As my cab pulled away from The Plaza Hotel this past Friday afternoon, I was nothing if not inspired. In short, the aptly named convention of nearly 200 of the nation’s top chief marketing officers was a jam-packed 20 hours of innovative idea exchange. On top of that, brief breaks in the agenda allowed for entertainment provided by some of the most talented performers in the country.
As The CMO Club’s communications partner, my specific role at the summit focused on serving as one of the summit’s official VIP bloggers: grand company to say the least considering the fact that Drew Neisser, Raegen Hill, Lynn McDonald, Kimberly Person and Margaret Molloy were my cohorts!
Within this blog I’ll recap what struck me most about Day 1 of this year’s summit. Thanks for reading my take and make sure to search #CMOClub on Twitter if you’d like a play-by-play account from the VIP blogging team and other contributors. We have also posted official photos from both days here!
It’s impossible to sit still when the day begins with an inspirational wake up call from a UN humanitarian award winner, includes a she-bopping performance by the one and only Cyndi Lauper, and concludes with an equally entertaining all-CMO fashion show.
Indeed, Day 1 of the CMO Summit rocked from the moment the CMO Club Founder Pete Krainik and Terri Funk Graham, Chairman, Chapter Presidents Circle, handed the microphone over to Amir Dossal, Founder and Chairman, Global Partnerships. At that moment, Dossal took the entire audience through an unforgettable tale of how the UN Foundation was initially created by shrewd negotiations led by Ted Turner and Kofi Annan, followed by a passionate discussion of how key partnerships with companies (like the ones the CMOS present help lead) are to global issue solving.
After the keynote, attendees left the Terrace Room and broke into smaller roundtable groups for more intimate discussions focused on “tackling Big CMO Challenges.” During that time, I attended both the New Approaches to B2B Marketing roundtable and the Customer Passion for Fashion breakouts. I was far from disappointed.
Vickki Dunn of GE Oil and Gas and Karen Sage of CA co-led the B2B Marketing roundtable. And, despite the fact that their supporting slide deck never loaded, the two facilitated a discussion and Q&A session that really only ended because we were all set to attend the subsequent roundtable. During the session, Dunn and Sage worked us through an amazing inventory of pertinent business challenges and opportunities, and provided us with sage advice that will now live forever in the Twittersphere; “If you are down to the competitive feature/function argument, you've lost!,” “Using data to challenge a competitor is called FACT. Your competitor challenging you with the same is FUD!” There was also great discussion around Big Data and data in general. What do CMOs want to know about Big Data? Well, pretty much everything, but there was specific interest in better understanding what is beyond the numbers. In nearly all cases, CMOs have been dissatisfied by the reality versus the promise of Big Data.
Karen Gilberson of the Accessories Council, Jonno Stenning of Jack Wills, Lynette Brubaker of Lividini & Co. and Robin Ettinger of Safilo were up next to speak to us about Fashion Brand’s relationship to customers in what is now a very social and measurable world. This session was certainly one of the most informative and easy to understand because of the prominence of the brands discussed in our every day lives. And, to give credit where due, Brubaker’s big thinking and unbelievable eloquence as a speaker as she addressed everything from the rebirth of ‘Lord & Taylor’ to the permanence and loyalty of Godiva devotees was impressive. It was hard not to be enchanted by British based brand Jack Will’s sheer cool factor too. It reminded me of my days supporting the Tiffany and Co. account at McCann in the sense that I couldn’t imagine Jack Wills having a more on-brand ambassador than Stenning. This particular panel stood out from some of the other breakouts because nearly every visual spoke to an amazing brand experience. To me, it was more Pinterest versus the Disinterest of a standard PowerPoint.
As we returned to the main stage, we were treated to a performance by singer/songwriter Jana Kramer, best known for the songs she had featured on CW’s “One Tree Hill,” where she played firecracker actress Alex Dupre.
