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Drinking from The CMO Club Innovation and Inspiration Summit Fire Hose

As a so-called VIP Blogger at the recent CMO Club Summit, the pressure was on to drink from the fire hose of shared content and then spit it back out in some kind of cohesive fashion lickety-split. Fortunately for me, Lana McGilvray already provided a terrific overview of Day 1, leaving a bit more flexibility for this particular drinker to concoct a different kind of recap. With that in mind, I’m delighted to share three observations gleaned from three different sessions, each one designed to whet the appetite of any CMO thirsty for new ways to approach their jobs.


They’re Only Best Practices If They Work for Your Brand

Ashley Sheetz of GameStop and Lauri Kien Kotcher of Godiva presented two remarkably different approaches to customer loyalty programs. GameStop’s “PowerUp Rewards” program is highly sophisticated, delivering useful data right to the point of sale and all the way through their supply chain, improving the customer experience and driving sales volume. Oh, and by the way, customers pay to be in the program, so it is also self-funding!


Godiva’s approach is more low-tech, starting simply with a free piece of chocolate given to store visitors who register for the program. With 5 million members now enrolled, Kotcher hopes to make the program more data driven and more integrated across their organization, but that just wasn’t an option when she started out. The point here is that having a good customer loyalty program is better than having none, and had Kotcher waited to create a “perfect system” that applied every last “best practice,” she might never have gotten her store traffic-driving Rewards Club off the ground.


Don’t Get Board With Managing Up

Terri Funk Graham lead a main stage panel discussion in the morning with Paula Puleo of Michaels and Andrew Wittman of CA Technologies that focused on “Marketing as a Strategic Business Enabler.” While the discussion covered a wide range of topics including the importance of hiring and motivating great people, the one that took me by surprise was how much time these particular CMOs interact with and prepare for meetings with their boards of directors.


Puleo, who came from the agency side, advised her fellow CMOs to really get to know why each board member is there and 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. Wittman noted that CA’s board was squeaky clean after a financial impropriety had sent the former CEO to jail and that this fact provided clear and transparent guidance for his board-level interactions.


B2B Brands Need to Act More Like B2C Brands

Jonathan Becher of SAP provided a rousing post-lunch keynote entitled “The Future of Marketing,” during which he made the case that the differences between B2B and B2C marketing are “evaporating.” Based on his transformative efforts at SAP, it is easy to see why he believes this and why marketers on either side of the fence should take note. By getting the mindset inside of SAP to change, Becher has been able to move marketing from an order taker for sales to a genuine business driver.


For Becher, acting more like a B2C brand means simplifying marketing, humanizing the brand and developing measurable communications that pulls people into the conversation. On the simplification front, Becher went so far as to ban adjectives from internal documents and cut the number of external events from 3,500 to 1,200. Becher reminded his team that people buy their products, not big office buildings, and therefore his team needed to stop targeting companies and start engaging in real conversations on topics that individuals care about.


In the end, Becher advised all marketers to be smarter, faster and simpler, three characteristics not always associated with B2B brands. Being smarter, according to Becher, means realizing that “information is oil” and needs to flow throw an organization. Being faster is really a matter of survival given the real-time economy in which decisions need to be made in seconds or minutes, not hours or days. And being simpler is the recognition that less can be more, that optimization is your new friend and that it’s time to make a smaller number of bigger bets.


Final Note: Plunging back to my fire hose analogy, you shouldn’t be surprised that this post doesn’t even cover half of the enlightening deluge that was Day 1. So expect more posts shortly from me or my fellow VIP bloggers.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drew Neisser is CMHO (Chief Make it Happen Officer) of Renegade, the social media and content marketing agency he founded back in 1996. Drew's posts, several of which feature members of The CMO Club, can be found on, SocialMediaToday, PSFK, MediaPost and TheDrewBlog.  If you have CMO-worthy story to tell, connect with Drew on Twitter or LinkedIn.  


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