SMPL Q&A: 6 questions on the modern CMO with Margaret Molloy

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In this Q&A, we speak with Margaret Molloy, Global CMO and Head of Business Development, who, as a visible and active participant in the CMO community, has a unique perspective on the future of marketing and the role of the modern CMO.

This piece is excerpted from an article that originally appeared in Business and Finance.

What’s your perspective on being a CMO today—how has it changed over the past two decades?

It is a tremendous time to be a marketer, assuming that you want to be a modern marketer, of course. Successful CMOs have always been strategic business leaders. While channels have evolved and the pace of business has changed, the need to be strategic and understand the market remains constant. The role of a CMO is to have a strategic outlook and appreciate the dual function of creativity and analysis in the marketing process.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes affecting the role of a CMO is the shift from storytelling to story-building. The world of branding has evolved from words and pictures to experiences. Today, brands cannot merely broadcast their story—rather, they need to create experiences that customers feel connected to.

Any other change you’ve observed in the role?

I’ve observed that there is a need to simplify. As CMO, I also take the posture of a chief simplicity officer. Today, there are ever-increasing numbers of channels, technologies and marketing techniques. The job of the CMO is to take all of these inputs, isolate what is relevant and drive the right initiatives and the right prioritization for their company or brand.

As CMO, my priority is to drive breakthrough marketing that grows the company. As a builder of high-performance teams, I believe the CMO must set a vision for business performance, and once that vision is clear, execution becomes the ultimate differentiator that sets top teams apart from average teams.

Marketing is changing at a dizzying rate. How do you stay current amidst all this flux?

My perspective is that a CMO needs to look outside their company to gain perspective and to identify what peers are doing in other sectors. I spend time with clients and other CMOs to understand their business issues. I am active on the conference scene, which is one of the best ways to stay in touch with the challenges and opportunities in the marketing industry. I also convene CMO roundtables in cities around the world to talk specifically with CMOs on the future of branding.

I am a strategic marketer with a tech DNA. My Harvard Business School training ensures that I take a strategic approach to everything I do and that I appreciate the exponential power of networks. My enthusiasm for technology empowers me to stay connected, at scale.

I am very active on social media, which enables me to stay on top of the news of the day as well as emerging trends. Social media, especially Twitter, is an incredibly useful listening tool—there is a constant stream of conversations about brands on social. Embracing social media, especially LinkedIn, is key to building and maintaining my network.

An important constituency for the CMO is the board. How do CMOs build credibility with the board and company leaders?

Credibility with the board has been a nagging concern for CMOs—the ability to convince the C-Suite that marketing matters, and to demonstrate that CMOs are business leaders, is at the core of the issue.

I have observed that marketing leaders who exhibit the following characteristics gain appreciation from boards: ability to quantify the impact of marketing on business performance, a strategic outlook on the future of their markets, and the capacity to go beyond marketing jargon to speaking about business drivers. Ultimately, boards appreciate CMOs who drive business performance and shareholder value. We must be business leaders, not merely marketing leaders.

One thing that’s certain is that change is inevitable in the marketing profession. What changes do you see on the horizon?

Although change is manifold, marketers cannot lose sight of how ultimately marketing is about satisfying customer needs in a profitable manner.

In the short term, I predict that simplify will be the new disrupt. Savvy marketers will focus on creating simple brand experiences and ensuring that filters down through all facets of the customer journey.

In the medium term, we will see employees play an important role as brand champions. Increasingly, a brand’s success is based on the experience delivered to customers. We cannot underestimate the role employees play in keeping and delivering on the brand promise.

In the long term, we will see brands continue to reinvent their relevance by forming alliances with other companies. Strategic partnerships enable brands to create new ecosystems.

What is the most challenging part of your role as CMO?

The hardest part of my job as a CMO is finding the right balance between splitting my time on strategic and executional initiatives. I liken the CMO time-management challenge to being at a rousing party and deciding how much time to spend on the dancefloor versus the balcony.

Specifically, the CMO needs to designate the right resources to executing marketing programs with the marketing team and articulating a vision for the future of the company.

Margaret Molloy is Global CMO and Head of Business Development at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy

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