The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business recently held a CMO Summit on campus. The event brought together chief marketing officers including Linda Boff of GE, Seth Farbman of Spotify and Denise Karkos of TD Ameritrade among others who shared stories and advice from their years in the marketing trenches. The two-day event was attended by marketing professionals, agency leaders and Notre Dame alumni from across the country.
Here are my top five takeaways from the Summit:
DON’T ALLOW MARKETING TO WRITE CHECKS YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE CAN’T CASH
Marketing creates expectations. A wise man once told me your brand is not your logo – it’s the promise of an experience. If your marketing has set the customer’s expectations to unicorns, kittens and rainbows but they experience something far less special when interacting with your call center, employees or product, there’s a disconnect. Make sure all the ways customers actually consume your brand align with your marketing messages.
IS YOUR BRAND BACKWARD-LOOKING OR FORWARD-THINKING?
Richard Lenny, a consumer packaged goods (CPG) executive who has held senior leadership positions with Hershey, Nabisco, Pillsbury and Kraft, challenged marketers in attendance to assess their brand’s perspective on innovation. Lenny showed examples of companies comprising the Dow Jones Industrial average over the last 90 years. Many brands that were considered cornerstones of American business and the Dow in the 1920s through the 1970s are no longer relevant (or even in business). Failure to innovate was cited as a major reason. Innovation is not a one-time concept and companies can’t rest on their laurels. Brands must constantly self-evaluate to ensure they are looking ahead and that their innovations are adding value to the customer experience.
STRATEGIES DON’T FAIL IN THE BOARDROOM – IT COMES DOWN TO EXECUTION
This is nothing new. Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote about the importance of strategy centuries ago. Today, as companies rush to innovate and stay relevant, gaining approval from the highest levels of management isn’t enough. Executing strategies at the most micro level is critical, especially in our social media-driven world. It takes finesse to reach today’s fickle consumers and their short attention spans.
YOUR ADJACENCY IS SOMEONE ELSE’S CORE
Gaining market share and opening new markets is what marketing dreams are made of. However, just because consumers have embraced your product in a particular market does not guarantee your marketing will entice them to follow you to an adjacent one. As you attempt to enter a new market, you’ll be competing with companies and brands who have likely spent years refining their messages and products there. Study those who have your adjacent market as their core and do them one better.
DATA RICH AND INSIGHT POOR
So much of what marketers do today is quantifiable, tracked and measured. That doesn’t mean that leaders or executives embrace or even understand the treasure trove of data at their fingertips. I can’t count the number of CEOs and presidents I’ve asked about insights they’ve learned from reviewing their website analytics only to have them say they either don’t pay attention or don’t understand the metrics. Use a clearly defined strategy to determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will move the needle for your business. Then, embrace, understand and revisit them regularly to use these insights to make actionable business and marketing decisions.
BONUS – GIVE THANKS TO PERCY SPENCER
Pam Wickham, VP of Corporate Affairs and Communications at defense contractor Raytheon, shared challenges related to humanizing a brand like Raytheon, as it markets complex and sometimes confidential products. As she explained the history and breadth of Raytheon, she mentioned a man named Percy Spencer, a Raytheon engineer. A melted candy bar in his pocket while working in a Raytheon lab in the 1940s resulted in the accidental discovery of what became today’s microwave ovens. So, next time you heat up a slice of cold pizza, thank innovative companies like Raytheon and employees like Percy Spencer.