Kymm (Pollack) Martinez, vice president of marketing and sales capabilities in Latin America for General Mills, has been named to the new position of chief marketing officer at St. Thomas.
President Julie Sullivan announced the appointment of Martinez, who will join St. Thomas on Sept. 1. Martinez will oversee the University Relations office, which will be renamed Marketing and Communications.
More emphasis will be placed on marketing, both institutionally to create stronger brand awareness and in working with academic programs to help them recruit students, Sullivan said. Marketing initiatives, which have been largely decentralized and handled by individual units, will be centralized in Marketing and Communications to best reflect the “One University” priority in the strategic plan.
"Kymm is an outstanding marketing and branding professional who will bring 25 years of business marketing experience to St. Thomas,” Sullivan said. “She knows the Twin Cities area and the Upper Midwest region well, thanks to her nearly 20 years in marketing at General Mills. I look forward to working with her to strengthen our branding, marketing and recruitment efforts in the years ahead."
Martinez has enjoyed a wide range of opportunities and growing leadership positions over two decades at General Mills, but said she was ready to “take everything I’ve learned here and apply it in a different way. ... The opportunity to transform lives and have an impact on people is exactly what I’m looking for.
“There’s a long list of things I’m excited about and that drew me to St. Thomas. First and foremost is the opportunity the position offers: I love the vision St. Thomas put forth in 2020 [the strategic plan], including creating this position, centralizing marketing and putting a more strategic approach to it,” Martinez added. “And St. Thomas itself, as a mission-based, higher education organization: People just can’t say enough about it. There is something special about St. Thomas. I’ve heard that over and over again … and I want to be part of that. And thirdly, Julie Sullivan herself, who is a very impressive leader. … The chance to work with and learn from someone like her is something I’m very excited about.”
Navy childhood to internationally savvy professional
Martinez’s father was in the Navy, and she was born on a Navy base in Connecticut. Her family lived all over the country (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Kansas) before settling in Missouri for her second grade through high school years. She became the 13th female in her family to attend the all-women Mount Holyoke College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations and economics.
Her first taste in marketing came during a bank internship in college and she was quickly hooked. After working through several rotations of a management program in marketing for her first employer, MetLife Insurance Company, Martinez knew she would need an advanced degree to pursue the more central marketing of brand management. She earned a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University before starting at General Mills in 1997.
Since then Martinez has put together an impressive resume of leadership and results across a wide range of positions, including vice president/business unit director of Pillsbury ($1.2 billion in annual sales); vice president/business unit director of General Mills' sweet and savory snacks ($800 million in sales); and marketing director of Cereal Partners Worldwide, a joint venture between General Mills and Nestle that based Martinez and her family in Mexico and was responsible for all marketing activities within Latin America and the Caribbean.
“I love Mexico, the whole Latin culture,” said Martinez, who looks forward to bringing her international experience – which includes extensive work in Europe and, in her current position, Brazil – to St. Thomas as the university increases the diversity of its community.
Martinez will lead the Marketing and Communications team, which has 24 full-time staff members who work with on-campus clients and partners to carry out their communications plans by providing branding, writing, editing, graphic design, photography and project management services. The department also publishes the Newsroom and five magazines, and works closely with the external news media.
Under the reorganization, Doug Hennes, a 1977 alumnus who has led University Relations since 1990 and has served as vice president for university and government relations since 1997, will become vice president for government relations and special projects. He will report to Sullivan. His duties will include oversight of an expanded government relations presence as well as neighborhood relations, which is under the direction of neighborhood liaison Amy Gage, and he will handle special projects as assigned by Sullivan.
Martinez said she plans to start her tenure by listening to and learning from stakeholder groups to help develop a strategy for the new, centralized marketing organization; immersing herself in the many consumer groups the university works with; and getting to know her new team.
“I’m so excited, just thrilled,” Martinez said. “I’m really looking forward to fully immersing myself in St. Thomas.”
Martinez lives with her husband, Ivan, her daughter, Caroline (11), and stepson, William (13) in Golden Valley. Ivan has two older daughters – one living in New York and the other in St. Paul.