Summit: A Really Big Show
June 15, 2008
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
show,” I said to actor Alec Baldwin as I entered the elevator
bank for the Rainbow Room on the 65th floor of Rockefeller Center
in Midtown Manhattan.
across his chest, Baldwin, who happened to be in the elevator,
nodded slightly to acknowledge my offhand compliment as the doors
closed. Thinking I might see Tina Fey, Baldwin’s co-star
on NBC’s 30 Rock, I took the elevator up. My expectations
a room full of comic actors, I found some of the world’s
greatest marketers. They were convened in the Rainbow Room for
Spencer Stuart’s sixth annual CMO Summit. It was positively
the best show a marketer could attend. There was occasional, light-hearted
laughter, but this meeting was all about content. The one-liners
at the CMO Summit provide wisdom that can make a young marketer’s
career. It was more valuable than any skit on Saturday Night
The session objective
was simple. Talk about what it takes for marketing leaders to
succeed in today’s environment. What skills and traits,
what DNA makes for a great CMO?
“We need to understand
the functional space of marketing in order to do our best work,”
says Ben Machtiger, CMO of Spencer Stuart, the global executive
search firm that places many of the world’s leading marketing
executives. “We learn every day. It’s great to have
this dialogue. The world of marketing is constantly changing.
That’s why we put on these CMO Summits.”
At the dais stood Wharton
professor David Reibstein, arguably one of today’s top academic
thinkers on the issues of marketing management. Astride from Reibstein
sat four top global marketing practitioners: Lee Ann Daly, EVP
and CMO, Thomson Reuters; William McDonald, EVP of brand management,
Capital One; Mark-Hans Richer, CMO, Harley-Davidson; and Stephen
Quinn, EVP and CMO, Wal-Mart.
The audience was filled
with the cream of the marketing profession. It was a Procter &
Gamble alumni fest. Top marketers from packaged goods, retail,
high fashion, industrial goods, financial services, professional
services and automotive looked on. Top marketers from Wrigley,
Kodak, Aon, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Google and Trane listened.
“What does it
take to be a great CMO?” Reibstein asked.
is critical to CMO success,” agreed Richer.
content-driven CMO,” said McDonald, “I love to pick
up the color pencils and get hands-on.” He must drive his
agencies crazy, I thought.
benefitted me,” said Quinn, who spoke of customer focus
and alignment with his CEO.
“What else do
you need?” Reibstein asked.
stomach to take care of the business for the long term,”
the bar,” said McDonald, who strives for break-through creative
“Trust your people.
Let good work happen,” said Daly.
What do CEOs expect
of CMOs?” Reibstein asked.
“Most CEOs want
their CMOs to drive growth. Be seen as the person who can drive
growth,” McDonald said. “Strategy and tactical plans
are easy,” he continued. “Figure out the endgame.”
Richer said. “My CEO is the ex-CFO. He started as an elevator
operator with the company 39 years ago.”
“How should marketers
deal with the changing marketplace?” Reibstein asked.
“Have an immense
curiosity about the customers and what their lives are like. Remember,
it’s not about us and our experience,” Daly said.
are smarter, [that] the marketplace is shifting around us. There
is an explosion in complexity,” McDonald said. “Avoid
the tyranny of the in-basket—I get over 120 e-mails a day.
Identify the difference makers. Remember, you can’t take
PowerPoint decks to your customers.”
“What about the
downturn in the economy?” Reibstein asked.
all of us, but it’s what you do with the pause [it provides]
that matters,” Richter said.
one word that describes your day?” Reibstein asked.
There was much more.
The session lasted nearly 90 minutes, but the time flew by. Near
the end, Wal-Mart’s Quinn offered a marketer’s epiphany.
“Marketing is a craft,” he said. “It takes five
minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.” The room grew
The panel was asked
how prepared CMOs are to become CEOs, yet these CMOs seek fulfillment
in their current roles.
the present,” McDonald said. “I’m going to my
grave as a marketing guy.”
not the traditional path, CMO to CEO. I don’t wake up with
the desire to be a CEO,” Richer said. “The best CMO
in the world is Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. He’s got the skill
sets in spades.”
“For a lot of
really good CMO’s, it’s a choice not to be a CEO,”
“Why would you
want that job (CEO)?” Quinn said. “I love this job.”
As a child
I watched The Ed Sullivan Show each Sunday night. Sullivan
would proclaim, “We’ve got a really big show.”
For marketers, the Spencer Stuart CMO Summit was bigger and better
than any Sullivan extravaganza, even the shows featuring The Beatles
and The Doors.
star Tina Fey never materialized. Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski,
Scott Adsit and Jack McBrayer were nowhere in sight. It didn’t
matter to me. I was too jazzed listening to Reibstein, Daly, McDonald,
Richer and Quinn to care. Listening to the world’s best
marketers makes me smile in a way no comedian can.
Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group, based in Chicago,
and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Mkt-strat.com