Toronto CMO Club member David Postill, SVP Marketing & Customer Experience at AGI shares his personal reflections from the past year and what marketing leaders need to think about to stay relevant.

COVID fatigue is real. A year into COVID and we continue to press on professionally while dealing with the personal challenges the pandemic has caused. I know my own team has had to deal with health scares, family concerns, and juggling school closures. It’s been stressful.

Over the course of my career I’ve experienced stressful times and seen a lot of change, but never a catalyst that has caused us to jump a decade into the future as with COVID. In a recent research report by Accenture, more than 75 percent of CMOs agree that past formulas are no match against the new breed of disruptors that continue to raise the level of client experience that consumers have come to expect. It’s clear that COVID has spurred the fourth industrial revolution.

I’ve also observed that the challenges faced by CMOs go far beyond the skillset needed to remain agile during disruption and digital transformation. Marketing leaders need to wear more hats than ever before. Marketing is the direct line between a company and the consumers. This means that in addition to embracing the digital reality we find ourselves in, the CMO also needs to be a Chief Connection, Collaboration, and Innovation Officer.

Marketing is the direct line between a company and the consumers. This means that in addition to embracing the digital reality we find ourselves in, the CMO also needs to be a Chief Connection, Collaboration, and Innovation Officer.

Based on my experience and speaking with my peers, I think it’s fair to say that there have been many moments over the past year that have seemed daunting and difficult. After all, we are forging new ground in marketing.

Here are my thoughts on what is required of a CMO right now:

Prioritize people

Above everything, companies need to prioritize caring for their employees, customers, and communities. It’s absolutely critical to get the fundamentals right.

This means,

  • Prioritizing mental health
  • Championing diversity and inclusion
  • Building trust, with employees, customers, and communities
  • Leading with empathy and decency

Harness the power of a purpose-driven business

Without question, it is within the CMO’s mandate to drive an understanding of the role their companies and brands play in society. Organizations need to demonstrate that their long-term commitment to their purpose guides their actions and the customer experience that they offer.

Drive connection and collaboration

Accenture research indicates successful, ‘pioneering’ CMOs break down barriers within the organization and also highly value their connections to other C-suite executives. The research shows that they build alliances with HR, sales, finance, the CIO function, and others to develop and implement the systems, processes and mindsets necessary to deliver the most relevant customer experiences. This serves to unlock growth and identify opportunities that may otherwise go unrealized.

Focus relentlessly on innovation

The reality for CMOs is and will continue to be, one of continual change. While it’s important for marketing to stay steadfast in its philosophy and commitment to being purpose-driven, successful CMOs need to constantly rethink their own roles if they want to be visionaries, capable of driving innovation, growth, and delivering a high level of customer experience. This will then trickle down to the marketing function, which needs to also be agile and adaptable in order to stay true to its philosophy and purpose.

 My experience at AGI

It’s now been a year that my team has been operating in the COVID environment. I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the significant contributions that they’ve made to enabling AGI to deliver a high level of customer experience through innovation and a commitment to purpose – despite the stress and uncertainty caused by COVID. This year, we launched large-scale virtual projects and campaigns that had previously seemed beyond the scope of the possible.

For example, our next AGI Live, which replaced our tradeshows of the past, will be a global, multi-time zoned, interactive event that will set the bar for what can be achieved virtually. During lockdown we were able to virtually organize a major sponsorship of the Briar. We’ve also been developing one of the most advanced AGI SureTrack product platforms in Agtech. We’ve been able to accomplish so much because people have been a priority, we’ve stayed committed to our purpose, focused on connection and collaboration, and have embraced innovation.

I know first-hand that it takes courage to be comfortable in the face of continual uncertainty. Although this year has been challenging, I would argue that it’s a formidable time to be forging new territory in marketing. I feel very fortunate to be a marketing leader right now. A CMO has the rare opportunity to step up to lead their organizations through this challenging time in history, unlock value and growth and make an impact that matters.

A CMO has the rare opportunity to step up to lead their organizations through this challenging time in history, unlock value and growth and make an impact that matters.