Karen McSteen, Principal

Karen McSteen, a results-driven and accomplished branding and business strategist, founded brandMatters in 2003. She has spent her career developing distinctive brands and working with organizations to strengthen their competitive position and increase customer engagement.

Karen focuses on developing an organization-wide, brand-centered approach for her clients, a highly effective strategy she honed in her leadership roles as AOL’s Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy and Brand Vice President at Marriott International. Karen’s experience as a senior brand executive has profoundly influenced her philosophy of consulting. She is a hands-on collaborative partner to every brandMatters client, and she believes that each engagement should be directly and inextricably linked to business goals.

As a consultant, Karen has developed positioning strategies for clients across a broad range of industries including travel, hospitality, education, media and technology; facilitated brand and business planning processes for corporate and association clients; and created innovative product and service strategies to bring brands to life.

Karen earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Michigan State University. She is a member of the International Franchise Association and the International Society of Hotel Consultants. In addition, she has been a brand strategy instructor for Marriott’s Executive Development program and is frequently sought after as a speaker to share her approach to building and sustaining a strong brand.

Laura Bates, Partner

Laura Bates helps organizations grow their brand value through strategic positioning, engaging customer experiences and innovative products and services. Drawing on her experience as a brand executive at Procter & Gamble, Marriott International and Domino’s Pizza, she has been instrumental in creating positive change and in enhancing the value of brands for Fortune 500 companies as well as for smaller, start-up companies.

In her career, she has repositioned leading global brands in service industries and in consumer packaged goods; launched record-breaking new products into the marketplace; defined innovation processes for major global companies; and created award-winning design and experiential strategies for travel and hospitality brands.

In addition to her consulting, Laura writes, speaks and delivers workshops on brand strategy, customer engagement, service culture and customer experience design. She is a faculty member for the Association of National Advertisers.

Laura earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Tulane University and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University where she was a Unilever U.S. Scholarship recipient.