Top 21 CMO stories of 2021

Resiliency, adaptability, disruptive tech, digital acceleration, sustainability and diversity shine through this year's round-up of the most popular stories on the CMO website

Resiliency, adaptability and sustainability have been the catchcries of marketing leaders this year. So it’s not surprise to find these themes in evidence across the most popular stories across CMO’s website over the course of the year.

From the resiliency displayed by the Qantas marketing team and our CMO50 #1, Jo Boundy, to the changes in behaviour driven by social media, digital and ecommerce acceleration, sustainability initiatives of our largest brands and the growing momentum for diversity and inclusion, this year’s top story list has it all. Not to mention the rise of the next batch of disruptive technologies, such as the metaverse, Web 3.0 and advanced analytics.

As we wave goodbye to the year that was 2021, CMO presents our top 21 stories of the year across CMO Australia based on audience engagement.  

The CMO50 2021 list

Now in its seventh year, the annual list of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders didn’t disappoint in term of calibre.

Credit: IDG


Change, challenge, collaborate, communicate are four Cs that sum up the marketing leader’s path to business impact and traits our CMO50 exhibited in spades. Every one of this year’s submissions also demonstrated the breadth and depth of modern marketing responsibility, along with the incredible adaptability of marketing teams that continued through the crisis.

Check out the full CMO50 list, profiles, trends and more here.

Top 10 CX trends for 2021

As we ushered in 2021, it was clear brands would be required to go further than ever with customer experience efforts to attract and retain customers and incentivise loyalty.

Coming to grips with the newly digital consumer while also finding purpose and empathy to connect with those consumers looking for authentic brands are just some of the challenges faced. Finding the tools to bridge offline and online will create fresh hurdles, while rising demands for privacy will need to be balance against the benefits of personalisation.

In this special round-up piece, CMO asked a range of industry players about the customer experience trends marketers need to know as we headed into 2021.

Explainer: What is the metaverse

Facebook’s decision to rebrand to Meta as part of a wholesale gamble into the metaverse was arguably a stick of dynamite for mainstream discussion of this emerging hybrid-physical world phenomenon.

Gaming can often point to the future of new technology before we have it in our everyday lives. It often drives innovation in computing through more powerful processors and memory, it can spur advancements in image resolution and even the creation of virtual, multi-player collaborative environments. And so it is with the metaverse, which is driving gaming innovation as well as pointing to new realms for marketing and brands.

Check out CMO’s explainer on the metaverse here.

Soaring ecommerce take-up in Australia in 2020 signals more to come

There’s no doubt ecommerce has gone from strength to strength across Australia off the back of the COVID-19 global pandemic and rapidly accelerated digitisation in 2020.

And as CMO discovered, three significant industry reports released in early 2021 highlighted just how far it’s come and what to expect this year.

Read more about Australia’s ecommerce boom here.

Predictions: 10 technology trends in marketing for 2021

While 2020 might have been the year of accelerated digital transformation, marketers were facing a host of other technologies coming into 2021.

From artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT to mixed reality (MR) and robotic process automation, it was clear to the CMO team that marketing leaders would be increasingly tapping technology to make informed, responsive decisions with tightened budgets and changing consumer behaviour.

“Consumers’ expectations have gone digital, and there’s no turning back. Businesses need to adopt digital solutions to keep customers satisfied and continue growing their businesses,” said CEO and co-founder of Moxtra plus former CEO, chairman and cofounder of WebEx, Subrah Iyar. “This implies shifting customer engagement experiences to a ‘Pull' model from a ‘Push' model - for doing business where customers are able to pull services on-demand than having businesses push their services onto a customer.”

In this feature, we highlighted 10 technologies both driving and providing the toolkit for modern marketing engagement.

Woolworths purchases majority stake in Quantium for $223m

Woolworths’ decision to outlay $223 million for a majority stake in data analytics firm, Quantium, and establish a new advanced analytics practice certainly dominated headlines in April.

