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Maryam  Banikarim

Maryam Banikarim

Purpose Driven Change Agent, Former Global CMO, Hyatt, Gannett, NBC Universal & Univision


A purpose-driven change agent in the tradition of Simon Sinek, Jim Collins and Roy Spence, Maryam Banikarim shows organizations how to shift mindsets and build themselves through the lens of purpose. Known as a fearless force for change with a track record of creating and leading successful brands such as Hyatt, Gannett, NBCUniversal and Univision, Maryam’s game-changing presentation demonstrates how to define your purpose, differentiate your brand, make the case for change, rally the troops internally and share it with the world. As a dedicated press freedom advocate, in 2019 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) elected Banikarim as the next chair of RSF USA's board of directors after serving as an advisory board member since 2013. She is also sought after as a thought leader on transformation, purpose-based branding, multi-cultural marketing, the changing role of the CMO and women’s leadership. A builder of businesses, teams and brands who brings boundless energy and an incredible range of experience to the speaking stage, Maryam is catalyst for any organization that is looking to evolve, change and become purpose-driven. Read More >

As the global CMO at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Maryam was responsible for helping Hyatt become the most preferred hospitality brand, driving loyalty and community among high-end travelers with a portfolio of thirteen global brand experiences. She elevated the organization by mobilizing colleagues, launching brands and businesses, reimagining loyalty, and establishing unprecedented partnerships. Prior to this role, she was Gannett’s first-ever CMO. She is credited with repositioning the company and its brands (including USA Today), uncovering and executing its core purpose, reinvigorating employee morale, and establishing a national sales organization, all of which resulted in topline growth. In a few short years, she and the management team saw the stock price go from $13 a share to over $30. Maryam was also Senior Vice President at NBCUniversal and Chief Marketing officer for Univision Communications, Inc. Her unique can-do attitude was also essential to successfully unifying and transforming both Univision and NBC Universal during periods of rapid transformation. Before that, she founded a strategy firm, consulting for such clients as Deutsche Bank, Bacardi and Time-Warner. She also worked at Turner Broadcasting, MacMillan Publishing, and was a lead team member for the launch of CitySearch, a pioneering early internet start-up. Maryam began her career in account management at Young & Rubicam. Her unorthodox career path also includes a variety of other jobs, including investment banker, production assistant and intern in the British Parliament. Recently, she joined Columbia University as an Executive in Residence in their Strategic Communication program. Defined as a "high-level practicing professional affiliated with New York City’s top marketing, advertising, public relations firms, and nonprofit organizations," this role will call on her experience and proven success as she advises those seeking advancement in the field.

A child of revolution, Banikarim and her family fled Iran in 1979, moving first to Paris and then to California. After graduating from Columbia University’s Barnard College, where she was their first-ever Truman Scholar, Maryam moved to Buenos Aires to work on her Spanish, become a journalist and learn to tango. Upon acceptance to Columbia Business School, Maryam returned to New York to apply her infectious energy and drive to bringing a voice and purpose to great brands. She was honored with the 2019 Columbia Alumni medal, the highest honor given by the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA), in recognition of 10 or more years of distinguished service to the University. 

She has been widely recognized for her achievements from The New York Post’s “50 Most Powerful Women in NYC,” to Fast Company’s “Top 10 Disrupters,” to Advertising Age’s “Women to Watch.” Additionally, Maryam is recognized as a Woman of Distinction by the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, was honored by the Girl Scouts Council of Greater New York and is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Maryam has also appeared on TV, done radio interviews and written for such publications as Fortune, Fast Company, AdAge, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. She is also known as a perceptive and insightful interviewer, leading conversations with business leaders such as Lisa Gersh (Goop), Bob Pittman (iHeart Media), and Emilio Estefan (multi-cultural marketing).

Warm, down-to-earth and personifying her motto of “you only live once so run at it hard and make a difference,” Banikarim is an engaging and highly knowledgeable presence on the speaking stage. Bringing contagious creativity and unwavering optimism about our abilities to make the impossible possible, Maryam Banikarim motivates organizations seeking change and gives them the confidence and tools to take action. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Interview with Forbes

Chaos & Curiosity

Make a Difference Day With Maryam Banikarim

You Have to Care About the Customer Experience

Communities Built on Connections

Speech Topics

Building an Organization Through the Lens of Purpose

It’s not about what you make. It’s what you stand for. Purpose-driven organizations define the deeper reasons for their organization’s existence to inspire stronger commitment from their employees and higher levels of loyalty and engagement from their customers. They also achieve extraordinary business results, outperforming the general market by 15:1. In this transformational presentation, Maryam Banikarim shows you how to define your purpose, create a case for change, rally the troops internally and share it with the world. Sharing case studies from Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, Gannett and others, she provides actionable steps for building an organization through the lens of purpose. Bringing contagious passion and memorable success stories Maryam makes the case for becoming purpose-driven—energizing leaders and employees alike.

The Purpose-Driven Brand Playbook

Drawing upon her experiences as Global CMO at Hyatt and CMO at Gannett and Univision, Maryam Banikarim builds upon her signature presentation on purpose-driven organizations to specifically focus on purpose-driven marketing. Sharing examples from brands such as Southwest, Starbucks and BMW as well as her own breakthrough work at Univision, NBCUniveral, Gannett and Hyatt, she examines what works, what doesn’t, and the importance of making purpose the foundation of your external brand identity. From developing a purpose statement to leveraging consumer insights to develop effective—and most importantly, authentic—external messaging. This energizing and inspiring presentation provides audiences with an invaluable purpose-driven playbook that can be applied to any brand in any industry.

Creating Irrational Brand Loyalty

Apple. Mini Cooper. Starbucks. Harley Davidson. Dove. These are the brands that consumers covet. They have reached the pinnacle of branding by achieving the “irrational loyalty” of their customers, which Maryam describes as “consumer behavior that is decidedly crazy”. How did they foster a love, passion and preference for their brands that defies mere logic? Which strategies and practices can any organization put in place? Marketing maven Maryam Banikarim explains how truly great brands create experiences that foster strong relationships—and drive results.

"Carpe Tomorrow" & Other Leadership Lessons from Silicon Alley

Back in ‘90s New York, when Mark Zuckerberg was still in middle school and having an email address meant that you were a dork, a group of pioneering tech entrepreneurs in “Silicon Alley” were busy changing the world. Maryam Banikarim was part of this group, launching the first generation of web-based media companies. It was then she learned to peer over the horizon and chart a course to the future—empowering her own future success as a global CMO and purpose-driven change agent. In this inspiring presentation, she shares the seven secrets to success in an ever-changing business world—from embracing risk to never leaving the learning curve. Filled with wisdom from the entrepreneurs and thought leaders she admires, Banikarim provides a blueprint for innovation and transformation that will have you seizing the day, your potential, and the future.

In The News


You don’t have to be the top boss to be a purpose champion

Connect with Maryam Banikarim