Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Best Western International

Dorothy Dowling.Just named one of the world’s top 50 CMOs by Forbes, Waterloo caught up with Recreation and Leisure Studies alumna Dorothy Dowling to chat about her role as senior vice president marketing and sales for Best Western International, the award, and her advice for aspiring marketing gurus.

What does it mean to be named to Forbes top 50 most influential CMOs list?

To be named to a group of such accomplished marketers and thought leaders is a significant honor. I really admire the innovative work and strategies that are propelling many of the other brands forward.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

In marketing there is no such thing as a typical day. I travel extensively in my position with Best Western meeting — with customers, partners and colleagues around the world. However, something I do try and make part of each day is formal learning. I find that reading key publications or viewing a TED Talk early in the morning can inspire me for the day.

Are there any lessons you learned at Waterloo that you apply every day?

As a student in Recreation and Leisure Studies you had to learn to connect the dots from the elective courses you took in economics, sociology, psychology, statistics and the required courses. Being a student in tourism always required me to take the information and apply it to commercial tourism frameworks. The ability to connect information, and apply it in the business world to gain real insights, was something I learned at Waterloo.

What’s your fondest Waterloo memory?

I am a big believer that relationships are the true currency of life. I met the most important person in my life at the University of Waterloo, my husband, Stephen James, who was a fellow graduate student. Important friendships with people you trust and respect form a foundation to stabilize you through the ups and downs of life and your career.

What’s one piece of advice you give students aspiring to a career in marketing?

Everyone should remain a student of the game. The world is changing more quickly every day. We need to embrace change and continue to learn to be able to compete effectively. Most learning comes from listening to and learning from the customer. Understanding their needs and connecting dots from the broader environment are powerful tools in shaping decision-making.

You’re at the top of your game—what’s next?

I never take the stance that I am at the top of my game. There is always a big business challenge to solve. I live in a healthy state of paranoia, which for me is always looking for opportunities to drive results and bring more value to the organization. I am a big believer that you have to understand your own personal value proposition to your company and ensure you put the numbers on the scoreboard.  Working on building the brand is an important part of all marketers’ jobs, but if you don’t deliver on the numbers your value to the organization is limited.

Dorothy Dowling is senior vice president, marketing and sales for Best Western International. The 20-year hotel industry veteran directs all marketing and sales strategies, overseeing the brand's loyalty program, consumer and field marketing activities, advertising, public relations and e-commerce.

Since joining the world’s biggest hotel family in 2004, Dowling has implemented a number of measures to increase market share and contemporize the iconic Best Western brand. She re-branded the company's loyalty program to Best Western Rewards, increased its membership by more than 13 million and more than doubled its revenue contribution percentage to hotels. To date, Dowling has been honoured with a number of industry awards, including the prestigious American Hotel Foundation Award for Best Practices in Guest Loyalty Programs. Twice Dowling has been listed among HSMAI's Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing.

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo