Cojones Finalists: CMOs Who Have Embraced Technology To Improve Marketing


John Ellett, Contributor

March 6, 2014

Marketing and technology are coming together as never before to enhance customer experiences and improve brand performance. These CMOs have been blazing trails in adopting new technologies and using data to boost their organizations’ success. The American Red Cross’ brand revitalization efforts have focused on the digital generation and have led to an innovative text-to-donate program. Dell has used data-driven customer insights to be a better solutions partner. “Hyatt Thinking” has created new guest-friendly check-in procedures and more responsive actions for special requests. And Motorola Solutions took the bold step to unify marketing and IT under the company’s CMO. These firms’ marketing leaders have had the courage to embrace technology and have shown the way for others to follow.

Peggy Dyer CMO, American Red Cross

When Dyer arrived at the 130-year-old institution her biggest challenge was to revitalize the brand. While the American Red Cross is well known, she needed to appeal to a new generation of donors and volunteers who were exceptionally digitally savvy while further engaging the non-profit’s older, existing supporters. “When I arrived we had no systems, minimal digital expertise, no infrastructure, no staff and, as a non-profit, no budget. We went after the biggest pain point for the brand and that was digital, the whole ecosystem of digital. We moved the American Red Cross into the 21st century.” She turned a text-to-donate experiment into a $20+ million success to boost Haiti relief efforts and has continued to use technology to engage her constituents.

To Dyer courage is being all in. “Once you have made the decision to do something, you are all in and you don’t have any regrets. You do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

Her advice on revitalizing brands in the digital age:

  1. Focus on your purpose. Our purpose is to prevent and alleviate suffering. Keeping that foremost in people’s minds really empowers them and energizes them because this is tough, hard work.
  2. Inspire. Have a compelling vision and through equally compelling storytelling make emotional connections that inspire [both our team and our audience].
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. In times of change you just can’t communicate enough. It’s before you make the decision, it’s during the decision, it’s after the decision. And it’s the “why.”

Eduardo Conrado, SVP of Marketing, Motorola Solutions

Many organizations are talking about better aligning the CMO and the CIO, but few have taken the bold action to combine them into one person. Last year, Motorola Solutions tapped Conrado, then the CMO, to also lead the IT function. “IT tended to work in the background with more of a systems-of-records focus. But nowadays everything’s digital in terms of how you touch your customers, how we sell, how we get insights out of our data, how we enable an end-to-end process. We wanted IT to be more customer-centric. I took the challenge of driving IT in a new direction for the company, turning it into a customer-facing part of the organization the way marketing faces the customer.”

For Conrado courage is doing something different and questioning the way that organizations operate within the boundaries they have put on themselves. “The most courageous CMOs will attempt to break down the job description that got put in front of them and reshape it where they can have their biggest impact on the business. That’s where I see the role of the CMO going — not traditionally playing in the advertising space — but driving the purpose of the company.”

His advice for linking marketing and IT:

  1. When combining teams, have a joint strategy that takes a long-term view on what both need to accomplish.
  2. Establish clear roles and responsibilities that define the values that marketing and IT provide. And work closely together to accomplish objectives that the company may have.
  3. You have to have courage and fortitude to stick to it because it’s not something that you’re going to be able to turn overnight. It requires a multi-year view.

Karen Quintos, CMO, Dell

As a direct-to-consumer company, Dell has had a wealth of customer data since its beginning. As the company evolved it has evolved its marketing capabilities and become an omni-channel brand. “Across multiple channels we use data-driven insights to get a single view of our customer, whether a business or a consumer, and use these insights to guide our strategy. Big data helps us to better understand and anticipate our customer needs, which helps us be a better solutions partner.” Dell started a new chapter in its history by becoming a private company this year. Quintos recently launched a new Power to Do More campaign, highlighting how technology is at the core of customers’ success stories.

For Quintos courage is being bold, staying true to your “Northstar,” your beliefs, and how you deliver value to your company and brand. “As marketers we have to ignore the latest ‘shiny object’ and have the conviction, passion and clear vision to realize your purpose, your points of differentiation and to continue to focus on your people and customers, which ultimately delivers business value.

Her advice for leading transformation initiatives:

  1. Be credible to customers: They have to believe that what we promise is also something that we can deliver.
  2. Empower your employees: They have to believe that our transformation is real and that they have the tools and resources they need to carry it out every day.
  3. Align to business strategy: Marketing is no longer just about creative advertising campaigns and messaging; CMOs need to be trusted strategic players and deliver real business results that impact the company’s bottom line.

John Wallis, CMO, Hyatt

Every person who checks into a hotel has the opportunity to publish content and can share their experiences, good or bad, with millions of other travelers. To Wallis, “that means that marketing has to be inextricably intertwined with operations and technology. Because if it’s not, if you work in silos, customers are not only going to notice but you stand the risk of ridicule in the open market. Using technology to change the customer experience based on empathetic research, talking to customers, has allowed us to see a need and change the way we go about operations.”

For Wallis courage is realizing the status quo no longer exists. “We all have to realize that the way our lives are changing personally also means the way our customers want to experience our brand is changing just as fast. Marketing is probably as exciting as it’s ever been — if you’re not prepared to take risks you might miss a lot of opportunities.”

His advice for embracing technology to improve marketing:

  1. Trust the resource of one. Trust your own beliefs. Think about the way you’re using technology in your own life and realize that that’s the way people are also going to be interacting with your brand.
  2. Don’t be scared to build a lot of the skill sets in house, but use an awful lot of outside data because it’s readily available to help you make really good decisions.
  3. Every single one of us has some low hanging fruit. Choose an easy battle to win and go on winning and put all your efforts around that straightaway. That immediately gets people thinking, “Gosh, these guys now are using technology to give us data that helps us completely change the way we think about our customers.”

Cojones Awards will be presented at SXSW on Saturday, March 8 in Austin.

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