Rocket Hires Airbnb Vet Jonathan Mildenhall To Up Its Marketing Game


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After slashing its marketing and advertising budget and losing its title as the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Rocket Companies is stepping up its marketing game, hiring Airbnb veteran Jonathan Mildenhall as its first group chief marketing officer.

Mildenhall, whose more than 30 years of experience in the marketing business also includes a 7 1/2-year stint at Coca-Cola, founded the consulting firm TwentyFirstCenturyBrand in 2018 after serving as Airbnb’s CMO for 4 years.

Varun Krishna

“Jonathan is one of the top marketing minds in the world, with a strong reputation for consistently delivering compelling campaigns that break through the clutter and become socially relevant,” Rocket Companies CEO Varun Krishna said in a statement.

Krishna, who just stepped into the CEO role himself on Sept. 5, after holding product management roles at companies including Intuit, PayPal, Groupon and Microsoft, said he’s “been highly impressed by the number of incredible stories we have to tell” at Rocket.

“Countless customers, team members and vendors have told us how working with Rocket changed their lives,” Krishna said. “I am looking forward to Jonathan and the team creating new and innovative ways to share these inspiring narratives with the world.”

Mildenhall will be responsible “for creating a unified and compelling voice for all businesses under the Rocket Companies umbrella,” which, in addition to Rocket Mortgage, includes consumer finance app Rocket Money, real estate brokerage Rocket Homes and title insurance provider Amrock.

Rocket was dethroned as the nation’s biggest mortgage lender in 2022 by rival United Wholesale Mortgage as rising mortgage rates put an end to the pandemic-era refinancing boom. Rocket racked up nearly $1 billion in losses during the last three months of 2022 and the first three months of 2023, before returning to profitability in Q2 2023.

To stem losses, Rocket slashed its marketing and advertising expenses, which had ballooned to $1.25 billion in 2021, by 24 percent in 2022. At $945.7 million, Rocket’s 2022 marketing and advertising budget was slightly less than the $950 million the company spent in 2020.

Known in the past for its award-winning Super Bowl ads, Rocket continued to trim marketing and advertising expenses last year. During the first nine months of 2023, Rocket spent $594 million to promote the company and its services, down 23 percent from the same point in 2022.

Rocket’s 2022 Super Bowl ad starred Anna Kendrick and Barbie and touted the benefits of using Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage to find and finance a home.

The Detroit-based conglomerate has been working to reposition itself as a fintech, acquiring personal finance app Truebill for $1.27 billion and rebranding it as Rocket Money. By connecting the personal finance app to the rest of Rocket’s platform, the company is hoping to make a comeback not only in mortgages but to cross-market other products and services that will unlock “the lifetime value of the client.”

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to work with this talented team, led by Varun, to tell stories that will inspire and motivate,” Mildenhall said, in a statement. “It will be our mission to create integrated marketing campaigns that live up to the extraordinary social impact that Rocket makes every day.”

Mildenhall will remain the chairman of the consulting firm he founded, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, whose clients have included Pinterest, LinkedIn, Zalando, PepsiCo, NextDoor and Walmart.

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