Walk Out technology, which made getting snacks and drinks super easy.

What impact does the Pacific Northwest have on your work?

I have lived on the West Coast on and off for most of my life. I grew up in Southern California, lived in the Bay area for 15 years and attended the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve lived in Seattle for almost nine years, and the beauty of this region inspires me every day.

The Pacific Northwest has been home to world-class companies, whether in the technology industry, retail, aviation or telecommunications. There is a rich culture of invention and innovation inspired by world-class educational institutions and a natural beauty that attracts people from all over the world.
I also love working closely with some of our local sports teams, including the Seattle Seahawks (my son’s favorite team). We’re helping them use their vast amount of football data to more efficiently make decisions around player performance, gameplay, and player health and safety. And a benefit of having the Seahawks in our own backyard means we love partnering with them on our NFL ad campaigns.

And, of course, there’s The Climate Pledge, which Amazon established in the heart of Seattle Center. As part of The Climate Pledge, Amazon invites companies to commit to net-zero carbon across their business by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. Companies that sign The Climate Pledge agree to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions regularly, implement de-carbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business change and efficiency improvements, the use of renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies. Also, they take actions to neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially beneficial offsets to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040. The Climate Pledge allows signatories to pool intelligence, know-how and access to new technologies and solutions to help the planet along with their business. We have an open invitation for other companies to join the pledge.

How would you characterize the Pacific Northwest marketing/creative community? In your mind, what makes it unique?

The marketing and creative communities in Seattle are really world-class. We have worked closely with several local partners, including World Famous, which produces our Curiosity Kid advertising campaign, and Electric Coffin, who developed our new Executive Briefing Center on the Amazon campus.

See the full list of ThinkNW Marketing All-Stars here.

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