26 50

CMO50 2016 #26-50: Col Kennedy, Cotton On

  • Name Col Kennedy
  • Title Global head of marketing and ecommerce
  • Company Cotton On
  • Commenced role June 2014
  • Reporting Line GM, Cotton On brand
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 60 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Retail
  • 2015 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    For former Cotton On global head of marketing and ecommerce, Col Kennedy, two components underpinned the way he fostered a customer-led approach at the fashion retailer.

    The first was continually building on Cotton On’s ‘Brand Why purpose’, which was centred around the organisation making a positive difference in people’s lives. This became the brand vision in 2015 and was about moving beyond transactions to become truly engaged with communities. It become the filter all departments work to, whether they are a buyer creating the next best seller that will make someone feel great at the weekend, or a store team member going the extra mile to help a customer.

    “Secondly, it's about no longer seeing people as customers, which is an outdated term,” Kennedy claims. “In the 1990s and majority of the 2000s, marketing was about cross-selling, upselling and squeezing dollars out of people rather than adding long-term value or having shared values.

    “We need now to focus on our communities and fans including starting with a very important one: the internal retail team community.”

    From the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    For Kennedy, the last 12 months at Cotton On were about remaining laser focused on building the brand through the ‘brand why’ proposition. While there were annual plans also in play, he says the three-year strategic plan set for marketing meant everything needs to come back to this filter.

    “This is crucial because it is the only way to truly build long-term and real relationships with your communities,” he says.

    To better enable this, further pillars were added within the year including a brand platform with an updated brand personality and tone of voice.

    Empowered business thinking

    An initiative that extended outside Kennedy’s typical functional boundaries was getting together all brands under the ‘Happy’ Christmas campaign to execute a single-minded point of view for the festive season. Again, the emphasis was on going the right thing and thinking community first, he says.

    Fostering capability

    For Kennedy, building marketing’s capabilities and resilience for the future is about recognising that the team is also an internal community. “So we start with them,” he says.

    Partners are invited in on a regular basis to provide updates and insights, and each function within the team is then responsible for specific technical development. This sees a mix of development tools used including remote digital platforms, conferences and external courses, he says.


    Kennedy says creativity sits at the heart of everything at Cotton On. The group has a creative function led by director, Kai Tunely, which has continued to expand has the key objective of inspiring communities every day.

    “But it is no longer one way; having recognised that, we’re also bringing in the creativity of the communities and work with them as though they are part of our extended team,” he says.

    * Col Kennedy left Cotton On in August 2016.

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