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Redfin CMO Tom Vogl

Redfin spent more than a year trying to find the right person to lead the company’s marketing department. And the Seattle online real estate company believes that it has finally found its match in Tom Vogl, a former senior vice president of marketing at outdoor retailer REI.

Vogl spent six years at REI, overseeing a team of 160 people in the areas of advertising, web marketing and social media. Before REI, he worked for eight years at Dell where he earned the nickname “The Machine”

“It isn’t easy to find someone who is both a machine and a hippie, a believer and a beast,” writes CEO Glenn Kelman in a blog post. “The people who are the most driven are usually the ones driven by all the wrong things.”

Vogl is Redfin’s very first chief marketing officer. And while Kelman noted that it is a bit “hard to ask a total stranger to be the ambassador for Redfin’s brand,” he said that  Vogl is very much a good fit with Redfin’s unique culture.

“In Tom, we got someone who not only shares our values, but also has a history of taking scrappy up-and-comers to the big-time, often while running on a shoe-string budget,” said Kelman. “He’s a piranha with a heart.”

With the addition of Vogl, Kelman also noted that the company plans to start advertising more.

“Part of this is because of the expertise Tom brings, and part of this is because we’re finally growing up, with a service we think everyone should try. We need to tell the world about it,” said Kelman. “Mostly, we’ll do this without marketing — through our own website and mobile tools — so we can spend more of our money giving consumers the best tools and the most value and giving our agents great pay. But with the arrival of Tom and of another great marketer, Kuba Poraj-Kuczewski, we will also probably begin to advertise at larger scale, across the web and other media.”

That’s significant in part because of Kelman’s remarks last October in which he railed against media sites. “If Redfin has to pay a media site for traffic, we will not be able to make real estate better,” Kelman said at the time.

The hiring of Vogl also comes at a critical time since Redfin just last week cut the rebates that it offers to home buyers, a move that could make marketing the service that much tougher in a competitive market.

“Marketing at its best is every sensory organ for a business, its eyes, skin and ears, listening to customers and refining the entire Redfin experience – from the first website visit to the final closing — based on what we learn,” writes Kelman. “Not many people have the brainpower, the empathy, the moral authority or the belief to do that. Tom does.”

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