Writer / Kara Reibel
Photography / Kara Reibel and Provided
Few people are as indelible as Doug Karr. His personality is larger than life with a heart to match. He’s charismatic, intelligent and in high demand. LinkedIn ranked Doug as one of the Top 25 Marketers on the planet. Yet, many that know Doug may be pleasantly surprised that he served six years in the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
His first position out of the Navy was an industrial electrician at The Virginian Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia. After a decade spent in Norfolk and years of being near the sea, Doug and his family moved to Denver. There, he worked for an elite database marketing firm that worked with newspapers. This venture was hit hard by the boom and subsequent bust of the Internet, and funding ran dry. The Karr family moved to the Midwest where Doug worked with The Indianapolis Star as their database marketing manager.
It’s no secret that The Star was slow to go online, succumbing to the inevitable. It was two and a half frustrating years for Doug who tirelessly encouraged his team to heed the Internet warning of the future. He was eventually let go. This pivot served as a springboard for Doug who consulted for many organizations, including the Colts whom he introduced to ExactTarget.
Having the gift of foresight, Doug identified the challenges on the horizon facing the marketing industry. “Given SEO (Search Engine Optimization), content, branding and email, marketers didn’t know where to spend their money or time,” says Doug. “So I started a cross-channel agency. I surrounded myself with experts in specific fields, and while consulting with a company, could fill their gaps.”
It worked. Seven years later, Doug is one of the best known and loved people on the marketing scene in Indiana and beyond.
“Doug Karr is an online marketing rock star. Beyond being named as one of the top 25 SEO minds on the planet, Doug’s breadth of online marketing knowledge covers multiple channels including technology, content, search, social and so much more. He’s the first person I call when I need an online marketing ninja. He truly is a joy to work with,” shares Shawn Schwegmann, Co-Founder and CSO of DemandJump.
Katie Karr, Doug’s daughter, works with her dad interning with his company while she completes her degree in public relations at IUPUI. Katie acknowledges her father’s passion for family and his creative genius with marketing, including his support for fellow veterans.
“As a 22-year-old woman trying to find her place in the world, I couldn’t ask for a better parent, friend and mentor. Growing up, my father always told my brother and me that ‘you can be anything you want to be in life.’ I always teased him about his geeky career, but here I am following in his footsteps as a marketing intern at his agency. I couldn’t be more proud,” shares Katie.
Even though he never graduated from college, Doug values higher education. After studying seven years at night school, he left to focus on his kids. His son, Bill, is working on his Ph.D. in math at the University of Illinois. Family means the world to Doug. Growing up, he lived all over the country due to his father spending his career in the U.S. Navy. William D. Karr ETC (SS) served on the USS Halibut, the second nuclear submarine added to the U.S. fleet during the Cuban missile crisis and Cold War.
“My dad always had the best stories from his Navy days. I have a photo of my dad in his dungarees with two black eyes, and he told me, ‘I don’t know what happened, but it must have been a great night,’” shares Doug, whose experiences were not exactly like his father’s. “This was the impetus for creating NavyVets.com, a place to share stories for Naval veterans.”
Doug’s father passed away two years ago from AML Leukemia. Fortunately, his parents lived in Florida at the time, and Doug was able to spend the last few weeks with his father before he passed. “We were just together, not really saying much for most of the visit. One day, my dad was in the pool and I was on a deck chair, and I asked him if he had any regrets,” shares Doug.
His father replied, “You know, Doug, I have this beautiful home. I have enough money to do anything I want, and now I don’t have time.”
Doug says, “My dad lived an amazing life and prepared for retirement, yet there was still more he wished to do. He passed shortly thereafter.”
Over 10,000 Navy Veterans are members of NavyVets.com. Doug says that there are too many amazing stories of people reconnecting on his site. He has hopes of turning it into a vehicle for good – he wishes to establish a veterans foundation, add a Board of Directors and do more.