On Thursday, August 6th, I hosted the 10th and final episode of the first season of our Future of Branding roundtable series. Since lockdown earlier this year, we have virtually hosted 50 CMOs as panelists, and thousands of guests as audience members. We are fortunate to know thousands of marketing leaders from around the globe—CMOs willing to share their stories—unfiltered, authentic, and strategic, and audiences seeking positivity, insight and solidarity.
Reflecting on these CMO conversations, it’s evident that forging, fomenting and fueling relationships with peers in the C-suite, within the organization and across partners and communities are a critical success factor in delivering impactful marketing in the COVID-19 era.
In our season finale, I spoke with five CMOs to learn how they respond to the pandemic and, in particular, how they prioritize collaboration. We discussed the seismic shift from tribalism to being communal, why problem-solving requires collaboration at all levels, the intersection of thoughtfulness and hustle and tying resilience to revenue.
In closing, I asked our panelists: what kind of working relationships are required with C-suite peers so that post-pandemic marketing plans build the brand and drive business growth? And what’s your commitment to collaboration and forging that relationship? Here’s what they had to say.
Moving forward, the alignment that we’ve forged with our risk control is something that I want to make sure we maintain. It’s about breaking down that tribalism and becoming more of a community. That’s even happened within the organization, and so, leveraging that and making sure it’s not something we forget as we emerge from this crisis is critical. I plan on doing my part, but I also would look to my colleagues to further that collaboration and carry forward as a community.
My commitment is ensuring that we are still our clients’ voice and that empathy is not lost, despite the various disciplines that we talked about in terms of what our businesses do. Marketing and communications are about human interaction. The more we as marketers and communicators can ensure that that human element is visible and present to all of our partners internally, the better off we will be in our job; our companies will be in a better spot, too. It’s my commitment that we don’t lose touch of that human element, even beyond the crisis.
—Riham El-Lakany, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Single-Family at Freddie Mac
At a startup, in particular, it’s all about collaboration. You are all in it together, trying to move quickly, while also being strategic. Working from home has brought a new dimension to the experience. In terms of collaboration, I always considered marketing to be like a general manager—you have to be focused on business and revenue. If you use that lens, you’re collaborating with everyone because you have to be a good problem solver in the end. That’s true in my career, but I would say at a startup, that’s even more the case because you’re continually solving a different problem, which requires collaboration at all levels. Every issue has six different ways you can solve it, so if you can think collaboratively and bring the right people to the table to figure out how to get to the solution – that’s always been the name of the game. That recognition that you’re in it together and you’re a team, as an executive team, but really as a company. I think that’s what collaboration is about
I am committed to giving back. I spend a lot of my time thinking about bringing other people on the team along. My commitment isn’t passing it along; it’s not about the next run; it’s about making sure that people are coached to achieve their goal as part of the journey. Collaboration means that you have stronger teams, and in the end, that’s the legacy you’re going to leave. My commitment is about that—being on that journey with my team.
—Maryam Banikarim, Head of Marketing, Nextdoor
One of the things that I am committed to, on behalf of my entire team and really for the company, has been what I call radical transparency in our approach. We’ve had to communicate with clarity, frequency and transparency, not only to our team members but also customers and partners, and to the communities that we’re a part of. We realized that the value of that approach needs to be something that we take well beyond where we are today. As we move into a post-pandemic world, we are examining what that means for our marketing communications and our company approach more broadly.
I resonated with the notion of how, ultimately, we have inadvertently become the hub because we collaborate with every one of the functions in the company. And when I see all of the business objectives that a company like Micron has, when we are successful in achieving our goals, that has an impact on our brand, reputation and position. From our perspective, what’s been critical is that even though our brand is 42 years young in the innovation space when we look at our marketing communications muscle, it’s pretty new in our company. It’s something that as we have evolved from seeing ourselves as a supplier to a strategic partner to our customers. We’ve also needed to evolve how we understand the role of marketing communications as a strategic driver for success. And that’s something that I think I’m very excited to see because our leadership team understands the value of that. And that’s a critical success factor as well—not just having the CMO try to make the case but having the entire C suite brought in in terms of how important it is for that to be a driver behind and supporting all of our businesses.
—Martina Trucco, VP & Global Head, Corporate Marketing & Communications, Micron Technology
We have to come together; we cannot operate in an echo chamber. That’s why our Chief People Officer is such an important partner, because the brand is as brand does, and that’s accomplished by every single one of us in the company.
As a marketing person, I feel I’m always optimistic and have a sort of expansionist mindset. After all, you enter marketing because you want to grow, want people to know about your company, and do great things. For me, there is no better time to think about this than now. My commitment is for growth and incorporating optimism in a relevant way.
—Raj Kumar, Group Brand & Reputation Director, Aviva
I think every B2B marketer can take inspiration from Maryam and the Nextdoor brand. They can take its approach to brand building, which is you do brand building only by community building. So that would be the posture for us today: build your brand only by building your community.
People have traditionally viewed advocacy as your customers advocating for your brand, but we can flip that today. Rather than them advocating for you, you need to advocate for them and how they’re demonstrating resilience and success in their communities. From a brand perspective, that’s powerful. So that’s the posture shift, and I think that the Chief Customer Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer offers a unique opportunity to go after existing customers and showcase their lessons of success. We did that with an independent site we launched called Spendsetters. It had nothing to do with our product; it is about how these customers are addressing COVID in their respective organizations and communities.
For us, we have this core value called ‘focus on results.’ It’s one thing to say I’m going to partner with the CEO and tell these great stories, but tangibly we’ve said every quarter, we’re going to share five new stories rooted in excellence and resilience. So that’s my commitment–to showcase the community’s success to inspire others.
—Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO, Coupa Software