Mirja Riester – Activist for sustainability in marketing

Mirja Riester is the chief strategic officer at RIESTER one of the largest independent advertising and public relations firms in the western United States. She established the European method of Brand Planning at RIESTER when she joined the firm in 1997. She continues to supervise that function today, in addition to managing the integration of all services of the firm.

After earning the European equivalent of an MBA from the University of Hamburg, Mirja Riester worked at DDB Needham and Corporate Communications Company. Her account assignments included; Volkswagen, Barclays Bank, Henkel, Panasonic, Guinness, Unilever and British Petroleum. Mirja also helped launch the television show Entertainment Tonight in Europe. After seven years in the European ad business, Mirja moved to the United States to lead the marketing program for Heel Pharmaceuticals Company.

Mirja has frequently been called upon by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for her social marketing expertise. She has also been recognized as the top Advertising Executive on Arizona Woman Magazine’s list of Leading Woman in Business.

She is the strategic mind behind much of RIESTER’s green work including the innovative STAND FOR LESS campaign in San Diego, the state of California’s campaigns promoting recycling, and many other campaigns with sustainability as a core objective.

What are you working on right now?

• Determining our agency’s future business model in this ever changing and increasing volatile marketing and media environment – core dynamics are content, simplicity, velocity to determine the price value equation.

• Changing the cultural paradigm among African Americans – a federal grant is allowing RIESTER to identify the best ways to improve the African American community’s quality of life, raise awareness about preconception care and increase positive birth outcomes through the power of communications.

• Determining the Next Value – RIESTER’s focus on planning and understanding emerging societal values allows us to link those to brands driving consumer connections and generating sustainable and quantifiable brand momentum. Sustainability is key for both RIESTER and our clients. A sustainable brand is one that will be around for a long time because it fulfills a real societal need.

Trends that excite you?

The trend toward a simple life that we are seeing as a consequence of the recession – and how people’s desires are shifting. I am fascinated as to how this will truly impact how we live in the future. Will we change our lives to adapt more sustainable lifestyles? Can these changes be sustained even if the economy regains momentum? How much stuff do people really need to be happy?

Despite the economic challenges the move toward sustainability in many aspects of life are only slowly gaining traction and we are at the forefront of determining how to advance the movement all the way to the top of large corporations.

The concept of new responsibility – I am hopeful that with the recent events a sense of personal responsibility, respect and rationalism will gain traction to help us create a more sustainable way of life for ourselves, our children and their children.

I grew up in Germany and now, along with my husband Tim Riester, I am running a medium-sized business in the western United States. We’re a full-service marketing agency and one of our specialties is multi-cultural marketing. One new trend that I am following closely falls under the category of The New General Market.

The New General Market approach views the entire U.S. consumer market as extremely dynamic and constantly changing. The velocity of social, ethnic and cultural change is accelerating rapidly. One of the most influential and powerful sources for these changes is the in-migration of Asians and Hispanics into the United States. During this process, these groups eventually become so tightly woven into the fabric of the mainstream that the culture as a whole is forever altered – it becomes the New General Market. We cannot continue to communicate in silos and only differentiate by ethnicity.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Leading by example – identifying and seizing the opportunities through commitment, determinate and relentlessness – strategy is key, doing one’s homework is crucial. Consistency and persistence bring new ideas to life. Doing what’s right, identifying the vacuum and filling it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Be passionate and you will get good at it – it does not matter what it is you are doing, love it and you will succeed.

What is it that you especially like about your adopted country, the U.S.?


What is one mistake that you made, and what did you learn from it?

In our business our expertise revolves around researching and developing carefully planned strategies for our clients and their brands. As outside consultants to our clients, we are also very much in the customer service business. There are times that clients have asked us to do things in the execution phase of our work that directly violate the strategies we’ve recommended and that they’ve agreed on. In the name of customer service, I’ve sometimes capitulated to requests in ways that could do damage to brands—or just as often would fail to maximize the potential good we could have been doing for a brand (lost opportunity cost). While we have to honor our client requests, sometimes I feel like I’ve given in too easily.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Pay attention to what your competitors are doing. Whether it’s their presence in new social networking sites, the implementation of new and innovative customer service tools, leadership through connecting to a cause—whatever it is—one of the simplest things any business can do is pay attention to the competition. It’s very easy to get too insulated and businesses pay a high price when they do. Learn from your competitors as you’re leapfrogging them.



Riester Foundation

Mirja Riester on LinkedIn