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How Google’s Adrienne Lofton Connects Marketing and Culture

As part of Boardroom’s Women’s History Month coverage, Lofton walks us through her extensive career and shares insights on how her team conceptualizes campaigns with culture at the center.

Adrienne Lofton, vice president of consumer marketing at Google, never intended to work in tech, even though she often found herself adjacent to the industry throughout her career.

With over 20 years of experience in the marketing industry, Lofton has held executive roles at top brands such as Nike, Under Armour, Levi Strauss & Co., and Target. In her current role at Google, Lofton works in the brand’s Platforms and Ecosystems portfolio, where she oversees a team that brings culturally relevant consumer-first integrated campaigns to market from beginning to end for products like Android, Play, and Chrome.

“Stepping into Google was not intentional, but yet, it was the perfect plan as I’ve continued to grow my career,” Lofton told Boardroom.

As part of Boardroom’s Women’s History Month coverage, Lofton opened up about her career path and shared insights on how her team approaches each campaign with the same goal in mind — keeping culture centerstage.

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From Houston to Howard

Lofton grew up in a predominately white neighborhood in Houston, so when it was time to go off to college, she chose to seek a new experience. Lofton said as soon as she stepped foot on Howard University’s campus, she knew that’s exactly where she needed to be.

“When I went to Howard, it was the first time I realized taking smart risks makes you better and stronger,” she said. “When I got into the school of business at Howard, I told the head of the school that I wanted to work for Nike.”

Lofton didn’t know she would embark on a career in marketing and brand strategy at the time, but she knew she wanted to tell stories and make people feel the way that Nike made her feel as a young athlete.

“I was an insecure kid where sports made me feel like I could do anything, and it was Nike that unlocked that in me,” Lofton said.

But it would be another 15 years and a slew of different jobs before Lofton landed her big opportunity at Nike.

Her journey begins at Gap, before taking a role at General Motors to build out the automotive company’s multicultural division on its agency side. After that, Target approached Lofton to build out a similar multicultural organization before she took her talents to Under Armour (UA). She spent 12 years at UA, a time that she says was one of the best chapters in her life. And then out of nowhere, Nike called in search for a VP and North American CMO.

Lofton said she had huge shoes to fill when she accepted the job at Nike since the person who held the role before her was known as a legend around the company. Still, she jumped right in and was extremely excited to be working with a brand she always admired.

And then, in her fourth year at Nike, Google came knocking.

All Roads Lead to Tech

Lofton didn’t realize her career path led to tech until her current boss, Nick Drake, Google’s VP of global marketing, called her for a reference for someone else years ago, and they immediately hit it off. That 30-minute informal conversation turned into a two-hour deep-dive about what it is to be a marketer today and how to think about the consumer differently.

“So if you’re in marketing and you’re running a full-stack offense, you’re definitely writing checks to Facebook and Google from an advertising perspective, so I had commercial relationships with these companies,” Lofton said. “I think in my head, and this could be imposter syndrome, but by the time I got to year like 10 or 12 [in my career], and as tech was booming, I would always think it was too late for me to jump into something that felt to me completely new.”

Lofton had her reservations about jumping into a new industry, but Drake was adamant about bringing Lofton onto his team, so much so that the pair talked for eight months about what a role at Google would look like for her. Lofton did acknowledge that she was three years in to her dream job at Nike at this time, a role she didn’t envision leaving.

“In each conversation with Nick, I started to think maybe I can step into this sometimes very intimidating industry called tech and actually make a difference,” she said. “I stepped out almost three years ago now to join Google, and it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

In hindsight, Lofton said Google is both very similar to things she’s done in the past and completely different. One of the biggest differences she noted is how quickly tech innovations happen. Lofton also said there is an interesting balance between art and science inside Google. When she got there, she said she spent a lot of time understanding data and getting deep into analytics before launching marketing campaigns, where she got to bring art into the fold.

Lofton said when she retires, she wants to be able to look back on every chapter in her career and be proud, even a newer chapter such as tech.

Google’s New Circle to Search Campaign

Lofton said this new campaign is intentionally different from what the brand has done in the past, and it comes with multiple layers. Android launched its new ‘Endless Wow Factor’ campaign, featuring an array of celebrities, including Naomi Campbell, Brent Faiyaz, Sha’carri Richardson, and Bronny James, engaging with Google’s AI-powered Circle to Search feature. The feature allows users to tap into a simple gesture to pull up a search of anything on their phone, from screenshots to photos and more. Lofton’s team worked with Crown + Conquer, a creative agency, to bring this new campaign to life.

