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Digital Transformation Brand Brand Strategy

The CMO’s remit is expanding dramatically, say top brand marketers at Possible Miami


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

April 18, 2024 | 7 min read

The division between brand and performance marketing is dead. Just ask the chief marketers of the world’s biggest brands.

Possible Miami conference outdoors

CMOs at Possible Miami urge marketers to connect the dots between brand and performance marketing / Kendra Barnett

This week, marketing, media and adtech experts descended on Miami Beach for the second annual Possible conference – an event that gained buzz after Elon Musk keynoted last year.

On the ground, The Drum spoke with some of the industry’s leading brand marketers about how the role of the CMO is transforming in light of growing economic pressures and rapid technological change.

Among the most resounding themes was the idea that marketers of today are required to be more than creative thinkers – they’re required to be technologists and futurists.

“When I started at Pepsi … we would just go make these amazing, breakthrough ads that would run at the Super Bowl and, like, life was great,” Pat O’Toole, Burger King’s chief marketer tells The Drum. “It’s not that simple anymore.”

Some of the top executives at Restaurant Brands International, Burger King’s parent company – including president Tom Curtis and executive chairman Patrick Doyle – came from Domino’s, where they led a massive undertaking in 2008 to resuscitate a floundering brand and expand the pizza chain’s market share. Their approach centered primarily around top-of-funnel brand campaigns run on linear TV.

“That playbook,” O’Toole says, “can’t work today.” A player like Burger King, he explains, needs to triage across a barrage of channels and meet various audiences on the platforms on which they’re most engaged.

For marketers, he says, it’s a tall order. “The role of the CMO is … almost like a technologist. You need to stay on top of all the trends and technology.”

An attendant shift in the CMO’s job description is the shortening gap between what were once two distinct practices: brand marketing and performance marketing.

“In the past, you might have found CMOs who were more brand-oriented or more performance-oriented,” says Laura Jones, chief marketer at Instacart. “Now, we’re finding that every CMO has to be able to do both.”

Jones herself has a largely brand-focused background. Before joining Instacart, she served as global head of marketing for Uber’s Rides business. Prior to that, she worked on Google’s brand. Upon joining Instacart, however – which in recent years has made waves with big, bold, celebrity-studded brand campaigns, like its 2022 bubble-bathing Lizzo spot – Jones made it a priority to more actively connect the dots between brand and performance marketing efforts.

“Brand is really a multiplier on performance,” she says. Its this ethos that guides Instacart’s overarching marketing strategy. Even the organization’s brand-focused initiatives, Jones says, are measured against performance markers. “If we have an incredible brand and people love us, then we can bring new customers into the funnel, we can convert them better and we can retain them better. We have to be incredible storytellers and understand how to build a great brand, and also be able to hit all those metrics that we have to hit to really have accountability to the CFO [and shareholders].”

Jones isn’t alone in her thinking. LG Ads’ chief marketing officer Tony Marlow echoes the value of marrying brand and performance marketing efforts. “B2C marketers – especially leveraging CTV – are now able to be what I call ‘performance storytellers,’” he says. “It used to be that you were a brand marketer – maybe you were in consumer packaged goods and it was all about driving awareness – or you were a performance marketer – maybe you’re in finance, so you’re trying to get a credit card sale or an online conversion for travel. You used to have to be one or the other. Now, there’s an opportunity – both because of the period we’re in but also the media that’s available – to drive a brand impact … as well as to have performance outcomes.”

As an example of ‘performance storytelling’ in action, Marlow points to interactive CTV ads for Barbie – the Warner Bros. film about the iconic Mattel doll that took the world by storm last summer. A series of spots run on LG TVs advertised the cotton candy-colored flick while presenting viewers with a QR code that allowed them to seamlessly buy tickets to see the movie in local theaters. “In the past, you just couldn't do it that way,” Marlow says. “You had to have different lanes.”

And at some brands, the blurring lines between brand-building and bottom-line-driving are even giving way to new positions.

Heidi Andersen joined Nextdoor, the neighborhood-focused social platform, as the company’s chief revenue officer in 2020. She came from LinkedIn, where she served as vice-president of global sales. But as Nextdoor consolidated the B2B marketing division under Andersen, it began to identify greater opportunities for linking revenue with traditional marketing operations.

“We had the hypothesis that if you run all things through the market, you’re going to be able to find more leverage, you’re going to be able to put the customer more front-and-center and you’re going to be able to move faster,” Andersen says.

When the organization saw their predictions coming true, it made a major decision: it expanded Andersen’s remit, naming her chief revenue officer and chief marketing officer.

The decision, in Andersen’s telling, has been a boon for the business. “We’re able to move a lot faster. We’re more nimble, because we don't have two different organizations to run [every initiative] through. It allows us to integrate technologies and programs much more smoothly into the organization. It also creates better career paths and opportunities for employees.”

Regardless of her own future at the company, she says she would advise Nextdoor to maintain a joint CMO-CRO role.

Ultimately, the new shape of her role, Andersen says, evidences the growing demands on marketing to integrate science and math with creativity. In many ways, it’s the same idea voiced by Burger King’s O’Toole, Instacart’s Jones and LG Ads’ Marlow.

“The CMO role has become this combination of left brain and right brain,” she says. “There's a lot of benefit of having come from the business side, where you’re always focused on the numbers, accountability, creating targets … and being comfortable being held to those [targets]. Bringing some of that discipline into the marketing world has been really healthy for us. But at the same time, the revenue side of thinking – the left brain – can be reminded of the power and art of creativity, and injecting the human in the core of how you think about delivering value.”

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