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New President of VSP Vision Care Sees the Rise of Marketing

Former CMO Says Marketing Is Becoming a More Influential Discipline

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Kate Renwick-Espinosa, CMO at VSP Global, which provides vision services to companies, will become president of its VSP Vision Care business in October.

Kate Renwick-Espinosa
Kate Renwick-Espinosa

Ms. Renwick-Espinosa, who has been with VSP Global for 23 years and was named the company's first CMO in 2010, has been responsible for creating a global marketing infrastructure, rebranding multiple lines of business and launching new products.

In the following interview, she talks about the challenges CMOs face in rising to the top, and how marketing is becoming a more influential discipline at companies.

Ad Age: What are some of the challenges CMOs face in rising to top leadership positions at companies?

Ms. Renwick-Espinosa: There are a couple of challenges for CMOs, and really all marketers, not just those who are CMOs rising to other areas of the company. All marketers deal with what I would call the 'brochure effect' -- the fact that everyone can be focused on marketing as a discipline that makes things look nice, or the creative side of marketing -- and they don't really appreciate or understand the combination of the art and science of marketing.

The second challenge is a lack of understanding of how marketing connects to the rest of the business and the impact it makes on the rest of the business. Both of these things end up being challenges, and it's really the responsibility of marketers to adapt to their audiences internally and help their business partners and colleagues understand the discipline of marketing and the value it provides to the business.

Ad Age: How have you faced some of these challenges in your marketing career?

Ms. Renwick-Espinosa: Marketing has been a fantastic foundation for me for the entire understanding of our business. I got my undergraduate degree in economics and started working in the marketing team when we were part of sales. Being in marketing gave me direct experience with customers, really helped me understand our business model and also gave me a wonderful opportunity to connect with the rest of the organization.

Being in marketing, you're able to have all this access to information, data and insights about our market, and that provides such a valuable understanding of why customers work with us, and really, that is the underpinning of our business model -- why do customers buy from us, and why do they keep buying from us?

Ad Age: What will your priorities be as president, and how does marketing fit into those?

Ms. Renwick-Espinosa: My priority will mainly be advancing VSP's mission of helping people see. As to how marketing fits into that -- marketing is one component of our overall business design to implement our strategy. I'll have the opportunity to work with the new leadership within marketing who will be filling my role [not yet named] to make marketing even more effective as part of that holistic design of our overall business.

The opportunity I have is being able to take my marketing experience and make stronger connections across different areas of the business. Some of those areas are the integration between sales and marketing -- it is so important for sales and marketing alignment to be there. Another area is between technology and marketing. There have been so many changes with marketing being more data-driven and technology-based. CMOs are now spending more on systems at times than CTOs are.

Ad Age: How should CMOs work with other members of the C-suite to drive effective leadership at companies?

Ms. Renwick-Espinosa: They should take every opportunity possible to understand how the business works and how the company's financial model works and how marketing impacts that. They should also make certain they are always focused on the customer and collaborating with other C-suite colleagues to focus on what is best for the customer. The last thing is that marketers should be agile marketers and not academic marketers. No one wants to hear a Marketing 101 lecture or a perspective that comes from a conference-room meeting. They want marketers to be grounded in the realities of the market.

Ad Age: Do you think marketing is becoming a more influential discipline at companies?

Ms. Renwick-Espinosa: I absolutely think marketing is becoming a more influential discipline in some cases. I would say it's based on the marketers and the perspective they take, and the CMOs and marketing teams that are adjusting and modernizing are becoming more relevant and influential.

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