CMO Summit: Driving corporate culture

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The evolving role of the CMO was front and center at the annual CMO Council Summit last month in San Jose, Calif. The event, titled “Synchronizing the "C-Suite,' ” explored ways CMOs can wield greater influence in their corporations, provided they firmly establish their place in the executive ranks. “It is our responsibility as the CMO to really drive the culture of the organization,” said Charles Lawrence, general manager of the North American Luxury Products Group of Franke, a Switzerland-based manufacturer of stainless steel products for commercial and home kitchens. This is especially important, Lawrence said, when the CEO doesn't have a marketing background and is more focused on the numbers. “If we're not the customer advocate, nobody else is going to be,” he said. Lawrence was a panelist in a session titled “Shared Vision, Values and Cultural DNA During Transformational Times.” Another panelist, Lauren Flaherty, exec VP-CMO of Juniper Networks, discussed how her company focused on internal messaging to its 8,000 global employees when it launched its new brand positioning: “The new network is here.” Such internal engagement is crucial when it comes to external marketing, Flaherty said. “If it's not real on the inside, it's not real on the outside,” she said. “If you're part of Juniper, you know about the "Juniper way,' ” Flaherty said. “Juniper has a story. Juniper has values. Juniper has a destination.” Before CMOs can drive corporate culture they have to establish their place in the C-suite, something that is almost becoming a job in itself these days. Chris Hummel, CMO and president-North America of Siemens Enterprise Communications, said in a keynote address that CMOs face a particular challenge in dealing with their C-suite colleagues: “They all believe they can do marketing just as well as we can if they just had the time.” It's key to their survival, Hummel said, that CMOs position themselves at “the center of gravity” in the C-suite. “The hardest part about aligning with the C-suite is thinking about it,” he said. His solution: Develop and carry out “a sales plan or relationship plan” in regard to other members of the C-suite. The payoff can be worth the effort, Hummel said, citing research that showed CMOs' longevity is linked to the time they spend with their C-suite peers rather than the CEO. Stephen Jones, managing partner of Brand Ignition Group and formerly CMO of Coca-Cola Co., talked about the special relationship between the CMO and CEO. Having served in both roles, Jones offered this insight into succeeding as a CMO: “I want the CEO to believe he's a great marketer. I want him to believe I'm a better marketer.”
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