Fritz Johnston, VP, Brand Management & Advertising, The Boeing Company, Chicago

Fritz Johnston is a 38-year veteran of the Boeing Company and brand custodian for the world’s largest aerospace company and one of the world’s best-known brands.  The company has a long tradition of aerospace innovation, and is a top U.S. exporter, supporting airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in 150 countries.

Despite the breadth of Boeing’s capabilities and the intricacies of today’s marketing business, Fritz has an innate ability to make a complex job seem easy.  In his humble style, he attributes his skills as brand champion extraordinaire to a few simple facts: “I care.  I’m a good listener.  I’m passionate, and I believe the work we do in branding makes a difference.  And that branding helps our internal and external partners achieve their business objectives.”

And that belief in branding will continue to play a significant role as Boeing approaches its 100th year in 2016.  Fritz Johnston is spending much of his time thinking about how to position an iconic brand and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems as it marks its first century and prepares for its second.

When asked about the international risks that Boeing takes with its campaigns, Fritz’ answer is precise: “At Boeing we believe in reviewing, understanding and mitigating our risks.  Anything done on a global basis requires thoughtful engagement with varying stakeholders prior to launch.  Those are often hard but candid discussions that look at the challenge/opportunity from multiple perspectives before we fully engage.  We believe that diversity in thinking, depending on your upbringing, values and beliefs will ultimately provide a solution that best mitigates risk.  And when in doubt, conduct research to again mitigate the risk.”

He continues, “The Number 1 challenge in marketing multi-nationally today is to understand the culture in which you are going to market and developing the in-country relationships that will help you be successful in that market.  As Americans we often want to jump in and solve the problem.  This is not the case in many cultures.  You need to take time to develop your relationships, be respectful of the culture, and build trust over time.  The next biggest challenge is to remain flexible as market conditions can change quickly and you will need to respond in the appropriate manner.  This is where your trusted in-country partner plays big.  A third challenge for B2B is to commit to a long term campaign that can be measured for effectiveness over time.”

Interestingly, Fritz Johnston was born and raised in Kent, Washington about 20 miles south of Seattle, the site of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes Division.  After graduating from Western Washington University, he immediately went to work for Boeing and joined the company as a production paste-up artist.

According to Fritz, “At that time, I was still very much a local boy.  I had never flown on a plane or been to another country except Vancouver BC. That changed immediately, as has my career and my view of the world.  Thanks to all those that have guided me in my career and all the opportunities and challenges that Boeing has presented, I now lead the brand and advertising for the largest Aerospace company in the world—a 38 year journey.  Because of Boeing I have been introduced to people from all corners of the world, interfaced with heroes in aviation and have had doors opened for me around the world that I would never have imagined.  I’m blessed to work with world-class brand partners across the globe.  And inside every opportunity is the kid with the same passion today as I had when I joined Boeing back in 1973 as a production paste-up artist.”