Following lunch, SAP CMO Jonathan Becher, aka ‘The Social CMO,’ took the stage, and, as Margaret Molloy tweeted, “crushed it.” He wove us through his visionary ideas on the Future of Marketing in a confident yet understated way fit for a guy that graduated from a high school with only 13 in his senior class. Becher offered so much insight and so many strong points it’s hard to highlight just one. These were among my favorite:
1. Ego-based KPIs kill business. So what if you have 16 million people to do something if it’s irrelevant or you don’t know who those 16 million people are?
2. At SAP, I constantly warn the team to speak the customer language versus our own. No one speaks SAP-anese!
3. In today’s world, things must happen in seconds to avoid lost opportunity. Oreo on Twitter during the Super Bowl black out is case in point.
Becher also admitted to thinking in “mobile,” indicating it was impossible for him not to when there are now more mobile devices than toothbrushes in the world. For Becher, he believes in the notion that information in a mobile world is the new oil, and he concluded with some very encouraging words: “Truly embracing innovation is about dreaming. We can’t keep believing that what got us here will get us out because it won’t.”
By the time Becher was finished, I found myself hooked on the future discussion and headed into the Digital Marketing – What’s Next roundtable led by Accenture’s Katrina Klier and Wedding Wire’s Sonny Ganguly. The big topics of the session were social and mobile and how to manage the content experience in a multi-screen world. It was during this session that I heard my favorite quote of the day. Said Klier, “A CMO not doing social is like me saying I am going to be the next Wal-Mart but not do retail!”
The last half of the day included more incredible discussions, including Spencer Stuart’s Tom Seclow sharing the results of research from What CEOS Really Care About from CMOs. This revealed a somewhat relieving factoid that the notoriously short tenure of the modern CMO recently doubled. The funny thing is that many of the CMOs in the room actually see themselves as important change agents and reveal a braveness that I wouldn’t have anticipated. One such CMO, who shall remain nameless, admitted to me that she feels she is often on the cliff of the organization, pushing for what is right and necessary even when pushed by others to quantify the unquantifiable. What struck me was she was proud versus scared of potential displacement. She simply said, I” will always have another job. I care about this one and since no one else will do it and institutions can often get clunky, it’s my job.”
The courage surrounding these CMOs was apparent again when Diageo’s Michelle Klein, Georgia-Pacific’s Douwe Bergsma, Alpagarta’s Carlos Zepeda and Gannett Corp’s Maryam Banikarim took the stage to address what the New Breed of CMOs Know that Others Don’t. Banikarim was particularly honest and benevolent in her sharing of both successes and failures, admitting that her first rodeo as a CMO really helped her to tackle the opportunities and challenges of the second.
Cinderella-- yes-- Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, aka Laura Osnes, was next to perform, belting out the theme song for the new Broadway production she is leading. It was magical and something that I am not sure my five year old will forgive me for listening to at Eloise’s favorite hotel without her!
Sweet Cinderella was followed by the spicy duo of Can’t Buy Me Like co-authors Bob Garfield and Doug Levy. In working us through the premise of their book, which included several billion dollar fiascos across major brands led by CMOs not dissimilar from those in the room, I could image some in the audience might be concerned. However, I was once again impressed that everyone seemed to be listening carefully and even laughing since Garfield and Levy played off each other with great humor. One particular highlight was when they worked on the infamous case of United Breaks Guitars, which now lives on in the YouTube hall of shame fame status.
It was then time for Dr. Marisa Weiss, Founder of Breastcancer.org, who focused on CMO Health and Making a Difference. Since everyone is affected by breast cancer and the CMO position represents more women that other executive functions, it was a well integrated and inspiring talk.
As Weiss ended her discussion, it was time to eat, drink and party. To say that the evening’s entertainment rocked is an understatement. Ozone Park’s Cyndi Lauper had the room bopping like a crowded high school cafeteria or college dorm room, which is where many in the room probably first heard of Cyndi. After belting out “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “True Colors” and more, Cyndi looked at the admiring crowd and in her thick Queens’s accent said, “I gotta go now. Thank you. I’m doing Leno tomorrow night, ya know!”
The final entrants of the night were the CMOs themselves. The group of CMOs plus one guest dog dressed up with the help of the Accessories Council and modeled some of the most amazing ensembles I’ve seen in a while. The photos tell it far better than I ever could. Enjoy!