How the Cool CATS Cut Through
Let’s agree for the moment that marketing is, in fact, different from selling. Marketing is the romance; selling is the consummation. Marketing focuses on the market; selling, the seller. The marketer builds a brand that is uniquely positioned and inspires irrational loyalty; the seller builds what they know how to build and then drives revenue via offers, discounts and gimmicks that, once retracted, result in a decline in sales and retention rates.
This distinction — although rarely as stark as described above — is particularly important when assessing what it takes to be a great marketer. Of course, marketers have to impact revenue (or they will lose their jobs), BUT the great ones do so in a manner that goes beyond brand-deflating sales tactics. We call these individuals, Cool CATS — CATS being an acronym that we’ll spell out below.
C is for Courageous
For many reasons, the average tenure of a CMO is less than half that of the rest of the C-suite. Thus, with so little time at the plate, you might as well take a big swing. After all, a modest improvement will neither assure your tenure, nor give you something great to talk about when you’re interviewing for your next opportunity.
Consider Sir Terry Leahy, for example, who, during his reign as head of marketing at Tesco, risked 25% of revenue for a pioneering loyalty card program. He had no doubt that if the program failed he’d lose his job, but fortunately for him, it didn’t. In fact, it succeeded so well he was ultimately made CEO and a knight of the realm. Great marketers have the courage to do something unique.
A is for Artful
Even with all the emerging science — from data analytics to programmatic buying, CRM to SEM — great marketing is often the result of an artful marketer who can not only inspire others to new heights of creativity but also has the diplomatic chops to persuade internal audiences to pursue fresh courses of action.
Beth Comstock of General Electric, for example, helped bring to life Ecomagination and Healthymagination, two “paper napkin” concepts that now generate combined sales of almost $10 billion annually. Or consider John Yembrick, whose passion for aeronautics, astronomy and social media helped transform perceptions of NASA from stodgy to trendy.
T is for Thoughtful
Having defined marketing as a focus on the market (i.e., the customer), one might presume that all marketers are customer-centrist. Unfortunately, the thoughtful marketer who sees her craft as an opportunity to do well by the customer is still the exception rather than the rule.
As longtime CMO of American Express, John Hayes has overseen a number of “thoughtful” marketing initiatives, including OPEN Forum, Link Like Love, CEO Boot Camp and Small Business Saturday. These “marketing-as-service” programs all deliver intrinsic value to the targeted consumer, and reflect American Express’ core belief that when their customer prospers, so will the company.
S is for Scientific
Now that we’ve covered the softer side of being a marketer, let’s conclude with a career-saving essential — the scientific method. Success is harder to claim without metrics to back you up, just as jobs are harder to keep without a methodical approach to trying new things and charting progress. Or as W. Edward Denning put it, “In God we trust; all else, bring data.”
During his tenure as CMO at Visa, Antonio Lucio (who’s now at HP) had a three-tiered measurement approach. The first two metrics included reach (awareness) and impact (card usage lift), while the third focused on brand health. In addition to constantly testing new marketing approaches, Lucio also made sure that their metrics evolved to address changing industry dynamics.
The Cool CATS mentioned above are among the 64 featured in Drew’s book, The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, and the more than 150 on TheDrewBlog.