When Inspiration Strikes

10 CMOs and the Big Ideas that are Revolutionizing Their Business

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In a world where truly groundbreaking ideas are a rarity, the quest for inspiration is a provocative challenge. In marketing, big ideas go beyond hot new products. They can spur new marketing structures, processes, strategies, advertising and brands. Here, CMOs share their roots of inspiration, their tactics for running idea-driven organizations, and the responsibility they take in cultivating creativity to gain market share, attract new consumer segments and boost the bottom line.

Mike Linton

Exec VP-CMO, Best Buy

Big idea: Shoot for 70%

How it came to him: Working with the company's fast-moving culture

How it's changing his business: Developing marketing tools to keep pace with blurring industry speed

At a time when many CEOs demand ROI calculations before every project, Best Buy Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer Mike Linton takes a different

view: Don't miss the forest for the trees.

"We use marketing ROI in total for marketing spend, but not by tool," Mr. Linton says. The problem Best Buy faces is a consumer-electronics market driving at warp speed while the methods of reaching customers are in complete flux. "If you're trying to get it 100% right, you won't do anything because you're always remeasuring and re-aiming," he says. "We have the 70% rule: We'll try to get it 70% right and go with it."

That's not to say that metrics have no place; if the marketing department can find a way to measure an opportunity, it will. And in the case of standard tools, such as circulars or TV ads-which Mr. Linton terms "ready, aim, shoot"-the measurements are well-known. But when it comes to something new-"ready, shoot, aim"-there may not be a good way to tell in advance whether it will work, as in the exclusive Rolling Stones DVD the company produced that was a runaway hit, or a Web-based video spot done on a whim using extra time from a regularly scheduled commercial shoot that resulted in 4 million hits.

Aiming from the hip it isn't. "You've got to be able to deliver the total results you promised," Mr. Linton says. "In the end, a program has to produce a marketplace result or we will kill it." As new ideas prove themselves, they are candidates to join the "ready, aim, shoot" group of marketing techniques. In Mr. Linton's view, it's better to make a few more mistakes, and get closer at a faster rate to the marketing goal, than to be a mistake-free also-ran.
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