Archive for September, 2010

The Top Questions on the Minds of CMOs

I spoke on September 30 at the European Chief Marketing Officer Conference in Zurich, Switzerland, sponsored by Microsoft Advertising, Prophet and Heidrick & Struggles.

My main focus in my speech was on the content and research behind my upcoming book, “Grow:  How the World’s Best Businesses Use the Power of Ideals to Outshine the Competition.”   I always strive to make my presentations interactive, because dialogue and role playing is the way people think and learn.

For this conference, I worked with the organizing team to solicit via the web the “Top Questions” CMOs would like me to discuss and address during my presentation.   Here is a link to all the questions.    I decided to address the top three questions with the group in Zurich: Participants voted on the questions before the meeting so it was easy for me to see which ones were “the burning questions.”

The first question was posed by Julie from Hong Kong, and by far had the most votes:

“How do you balance centralized brand management with localization to meet the needs of customers in diverse global markets?”

A great question.   While the answer to this is highly dependent on the category, the brand history and situation, and company strategy, I did share a few principles with the group in Zurich:

— Look for opportunities to centralize more.  Most organizations do not like centralization, and miss many opportunities for learning and reapplication.  This takes leadership, which leads to the next principle.

— You need to be accountable for putting into place clarity in decision making, with clear roles and responsibilities.  Most leaders duck this, and put their organizations into tough, conflict-ridden situations.

— Centralization only works with leaders and teams that collaborate effectively and travel frequently to understand the markets.

Finally, I have found that most of the really great global brands tend to be more centralized. Think Red Bull, Ray-Ban, VISA, Louis Vuitton, Apple.

The second most popular question was asked by Denise from Paris:

“What is the biggest Marketing lesson I learned at P&G?”

Another great question, and an easier one to answer than the first!

This one is simple:  I learned that brands, businesses, with higher ideals than their competitors simply grow faster, and over a longer period of time.  This is the ultimate competitive advantage.  I’ll be even stronger:  I think it is the only way to run a successful business.  I feel so strongly about this that I am writing a book on it, and it is the basis of my course at UCLA Anderson.

The third highest scoring question came from Charles from Oxford:

“What are the most common mistakes CMOs are making?”

The good news is CMOs are making mistakes, I made my share and still thrived in the role. You are not pushing the boundaries, or aiming high enough, if you are not making mistakes.  It is part of the role, especially a CMO role.  The key is to learn from those missteps and get better.

The most common mistakes I see are:

— Defining the role of CMO too narrowly.  Too many see it as the “MarComm” job, the key advertising and media leader.  It needs to be much more than that.  It needs to be the role in a company that ensures the consumer/customer is first, it needs to drive the strategy and innovation agenda, it needs to provide the leadership for a creative and analytical organization, and it needs to be accountable for profitable growth.

— Aiming too low, working on the wrong things.  The CMO needs to inspire higher performance by focusing her or his organization on the higher ideals that drive the business.  The CMO needs to reveal and articulate how the business/brand will improve the customers’ lives, and build everything upon that.

— Not building capability.  Great CMOs build something that outlives them.  They work on the critical few capabilities the business needs to thrive in the future.  These are decisions that may not be immediately evident in the results, but will position the company for growth longer term.

Check out my interview at the 3rd European CMO Conference:

Categories: Business, Marketing, Speaking Events

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