Rod Brooks • Written September 2016
Rod Brooks, the VP/chief marketing officer of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Co. is the middle child of five and the only boy in a blue-collar family. He was raised in what was then the small rural community of Lake Stevens, 30 miles north of Seattle. It could just as easily have been 300 miles, for all Rod knew. His first trip into the “big city” was when his family spent a day visiting the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962.
The newest inductee developed his work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and lofty goals at an early age. Rod was just 10 when he first stepped onto the “berry bus” for the early morning ride to Granite Falls, where he picked strawberries for local growers. He hated it and knew there had to be a better way to earn money.
Wanting to grow his income beyond what fruit-picking could produce, Rod found or created a variety of part-time jobs, from splitting cedar shake remnants into kindling, sweeping parking lots and bagging groceries to pumping gas and washing windshields. What those roles had in common was a lot of manual labor. The lesson Rod learned was that “going to work” wasn’t something he wanted to spend a lifetime doing. He’d rather do something he loved and get paid for “going to fun!”
Rod regularly shares that valuable lesson with the students he frequently mentors. “Find your passion, and then find someone who will pay you to use it. Then, you’ll always go to fun!”
He has enjoyed tremendous success during his 41-year career in marketing, advertising and brand management roles since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Washington State University in 1975. Within days of graduation, Rod began designing, writing and selling advertising for a local publishing company and community newspaper in Snohomish, just eight miles from his home town. Even very early in his career Rod was often recognized by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for his creative and effective ad designs.
Known as a bit of a marketing maverick, Brooks consistently demonstrates his ability to apply his skills in strategic thinking and innovative merchandising in ways that break through the clutter with cutting-edge tactics, meaningful messages and differentiating partnerships. He developed and honed those traits throughout his career.
Rod’s creativity, leadership and ability to transform vision into effective corporate strategy and unique implementation plans have helped to drive successful start-ups, emerging growth companies and well-established Northwest businesses, such as Schuck’s Auto Supply, QFC, Egghead Software and Coinstar.
In 1999, Rod took the marketing helm at PEMCO. With the role came the opportunity to help transform a successful operations-oriented organization into a dynamic customer-centric, market-driven and results-oriented brand. The now widely recognized and highly regarded PEMCO advertising campaign separated PEMCO and Brooks from competitors and colleagues. Rod says he simply surrounded himself with talented team members and had the courage to run with their recommendations. He calls the insurance business one of the biggest marketing challenges he’s faced, and one of the most rewarding.
Rod is especially proud of his longstanding service to Washington DECA, from which he received its Award of Merit in 2009. He also received the first-ever Cougar Spirit of Education Award from the College of Education at WSU and he serves on the College of Education Advisory Board, the Murrow College of Communication Board and the WSU Board of Trustees. In 2014, he was presented the Marketing Legend Award by the Puget Sound Chapter of the AMA.
He also has been a leader in the Word of Mouth Marketing Association since 2007 and served as WOMMA president in 2011. In 2014 Forbes magazine listed Rod among the Most Influential CMOs on Social Media.
Rod and wife, Cindy, live in Sammamish and have a blended family, including seven children and seven grandchildren.