“So when we talked about the reinvention of search, which is Circle to Search, the ability to stay within your app and just go and circle and find something new, whether it’s information or cultural, we knew that we needed to bring a different level of attention to this new product,” Lofton said. “We wanted to bring real people into the product, hand them our devices, and let them experience it themselves.”

The 60-second video shows the range of this new feature in different settings, which is only available on Android devices. The campaign wasn’t just to highlight a new feature but to see how innovation can impact a trusted and known product like Google Search.

“We are bringing the best of Google technology to the biggest cultural moments, changing the way we engage our consumers,” Lofton said. “While I am proud of so many moments, there is still work to be done to ensure all consumers feel valued, and I’m excited to keep pushing forward.”

Breaking Barriers

Whether inside or outside of the office, Lofton champions DEI. She serves as Google’s executive sponsor for AdColor and often speaks at conferences aimed at underrepresented individuals. As a Black woman, Lofton said she’s used to being the first in many categories. She was the first Black woman in all of her roles at UA, the first Black woman to lead North America at Nike, and the first Black CMO of Dockers at Levi’s.

“I am a Black woman. And I carry that with me into every room I enter, every role I hold, each and every day. It has shaped how I lead, how I engage with those around me, and the work I put into the world,” Lofton said. “It is hard to envision yourself in a position when it hasn’t been held by someone who looks like you before, and that experience can be quite isolating. But I take great pride in breaking barriers and allowing others who look like me to see themselves in places we haven’t been previously, and this motivates me to keep going and unlock more doors for myself and others.”

Specifically at Google, Lofton said the brand is hyper-focused on inclusive marketing, which Google defines as the conscious act of making informed, intentional, and brand-appropriate creative decisions that – in aggregate – positively reflect the diversity and reality of the world around us. All of the marketing campaigns the brand creates are reviewed by its Marketing Review Council, a division that ensures each piece of work sticks to this standard and that there is diverse representation in front of and behind the camera.

“DEI is so critical. From a business perspective, the consumers we serve are so diverse, and our teams and the work we put into the world need to reflect that,” Lofton said. “I always start with my team, and I’m really proud that we’ve increased underrepresented groups significantly year over year.”

Lofton’s Future

Lofton said she’s acutely focused on being present, so it’s hard to envision what her future looks like. Though she does think about it often. Aside from the important work she’s doing at Google, she’s looking forward to spending more time with family and friends, continuing her fitness journey, and cuddling with her furry friend, Kosi Langston. In the distant future, Lofton said she could see herself opening up a fitness studio or starting a dog rescue program.

“Looking ahead, in 10 years, I see myself being mentally and physically healthy. And that is a result of the work that I am currently putting in daily,” Lofton said. “We only get one life, so I will continue the quest to tap into the joy of life and living.”

As for aspiring marketers, Lofton said it’s important to take stock of what success looks like for you, build an authentic network, and challenge the status quo. She always tells her team to focus on getting wins on the board, and this means really putting their heads down and doing the work.

“I’m an athlete, and I live by the mindset of ‘being where your feet are.’ Be present and absorb all you can where you are before worrying about the next thing,” Lofton said. “Never stop being curious. I am a lifelong learner, and even after 20 years in the marketing industry, I’m always looking for new challenges that will help me stretch and grow. Marketing is a beautiful balance of art and science, and both sides are always evolving. So, as marketers, we must continue to respect the craft and hone our skills.”


Michelai Graham

Michelai Graham is Boardroom's resident tech and crypto reporter. Before joining 35V, she was a freelance reporter with bylines in AfroTech, HubSpot, The Plug, and Lifewire, to name a few. At Boardroom, Michelai covers Web3, NFTs, crypto, tech, and gaming. Off the clock, you can find her producing her crime podcast, The Point of No Return.

About The Author
Michelai Graham
Michelai Graham
Michelai Graham is Boardroom's resident tech and crypto reporter. Before joining 35V, she was a freelance reporter with bylines in AfroTech, HubSpot, The Plug, and Lifewire, to name a few. At Boardroom, Michelai covers Web3, NFTs, crypto, tech, and gaming. Off the clock, you can find her producing her crime podcast, The Point of No Return.