CMO’s top 10 marketing leader profiles of 2021

In this round-up, we bring you the top 10 marketing chief profiles by audience popularity for 2021

  • Anubha Sahasrabuddhe
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It’s been another year of pivoting and adapting for Australia’s marketing chiefs as they continued to navigate the unchartered waters of Covid-19.

Which is why it was not surprising to find this a common theme pervading every one of our top 10 CMO profiles for 2021.

From connecting with consumers while planes are grounded, to building another digital upstart into a household name or uniting marketers into a one demand team, this year’s crop of marketing leaders demonstrate the breadth and depth of the remits they hold today, and how they’ve managed to persevere despite the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic.

Here, we present readers with the top 10 profiles of the year based on CMO’s audience statistics.

CMO50 2021 #1: Jo Boundy

“The world may have felt like it stopped spinning during the pandemic, but consumer behaviours didn’t,” Qantas CMO, Jo Boundy, told CMO in October. “They have changed considerably.”

Credit: Qantas


Qantas certainly knows first-hand just how dramatic and disruptive behavioural change can be. While the Covid-19 global pandemic might have been a ride we all had to endure over the past 20 months, the marketing team behind Australia’s most iconic brand arguably got a bumpier ride than most. The impact of Coronavirus on the Qantas Group has been severe.

In this special interview, conducted as Boundy achieved the top spot in this year’s CMO50 list of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders, she shares the big wins for her marketing function in the midst of the crisis.

Blackberry CMO: Taking the brand from mobiles to enterprise security

Over the last eight years, BlackBerry has gone through a huge transformation from a consumer brand selling hardware to an enterprise brand focused on software. It’s a transition that’s come as we’ve moved from the promise of composing an email on a handheld device and having a mobile calendar to running our lives on mobile phones.

But even as its shifts its focus, the core brand position lies in a truth BlackBerry is sticking to.

“We still have a focus on what we’re good at - productivity, security, mission critical systems - we’ve never moved away from that," BlackBerry chief marketing officer, Mark Wilson, told CMO in this in-depth interview.

CMO50 2021 #2: Mim Haysom

Suncorp Group brand and marketing leader, Mim Haysom, has a mantra for her team: What gets measured, gets done. And it’s this approach that’s helped ensure effectiveness from marketing’s efforts over the past year and secured her second place in the CMO50 2021 list.

“What has worked for us is being very clear on our ambition, clear on what success looks like, getting the metrics around that right and then measuring and optimising to achieve the effectiveness goals we set ourselves,” Haysom said.

Credit: Suncorp


“Having the right metrics in place, and having robust science, data and analytics underpinning those metrics also helps with building stakeholder credibility, giving stakeholders the confidence to invest, trust and believe in the power of marketing to drive business outcomes. This has become a virtuous circle as the more we have proven our effectiveness and results, the more we have been able to invest in marketing driven growth.”

Check out the full interview here.

10 steps Tourism Australia’s CMO took to remain adaptable

Scenario planning, in-depth consumer and brand research, improving structures and processes and strategic collaboration are some of the ways Tourism Australia’s CMO has ensured her team remains adaptable in the face of ongoing challenges in domestic and international tourism.

There aren’t many of us who would not agree travel and tourism have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020. As Tourism Australia marketing chief, Susan Coghill, puts it, “2020 was about crisis management and pivoting without panic”.

With international travel into Australia an impossibility throughout 2021, Coghill took stock of what worked versus what didn’t and invested in significant insight and data programs in order to cope with the realities of an ever-changing environment. 

Here, Coghill reflects on the year, her wins and learnings and how they’re informing short and long-term thinking.

CMO50 2021 #4: Mel Hopkins

When Mel Hopkins met her new CEO, Kelly Rosmarin, for the first time, she posed a direct question: What’s one thing I can do to demonstrate I’m a key player on your management team?

“I didn’t go and say what’s good marketing look like to you, it was framing the question as a key member on the leadership team on what will make a difference,” Hopkins told CMO. The CEO’s response was also to the point: Plenty of people around me talk about adding value, I want you to deliver it.

Not only did Hopkins’ subsequent efforts to deliver impact and value earn her the respect of her CEO, it has also seen her recently promoted to VP marketing. It’s the first time Optus parent company, Singtel, has globally endorsed marketing to sit at VP level across the group.

Here, this year’s #4 CMO50 honorary shares how she’s been working to transform Optus into Australia’s most loved everyday brand.

