What Drives Her: Genesis Executive Director of Marketing Wendy Orthman on Creativity, Culture, and Cars

Wendy In Japan Featured Image. Photo- Wendy Orthman Via Instagram

Genesis has a secret weapon: Wendy Orthman.

Actually, she’s the brand’s Executive Director of Marketing (which is basically the same thing). She’s responsible for growing awareness of the luxury brand. She moved to the role from what at the time was a dream job, global head of brand, marketing and communications at Infiniti. But the opportunity to shift from communications to marketing was a perfect next step. Orthman brings to Genesis her passion for creative thinking, diversity, and storytelling. She has won many awards for her creativity and use of social media. That’s where her journey with Genesis has only just begun to shine.

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Wendy And Monse. Photo: Lillie Morales

Wendy with Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of fashion house Monse. Photo: Lillie Morales

Making Her Mark, and That of Genesis

At Genesis House, the brand’s restaurant and show space in New York City’s Meat Packing District, I had the opportunity to sit down with Wendy. She’s a petite woman with bright red hair, a red lip and shoes to match. Wendy’s style is bold and perfectly aligns with the brand’s new campaign. Titled “Make Your Mark,” it’s for the bold consumer who craves luxury without the labels. She wore a design by MONSE, the fashion label Genesis created a collaboration with.

Related: What Drives Her: Infiniti’s Trisha Jung’s Authenticity and Family Life Helped Shape Her Success

Wendy Orthman In Red! Photo- Wendy Orthman Via Instagram

Wendy Orthman in red! Photo: Wendy Orthman via Instagram

Relocating During the Pandemic – to Japan

After spending time in the PR departments at both Chrysler and General Motors, Wendy started comfortably moving up the organizational ladder at Nissan. Then, Infiniti called. The opportunity would put her firmly and happily into a new world. It was a global position located in Yokohama, Japan.

The job was a perfect next step for her. However, it meant moving her family to Japan. Of course, this alone is no small ask. Then, the pandemic hit. Wendy and her family scrambled to pack up and move amid closing cities, idling airports and dwindling flight schedules. Fortunately, they got seats on one of the last regular flights to Japan.

Despite the stress of making such a big life decision, Ortham’s eyes lit up when asked about her decision to relocate and travel with her family.

LM: On your move to Japan, what impacted your decision? What made you decide to move your family there?

Orthman: The opportunity to work with brands that are global is always really appealing to me. You just learn so much about yourself; the way you’re exposed to other cultures and new places. I have a teenage son, and it was really important to me before he left us and went to college that he had an opportunity to have his perspective changed.

I think particularly in America, people can have a fairly small bubble and perspective on the world. It’s fascinating how once that bubble is popped and you’ve had a chance to go outside and look at the world from a different perspective, different geography – how much that transforms your life. I did that at 25 when I lived in China and was able to do it again in Japan. And now with Genesis, we’ll be traveling with some frequency to Korea. Every time I have a chance to intersect with a new culture, I feel like it just makes me a richer human. The chance to share that with my family was just too good to pass up.

LM: What made you come back to the U.S.?

Orthman: Genesis! I’ll be based in California, but my responsibility is marketing in the U.S. We’ve already been to Scotland. We’ll be in Korea in the fall, and I think the job will really give me a chance to continue that global perspective. Genesis really is a global brand on the move. The chance to work with designs, cutting-edge technology, and a team that’s really shaking up the business as much as this was just a dream opportunity. It was well worth picking up our life and moving across the world.

LM: Was there any experience from working in Japan that sticks out?

Orthman: There was a lot. First, culturally, the Japanese are very good at waiting in lines! I’m a loud, talkative person who often needs to fill space with conversation and questions. One of the things that I found in Asia generally, every time I visit, is that there is a different level of appreciation for quiet and for patience. Those are hard lessons for me. I think America in particular is known for being loud and is rewarded for being the go-getter, always moving.

There is an art and beauty of taking moments of reflection and waiting quietly and patiently. The sense of time throughout Asia is just so much longer. I loved those lessons of patience, beauty and quiet. They’re hard things for me, but I think that they’re also good things for me to be reminded of.

Related: Electrifying the Auto World on Her Terms: What Drives Her, Linda Zhang, Ford F-150 Lightning Chief Engineer

Wendy Orthman Headshot. Photo- Genesis

Wendy Orthman. Photo: Genesis

LM: How did you prepare for the transition from Communications to Marketing?

Orthman: Early on in my career, when social media came on to the scene, I saw the lines start to blur between what was traditional media and what was now an opportunity to speak directly to customers. Realistically, for the last ten or twelve years of my career, I’ve been working on ways that I could take the story-telling ideas of communications and bring them not just to journalists but straight to customers.

I think this has been an evolution working with influencers, really getting the opportunity to tell brand stories and build a brand narrative. One of the coolest things for me about my experience at global was the opportunity to see two worlds really come together and the power that has. When the two come together and you’re able to tell one powerful story at once, that really is magic.

LM: Tonight [at the Genesis debut of its collaboration with designer MONSE] we saw fashion being combined with automotive. Tell me about that.

Orthman: We did a lot of customer research about what Genesis customers are passionate about. One of the consistent passions was fashion. We found that they really love their cars. They love technology. They love food, but they really love fashion. In surveys we had done, there were statements like, “I like to be the first one to set a trend. I like outfits that uniquely express my personal style.” We saw that common theme. And because Genesis is so new, a lot of people don’t know the brand. So if what you want is a label, if what you value is putting on a label that someone from across the airport is going to notice, like a recognizable brand such as a Louis Vuitton bag, there is nothing wrong with that. But if what you want is that level of recognition, Genesis might not be right for you.

We are really a brand for people who want to make their own mark, who want to have a brand that speaks directly to them. If their friends don’t recognize the brand or label, it doesn’t bother them. They actually like that. It’s a personal expression. So we found some interesting parallels between where we are as a brand and personal expression. Design is obviously one of our strongest suits as a brand, so that connection seemed really natural.

Wendy And Monse. Photo: Lillie Morales

Wendy and Monse. Photo: Lillie Morales

On Working With the MONSE Label…

There are many parallels between the two businesses. For a brand that needs to introduce themselves to new people and create awareness, aligning with new friends in fashion is a great way to go.

LM: A car is definitely a great accessory.

Orthman: Yes, I think it’s your first fashion statement!

LM: What advice could you offer women in the auto industry?

Orthman: I always come back to just being true to who you are. I think there’s a lot of pressure in male-dominated businesses to try to change yourself, to behave and play like the guys do because that’s the model of success that you see. What has been the key to my success is when I stopped trying to change myself into something that I wasn’t and just really embrace my perspective as a woman, as a mother, as sometimes the only girl in the room. I had to really just accept that my perspective will always be different, but it has value.

That realization was really important for me in my career. I would love for girls and women who are starting in the business to really just embrace that you bring something unique to the table. If you don’t look like the other executives in the room, it doesn’t mean that you’re not capable. If anything, it means you’re more able to deliver something really impactful to the business.

Genesis isn’t the only one making its mark.

Lillie Morales is an entrepreneur mama- writer, photographer, and an Editor at AGirlsGuidetoCars.com. She loves fast, pretty cars- ones... More about Lillie Morales