CMO50 nominating: Our judges share their tips and tricks

CMO50 nominations are now open for 2020. Here's how to make yours a stellar submission

CMO50 nominations are now open for 2020, and CMO is calling on Australian marketing leaders to put themselves forward for our list of effective and innovation marketing chiefs this year.

We always find ourselves with plenty of queries as to how to best complete the questionnaire required to be considered for the CMO50. So we’ve asked several of this year’s judging panel to share what it is they’re looking for in a submission, and highlight what they believe it takes to be recognised as a leading Australian marketing chief.

CMO50 for 2020 nominations are open until 14 August 2020. This year’s program is sponsored by Adobe.

Show you’re a playmaker

Borrowing a sporting analogy, long-serving CMO50 judge and experienced CMO and marketing consultant, David Morgan, says today’s CMO has the role of “playmaker” on their team.

“It’s about leading from the front, developing strategy, choosing and directing the plays, while playing the team to its strengths,” he says. “He/she is an all-rounder, and needs to excel as a leader, in delivery, and developing the future. This needs to come across.”  

It’s a position echoed by Andrew Baxter, senior adviser to KPMG, adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Sydney, and former Publicis and Ogilvy Australia chief executive.

“It’s not about just being a great marketing practitioner, but being a great marketing leader – of your direct teams, your agency partners, and within the c-suite you sit,” he says.

Former CMO and now board member for brands such as Zip Co and General Pants, John Batistich, encourages nominees to highlight key messages in their submission to showcase this scope.

“Help us as judges understand your leadership impact,” he says.

Demonstrate your accountability

What’s also clear is the CMO role has evolved significantly to incorporate more aspects of customer engagement, corporate strategy and growth. Such customer-centred operational change and leadership needs to be evidenced through strategy, operational planning, new ways of working, leveraging of new technology, and setting teams and organisations up with skills and capabilities for now and for the future, Morgan says.

“Marketing’s fundamental role is to influence consumer behaviour to drive sales, so it’s important the ROI of the year’s marketing efforts form part of the submission,” Baxter adds.

Exhibit resiliency

Judges are also well aware the COVID-19 pandemic is having a massive impact on brands and marketers and will be reflected in submissions this year. For Morgan, this is expected to play out in demonstrations of resilience in team and business management.

“Marketers should always be resilient to the challenges of brand management, but who could have anticipated the resilience required to manage through COVID-19? We’re going to see some strong marketers in the top 10 this year,” he comments.

“In this year of COVID-19, I think we’ll be seeing a more strategic and commercial approach in the submissions as marketers show evidence of how they have been stretched to their limits.”

former Coca-Cola marketing director and CMO50 judge, Lisa Winn, like many marketers, is all-too aware of the issues facing marketers in 2020 – from revenue cuts to budgets being slashed and staff layoffs.

“Many have had to start afresh with programs as prior marketing no longer made sense in this environment,” she says. “We are really interested in seeing how you are leading through these times. How have you adapted personally, have you been able to find new market opportunities, have you been able to empathise with and support your consumers, how have you motivated your teams and agencies, and what new business strategies have you championed? Sometimes the greatest ideas are born out of scarcity.”

Judges understand not everything is successful, either. Zuni managing director, Mike Zeederberg, recommends addressing any “elephants in the room” straight on.

“A failed campaign, a PR disaster, tanking share price, marketing team layoffs – put it on the table, explain the situation and how it was dealt with. It is highly likely to come up in the judges discussion regardless of whether you bring it up, so get on the front foot and get your side of the story across,” he advises. “A crisis dealt with well is an impressive achievement, and goes a long way to providing evidence of a great marketing leader.”

Demonstrate impact, not size

Comparing the size and scale of CMO roles can be tricky for judges. As a result, as part of the judging process, there’s significant debate around the pros and cons of a hefty marketing function with a raft of specialist and generalist skills, company might and market penetration, versus the resourcefulness and agility of a small team. 

Zeederberg adds judges are looking for impact, not only scale. “A small business making significant gains can be as impressive as a large ASX company rolling out large programs – the judges take into account the constraints of the situation the marketer works within and try and evaluate the impact achieved with this in mind,” he says.

Keep it authentic and concise 

Against all of this, Batistich stresses the benefit of being as concise as possible. “Tell us the problem to solve, what you did, the results and learnings,” he said. “And make it simple – it’s easier to complicate than to create beautiful simplicity.”

What’s more, keep it factual, Batistich says. “Don’t misrepresent results, it only damages credibility,” he says.

A final recommendation is to watch out for industry jargon, especially the latest martech buzzwords. Judges are quick to see who’s using these effectively and can articulate why, versus those who don’t.  

“I’m sure everyone has played a game of marketing ‘buzzword bingo’ in their office,” Winn adds. “The judges have all been around marketing teams for years and know there is always the latest shiny trend, term or marketing gadget. However, sometimes overuse of these terms and phrases can be a distraction to your submission.” 

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