CMO50 2021 #8: Sweta Mehra

When Sweta Mehra joined ANZ as CMO four years ago, marketing was predominantly focused on brand and communications. As the company created products and services, her team was tasked with making sure customers and non-customers were aware of them.

“Today, we are much more focused on driving brand strategy directly connected to the revenue numbers and we’re on our way to driving and owning the brand experience in a big way,” Mehra remarked. “My remit as marketing leader has changed as a result. It’s not just marketing but end-to-end for digital sales, ownership for driving personalisation, all tech and data stacks and product use cases.

"We are truly on our way to driving to what I can the ‘3Rs’ – reputation, revenue and relationships.” 

In this profile, Mehra reflects on her evolution as CMO to date and what it takes to bring financial wellbeing to life for every one of ANZ’s customers.

JCDecaux CMO on making advertising dynamic by default

‘Dynamic by default’ is fast becoming the catchcry for JCDecaux’s chief marketing officer, Essie Wake, as the business extends its data-driven offerings and audience-based approach in response to Australia’s fast-changing out-of-home landscape.

The marketing leader caught up with CMO to discuss the state of play of out-of-home as well as launch of JCDecaux’s latest data-driven offering for advertisers, Optix. This new deep learning technology tool provides dynamic creative optimisation by predicting the visual saliency of creative campaigns for out-of-home advertisers.

Optix is just of many new offerings created by JCDecaux in the midst of the Covid-19 global pandemic. As one of the media channels most impacted by lockdowns and displacement of audiences across both outdoor and transit, out-of-home players have been forced to look for new ways of responding to the rapidly changing environment and consumer movement.

Here, Wake shares some of the ways OOH is transforming.

Airtasker's new CMO plans to make the brand a household name

Building the ‘why’ and personality behind Airtasker’s brand proposition is a key priority for the Australian company’s new chief marketing officer, Noelle Kim.

Kim joined the marketplace for everyday tasks in July and is overseeing a rapid ramp-up in global marketing investment and expansion not only in Australia, but into the UK and US. The scale-up follows the successful debut of Airtasker on the Australian Stock Exchange in March.

“I have always worked in entrepreneurial environments in previous roles – my parents owned several SMBs so that messiness and owning that whole program of work is part of my DNA,” Kim told CMO.

“I can bring to the business what it needs to continue to scale up and to be a success from Australia out to the markets I have been previously working in. Airtasker is at a formidable place in the Australian market. From a consumer-based standpoint, the brand is really strong. But we haven’t doubled down overseas, so building the business in the UK and US is the next real opportunity for us.”

Check out more of our profile of Kim here.

How Lion’s brand director is building the enterprise of the future

“The credibility and integrity of marketers is instrumental to architecting an enterprise’s future, not just the future of a portfolio of brands,” according to Lion consumer and brand director, Anuhba Sahasrabuddhe.

Anubha SahasrabuddheCredit: Lion
Anubha Sahasrabuddhe


It’s this very business minded approach the internationally experienced brand and marketing leader is now applying to her role at Lion, one of Australia’s most iconic and longstanding FMCG organisations.

Building off professional learnings with other iconic brands such as Coca-Cola and Mars, as well as a love of change, Sahasrabuddhe has given herself the task of transforming the Lion organisation. To do this, she’s embracing both thorough consumer understanding and insight and big strategic vision with more integrated and demand-driven operating models.

Here, Sahasrabuddhe talks about her ambitions and the steps she’s taken so far to get there.

PetCulture's first CMO and her ambitions for achieving growth

A petition encouraging Australian employers to grant pet owners ‘PETernity’ leave, along with pet personality scores driving product recommendations and membership benefits, are just some of the tools PetCulture’s first CMO is using to drive aggressive growth.

Melanie NovacanCredit: Melanie Novacan
Melanie Novacan

Melanie Novacan joined PetCulture its first chief marketing officer in May. The pure-play and subscription-based business is a joint venture between Woolworths and Holland Insurance, owner of PetSure, and a direct response to growing levels of pet ownership and spend across the country. Forecasts suggest expenditure on pets will top $10 billion in Australia in coming years.

It’s the first time Novacan has tackled a marketing role in the ecommerce space, and she told CMO she was excited by the opportunity and challenge.

“This business is being launched to be a disruptive brand in a cluttered market. And it’s one that is ripe and ready for a brand to come in and think about the health and wellbeing of pets as part of your family,” she said.

Read more about Novocan’s plans here.

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