It’s official: Bozoma “Boz” Saint John is leaving her position as head of Global Consumer Marketing for Apple Music and iTunes and bringing her talents to Uber starting on June 12.
In an exclusive interview with Black Enterprise’s Caroline Clarke, Saint John said she plans to relocate to San Francisco, where Uber is based, once the school year ends for her daughter later this month. They currently live in L.A.
In the interim, the marketing guru is anxious to begin working as the company’s new chief brand officer. “People like me jump right into the deep end, head first,” she says.” I’m already going. The practical and logistical things will catch up.”
During her tenure at Apple, Saint John became one of the most visible execs at the company as well as in Silicon Valley. She also played a major role in expanding Apple Music and spearheaded successful ad campaigns like their popular commercial series starring Mary J. Blige, Kerry Washington, and Taraji P. Henson. In turn, revenue from the company’s services, which includes Apple Music, grew by 24% in the third quarter of 2016, generating a record-breaking $6.3 billion for that quarter. Plus, the number of paid Apple Music subscribers more than doubled to 20 million by the end of last year.
Nonetheless, she says her abrupt move to Uber was driven by her innate desire “to build and grow and innovate”—and “not necessarily about what was lacking at Apple for me, but what was the opportunity at Uber. The company has had such incredible growth in such a short amount of time. But, at the same time, as someone who loves marketing and branding, I can’t help but think, `What could I do?’”
Uber spokesperson MoMo Zhou says the company is “elated” to have the marketing genius come on board, which begins at a time when Uber finds itself in the midst of a publicity crisis caused by several different incidents this year. In addition, The New York Times reported Wednesday that the president of business for Asia Pacific was fired over his handling of a rape case involving an Uber driver in India. Meanwhile, the tech company recently fired 20 people over claims of misconduct involving sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and bullying.
Nonetheless, Boz remains optimistic about her ability to rebrand the tech company. “There’s such a high ceiling for what can be accomplished for this brand. The service is so great but it’s time to develop what the brand is and to have the opportunity to do that just doesn’t come along that often in a career.”
Boz says the position chief brand officer “grew out of a need, but also out of a partnership. I spent quite a bit of time with [Uber CEO Travis Kalanick] and members of the leadership team talking about the need. The overarching need for real storytelling is apparent. When I look at all the things Uber is doing, there’s a lot of good and we need to focus on how to communicate that.”
Saint John says Uber is still fine tuning the details within her department. “Can I give you a description of all the departments and what’s going to be folded in? Not really, we’re still working through that. But I know what all the foundational elements are for creating a world-class marketing organization and branding team so I’m ready. But if I’m super honest, I know we’re going into unchartered territory, so I need to also be open to shift as necessary.”
She added, “There’s so much to be said for having the full confidence of the leadership team that is giving me the reins to be able to make change. That really is the secret weapon.”