Longstanding B-to-B CMO Says BMA, ANA Merger Was Needed

B-to-B Marketing Is Becoming More Like B-to-C

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Kathy Button Bell
Kathy Button Bell

Kathy Button Bell has served as VP-CMO at global engineering company Emerson for more than 15 years.

The $24.5 billion company, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, has businesses ranging from industrial automation to climate technologies.

In her 15 years as CMO, Ms. Bell has led marketing efforts including a rebranding campaign launched in 2001 called "Consider It Solved;" customer-focused ad campaigns such as "It's Never Been Done Before;" and innovative social media efforts and mobile apps for business units.

Ms. Bell served as chairman of the Business Marketing Association from 2013 to 2014 and was instrumental in facilitating the recent merger between the BMA and the Association of National Advertisers.

In the following interview, she discusses how the CMO job has changed and how marketing is being elevated in the b-to-b industry.

Advertising Age: How has the CMO role changed in the past 15 years?

Ms. Bell: It has changed a lot, as reflected in the research [the BMA] did with Forrester, which found that 85% of marketing people are doing things they haven't done before. The biggest change in b-to-b is how we're moving toward more of a b-to-c experience -- especially how omnichannel media is driving what we do to reach customers differently. You have to behave much more like a consumer-minded company when it comes to your reputation, awareness and just trying to communicate with people -- it is so noisy. Industrial marketers and b-to-b marketers are so much more sophisticated and mature as a group than they were 15 years ago. The pace of change is moving very fast, and it keeps quickening.

Ad Age: What do you think of the merger between the BMA and the ANA?

Ms. Bell: I think the timing for the merger was exceptionally great. Once upon a time, the business marketing community was sort of isolated and different -- it was a combination of group therapy and necessary sharing of best practices. There weren't enough resources to get best practices 20 years ago, so you turned to your immediate peers, which was a smaller number of people than it is today. Now [at the annual BMA conference] there is a roomful of 900 people, including some very senior marketing people. I think it requires a larger, professionally-run organization with deep staffing and deep experience in a lot more seminar creation, a lot more staff and support for the organization in general. The merger with the ANA fulfilled the dream in a lot of ways. With a volunteer army, it was hard to live up to the demands of what we all wanted the BMA to be.

Ad Age: What are your top marketing priorities this year for Emerson?

Ms. Bell: The No. 1 thing is elevating marketing within Emerson. ... Within Emerson, we've put a much greater emphasis on marketing and are bringing in more senior-level marketing people. Engineering has been king for so long at industrial companies, in general, and now we are really trying to help elevate marketing. At Emerson, we are using the 125th anniversary this year as an inflection point -- it will give us an excuse to discuss it and accelerate change.

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