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Published December 5th 2016

Josh Steimle: The 10 Things Top CMOs Taught me About the Future of Marketing

Josh Steimle, CEO of MWI, has conducted in-depth interviews with 29 top CMOs. In this article he shares some of the best advice he's been given

unnamed-1When plotting your way towards marketing greatness, the best way to get there is to emulate the techniques from the best of the best.

So when I conducted in-depth interviews with 29 top CMOs for my new book Chief Marketing Officers at Work, I had the chance to meet with some of the brightest marketing minds in the business and learn the strategies that they use. 

Ranging from how to deal with ad blockers and Millennials to how to approach data-driven marketing, these are the 10 key takeaways that I found to be the most useful and profound.  

1. Louis Gagnon, CEO at Ride

New CMOs should check brand theory at the door

louis-gagnon“Today, no one is interested in adding a CMO who talks the brand lingo around the fact that brand is at the center of everything and wants to define what everything is and roll it out across all touchpoints. It’s a mechanistic model that does not correspond to today’s reality in which everything is organic and dynamic.

At the end of the day, the business is about the customer. You as the CMO are their constituent on the C-suite that is heavily invested in understanding the customer and making sure we’re going to deliver the optimal value for that customer. So, you need to be fluent in finance, you need to understand human economics, you need to understand product, you need to understand test and automation.”

2. Brian Beitler, EVP and CMO at Lane Bryant 

Stay true to your brand’s core values

brian-beitler“Some of the best brands on the globe have remained true to their core principles and values even as the world has changed around them. Brands like Apple and Nike have had positions for a long time and have not changed those positions as the consumer has changed but maybe changed their approach on how they convey those core principles and their core values.
As you try and embrace social media, sometimes, you fail to anticipate the response in an environment that’s not as controlled. Brands and marketers are so used to working in an environment where they control the creative, they control the message, they develop it, they communicate it, they outline it, and then they project it where and how they want. Sometimes you want the social space to behave with those same rules, and it doesn’t.”

3. Linda Boff, CMO at GE

Customers want personalized and speedy experiences

linda-boff“In a world that is increasingly on-demand and real time, our customers are just people. They’re human beings. The good experience they’re having on Uber, Amazon, or Airbnb is on-demand, customized, and fast. Increasingly, customers are expecting that from whoever they do business with. For all of us, speed is the new intellectual property. We need to be fast. We need to be transparent. 

For sure, we see it in customer experience, and that’s laced in digital. Digital has enabled all the things we’re talking about. It’s enabled speed. It’s enabled transparency. We as marketers have to be really facile when it comes to digital tools.”

4. Matt Price, Senior VP of Global Marketing at Zendesk

Localize your message to suit consumer behavior


“Localization can be a number of things. Most people think it’s translation, but actually, localization is how you adjust your messaging in order to suit a particular market. For example, in SAS, security is super important, and data privacy is more important in some countries than others. Maybe you need to adjust your messaging around that.

It’s about understanding how your product fits within a different buyer community. For example, in China, there’s no point in trying to sell somebody an email management product if most of their interaction is being done through messaging.”

5. Michael Mendenhall, CMO and Chief Communications Officer at Flex

Create a purposeful company culture

michael-mendenhall“In keeping the talent, it’s about the culture of the company. A lot of people always go to compensation, but it’s not necessarily about that. I think it’s about the mission, the vision of your company. What are you doing? More and more, it’s “Why?” Why are you doing this, and what are you doing as a global citizen? Can I feel good about working there? An important piece is leadership. Am I going to learn? Am I going to mentor? Am I going to feel a part of a community at work? All of those cultural and leadership things become important. 

You better know why you’re doing what you’re doing. You better understand socially what you’re doing as a company, the impact you’re having on the world, certainly in today’s climate. How people are going to learn and be mentored and led becomes important.”

6. Heather Zynczak, CMO at Pluralsight

Use data to develop customer retention strategy

heather-zynczak“We use data and map the customer journey to see everything – from a welcome kit and an onboarding campaign via email and in the product, to regular communications through the product, through email, to physical in-person events that we host to identify different users of our product.
We look at data. We look at who’s using the product. How often are they in it? What are they consuming? We also look at where we’re having upsells. Where are they referring it to other people? Where are they encouraging other people to use the product? Where do we have retention? How are our retention numbers, and how can we impact them? We try to customize content and outreach and communication programs based on that data.”

7. Tom Buday, Global Head of Marketing and Consumer Communication at Nestle

Create ads that are as attractive as unsponsored content

tom-buday“One of the bigger challenges is consumers having more control at their fingertips and proactively exercising control of their advertising consumption experience. The latest threat at some level to the industry is ad-blocking technology, technology in web browsers, applications, or wherever that consumers can use to block out the majority of ads they see. 

A big challenge for us as an industry to discourage consumers from resorting to ad blocking is making sure that we deliver attractive and rewarding content experiences. We need our advertising to be as delightful as the content they normally wish to consume. It’s a major challenge to do that and at the same time sell more cat food, coffee, or whatever”.

8. Seth Farbman, CMO at Spotify 

Use data to map mobile behavioral patterns

seth-farbman“I was fascinated by the discovery that there was an incredible amount of usage of certain kinds of music late at night. We looked at it, and we saw the patterns, and we recognized that these long listening sessions late at night were people falling asleep and sleeping to music. That’s an example of how looking at data gives you an insight that allows you to develop around it and create a connection you might not have already had.
For me, what’s so amazing is that our level of data gives us narratives. It gives us stories. As a marketer, you’re constantly looking for real-life demonstrations of why your product matters. And we mine social media for that. Sometimes, people make up the stories. But here we have the incredible ability to identify the role that it has in people’s lives and how it can improve.”

9. Walter Levitt, CMO at Comedy Central

To understand the Millennial, you have to harness the sharing economy

walter-levitt“One of our big strategies in all of our marketing is how we give Millennials stuff they can share that allows them to make a statement about their own comedic taste, and from our perspective allows them to spread our brand to their fan base. That’s a relatively new idea in the last decade or so.
In the last four or five years, the impact of sharing has been absolutely phenomenal for entertainment brands and all brands in general. That’s driven by the Millennial sensibility. They’ve grown up in social media. It’s always been there for them and sharing has always been part of what they do. They don’t think twice about it. It should be interesting to see how they shape the way brands communicate over the next decade.”

10. David Doctorow, Head of Global Growth at eBay

Save a declining brand by repositioning brand story 

david-doctorow“It’s critical that the story and the brand proposition continue to evolve. That’s because we’re in a very competitive marketplace, and we always have to be able to convey a clear reason or reasons why customers should come to us. At Expedia, our story is really about listening to customers.
For us, that was about personalization. The tagline, ‘Find Yours,’ was the theme of our brand campaign.

That helped us stand out from others in the marketplace who were emphasizing different attributes. The other theme was getting in place technology and data that would allow us to continuously learn and improve. It was through these listening systems in all that we do, whether it be our product, our marketing, even the customer experience while people travel.”


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