CMO’s top 10 marketing leadership profiles of 2019

Disruptive marketing, creating a customer culture and the end of the marketing campaign are just some of the big issues our top 10 CMO Australian and global leaders have been tackling this year

Mark Reinke
Mark Reinke
  • Mark Reinke
  • Ruth Rowan
  • Stephanie Buscemi
  • Suzana Ristevski
  • Melanie Novacan
  • Steve Brennen
  • Mike Scott
  • Kevin Keith
  • Josie Brown
  • Travis Tyler
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This year has seen the mission of marketing turn its attention to the customer, through creating an internal customer culture and a laser focus on their lifecycle and advocacy, disrupting the marketing mandate.

And if this hasn't been enough to keep the top CMOs busy and challenged, brand building has come into the spotlight and brand alignment and purpose key to winning over the next generation of consumers. The lessons learned by the marketing chiefs are as varied as their brands, but there's valuable insights in their experiences.

Here CMO presents readers with our top 10 marketing leadership profiles of 2019 based on the most popular articles with readers.

What Mark Reinke is doing to build News Corp's consumer business

It’s one of the big lessons Mark Reinke took away from his 12 years in marketing at Suncorp: Focus on your customers and the long-term value for them, not what you’ll get from them.

“If you focus purely on getting value from customers, your chances of getting such value are very low. Whereas if you focus on value for customers, and that value over time, you can build a sustainable business,” he said. “Otherwise you’re not building on strong foundations.”

This is the mantra Reinke is bringing to his role as managing director of consumer at News Corp, a newly created position with the remit to drive audience growth and engagement as well as build the media giant’s subscriber base, and was one of a number of leadership-level changes corresponding with the amalgamation of News’ online and print assets.

Mark ReinkeCredit: Suncorp
Mark Reinke

“The real challenge is to build a consumer-funded business, where the experience, content and whole proposition is strong enough for people to pay for directly,” Reinke told CMO.

Read more about how Mark Reinke is tackling customer building at one of Australia's biggest media companies


How this global CMO tackled bringing 28 companies under one brand

Global chief marketing officer of NTT, Ruth Rowan, has spearheaded work to bring NTT's portfolio of companies under one umbrella brand. And if there's one lesson she has learnt, it’s that exceptions shouldn’t ever hold you back.

“There are always exceptions, but if you hold the rest of the business back because of them, it’s difficult to get anything done,” she said. “But exceptions are important. And when you have them, it’s vital you’re communicating clearly with people involved.” 

Ruth RowanCredit: NTT
Ruth Rowan

One small but significant example for NTT in becoming one branded entity has been migrating employee email addresses.

“Some parts of the business are not as straightforward, and some of that is linked to the existence or not of a central HR system,” Rowan said. “By just saying ‘we’d love to have migrated you by this date but we’re not able to and this is the reason and here’s the timeline’, people have generally been receptive. If you don’t communicate the reason, people can read all kinds of things into it.” 

Read more about how this CMO managed this monumental task


Salesforce CMO Stephanie Buscemi on why the marketing campaign is dead

The age of the ‘marketing campaign’ is over as good marketers shift to a focus on continuous experience and storytelling, according to Salesforce CMO, Stephanie Buscemi.

“If you look at traditional B2B websites, for years they’ve become empty shells, because people don’t come there to read about product, they want a perspective and a point of view, and they want a ‘how to’ and the learning. So this is a big shift in our content model," she told CMO. "We used to create the content and do a focus group. Now it’s how we co-create the content with customers, and how to determine the content from conversations on what our customers need.” 

Stephanie BuscemiCredit: IDG
Stephanie Buscemi

“Now, it needs to be a continuous experience. As marketers, we need to ask how we create a continuous experience in a dynamic way."

While data has been a great boon for CMOs, storytelling has been bigger, Buscemi added.

“Over the last two years, authenticity and storytelling have been the biggest boon for marketing. There is now so much going on, so much disruption, so everyone is striving for human connection and human storytelling," she said.

