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How America’s top marketers are leading business transformation


By Adam Cohen-Aslatei, Senior director of marketing

November 18, 2017 | 11 min read

The business challenges that marketers face today are immense. Technology has, in a very short amount of time, democratized marketing. A company’s ethos, identity, and story is no longer created in a backroom of a corporate office or in a tower on Madison Avenue.

Today, customers help shape brand messaging, product development, and organizational culture. For companies to succeed in today’s climate, they must cede control to their customers and work with them to shape new business practices and corporate identities.

The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) established the Masters Circle, an elite program that brings together America’s top marketers, to tackle some of the toughest challenges faced in corporate America. Jun Group and the ANA collaborated to produce a fireside chat series highlighting the challenges and opportunities that marketers face and how leading organizations are adapting to a completely new business landscape.

Tony Rogers, chief marketing officer of Walmart on building an on-demand business:

“Whenever we talk to our customers, they tell us that they want to be able to shop whenever, wherever, and however they want. Convenience is really occasion-based, it turns out. Sometimes the most convenient thing is for a store to be open down the street for 24 hours, and sometimes the most convenient thing is for you to stay on your couch and have it delivered to your house in two days. No company has pulled all of that off, and we are trying to be the first company to do that.”

Sarah Personette vice president, global business marketing at Facebook on creating marketing structure for the future:

“Changing is extremely hard, especially when you are pitching something that is in the future and people can’t see today. And when you include things like process and structure and technology, none of that is sexy, but it is critically important to the future of being able to measure, optimize, and scale in real-time and be the most personalized marketing organization for our customers in the future."

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer of Mastercard on building new marketing technologies:

“We built an engine called ‘priceless engine,’ [which] is probably one of the most cutting-edge technologies available. It’s an integration of multiple technologies where we read social signals in real time and identify and predict what is going to be a ‘micro trend.’ A 'micro trend’ is something that lasts for three days or less. In each ‘micro trend,’ we try to detect if there is a commercializable opportunity.”

Amy Pascal, vice president of marketing at Lego on developing new marketing skills:

“It was very important to make up for lost time and hire digital specialists embedded into the business in the areas of social and digital analytics. It was also important to develop a digital curriculum, a marketing curriculum that we [could use to train] our more classically-trained marketers. I am a believer in the learn-by-doing way of working and integrating those digital specialists with classically-trained marketers and having them work together and on projects that are very different than anything they’ve done before….this is the path to success.”

Kellyn Kenny, vice president of marketing at Uber on developing a new type of best-in-class marketer:

“Technology marketers tend not to be as well-rounded as some of the CPG marketers that we’re used to thinking of as the best and the brightest. One of the advantages that I see in the marketing department that I am building is the analytical rigor that we are applying to the problems. We are driving a tremendous amount of growth for the company and, through that growth, we’ve been able to make it very clear to the company that we are a strategic lever that you can count on and pull when you need demand generation.”

Suzy Deering, chief marketing officer at Ebay on working with marketing vendors:

“Everybody has something to sell you, everybody has the best ‘fill in the blank’, and yet at the core of it all, everything can pretty much look the same. If you don’t come in and show your point of difference and what stands out—whatever that secret sauce may be - what are you going to be able to provide to us that is going to be uniquely different than the next person? Don’t sell me what you’re going to sell everyone’s got to be personalized, it's got to be very relevant to what business challenges I have.”

Paul Alexander, chief marketing officer at Eastern Bank on championing community concerns:

“This is a brand that is leading with social responsibility; it's our point of difference. For a bank that’s almost 200 years old, our whole purpose is about doing good—things to help people prosper...and we’re doing that across a variety of areas. There were three companies that did the lobbying for the transgender rights bill that passed in Massachusetts. One of them was Google, the second was Harvard Pilgrim, and the third was Eastern Bank.”

