Crocs CMO on the consumer-centric approach and the core value of imaginative innovation

The List 2024 honoree Heidi Cooley answers “20 Questions”
By Mary Rowedder

Heidi Cooley, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Crocs is one of the dynamic leaders on The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future 2024. Cooley will be celebrated at the NRF Foundation Honors this January in NYC alongside fellow impactful retail leaders. Cooley reflects on the importance of Crocs’ consumer-centric approach, internal collaboration and imaginative innovation.

We caught up with Cooley, asking her 20 questions reflecting on her retail journey and experience in the industry. Here are a few questions, along with Cooley’s answers (watch the video above for all “20 Questions”):

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say be humble. 

First, recognize that it takes a team. I have the opportunity to work with an incredibly talented group of people here at Crocs. It also comes to life when I think about how we out-hustle each and every single day.

Lastly, I would say call your mom or your parent or your mentor or your friend. Make sure that you know who can keep you grounded throughout your journey.

What three skills are key to succeeding in retail?

First and foremost is a consumer-centric approach. Second is a clear brand vision and brand purpose. And third is something we do incredibly well here at Crocs: imaginative innovation. 

It's about knowing who you are as a brand, bringing it to life with consumers and creating meaningful connections every single day - and having a little fun and creativity while doing that.

Tell us about a great manager you had and how they impacted your career.

When I was 24, I had a mentor that gave me the advice to write notes to my future self. Her advice was that it was so easy to look up and think of all the things that you wish your manager did, and more importantly, all the things you wish you could mimic from that manager when you moved into that role. I continue to write that list today and I use that list to guide how I show up as a leader for my team.

What do you do to stand out?

I like to zig when everyone zags. For us at Crocs, that has come to life by leaning into polarization when everyone said we shouldn't or becoming a consumer-centric brand that actually decentralized who we were and gave that storytelling to our fans. These are ideas and examples that have been somewhat doing the opposite of what everyone said we should do, but when you ground yourself with great talent and you listen to your fans, you can create all sorts of meaningful and memorable moments.

How does your company and the retail industry overall impact people in every community every day?

At Crocs, our brand vision is that everyone should be comfortable in their own shoes, and we're guided by a purpose strategy that's committed to comfort for our planet, comfort for our communities, and comfort for our people. That guides how we show up as a brand each and every single day, and it manifests through our global invitation to invite the world to come as you are.

As an industry, we have an opportunity to continue to put the consumer at the forefront of how we solve many of the world's most important issues.

The NRF Foundation connects people to an industry that’s a great place to start and a great place to grow. Since 2015, the NRF Foundation Honors has raised the funds to continue to provide programs and resources to help people build better lives and stronger communities. Join us in New York City and be a part of the story of how retail builds extraordinary careers.