Are You Sure It Is a CMO, You’re Looking For?

Is anyone else puzzled by searches for top marketing talent? I am often approached by brands and search professionals who excite me for amazing roles. Then comes the fine print.

This piece is not about silly titles like CMO and CRO and CGO, though that issue is directly related. The top marketing jobs now carry ridiculously unrealistic expectations related to grand titles. Whatever happened to VP Marketing (and a VP Sales)?

The grandiosity assumed by super CMO’s has hurt marketing within businesses. Once we demanded a seat at the executive table, now most marketers fall short on deserving to sit there. It has had another impact. Every company wants a CMO or so they think. Take into account these searches found online this week. These are the first paragraphs of three different searches. 

Change the World

We are seeking a dynamic CMO to join us in developing a brand funded by people who are passionate about improving the way humanity interacts in the modern age. This is not your typical, everyday corporate work environment. This is not another 10¢ job opportunity. This is a chance to literally change the world as we know it and to build something people around the globe will cherish for decades to come. It is likely that your past pursuits have been leading you here all along… to do this… with us… at this very special moment in history.

Save Us, Please!

YYYYY is seeking a Chief Revenue Officer to drive strong, profitable revenue growth ($100M+) by building on our customer-focused organization and effectively implementing go-to-market strategies. The CRO will work closely with the President, Leadership Team and Owner/Board to expand business development and company brand recognition and value. This role will have a strong understanding of SaaS-based cross-channel sales and marketing in the tech market space, as well as the ability to use a premium brand value proposition to create powerful community engagement, and a sales strategy that delivers rapid and robust sales growth across the following channels: direct sales, consumer business development, distribution/resale, international rights, and licensing. The CRO will act as role model, motivator, team leader, and culture builder, inspiring strong support of YYYYY’s core values. 

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Say What? Origins of Popular Expressions

It is interesting to dig back and see when common expressions originated. Not only when, but to understand the underlying meaning. Sometimes, we apply them improperly. Here are bunch to set you straight and use in the right context. Oh, and you will learn what, “Nuke the Fridge”, means.

The Acid Test: to prove something is real.

During the California Gold Rush, prospectors and dealers used acid to distinguish gold from base metal. If the metal dissolved in a mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, it was the real thing.

A Baker’s Dozen: one more over 12, or 13 in total.

Medieval English bakers gave an extra loaf when selling a dozen to avoid being penalized for selling a short weight. Bakers could be fined, pilloried or even flogged for selling ‘underweight’ bread.

Bite The Bullet: to make a difficult decision or one long put-off.

During early battles there was no time to administer anesthetics while performing surgeries. So, patients were made to bite down on bullets to distract from the pain.

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Are You Not Educated and Entertained?

When it comes to information, there is too much skimming and surfing. Too many soundbites, so little substance. We have a duty and privilege to inform and educate ourselves. Thankfully, a few publications don’t shy away from high word counts and provide deep reporting backed by tremendous research and fine writing. What follows are some of the better, longer business reads from last year. They are all jewels but among the shiniest are Marker‘s work on Alex and Ani, GQ‘s account of an infected cruise ship, and Leland Nally’s queasy look at Jeffrey Epstein’s black book in Mother Jones.

Much of the recent solid business writing is more true crime than entrepreneurial inspiration. I did not seek those out, I swear. Reporters and readers are drawn to the corporate grifters, start-up downward spirals, cult-like leaders with nefarious intent, and the shockingly inept. To be sure, they entertain and all stories carry lessons. So read on, learn and enjoy.

Unlucky Charms: The Rise and Fall of Billion-Dollar Jewelry Empire Alex and Ani

Medium’s publication, Marker, exposed me to a business and brand I’d never heard of. How reasonably priced bangles created such a wealthy soap opera will puzzle. The article eloquently chronicles a fall from towering grace. You’ll want to shake the main player so that the hubris falls off. It is also well written, “Clad in a simple pink cardigan over a T-shirt, Rafaelian stood at the lectern in a hotel conference room, her gum-snapping accent lending a common, relatable touch to what might otherwise have seemed a dubiously lofty message. “Every single person in this room is divinely put here by God,” she said, explaining that she knew this because He told her so.”

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Want to Write a Business Book…Write a Paper First

Having written a book on marketing and nurtured other nonfiction books from concept to shelf, I have learned much. Clearly, there are tangible and personally rewarding reasons to write a book. They establish you as a thought leader. Business books are proven to boost awareness, establish leads, and help close sales. Books are a ton of work but pay back in many ways.

It is a shame that the majority of them should never have been written.

There is an overwhelming amount of substandard work out there and more every day due to self-publishing and assisted self-publishing. I am not talking about books that have typos, horrendous grammar, and downright awful writing. My issue is with books that lack premise or have lazily and greedily repackaged what is commonly known and previously published. This happens across the nonfiction spectrum, from business books to self-help to the how-to varieties.