The supermarket giant lifted its shareholding from 47 per cent to 75 per cent in Quantium after originally acquiring a 50 per cent stake in 2013 for approximately $20 million as part of a long-term partnership aimed at improving its data insights and analytics capabilities. Under the latest investment, Quantium became part of the Woolworths Group but retained its senior leadership team including co-founder and CEO, Adam Driussi.

In addition, the companies announced a new business unit, Q-Retail, bringing together advanced analytics, retail and data science capabilities existing across both the Quantium and Woolworths businesses.

Read more about the Woolworths-Quantium acquisition here.

CMO50 #1: Jo Boundy

This year’s CMO50 worthy number one winner was Qantas CMO, Jo Boundy. As well as real-time insights to inform business decisions and respond to changing customer needs, the marketing chief said solid marketing skills, resiliency and balancing optimism with realism proved vital during the tough times of 2020-2021.

Credit: Qantas


“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 told CMO. “Beyond skill, ‘will’ was essential. Having a ‘can-do’ attitude. Rolling up your sleeves, getting on with the job, and supporting each other.”

You can find our full profile of Jo Boundy here.   

The new rules of Millennial marketing

If 2020 was the wake-up call for Millennials, buffeted by the economic and social storm of the pandemic, 2021 represented a resetting of priorities.

Millennials are a critical demographic for brands. Yet the coronavirus pandemic altered several assumptions about the priorities for this generation and how brands can connect with them. These effects everything from brand values right down to choices of advertising medium.

Of course, the other game changer is that these consumers have grown up. From buying cars, investing in property, having families and seeking ethical products, Millennials are now making significant and impactful changes within the community and in their lives.

In this feature, CMO explored what brands and marketers need to know about connecting with this maturing generation.

How Pizza Hut gave away 10,000 pizzas in 70 seconds

A digital transformation overhaul and collaboration between CMO, CIO and operations proved instrumental to a highly successful 50th anniversary marketing activation for the team at Pizza Hut Australia.

Pizza Hut chief marketing officer, Chet Patel, told CMO that in 2018, when the QSR’s new leadership team came in, technology infrastructure in place wasn’t scalable or future-proof enough to deliver on ambitions. A partnership with AWS gave Pizza Hut the ability to build out a scalable and resilient cloud platform and solution that would get it back into a competitive situation and trigger more innovative, personalised experiences. These, in turn would help turn a nostalgic emotional connection with the brand to “a love affair”, Patel said.

Having got its technology ducks in order, the infrastructure was truly put the test as part 50th anniversary celebrations in Australia and a whopper 10,000 pizza giveaway.

Read more about these efforts here.

Building best-in-class personalisation: Tabcorp's bold bet

More than $160 million in incremental turnover and a seamless connection between physical and digital customer engagement are just some of the big wins for Tabcorp since kicking off its best-in-class personalisation program.

Example of optimisation of Tabcorp marketing campaignsCredit: Tabcorp
Example of optimisation of Tabcorp marketing campaigns


Tabcorp executive general manager of marketing, customer and product, Luke Waldren, told CMO the overarching ambition was to create a capability that would allow the business to create brilliant omnichannel CX. Yet Tabcorp faced several unique challenges.

The biggest is very different operating environments depending on channel. The wagering business operates more than 4400 locations nationally including cash-based racecourses through to pubs, clubs and standalone agencies. In addition, it operates a modern mobile app and Web experience. All this means customers can be engaging digitally, physically and very often, doing both simultaneously. Tying physical, in-venue and digital together was therefore a fundamental part of the program of work.

Here, we delve into how Tabcorp is building its personalisation play.

10 unusual examples of brand partnerships

One of the interesting things to come out of the unprecedented market conditions in 2020 was a rethink around external partnerships and collaborations by local and global brands.

In fact, partnerships were so prominent, Deloitte highlighted brands interacting with other organisations as one of its top seven trends exhibited during the Covid-19. According to the consulting giant’s c-suite research, 80 per cent of survey respondents who introduced new partnerships during the crisis also see these as key to business post-pandemic.

In this round-up, CMO highlighted several of the more unusual, unlikely brand pairings we saw during 2020 and why they were explored by the organisations engaging in them.

Up next: Our final 10 top CMO stories for 2021

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