The CMO50 2021 list is revealed

Qantas CMO takes top spot among a stunning line-up in this year's list of Australia's most effective and innovative marketing leadership

Qantas chief marketing officer, Jo Boundy, has been crowned #1 in this year’s CMO50 list of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders, becoming one of six new faces in the CMO50 top 10 this year.

It’s the seventh year of the CMO50, CMO’s annual program recognising the standout work done by Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders. The program is sponsored by Adobe.

Boundy, who is making her first appearance on the CMO50 list in 2021, was recognised by the judges as a standout example of marketing leadership elegance during a crisis. One of the hardest hit businesses by the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Qantas Group marketing team nevertheless overcame significant challenges to retain the brand’s premium position in market and sustain customer trust.

Even as Qantas’ losses were significant, the share price went up. Qantas retained its number one most trusted airline position, stuck to its long-term brand view and attributes, demonstrated business and brand leadership throughout the crisis and continued time and again to read consumer and market sentiment then respond in a way that was timely and truly of the moment.

In recent months, Qantas’ vaccination campaign, ‘Be rewarded’, has received repeated accolades and applause for the poignancy of creative approach. As Boundy described her own experiences of the past 18 months as a marketer: “The world may have felt like it stopped spinning during the pandemic, but consumer behaviours didn’t”.

Boundy and her crew had their hands full keeping abreast of changing consumer sentiment, needs and behaviours as the situation – and even Qantas’ ability to fly – changed on a day-by-day, state-by-state and country-by-country basis. Helping navigate these turbulent times and keeping marketing, communications and customer engagement efforts effective and relevant has been a commitment to listening to the data, Boundy says.  

A combination of skill, resiliency and balance of optimism with realism have also been vital capabilities during this time.

“The rule book was thrown out and the goal posts moved frequently - sometimes hourly. So problem solving skills, lateral out-of-the-box thinking and creativity were invaluable,” Boundy says. “Beyond skill, ‘will’ was essential. Having a ‘can-do’ attitude, rolling up your sleeves, getting on with the job and supporting each other.”

The CMO50 2021 top 5

Second on the CMO50 in 2021 is Suncorp Group executive general manager of brand and marketing, Mim Haysom. It’s also the first top 10 appearance for Haysom, who rises up from 14th in 2020.

As CMO50 judges put it, Haysom clearly articulated her role and demonstrated her impact, illustrating the inspiring way she leads her team and marketing. From sophisticated actioning of data through AAMI’s Warning Spots campaign with Spotify in the attempt to reduce road accidents, to category leading initiatives such as ‘Open house’, Haysom and her team consistently demonstrate pioneering and positive approaches to how Suncorp Brands can not only cut through, but support customers in a more constructive way.

Taking third place on the CMO50 was The Iconic chief marketing officer, Alexander Meyer, who retains his place at the pointy end of the CMO50 in 2021.

Meyer’s demonstration of both marketing creativity as well as data and business smarts is evident. Recognised by CMO50 judges as one of the best data-driven marketers in the business, Meyer and his team continue to effectively execute innovative work at The Iconic, directly propelling growth and challenging and inspiring the business to think differently, leading to commercial success.

Key achievements include completing a transformation of The Iconic brand playbook, fostering growth of the retailer’s fledgling sports business, developing new customer efficiency scoring and measurement to improve lifetime value, employing data in a sophisticated way to drive repeat and more frequent purchasing, and reimagining his team to become “the marketing team of tomorrow”.

In fourth position on the CMO50 2021 is Optus VP of marketing, Mel Hopkins, again retaining a top five place in the list. As Hopkins points out, having her input recognised not only by Optus CEO, but at the global level by elevating marketing to a VP position is perhaps the best indication of the impact marketing is having on the broader business.

One of the comprehensive programs of work Hopkins has been spearheading is Optus’ ‘It starts with yes’ platform. From appointing a chief optimism officer to her triple-play formula, Hopkins showed how she’s working to realise her belief that brand is business, and business is brand.

