Faculty of Applied Science & Technology
Degree: Interactive Multimedia
Year of graduation: 2000
“What appealed to me as a student was understanding how things work and being able to help people.”
Driving brands down the information highway
How digital marketer Brent Chaters helps companies manage their message
In a noisy digital landscape, brands must establish a connection with the consumer. How they communicate their message can mean the difference between a company that comes across as authentic, and one that seems managed and, even worse, out of touch.
“There’s endless possibility,” says Brent Chaters, global professional services company Accenture’s managing director of digital customer and marketing transformation practice for Canada. “As legislation is being defined, consumers want personalized experience and respect in terms of how their data is used, and there is a ton of opportunities for smart companies in that space. You can either be a part of the conversation or let others say it for you.”
Chaters knows what he’s talking about — as the first Toronto hire when the company expanded in 2015, he helped establish Accenture’s digital marketing practice in Canada. He’s worked on creating SEO programs and mobile sites for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, and has shared his knowledge as a book author, speaker at TED Conferences, and as a lecturer at ISDI, a digital marketing executive training program.
He’s also the chairperson of the Martech Advisory Board for the Canadian Marketing Association —a group that works through issues with the use of technology in today’s marketing sphere.
Born in North Bay, Chaters’ path to marketing began with a unique choice after completing his undergraduate degree at McMaster University in English in 1999. Originally torn between med school, computer science and journalism, Chaters was intrigued by the progressive nature of Sheridan’s post graduate interactive multi-media program (now the interactive media management program). “What appealed to me as a student was understanding how things work and being able to help people,” says Chaters. “It was the study of human interaction and the science behind it that fed my analytic and creative sides.”
Chaters’ decision came at a pivotal point in communications history. In the heady days of the late 90s, the dot com bubble was in a period of unprecedented growth and experimentation on the Internet — although that bubble that would burst a mere year later.
“At the time, it felt like there was something exciting. The initial draw for me was that the web was where things were happening: the connected data and connection of everything else,” remembers Chaters. “At Sheridan, as much as you learned about the applied and the practical, it was the inspiration of the possible that was exciting. The Internet could be whatever you want to make it, and our professors taught us that we would be the defining group for future generations.”
Upon graduation, Chaters joined Hewlett-Packard as an IT specialist, rising through the ranks over the next decade to a global role as a senior manager. “I was fortunate to be connected with the corporate relations team, doing tasks such as streaming the CEO coast to coast in Canada, creating web and video — stuff I had learned at Sheridan,” he says. “I was empowered to move forward by my skills to create the company’s first Facebook page and launch the first Google ads.”
When he left HP in 2011, Chaters continued his path along the information highway with stints as director of SEO, UI, and web content at Tribute Entertainment Media Group and senior manager of marketing, strategy and analysis at Sapient. Today, he helms Accenture Interactive’s Canadian digital customer practice, and helps companies in fields ranging from insurance to hospitality navigate their brand’s message.
“I was brought in to do digital marketing and have shifted to digital customer experiences,” he says. “Digital marketers are often trained to drive for the immediacy — to focus on driving the sale — but you can lose sight of the fact that brand marketing still matters. How do you build that brand in a digital world? In a way, I still believe we’re in the wild wild west…there’s still possibilities for people and companies to be the next digital pioneers, grab the consumer’s attention and make a difference in this space.”