Kim Kitchings, senior vice president of consumer marketing at Cotton Incorporated on reaching customers on their terms:

“Our target is anyone and everyone, so our challenge is understanding who to market to and where to spend limited dollars. Boomers are important, Generation X is important, and so is [Generation] Z. Just last week I was on the road doing ethnographic research, trying to understand how to speak to all these generations, what’s important to them, how relevant do we make cotton [relevant]...How do we reach them? We have to go to them in their tone, not wait for them to come to us.”

Brian Beitler, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Lane Bryant on understanding social media:

It’s hard for brands because we want to manage the conversation like we did before, but it’s not that way anymore. Social media is not ruining our youth, it's not ruining the future, it’s enabling an entirely new way to engage and communicate. We just don’t understand it yet, so we assess it as bad...the same way our parents assessed rock and roll.”

Alex Ho, chief marketing officer of American Greetings on the type of marketing candidates we need:

“[I look for] a data-driven mindset as well as the ability to really influence. We’ve heard a lot of talk around soft skills. I think the hard skills are easier to train and learn sometime [but] the soft skills around being able to understand, educate, and influence are much harder to train for.”

Alicia Hatch, chief marketing officer of Deloitte Digital on the best way to grow and stay cutting edge:

“Nobody knows exactly where the world is going. It is unfolding before us every single day. So unless you are staying open, you are not actually moving towards the future, you are resisting it. So you have to be open to learning every single day, and experimentation is the fastest way to learn. Just dive in and try it. Millennials are best suited to that.”

Verchele Wiggins, vice president of campaign strategy and development at USAA on cross-training marketers:

“We have a lot of raw talent at USAA. We have a lot of people that come to the company in member services who are interacting day-to-day with our members. And we have a rotational program where we source people who have been on the phone with our members to come into marketing. They bring a unique insight about our members, their needs, their concerns, and we can teach them some of the functional pieces.”

David Roman, chief marketing officer of Lenovo on a new way of marketing for a new generation:

“Marketing has changed. Today it’s very different. Today we are out there working with our audiences, working with our users and engaging with them and inviting them in to help us develop our products, our brand, and our experiences.”

Denis Sison, head of marketing excellence at Johnson & Johnson on the relationship between IT and marketing:

“The relationship between IT and marketing is certainly much closer today than ever before. As marketers today, we have to be much more real time, precise, quick, social, and agile. Technology is a critical enabler of our ability to be able to do our jobs. Without that relationship and understanding of how the marketing technology stack can help us improve our ability to get returns on our investments, drive growth and demand for our brands, we won't be successful at all.”

Maryam Banikarim, chief marketing officer at Hyatt Hotels on consumer empowerment:

“Mobile is changing consumer expectations. Now we have a mobile device that allows you to sync with your TV so that you can watch what you would normally watch on your computer on your actual TV in the room. You can text to interact with a concierge or ask for things in your room. Sometimes people don’t want to talk to people these days. Other times they want to talk to everybody. You really have to be agnostic in that sense.”

Kieran Hannon, chief marketing officer of Belkin International on working with marketing partners:

“As a CMO, marketing is one of the many things I do. More importantly it's working with our partners because we’re all part of these great ecosystems. For instance, when Amazon launched Alexa on the Echo, Wemo [a Belkin product] was one of two reference brands that they had for that launch. So we worked very closely with Amazon ensuring that from a technology standpoint, a platform standpoint, and from a marketing standpoint that we were tightly integrated."

Roger Adams, senior vice president of USAA on diversity in the workforce:

“The focus on trying to bring diversity into the industry is so important, and if you don't get together with a group of your peers [the ANA Conference] you don’t really see how other people are doing it. If you look at America today and how diverse it is, it's really lacking as a marketing company if you don't have diversity built into how you go to market.”

Tony Wells, chief marketing officer at Schneider Electric on making marketing exciting to today’s youth:

“Making marketing a function that people are really attracted to and want to participate in is what I find exciting. For me, I like the idea of having a legacy around making marketing an important craft or trait. There’s also a need in our industry to make sure that we are addressing diversity and inclusion....because if people don't see folks that look like them, then their ability to dream and think that they can do it is compromised.”

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