The Impact Series: Hailey Geller

Hailey Geller is a strategic creative marketer who is passionate about innovating new ways to story-tell and engage consumers. She has spent a number of years making footprints in the media industry through her roles as an Account Executive, Media Planner and Product Marketing Manager. Currently she is an Integrated Marketing Communications Manager for the Gears of War Franchise at Microsoft. Her most recent career success was being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 2021 list in Games for her achievements with Xbox.

The Sponsorship Space got a chance to speak with Hailey and discuss her journey in the advertising industry and how her knowledge of video games has given her leverage in her past roles.

Q: Hailey, can you share with us details about your career journey. How did you get to your current role?

As a Seattle native, I was the rebellious child and attended the University of Oregon. I thought that I wanted to be a Plastic Surgeon and was on the Pre-Med track up until my sophomore year. I became bored, unsatisfied and had one of those moments where I was like, “is this actually what I want to do for the rest of my life?” I found myself in the Advertising program in the School of Journalism & Communications after switching my major to Business Administration and attending an Intro to Journalism class with a friend.

There was immediately something different and exciting about the community, professors, and curriculum that I knew I wanted to be a part of and truly find myself within. So, I changed my major once again to Advertising and centered my curriculum around media planning and creative strategy.

I graduated in June of 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and minor in Computer Information Sciences. I headed back to Seattle where I spent my first year in “Corporate America” at Microsoft on the Global Advertising creative team- building global creative campaigns for Windows, Bing and Edge. I was part of a rotation program in the Marketing Consumer Business that allowed our cohort the opportunity to spend two rotations (one year each) across the Marketing organization and ideally, find your fit and stay full time after graduation from the program. After Global Ads, I rotated to the team I currently sit on for my second year in the program- Xbox Brand Marketing.

Q: Most memorable experience on team Xbox?

This is a super close tie… I’d have to say it would either be:

  1. Attending my first E3 in 2019 and watching my first trailer for Gears POP! hit the big screen. I don’t think I have ever smiled so big in my entire life- definitely a feeling I will never forget!

  2. Traveling to LA and Mexico City for the Gears 5 launch events- it was such an incredible experience getting to meet and chat with the Gears fam, the cast + voice actors, and witness the passion & love for the franchise on a more personal level. We were also able to continue the Gears Ink program and tattoo a few lucky fans… for free!

Q: Can you tell us about what you’re doing currently -- what’s a typical day like in your role?

As an Integrated Marketing Communications Manager, I develop authentic brand love and bombastic campaigns for one of the industry’s most acclaimed game franchises, Gears of War.

During the last year, I helped to create and shape the franchise's voyage into the mobile gaming and PC strategy space with the launch of Gears POP!, Gears Tactics, and the AAA title, Gears 5. My team owns and manages the marketing strategy, creative framework + assets, develops iconic pop cultural moments & partnerships, and finds unique, innovative, and inclusive ways to tell dynamic stories that build immersive worlds for fans and potential fans alike.

As a champion for diversity & inclusion, I also currently serve as the Communications Lead for Microsoft's Disability in Marketing Group and am a leader in the Women in Gaming community. I consistently work to advance marketing efforts in innovative and adaptable ways with strong accessibility and inclusion sensibilities at the forefront.

Q: In your opinion, what has been the biggest change in advertising in the past 5 years?

It’s been super interesting to watch big brands find their voice, make use of it for social change, and jumpstart a movement amongst both competitors and peers.

The decision by Nike to use Colin Kaepernick as the face of the 30th anniversary of 'Just Do It' stirred up a lot of controversy online, but sales continued to soar after the debut. The words say, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything"- I think this continues to be hugely relevant today as we face a pandemic, an ongoing crisis in everyday gun violence, racial injustice, hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and more. How these brands show up for themselves, their loyal customers and our community during this time is everything, and we have seen that there is a right AND wrong way of doing just that.

Q: Has working in advertising changed the way you approach the video game industry?

I think looking back to the start of my advertising journey, one of the biggest learnings for me has been that it’s not all about the marketing hype trailers and awards. The future of gaming needs to be inclusive & accessible. Being a champion and ally to people with disabilities has given me the unique opportunity to hear the stories and feedback firsthand of just how our products, advertising and messaging impacts their day to day lives and how we must do better.

“If you don’t intentionally include, you will unintentionally exclude.”

Q: Did you grow up with a knowledge of video games, if not, how were you able to transition into your current role as Integrated Marketing Communications Manager, Gears of War Franchise?

I would say I was more of a “casual gamer” growing up- prided myself on beating the latest Mario games with friends or passing time with my little brother immersed in the world of Fusion Frenzy. When I joined the team, I had no idea what Gears of War was, who Marcus Fenix was, the story/background, nothing. I quickly learned that lore is everything to this community and the audience is really unlike any other franchise or game… anywhere! They are diverse, they are cool, and they live and breathe Gears. As creative marketers, understanding who our audiences are to their core is what makes our work meaningful and long lasting.

Q: The Xbox Series S/X launch was quite a success, as the two new Microsoft consoles sold between 1.2 and 1.4 million copies in total on their launch day. Were you involved at all with the launch plans for this? If not, how did your plans at all change knowing a new system was going to be released?

It takes a village to launch a new generation of console gaming, and the reaction and excitement from the community has been amazing. The Xbox Series X|S launch was the most successful debut in our history, thanks to the millions of fans that helped usher in the next generation of Xbox consoles, worldwide.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I am a huge college football fan (SCO DUCKS!), love being on the water to soak up the few sunny days we get here in Seattle, and finding the best local coffee shops in town- I guess you could say I’m a wannabe coffee sommelier. I am also putting together a massive travel bucket list for the second it is safe to do so again!

Q: You completed a course recently --- Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content. What was the most important takeaway from that course and what inspired you to take it?

It’s been super important for me to continue to learn and grow as a human being and marketer during the pandemic, even if it meant taking an online class from the couch. In this course, we examined the science behind making your ideas stick, increasing your influence, generating word of mouth, and harnessing the power of social networks to get your ideas to catch on. A big takeaway was learning when/how people are more likely to conform or do the same thing as others, and when they are more likely to diverge and do something different.

Q: What’s some advice you would leave someone that might just be starting their marketing career?

  • Find your people.

  • Always “do you”- follow your heart & know your worth.

  • Don’t be afraid to fail.

  • Be comfortable with ambiguity.