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Women in Business Q&A: Christina DeGuardi, SVP of Marketing, Branding and Communications at Crunch

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Christina DeGuardi, is the SVP of Marketing, Branding and Communications at Crunch. Christina brings a unique approach to all brand communication, one that's informed by her 20+ years of experience dealing with premier brands at agencies across the globe. In that time, she's worked in all mediums and managed the production of multi-tiered campaigns for large-scale accounts, like Burger King and Volvo, fostering her understanding of strategy and positioning, business development and B2B sales strategies for brands with a franchise component. She's spent the last 7 years at Crunch where she manages a full marketing team and creative department with expertise in strategy, media, public relations, promotions, design, copywriting, digital, social media and production.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was very involved in athletics growing up and I think that certainly helped me with confidence and teamwork. It also taught me how to take criticism and use it to improve. I also had siblings who were a bit older than I was so I was always trying to catch up to them, so it made me ambitious and eager to get to the next level in all aspects of life. This also meant that as a child I spent a lot of time with adults, where I learned to keep quiet so they wouldn't kick me out of the room when their conversations got interesting or inappropriate.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Crunch?
I worked at several different agencies, on several different brands and in several different markets. That diversity has given me fairly broad bases of experience to tap into as our business objectives evolve. For example, when Crunch decided to launch our Franchise model in 2010, I could draw on what I learned working on Burger King and Volvo as to what type of marketing structure and support needed to be put into place. Working at a smaller agency like Mother informed my decision to keep my team fairly lean and more lateral in structure. Spending a year working in Amsterdam for Euro RSCG on a Pan-European piece of business was invaluable experience that reminds me to be cognizant of cultural differences and really helped me hone my presentation skills.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Crunch?
The biggest challenge for me when I started at Crunch was really learning business. Coming from the agency world I was exposed to certain aspects of the business but there was a good deal of information I was not privy to. Getting up to speed took some time (they use a lot of acronyms around here), but it has made me more invested in what I do and helps me continue to provide perspective and context for my team.

How can you see marketing, branding and communications evolving over the next five years?
I think marketing, branding and communications landscape will continue to diversify and become increasingly more fractured. Making it more and more difficult to stay strategically focused and to manage brand consistency. More screens, more platforms, more consumer interactions, more communication tools, it's not going to stop. And, with all this, of course comes more marketing opportunities but it also makes it increasingly difficult to maintain consistency and ensure efficacy.

What advice can you offer women who want to follow a similar career path?
Put in the extra time, I gained more respect, more experience and more opportunities by being available when others weren't, by working extra hours and taking on additional projects.

Learn as much as you can from more knowledgeable and experienced people. The key is being self-aware enough to know when you are in the presence of someone with a deeper understanding of a particular areas of your business or someone who simply has skills you don't necessarily possess. Getting past your own ego and letting what they know make you more informed can be very helpful as you move forward along the path of your career.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't manage it as well other people. Luckily for me I am very connected to what I do, so my work and my life are very intertwined. What's funny is that I am very much the consumer I am marketing to, Crunch was the gym I joined when I moved to NYC in 1993 and like our customers I have to push myself to consistently go to the gym and I am always falling in and out of love with working out. I also spend a lot of my free time reading, watching and listening to all things in the world of entertainment and can't help but let all that creativity inspire my own work related ideas related to what I do for work.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think there continue to be issues with women's intentions, actions or perspective being negatively mislabeled. For example, being forceful or direct will be labeled bossy, being angry or frustrated will be identified as bitchy and being passionate about something might be called emotional. I recently saw a great piece on the Daily Show where the highlighted people questioning Hillary Clinton's ability to lead due to being a grandmother, something that has never even been questioned about any male politician ever.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I wouldn't say I was ever really fully mentored, but I did have some incredible bosses along the way that I learned invaluable lessons from. They were leaders, hard workers and took their jobs very seriously. I am grateful they let me tag along for the ride, during which I was given so much insight, for example, I had one boss explain to me the importance of owning up to your mistakes in a timely and forthright manner (after I had made a doozy of one). Not only that, after it happened, she moved on like it never happened, having full confidence that I learned my lesson. I had another boss who really helped me understand the importance of words and how to use them effectively in written and verbal communication. Ironically, one of the clients we worked on together was Scrabble. These lessons from former and current bosses, I keep with me in a virtual rulebook of sorts and draw on them as in my own management experience.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire quite of few women so it's hard to narrow it down. But I find myself really inspired by women working in creative fields, being that is where my personal and professional interests lie. I of course admire Oprah, I am sure every woman does, her strength of character, professional acumen and approachability is incredibly admirable. I also admire Ellen DeGeneres, being such a successful comedian, host and entertainer while not compromising who she is as a person in a very competitive field is so inspiring to me. I also admire Kathryn Bigelow, being someone who has taken on content that isn't traditionally in a woman's wheelhouse so to speak and doing it so well. I recently read an interview with Jenji Kohan, the creator of Weeds and Orange is the New Black, I really admire her carving out her own voice in the TV landscape and her ability concept and execute incredibly creative shows lead by compelling female characters. I would be remiss in not mentioning my admiration for Hillary Clinton, I certainly don't think she is perfect, but I think that she has more than held her own in a male dominated landscape, and I very much respect her work ethic and intelligence.

What are your hopes for the future of Crunch?
I hope Crunch continues to grow as it has been over the last 3 to 4 years. What's unique about this brand is that people really do believe in what we do, both members and employees. That passion is infectious and I believe it helps people discover their best selves. Obviously with rapid growth there are challenges, but I feel confident that those leading us into other markets and more locations all share a collective respect for the history of the brand. There is a real sense of reverence for the origin story of a little studio in the East village where the goal was to make working out fun And, there is a deep respect for our open and welcoming, No Judgments philosophy which I hope can be shared with more and more people everyday.