“Marketing needs to ensure it can resonate, it knows how to make that connection, and knows who people are and what motivates them. Then, marketing can help them with a bridge to what is helpful to them. If you just look at data, you’ll miss the empathy of it."

Read more on Buscemi’s view of the changing nature of ‘always on’ marketing

What NAB's marketing and CX chief is doing to build customer culture

It’s easy to get growth when the macro-economic environment and consumer sentiment is strong. But it’s the tougher climates like the one banks are facing now that are the most rewarding and prove the mettle and magic of marketing,  NAB’s Suzana Ristevski.

“The Royal Commission is the best thing that’s happened to us – it has forced the bank to think about how we do things,” she commented. “No one was purposefully trying to destroy value. But it’s a big corporate structure with lots of processes and legacy systems. Now we’re forced to have a look at it and there are no excuses – we have to be accountable, we have to think about customer principles.” 

Suzana RistevskiCredit: Suzana Ristevski
Suzana Ristevski

With structure supporting strategy, what’s changing for NAB as an organisation is it’s culture supporting customer centricity, Ristevksi said.

“Culturally, people know they need to be talking to each other around what the customer wants and expects. And they know marketing is a place to come to in order to get agnostic customer insights,” she continued.

“It’s firstly making sure the team are of the right mindset to be dealing with that change. We think it requires resiliency first up, but it’s actually a change of mindset that’s most important."

Ristevski's second focus is being really, really clear on what NAB wants to achieve.

"Marketing for years has faced this change: We have to tell people what they need to hear, not what we want to tell them. There’s a real art in that. We’re not solving marketing challenges either; we’re solving business challenges," she said.

Read more on how Suzana Ristevski is working to rebuild customer credentials

CMO50 2019 #1: Steve Brennen

Uber has had phenomenal growth since launching in Australia in 2012, when the focus was firmly on creating awareness. Fast forward five years, and brand reputation firmly stood in the spotlight. As a marketing team trying to turnaround such brand backlash, it was important to regain consumer love and trust. 

Steve BrennenCredit: Uber
Steve Brennen

One big shift Brennen cites is transitioning marketing budgets from ads to ‘acts’, an approach driven by the belief actioning brand promise with customers is more powerful and impactful than advertising. An example is Uber’s long-standing partnership with Red Cross Australia on an annual Red Cross Clothing Drive. And Uber partnered with Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) to address declining tourism numbers in Queensland due to a perception issue of the Great Barrier Reef. 

Brennen says data and creativity are intimately entwined. The mistake he sees too many marketers making is looking at research and insights in a linear manner. 

“The key is also not relying on one element too greatly. It’s important to think of past insights as being in the rear-view mirror - they are useful to determine what has worked in the past and are informative about what is happening now but they won’t reveal what will happen next.

Read more from the CMO50's number one in 2019 here

Why this fintech marketing chief is banking on customer advocacy for success

The whole ethos of Stockspot is ‘boring is brilliant’. "We take things and automate them. It’s not a sexy proposition, but increasingly, consumers and Australians are taking notice of what’s going on with their finances and we’re there to help," said Stockspot’s CMO, Melanie Novacan. 

Melanie NovacanCredit: Melanie Novacan
Melanie Novacan


“In the current economic environment with property prices, market fluctuations and so much uncertainty, knowing there is someone offering certainly is a big deal. Our brand prides itself on consumer advocacy, being their champion, and building a product that has their best interests at heart.” 

It’s for these reasons Novacan said Stockspot’s marketing approach must be completely reliant on customer advocacy.

“The growth for most finance brands moving forward is going to come from organic growth, such as word-of-mouth, referrals and reputation,” she said. “That loyalty, trust and advocacy is going to be the number one thing setting a brand apart in the finance category moving forward. We see that at Stockspot.”

Read more about Stockspot’s ambitions to accelerate its trajectory

What Sweat's chief brand and marketing officer is doing to support fast growth

Mike Scott has always been attracted to brands requiring transformation or renovation. To be in a pure-play digital business like Sweat with enormous opportunity to capitalise on is different but exciting, he said. 

