CMO Impact
Leading a Culture of Innovation as a Growth CMO

A New Twist to “It’s Not What you Know but Who you Know”

April 21, 2015

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Reflections from The CMO Club Spring Innovation Summit

Last month, The CMO Club hosted our 10th CMO Innovation and Inspiration Summit in NYC with close to 150 CMOs and VPs of Marketing convening in NYC to share ideas, build real peer relationships, and take a step back from day to day to think about their professional and personal lives and their legacies.

With 50 CMOs leading sessions and a number of great surprise artists and celebs as guests, we had more great CMO worthy insights and content then I bet you will find anywhere in the world. You can see highlights from these conversations in The CMO Solutions Clubhouse.

However, with all the great sessions and content, as I reflect on the summit, a few things come to mind, that are even more valuable than the content shared at the summit.

1) It’s Not What you Know but Who You Know

For years this statement was viewed as an old school approach whose time had come and gone. I submit that it’s more important now than ever with a twist. It’s not about who you know that can jump past others for promotions, or get special treatment, but about who can help you become a better leader, marketer and world influencer.

I head story after story from CMOs at the summit about how they met a peer at a CMO Club event, became friends and that person went on to help them get their next job, helped them get ready for important board meetings and planning sessions with their CEO, helped them address new organization responsibilities or helped them deal with a new agency model, etc.

The best CMOs and leaders understand the value of a peer based “inner circle” or personal advisory group, based on real respect and friendship. Nothing is more important in this ever-changing world.

2) Mobile and Creativity is not just for Ad Serving and Cool Apps

Comedian and TV and Movie Star Anthony Anderson spent a day with the CMOs at the summit and had a major impact on me and other CMOs during his visit. In addition to being one of the funniest people I have ever met (yes he did destroy me on stage and out-funnied me big time), his approach to not only engaging with fans via mobile, but for working with brands, opened my eyes.

When he was in the early stages of consideration for last holiday seasons’ Walmart ads, his luggage was lost during his trip to Arkansas. He went to a local Walmart and bought everything he needed for the trip and used the opportunity to create an on-the-spot video with his cell phone, enlisting the help of Walmart employees and a group of young people he met outside the store who were collecting for charity. He walked into Walmart corporate offices, played the just completed video and the rest is history.

In many cases, fantastic storytelling and creativity trump slick, high-priced ads.

3) If you don’t have the right Culture, Marketing programs can be like putting Earrings on a Hog – Still Ugly

The single biggest “ah ha” I had at the summit, was the increased focus by the best CMOs in leading and developing the right culture for their businesses and brands. Whether is was a culture for change, a culture for customer support, or a culture for innovation, the best CMOs understand the role that culture plays in ensuring all their brand strategies and plans are successful.

How many of you have seen creative, high quality ads or marketing campaigns but when you go to engage with that brand, the customer experience is completely different and/or lacking?

The talk during breaks, lunches, cocktails, etc., from the top CMOs centered on the changes they are prepared make in order to deliver the right culture for the success of their brands. These leadership skills are new to many CMOs so the value of peer based support from The Club in this area is a top priority.

In summary, the best CMOS and the “peer based sharing during The CMO Club Summit centered less on the “M” and more on the “C” and the “O” of CMO.

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