Story by Ashley Lawal / Photos by Mika Matin
Part of the Nashville’s Not Just Country Series
Detroit birthed her and Nashville raised her. You know, the Nashville where you could get anywhere in 15 minutes, have the best fried fish sandwich and enjoy your annual family reunion at Sevier Park. When I first sat down with Lanae Jackson, it was evident that she was truly living her best life in a dream job as the Multicultural Marketing Manager for Nissan to prove it. Yep, she gets to ensure the “do it for the culture” motto is not just a hashtag. Her role provides a constant opportunity for multicultural consumers (us/we) to be thoughtfully portrayed and represented in media and advertising that helps move our communities forward.
As we chatted about all she had recently been up to, Lanae shared some heavy hitting projects you are probably familiar with, including working with Ava Duvernay and Oprah for a Black History Month activation for “A Wrinkle In Time”, attending the premier of Black Panther in LA, then heading to represent Nissan at the Wearable Art Gala by Tina Knowles Lawson and this was just in one month! As she shared “my February was lit” and from my vantage point, Lanae has been lighting an intentional path for her success from the beginning.
Her journey has been inspired by the culture, music and people she proudly represents today. Lanae spent her formidable years in Nashville and then received both her undergrad and MBA degrees from the Tennessee State University. When Lanae speaks about her HBCU experience, the “I’m so glad” joy she exudes is unapologetically amazing. The constant uplifting of her collegiate experience from her classmates, the teachers who walked with her through her journey, to the experiences that would shape her future career endeavors. Listening to Lanae, if you are a fellow HBCU grad it will make you want to re-enroll and if not, it will make you want to enroll now just to get a taste of HBCU life at it’s finest.
As a communications major with a minor in theatre, you could say her marketing hustler journey was definitely a predestined thing. Lanae shared she always knew she wanted to do something in entertainment and marketing but didn’t initially know what that would look like. She shared, “I decided to just stay open to the opportunities”. That exact willingness to stay open and as they say, trust the process is what led Lanae to a 12-year path working with Nissan. She started out doing brand work for the Nissan Altima and Maxima as Chief Brand Manager, then Regional Marketing Program Manager out in California for multitcultural and general markets from LA to Denver to Alaska to Hawaii. As she shared, “ I really had an opportunity to learn about different markets and their culture”. She was also responsible for the launch of Nissan’s mobile and tablet sites. Talk about dope projects to work on and God’s favor, as Lanae shared her last 3 positions including current role, did not even exist. She had to make it her own; be nimble and trust her gut to know when to jump into that next aha opportunity. “I didn’t have a roadmap” as she shares, “so it has been inspiring to be able to carve out my path”.
Going back to get her MBA was also an integral part and defining milestone. “I understood the marketing and production but I needed to understand the business side”, Lanae expounded further sharing, “I think it is important for people to understand ROI (return on investment), what it takes to be sustainable and how they can connect with consumers”. Her undergrad years developed her as a person but obtaining a MBA allowed her to grow as a business professional. “I really honed in on my skills while working at Nissan full-time and going to class at night”, she shares. She credits TSU’s Think. Work. Serve motto as her guiding light til this day as it instilled the importance of strategic thinking and being able to work with a purpose.
Doing It For The Culture
When she returns to Nashville with her daughter to take the Multicultural Marketing Manager opportunity, this was also a change Lanae was up for. Let me also preface by saying, we are not just talking marketing efforts at a local dealership. This African-American woman leads national efforts for one of the country’s most beloved car brands. To be honest, Nissan is the unofficial city car for Nashville. Just take a tally while driving in the city and you are sure to see a Nissan alongside you every 2-3 seconds.
Lanae oversees all of Nissan’s multicultural marketing efforts from TV, digital, social media, interactive media, multicultural PR and corporate giving. She ensures that everything Nissan does to communicate with their customers is in a genuine and authentic way. Two of her ad agency partners are also led by African-Americans and she shared it has been great to have the experience of working and collaborating together on projects. She wants to produce content that inspires people and digs deep for them to go after their purpose. As Lanae shares “I feel it is my duty to always ensure I am at the table for Nissan and my community”. She continues, ”that is why I take those redeye flights and early morning Ubers to represent and be present”. In this day and age, to be present for the benefit of others is a noble statement and one that allows me to see the type of professional and person Lanae is striving to be.
Her most recent accomplishments include, helming Nissan’s partnership with “A Wrinkle in Time” during Black History Month. You know, that blockbuster movie, directed by powerhouse Ava Duvernay starring Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and up and coming young actress, Storm Reid. Lanae led the creation of a campaign from a different place by going behind the camera. She wanted to share the stories of the African-American team behind her campaign, including the female director heading the project, her ad agency partner, Fluent 360, the location scout and Disney’s SVP of Production with a focus on why it was important to see them in these varied roles. The campaign also included a live experience unveiling 3 Nissan Leafs inspired by each one of the magical travelers from the movie and she debuted them in front of the women actors who played the roles, including Oprah herself.
Plus, Lanae partnered with Black Girls Code and Ava Duvernay to host a private screening of the movie for young black girls. The girls then spent a day learning how to develop an app that promotes self-love. As Lanae stated, “it was literally black girl magic that day”. They then held a ceremony that awarded future filmmaker, Ciara Boniface $100,000 to make her own film, a Nissan Leaf and mentorship from Ava Duvernay. “To bring opportunities like this are really the reason why I do what I do”, shared Lanae. “I enjoy going to work with a sense of purpose”.
Purpose in her personal life is also what she seeks to live out daily. She is definitely a supporter of black owned businesses along with her fellow HBCU alumni and their entrepreneurial endeavors. She proudly shares it is great to catch a Lovenoise concert, attend a Conscious Conversation or hang out at The WKND when her travel schedule allows. During our conversation, I also uncovered Lanae was currently taking guitar lessons. Elated was of course my initial reaction, as I love hearing when people, especially women seek out ways to tap into more than just work, your boo or family. Instead opting to focus on things that make them smile. Plus, I dabbled back in the day playing the viola and cello (well it was more like one semester but you get where I’m coming from). Lanae shared she is constantly inspired by music living in the Music City and wanted to try out something new. “I am not a singer but wanted to feel like I could contribute to the music scene, too”, shares Lanae with a laugh. “I think it is important that everyone finds that ‘something’‘ that feeds their passion outside of their day-to-day grind”. I asked her if I would be catching her performing soon. She chuckled and shared “I am just taking each lesson one day at a time”.
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