Five Timely Insights For CMOs From CMOs

As a “VIP Blogger” at the recent CMO Club Innovation and Inspiration Summit, I had the pleasure of witnessing more than a dozen panels and presentations from over forty CMOs.  Like the proverbial April showers, it was a bit tough to absorb this deluge of data at the time, but now with May approaching these five timely insights for CMOs from CMOs spring to mind.

1. Great marketing can’t overcome a bad customer experience

Today's CMOs are expected to have near-superpowers as data analysts, brand builders, ROI reapers and even social savants.  But one thing these CMOs can’t overcome is the product or service itself. As Frances Allen, CMO of Denny's Corp, explained: “The actual experience in restaurant outweighs anything we can do in marketing.” Consequently, after repositioning Denny’s as “America’s Diner,” Allen worked with her counterparts to “retrain staff to make the [restaurant] experience better” before launching a new campaign.



2. There is no one-size-fits-all loyalty program

Customer loyalty programs are hardly a new idea, but what does seem to be new is the eagerness of CMOs to find a program that works for their brand in particular. Ashley Sheetz, CMO of GameStop, helped build the highly sophisticated, data-driven PowerUp Rewards program that now has 20 million paying members (a $14.99/year membership) who account for a whopping 75% of sales! Lauri Kien Kotcher, CMO of Godiva, described a less robust email-driven loyalty program that nonetheless has helped increase monthly store visits with the simple promise of a free piece of chocolate. 

3. CMOs also need to manage up -- way up

Paula Puleo, CMO of Michaels, advised her fellow CMOs to really get to know why each board member is there and to figure out what is important to them. Because “everyone is a marketer” and “everyone wants to be useful,” a CMO who is unprepared for all this enthusiasm is particularly vulnerable, cautioned Puleo. Andrew Wittman, CMO of CA Technologies, echoed this sentiment, describing the importance of extensive preparation prior to board-level interactions. While the to-do list of CMOs has never been short on priorities, building strong relationships with their board of directors seems to be gaining importance.

4. Honesty really is the best policy

Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, SVP, Consumer Marketing & Engagement, American Express OPEN, made a compelling case to her fellow marketers for conducting customer engagement with a new sense of honesty. Fitzmaurice Reilly explained how AmEx stumbled a bit during the recession when they cut credit lines and thus angered some of their most loyal small business customers. “It was important for us to say we’re sorry,” she explained, adding: "We created a customer advisory council to look at complaints after that."  

5. B2B brands should act more like B2C brands

“Buildings don’t buy products -- people do,” explained Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP, as he made the strong case for all marketers -- not just the B2C variety -- to focus on engaging in real conversations on topics of interest to individuals. For Becher, acting more like a B2C brand also means simplifying marketing, humanizing the brand and developing measurable communications -- all of which he has done to great effect during his tenure at SAP. “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” Becher proclaimed, as he encouraged his fellow CMOs to act more like leaders of customer-centric startup than a typically cautious F1000 executive. 

In between all the CMO presentations, Thomas Seclow, a consultant at executive search firm Spencer Stuart, informed the audience that CEOs are looking for CMOs who are brilliant with data and brand building, describing such candidates as “superheroes.” With these kinds of demands upon them, gatherings like the Summit are invaluable for helping CMOs invigorate their “capes."


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