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Career Series Speaker John Rehm ’86 Discusses Marketing With Students

On Wednesday, February 28, 2024, Career Series Speaker John Rehm ‘86 discussed advertising, marketing, and branding with Catholic Central students, providing advice for those interested in pursuing a similar field.  

Rehm has been working in advertising with General Motors automotive company for 23 years. Prior to that, he worked in advertising for Chevrolet. He has a business degree in marketing and a minor in graphic design.  

In college, he didn’t know what he wanted to do, stating he got lucky and fell into marketing. “Some of this is who you are as much as the degree you have. If you get a business or communications degree, and if you can write effectively, it will take you far. Being a great writer is very helpful,” he stated.  

During his presentation, he discussed what marketing is, the different types of advertising, and projects he has worked on, including the recent Will Ferrell commercial for GM that aired during this year’s super bowl.   

Rehm explained that marketing and advertising can be done through traditional means, such as TV, radio, print, or mail. It can also involve social media, digital advertising, communications, PR, crisis management, and sponsorships.  

He talked about the different types of advertising he has done in the past, including major league baseball, youth sports, country music, outdoors, causes such as breast cancer, motorsports, and global auto shows.  

Rehm said that the best part of his job is being on-site for commercials and not just sitting in an office all day. “It’s a lot of work and there are long days, but it sure beats sitting in an office. You’ll be hot, cold, and sweating, but you’ll be out there watching this stuff being filmed and you get to see the end of it,” he stated.  

He stressed the importance of mindset and personality. “What I’ve learned over the past few years and what I look for when I interview people is mindset. You have to go into each situation with the right mindset,” he stated. 

Rehm pointed out several key personality traits you need to have in marketing to be successful:  

  • Shed negativity 

  • Be a positive influence 

  • Start your mornings strong 

  • Attitude is a muscle you need to exercise 

  • Surround yourself with positive people 

  • Contribute to a positive culture 

  • Develop good habits 

He also explained that you must be trustworthy as an employee, using NAVY Seals as an example. “Would you rather be known for being a high achiever or being known for being someone people can trust? NAVY Seals will take someone they can trust over a high achiever. They may take a lesser performer if you’re trustworthy. They look for people with integrity,” he stated.  

He asked students, “What’s the first thing people notice about each other? What’s the first thing people notice about you? The reality is, from a physical standpoint, people notice if they think they can like you.” 

He talked about character, personal character, and doing the right thing even if no one else does, stating that most companies hire the smile and teach the skill. “I figure I can teach you anything you need to know. I want to know if you can add to the culture on my team,” he stated.  

“Work on your personal brand. Who you are reflects your brand. Catholic Central is the biggest head start you’ll ever have. It gave me the best start for what I’m doing,” Rehm stated.  

Rehm highlighted values and image as two of the most important characteristics you can have in the professional world. “What do you stand for? Who are you? It comes down to faith, accountability, resilience, gratitude, and grit,” he stated. 

“There's nothing you can screw up that I can’t fix. But you need to be accountable so we can get to the bottom of it. You must be able to bounce back, and that’s super important. My immaturity held me back during the start of my career when others got promoted. Focus on leadership and how you respond to situations. My job as a leader is to get everyone on my team promoted,” he stated.  

“Resilience is also important. You have to keep going. The successful people are the ones who can last. It’s not the strongest, fastest, or smartest who succeed. It’s the ones who are more resilient and never give up. What’s your definition of success and who are you going to be?” 

“Always stretch yourself. Remember, it’s the journey of success and not the destination. What’s your personal narrative? Who you are and what you’re good at. During your first interviews after college, ask yourself what you’re good at. Know your strengths and weaknesses. It’s good to have a handle on that and be able to articulate that quickly If someone asks you,” he stated.  

He told students to continue learning, be fearless, be a mentor, and pay it forward, stating that paying it forward is how you recharge your batteries. 

For students interested in going into marketing or advertising, he recommended taking business, creative writing, public speaking, and art classes.  

“The business classes are very appropriate. Our agency has creative people who pick up concepts. We also have the production team. Those are the people who get things done. Get involved in DECA. When you get into college, look for internships that stretch you. Go out of town. There is a whole world outside of Detroit. One thing I regret is not going away for an internship. Stretch yourself and network. Talk to people. Reach out and network to people. They are happy to help you get in touch with people. Take classes that make you uncomfortable,” he advised.  

Rehm’s advice continued, “Learn what you’re good at and build relationships. Ask questions and learn. When you’re working, how are you going to make that person’s life easier? This is what you have to be thinking about when you interview. I want someone who is hungry, open-minded, and willing to learn on my team. Work some long hours, pay your dues, and think critically. Develop people skills. Can you look me in the eye? Can you speak intelligently? I want to know who you are. Can you work as a team? Are you a giver or taker when it comes to the business world?” 

He concluded by giving one last piece of advice to students, stating, “Try to concentrate and learn. Take it seriously. What’s your personal narrative? Be who you are. Don’t be who people want you to be. You have strengths. Figure out what you’re good at and do that for a career. You can learn to love anything. You don’t necessarily have to follow your passion. I took what I was good at, adapted it, and learned to love it.” 

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