- Barbara Messing, the CMO of Roblox, joined the company in September 2020.
- Messing told Insider the organization enjoys partnerships with technology and product teams.
- Roblox upped brand partnerships, including one with Lil Nas X, to create immersive experiences.
- This article is part of the Innovation C-Suite series about business growth and technology shifts.
When Barbara Messing joined Roblox, a global online gaming platform and creation system, as its chief marketing and people’s experience officer in September 2020, the company’s virtual, immersive, 3D “metaverse,” which launched in 2006, was already having a massive pandemic-era moment. The number of average daily users on the platform surged during COVID-19 shutdowns to 42.1 million in the quarter ending March 31, 2021, right after the company went public in a March IPO.
“Roblox was one of the places that really brought community, connection, and joy to people during the pandemic,” she told Insider, adding that before she joined the company, she saw both of her children connecting with friends on Roblox “as their creative outlet, playground, and social connection.”
Messing said she has always been attracted to brands with big ambitions and an eye toward driving scale. Previously, she served as SVP and CMO at Walmart, which was in the midst of a digital transformation, and before that, she spent seven years as CMO at TripAdvisor, which revolutionized how people planned and booked travel online.
“I think about brands as mission-driven,” she said. “The nice thing about technology such as Roblox is you can drive so much scale just by the very nature of being a platform.”
Creating partnerships to advance technology innovation
Partnerships are an essential part of Roblox’s efforts to take its creative technology innovation to the next level, Messing said. That includes close alignment between teams and C-suite leaders, brand partnerships, and deep connections with third-party developers.
“There is a really strong partnership between the marketing, engineering, and product teams at Roblox – it’s probably the most collaborative culture I’ve ever experienced,” she said, pointing out that the marketing organization needs to be able to deeply understand the underlying technology that helps Roblox function.
“We run over 50 small teams responsible for working on our strategic priorities within the Roblox operating system, but while they work independently, we do monthly reviews to go over technical challenges and get feedback,” she said. “It’s actually been a nice place for me to learn quickly because I can see the breadth and depth of what Roblox offers across different areas.”
Brand partnerships have also become a crucial way for Roblox to stretch its innovation muscles and bring people together in new ways. For example, a May partnership with Gucci brought to virtual life a version of the fashion house’s multimedia exhibition in Florence, Italy, called Gucci Garden Archetypes. The Roblox experience included themed rooms, avatar transformations, and limited-edition virtual merchandise.
“That really pushed the platform and let us show the opportunities and the expansiveness of what brands could do on Roblox,” Messing said. “I am truly blown away by the creativity of our developers and I felt a sense of wonder as a consumer.” Messing’s team also recently launched an immersive experience tied to the film “In the Heights,” and last year over 30 million users attended a Lil Nas X concert in the Roblox metaverse.
Working with creators and developers to drive continued success
Roblox also partners closely with its community of creators and developers, which Messing said is key to driving the platform’s ongoing innovation and success. The company’s annual Roblox Developer Conference is a special invite-only event for artists, game developers, designers, storytellers, and coders from the Roblox community, while Messing explained that an accelerator program helps support and develop the next generation of Roblox creators and developers.
“In general, nearly everything on the Roblox platform is user-generated, so we have a massive engineering team and product team whose sole focus is to build the tools and requirements that developers need to realize all their creative dreams as they build on Roblox,” she said.
Nowadays, Messing, who worked remotely at first, enjoys driving to the company’s San Mateo, California, offices and meeting with teams to partner in person. But she explained that a virtual version of Roblox headquarters in the metaverse also made her feel connected over the past months. “We had a holiday party on the platform, and it’s really quite amazing because it looks exactly the same in real life,” she said. “When I finally drove to San Mateo and saw the fountain, the door, and the entrance, I was laughing because I had been there virtually so many times.”