November 10, 2017

Lessons in Marketing Strategy from 200+ CMOs

If all CMOs thought alike, Renegade Thinkers Unite wouldn’t stand a chance at reaching 50 episodes. The vast diversity of marketing approaches is part of what makes the field so interesting. After interviewing 200+ CMOs over the years, Drew Neisser has learned a thing or two about perspective.

This special RTU episode takes bit of a twist, as Drew sits down for the first time as the interviewee. Marketing Today podcast host Alan Hart asks Drew about his experiences speaking with a wide array of marketing professionals. You’ll learn about some of the common themes many of Drew’s guests have discussed, as well as several marketing strategies that have stood out to him.  Click here to listen to the episode. [Show notes by Jay Tellini.]

Here are some of our favorite moments from Drew’s interview with Alan:

Alan: The role of CMO is challenging. What do you think about the role? Why is it challenging?

Drew: Well it’s challenging for several reasons. One is that they don’t really speak the language of the CEO. The CEO rarely comes from the Marketing Suite. They come from finance, they might come from law, they come from operations, COO or something. And the marketing person has often dealt with ethereal as well as measurable things but they don’t have control over everything. And so the CEO says, “I want revenue and I want profit.” The marketer says, ‘Well I want awareness and I want engagement. You can have your revenue and your profit but we’re going to need proxy measures.’ They’re disconnected. So that’s one.

Alan: What else?

Drew: And then there’s this other whole frickin’ issue which is, there’s nothing like a great marketing campaign to kill a bad product or service. And we had several times where we had clients who we were killing it on the front end and then their customer service was so bad that they would lose them on the back end. So churn was really high. Is it the CMO’S job is to fix that? It could be. One of the guys that I interviewed that I loved was Manny Rodriguez who totally understands storytelling. This was after I interviewed him but he told me that he started to notice that customer experience was a problem in UC Health. And they said, “Great Manny, you fix it.” So he’s doing customer experience too. He was already doing brand story, was already doing positioning and marketing and now he’s a responsible customer experience.

Alan: What do you think it’s important for a CMO to be doing or focusing on?

Drew: Let’s talk about strategy for a second. I think for a CMO, this is the unfortunate part of their job. When you hear the words, “I’m building the plane while I’m flying it,” I get worried about it because a really brilliant marketing campaign can live for 20, 30 or 40 years. We were talking about this earlier that Geico’s “15 minutes will save you 15%.” How long have they been using that? Forever! And guess what? They’re not going to stop and you know why? Because it really works. We don’t have the capacity to remember 20 things and we don’t need to. We like them and we remember them and we know their value proposition. If you’re going to invest 20-years worth, you better spend enough time on the strategic foundation.

Alan: We talked a lot about story. Tell me your perspective on brand story.

Drew: I think that it is the most overused word in our business. Everything is a story. Every brand has a narrative. Every CMO is using the term and I’m guilty of this, so I apologize to you and all of the listeners that we’re even using that term. We’re using that term because we can’t come up with a better one. Unfortunately at our shop we talk about Big S and Little S. Big S storytelling is when you really boil down your brand to an essential conflict like Georgia-Pacific did with Angel Soft.  For Angel Soft the essential conflict boils down to how something can be both strong and soft. That’s a conflict. We now have conflict and we can build stories around that may or may not have anything to do with the product but you get the idea of strong and soft and that’s the benefit of the product. That’s Big S storytelling. And then you have to take that essential conflict and then you have to execute it everywhere. But the good news about it is if you do, it’s consistent. But it’s not necessarily the same 30-second video as a social media post. If you get it right and you have an idea that will hold it all together, then it really works effectively. So far, it is the only way that we have seen to hold content marketing and social media together is by having an overall story idea.

Alan: What’s Little S?

Drew: Lowercase S is, “hey did I tell you about the time that we hung out together at the bar?” It has nothing to do with anything. It’s just a story. And that’s to me what is confused between the two. It’s very tricky. And I know many brands don’t like “conflict,” so they can’t even use that term. It’s a very complicated issue and I can’t wait until we have a new word for it.

Alan: I want to talk a little bit more about you, Drew. What drives you?

Drew: The notion of courage drives me. I feel like I can help CMOs think a little bit differently about their jobs. To me, that’s the most exciting part of what we’re doing right now. We’ve gotten to know all these CMOs. And this is the thing – the CMO is in the position, they have all the levers. If you can get them to pull all those levers as not just a force to cut through the crap, but as a force for good, I feel like that’s a good day or a good week or a good year or a good life.

Quotes from Drew Neisser

Brands need to take a stand. They need to stand for something and they need to have values. Values end up meaning that you're for something and you're against something.
If the CMO doesn't spend enough time on strategy, they're not going to win.
My opinion as a renegade is if you're not pissing somebody off, you're probably not also developing rabid fans.
[If] you have an idea that will hold it all together, then it really works effectively. So far, it is the only way that we have seen to hold content marketing and social media together is by having an overall story idea.