CMO interview: How Deloitte’s marketing chief is looking to inspire inquisitive, creative thinking

Recently installed CMO at the global consulting firm talks about the balance of creativity, culture and commercial acumen marketing leaders must embrace

Matt McGrath
Photo by Briana Russell
Matt McGrath Photo by Briana Russell


Coping with consultancy disruption

While Deloitte today holds a commanding position in the consulting space, significant disruption is occurring as the line between consultant, integrator and agency blurs and everyone moves into everyone else’s turf. Deloitte is no exception, acquiring agencies such as The Explainers and Digivizer, as well as integrators, SixTree and Cloud Solutions Group, to round out its offering to clients.

For McGrath, Deloitte’s creative strength and brand thinking will be beneficial in coping with the onslaught of disruption. Another differentiator he sees for consultants in general is that ability to enact technology transformation.

“We really do have an amazing capability to go into an organisation and help them transform, against the disruption occurring today. That is hard core capability that an agency doesn’t have,” he says. “Agencies are incredibly creative businesses – and we definitely want to be more creative as an organisation.”

McGrath sounds a note of caution around innovation versus creativity, however, and sees the latter as an area Deloitte should put more emphasis on.

“I think Deloitte is incredibly innovative. It has been very creative in the past. But we’ve got a slightly different skillset and role in the marketplace and we will always try to harness creativity to showcase that,” he says. “I do think there’s still room for both types of organisations.”

What’s also vital is being customer-led, something Deloitte is again endeavouring to improve. For McGrath, the key is translating the valuable customer knowledge gleaned by its 7000 employees into a centralised stream of insight that can be harnessed.

“Everyone is really busy, so whether its’s technology or forums, what do you have to share great thinking and ideas? You have to be very agile, plus have an executive that is very tapped in and not in any way removed from the organisation,” he says.  

Brand thinking is all about understanding customer need, McGrath continues. “That ability to come into an organisation, have a fresh perspective and an honest conversation, is at the heart of our client-centric philosophy and purpose,” he says.

“How it resonates with what the organisation focuses on is having unbiased, honest conversations with our clients. That means you have to be about delivering correct answers and creating a legacy. It’s got to be about long-term success, not short-term gain. It can’t be about what the firm’s priorities are, it has to be about customer need.

“We as a marketing organisation need to trumpet that and have that resonate within the business.”  

CMO tenure

A last subject CMO asked McGrath to comment on was the CMO’s executive position. Marketers globally hold the lowest tenure of all c-level executives, a situation many suggest illustrates an ongoing disconnect between CMO and CEO.

McGrath suggests it’s about marketers better understanding and responding to the CEO and board’s financial acumen. “Something like two-thirds of people on boards have a financial background, so you have to be able to converse with them in a language they’re most comfortable with,” he says. “I said from the moment I arrived here marketing is an investment decision; it’s about where we invest our money for maximum effect.”  

Of course there’s always the human side that wants to be inspired, McGrath claims. “Executives want to be proud and excited by their brand. To be a successful CMO, you have to balance those two to build a relationship with the top executive,” he says.  

“We’re not here just to have a good time, we’re here to grow a business, increase shareholder returns and expand our market. There is a huge business war now happening. Disruption means industries are just merging,  companies are skating across all these other businesses at the same time, and it’s a very challenging environment.

“The ability to answer the question around ROI is critical, and to have an unambiguous, clear answer around what we need to do. Saying we don’t know at this point is perfectly valid, but you need to find out if you’re the CMO.”  

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