Mike ScottCredit: Mike Scott
Mike Scott

Supporting Scott is a brand and marketing team of 40 people. He describes marketing as a publishing engine producing content that fulfils the needs of consumers at different parts of the funnel.

“We are a subscriptions business, and we need to continually attract people into our digital ecosystem to convert, engage and retain,” he said. “We have been described as the ‘Netflix’ of fitness because our model is similar. We have five personal trainers creating exercise content, which is also expected to grow exponentially over the next 3-5 years.” 

In order to fulfil the long-term growth agenda, Scott’s initial priority has been developing and articulating a brand strategy.

“That didn’t exist. We have also put in place a brand architecture that’s workable and usable across the business, and respects our trainers, who are brands in their own right,” he explained. “We use the analogy of the Avengers a lot – Sweat is the Avenger brand, then we have Captain America, which is Kayla, and other trainers boast of unique superpowers.” 

Read more about how Sweat aims to fulfil its long-term growth agenda

Kevin Keith on building the Orangetheory brand

When Kevin Keith first received the call asking him to become Orangetheory Fitness’s first chief brand officer at the start of 2017, he thought they were joking.

“They convinced me to come down to Florida to their global headquarters and have a chat with the CEO,” Keith told CMO. “I immediately fell in love with the vision for the brand. It’s so much more than a fitness company.”

Keith's experience with the brand already as a member had also been very transformative personally. “The business wanted someone who could help steward the brand and guide the experience and innovate.” 

Kevin KeithCredit: Kevin Keith
Kevin Keith

In this vein, Keith has taken a true brand story mentality to his work.

“People buy into brands before they buy from a brand, so I wanted to really articulate why we existed and pull that through from the inside out,” Keith said. “We had all the right words with the right actions in place, but we didn’t have a really clear sentence as to why we are on the planet.”

That purpose is now defined as giving people a longer, more vibrant life, and he says the entire company is behind it.

Read more about how Orangetheory will navigate the challenges of growing the brand


How Tennis Australia built a marketing and insights engine

Human-centred design, customer insights engine, having the consumer voice at the executive table – these are just a few key priorities for Tennis Australia’s first chief marketing and insights officer, Josie Brown, as she strives to construct a future focused marketing approach.

Josie BrownCredit: Josie Brown
Josie Brown

“To combine storytelling with data, brand with CX, and to have it working genuinely in an integrated way, is the opportunity I have been given," she said. "It’s so exciting being able to build that team, and working with an exec that’s really entrepreneurial and wants to pursue growth makes it a really great time to be in an organisation like this.” 

Tennis Australia always had data at its fingertips, and the analysis of player data for performance as well as entertainment for fans has long been a significant focus. But it’s never been centralised in a way that supplies a centralised insights engine, Brown said.

The overarching ambition is getting more people to play and watch tennis. “That means coming to our events, reading our content digitally, and so on. And those two are interlinked,” Brown said.

Read more about Tennis Australia’s human-inspired digital and data capability


How 86 400's CMO is building the brand proposition for Australia's latest neobank

Chief product and marketing officer, Travis Tyler, caught up with CMO to talk about new digital bank, 86 400, and the journey he's been on to build out the brand proposition and product set for Australia's latest neobank.

Pitching itself as a smarter way to do banking, 86 400, which is owned by payments provider, Cuscal, is one of two digital banks to launch in the Australian market recently – Xinja is the other. Its proposition centres around making money management easier by helping consumers see what’s actually going on with their finances through app-based tools and data insights.

Travis TylerCredit: Travis Tyler
Travis Tyler


“Our position is we are Australia’s newest smart bank, so all our products emphasis this,” Tyler explained. “For example, you can join in 120 seconds – something we had very positive feedback on with customers. You immediately get two accounts, no monthly fees. And you’re connected to 150 institutions to our bank, so you get instant value when you join 86 400. 

Read more about the bank’s plans

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