5 Australian CEOs reveal what they want from CMOs

How do business leaders really perceive the role of marketing in their organisation today, and what skills do they want their marketing leaders to have? We ask 5 Australian CEOs

Marketing may be rising up the executive ranks, but according to the 2013 <i>Marketing Performance Management Survey from ITSMA and VisionEdge</i>, less than 10 per cent of top executives are relying on marketing input when making significant business decisions or setting strategy.

So what do CEOs and business leaders want exactly from their CMO? And how do they really perceive the input marketing can provide at present?

To find out, we ask five of Australia’s leading business executives to share their views on the importance of marketing as a function in their organisation, and how they define the role of the modern CMO.

Simon McGrath, Accor Pacific chief operating officer

For McGrath, marketing as a function has become more important than ever if the hotel group is to distinguish its brands in a cluttered environment.

“Marketers are required to find creative ways to cut through with diminishing budgets, but we also measure the impact of marketing – particularly in the digital space – on our top-line performance,” he said. “We have invested in a digital commerce team, which complements the marketing and communications team and ensures we have robust tools and expertise to maximise returns from our primary digital channel, Accorhotels.com.”

The role of the CMO is arguably one of the most critical and broad roles in any organisation, McGrath claims.

“It requires natural intuition and gut feel about behavioural movements in wider society,” he said. “The CMO needs to be able to take and interpret all the information available and shape this into strategic pillars. These guide and verify product design and customer experience - and then the real heavy lifting begins.

“The CMO will live and die by communications being grounded in consumer insights. The final skill is clever management of lean resources to maximise brand exposure and engagement.”

Georg Ruebensal, Expedia managing director

As a CEO, Ruebensal says his perception of marketing both has and hasn’t changed in recent years.

“The importance of marketing hasn’t changed at all, but yes, our understanding of it certainly is continuously evolving,” he comments. “Gone are the days where we looked at brand, database and search engine marketing only.

“The business opportunities - and risks - have increased considerably, with new players and concepts that didn’t exist a few years ago. Then there’s the ever-evolving social landscape, re-targeting and custom audiences to address, plus a new breed of meta and affiliate travel sites. All of these provide new opportunities to position our products and services.”

Today’s CMO must integrate and work with teams across all functions to ensure the brand message reflects Expedia’s products and lives across all the touchpoints; from advertising, customer acquisition and retail to the offline and post-trip experience, Ruebensal says.

“Equally important is identifying and capitalising on new trends and marketing opportunities, which almost always these days are data driven,” he adds.

Expedia’s MD: How we’re rallying around the customer

Cameron Kerr, Taronga Zoo chief executive officer

Read more: Vodafone appoints new CMO, customer services director

For Kerr, a former marketing leader himself, one of the biggest areas of focus he believes marketers now need to have is to keeping abreast of where technology is taking communication. The relationship with customers and stakeholders is also key.

“It’s not terribly new, but the methods, ways of doing that and what’s relevant now is different to two years ago,” he says. “The relevance of Facebook now, compared to in three years’ time, is something we need to seriously think about, as well as the changes in smartphone. How we interface with customers and stakeholders is going to change consistently and at a rapid rate.”

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Today’s marketing leaders also need to make sure they have the right people in the roles and partners on the edge of that, Kerr says.

“We can’t get too far ahead or behind. If you’re too far ahead, you’re not communicating efficiently either,” he continues.

“The other key skills for senior marketers is emotional intelligence, leadership, and sticking to a good and strategic discipline. That focus hasn’t changed, but it’s so easy to get more distracted now.”

Read more: Qantas to announce McColl replacement shortly

Paul Langston, LivingSocial CEO

As a CEO, Langston’s view on marketing has also changed compared with a few years ago. LivingSocial is a group buying company in Australia and New Zealand offering hyper-local deals.

“When daily deals first exploded, we rapidly established ourselves across the globe predominantly through eDMs and social media,” he explains.

“Now we have a wealth of data informing us on what works and what doesn’t, so we can market effectively within existing channels and continually search for innovative new ones.”

The key attributes required by today’s CMO is to be heavily integrated with all aspects of the business, “maintaining strong interdepartmental communication while applying market trends and internal data to ensure our sales teams are fully equipped”, Langston says.

“One thing I’ve quickly learned transitioning from CFO to CEO is just how much talent there is in this company that should be tapped into,” he comments. “The CMO must also completely ‘get’ our target demographic of young, professional and educated women, and understand why they buy the products and experiences they do. I’m very confident in their abilities to achieve this.

Vaughn Richtor, ING Direct Australia CEO

CEO of ING Direct Australia, Vaughn Richtor, says CMOs should spend their time looking for true consumer insights.

“For me, its common sense,” he says. “I value a CMO who can cut through the noise and tell me what really makes a difference to the customer.”

Richtor says insight might be in the data, or come through conversations and listening. In other instances it could come through looking beyond what they see and hear in order to truly understand customer wishes and motivations.

“The technology which allows us to better understand our customers and their behaviours is giving us the opportunity to gain true insight, which is invaluable,” he says. “How that information is used is the difference between good and great marketing.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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