Rounding out this year’s top five is Telstra chief marketing officer, Jeremy Nicholas, who stands out for the respect and influence he commands at Telstra outside of his marketing function. Over the past year, Nicholas has undertaken brand repositioning work, driven company-wide sustainability, championed the decision to make payphones free across the country, scaled advanced personalisation and overhauled attribution modelling, all while ensuring Telstra retained a respected position as an essential service provider during the pandemic.

Overall, the top 10 CMO50 for 2021 represent many of the country’s most iconic, strategic and dynamic brand and marketing leaders. Others to make this year’s top 10 are Guzman Y Gomez global CMO, Lara Thom; REA Group chief audience and marketing officer, Melina Cruickshank; ANZ bank chief marketing officer, Sweta Mehra; PPG commercial director, David Nicholls; and Adore Beauty CMO, Dan Ferguson.

CMO50 2021: Category representationCredit: IDG
CMO50 2021: Category representation

The wider top 50 reflect a cross-section of Australian businesses and categories and marketing leaders from both across the spectrum of small to large organisations. Across the CMO50 this year, average tenure sat at 3 years 1 month.

Nearly nine in 10 (88%) of the CMO50 are members of their company’s executive team, and 70% report directly to the MD, CEO or country chief. In all, 23 of this year’s 50 are new entrants to the list, while five individuals are returning to the list, three in roles with new organisations. Two-thirds of the CMO50 2021 come from ASX-listed or Australian-owned organisations.  

The full CMO50 for 2021, along with more insights into this year’s list, can be found in our special CMO50 portal.

This year’s list

The CMO50 program highlights and celebrates the stellar work Australian-based marketing chiefs – and by extension, their whole marketing functions – are doing to drive growth and customer engagement in their organisations today. It’s about celebrating the discipline of marketing as a strategic business contributor, an essential part of the c-suite, and as a function delivering sustainable commercial outcomes. This year, we also sought to celebrate the ongoing adaptability of marketers to the unprecedented situation we’ve had to navigate.

Marketers needed to complete this year’s questionnaire in order to be considered. Judges then read and rated every submission on:

  • Business contribution and innovation
  • A Customer engagement-led approach to marketing thinking and effectiveness
  • Application of data and technology in marketing strategy and programs
  • Empowered, bold and adaptive thinking
  • Resiliency and adaptability in the face of change
  • Demonstration of marketing’s commercial acumen  

Each are given a score, with the final combined score used as the basis for our list. The CMO50 judges met to debate the final order of the CMO50.

The top 50 is an incredible portfolio of marketing achievement, and every one of those who have made it onto this year’s list should be applauded for their commitment to taking this profession forward through excellent work and leadership.

Credit: IDG

Every CMO showed their commitment to brand building, cross-functional collaboration, fostering resiliency in their teams, adapting to suit their customer, striving for more innovative marketing programs, and a desire to pursue growth by being the customer champion.

CMO would like to sincerely thank the CMO50 2021 judges for giving so much of their time and energy to this debate - their valuable insights are what we need to continue taking this profession forward. The 12-strong judging panel featured some of this country’s most significant industry contributors and leaders and can be found here.

Our marketing champions

This year, CMO introduced a new accolade to our annual CMO50 program to recognise individuals who actively champion and continue to progress marketing leadership.

We asked all of our judges as well as CMO50 nominees this year to put forward individuals they considered worthy of such an accolade. These names were collated and presented to our CMO50 judging panel in 2021 for discussion, which informed CMO’s final choice.

Two inaugural 2021 marketing champions were recognised for their significant contribution to driving marketing leadership forward: Sunita Gloster and David Morgan. In their different ways and with very different backgrounds, these two individuals both continue to exhibit a willingness to be champions for marketing leadership for many years now.

A full profile of both of these industry contributors can be found here.

The full CMO50 for 2021, along with more insights into this year’s list, can be found in our special CMO50 portal.  


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