I have read over 500 marketing books and the law of diminishing returns kicked in 480 books ago. Further, when I was Chief Marketing Officer at DDB Worldwide, many colleagues were interested in writing to boost their personal brand. The global advertising agency had over 12,000 employees, so I expected waterfalls of thought leadership.

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How Spam Came to Rule the World (and why it is shoplifted in Hawaii)

What do you think of when you hear the word, “Spam”? First off, we are not talking about electronic junk mail. 

If you are thinking luncheon meat, you probably have a mixed reaction at best. For most of the grocery product’s 8-decade history, Spam has been disparaged and dismissed. The harshest critics cite is as inedible and mock it as “Something Posing As Meat” or “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter”. Yet, over 8.5 billion cans have been sold since Hormel launched the product in 1937. 

Americans buy 113 million cans of Spam annually. This means 3.8 cans are consumed every second in the United States. To keep up with demand, the slaughterhouse next to the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota butchers 20,000 pigs a day. So, how can we reconcile what is so bashed with what is bought (and stolen) in mass amounts?

Spam was successful right out of the gate, having grabbed 18% market share in its first year of sales. By 1940, 7 out of 10 of Americans had tried Spam. This was largely attributed to an economy still suffering from the Depression and it began Spam’s longstanding association with low-cost and frugality. Sales still spike when times are tough. 

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The Story Behind Richard Bachman

If you follow Stephen King in the press and social media, you will see he has passion for many topics. The author is politically vocal and not a fan of the 45th President. He is highly supportive of other writers, especially those starting out. He shares tips on the craft of writing and is delightfully self-deprecating, “I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.”

King is amazingly well-known, having sold over 350 million copies of his 61 novels. It is fair to say, his name is synonymous with the term, “bestselling”. He and other contemporary mass market novelists like Patterson, Picoult, Roberts, and Stine, pump out novel after novel.

When King’s career took off, publishers limited authors to one book per year. It was thought that the public would tire of a more active author. King has always been prolific so decided to write under another name. The idea was to avoid over-saturating the King “brand”.

Signet Books agreed to print a series of novels under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman. King used this opportunity as an experiment. He wanted to find out if his success was due to talent or luck? Would Bachman be as big as King? The Bachman novels were released with little marketing support. Unfortunately, the experiment ended too soon to come to a conclusion. King was linked to Bachman. Consider this though, the novel Thinner sold 28,000 copies under Bachman and then ten times as many when people found out it was King.

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McDonald’s and Burger King: Brand War or Duopoly?

I grew up with perhaps the most intense brand war of all-time. This was epitomized in the famous taste-tests between Coke and Pepsi. Both colas were nearly 100 years old when the Pepsi Challenge was launched in 1975. Most consumers favoured the flavour of Pepsi. This war has raged since and has not only been fought on product differentiation but through endorsement marketing, global advertising, and sports and entertainment sponsorship. 

Another war was fought between adidas and PUMA. I call adidas the winner in this brawl. It was very much a Cain and Abel story, given the two brands resulted from the split between siblings in the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company. Now global brands, when the defining battles took place, this sneaker war was primarily in the European theater. The fight continued until the brother’s passing’s, “even in death the two brothers couldn’t stand each other as they were buried at opposite ends of the cemetery from one another.”[1]

Do you remember the Console Wars? Nintendo, who once controlled almost 90% of the gaming industry, doth did battle with Sega. This was to be a case of Mortal Kombat (all pun intended). The treasure at the end of this big game was a US$60 billion-dollar industry. Each company pumped out new hardware and accessories that supported ever more complex games. Analysts conclude Nintendo won due to Sega’s techy missteps. Market share and revenue certainly bears this out.

Apple has been a battler. It took on Samsung over cellphones. Legal battles on patents and infringements raged. Billions were spent on legal fees and settlements were similarly large. That is no surprise given the market at stake. And, let’s not forget, the famous Apple versus Microsoft computer fisticuffs that was dramatized in a series of ads. Metaphorically, two actors showed the differences between the two brands, one was staid and nerdy and the other relaxed and hip.

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Benetton’s Confusing Legacy of Brand Activism

I grew up preppy. A Canadian kind of preppy. Often Ralph Lauren polos were out of reach both due to cost and supply. This was the 1980’s. When an outlet store of Ralph’s opened in my neighborhood of Tuxedo in Winnipeg, I was a frequent browser. More affordable were Roots and Beaver Canoe brands (you have to be Canadian to fully understand). My friends and I lived in either brand’s sweatpants which were considered preppy. I wore out Ellesse knock-off polos that my father came back with from a trip to Asia.

One very influential brand while growing up was Benetton. Founded in the year of my birth, 1965, it still numbers 5,000 stores worldwide. I say, “still”, because it is amazing it is still relevant given its marketing tone and very real controversies. Benetton was once iconic, gaining huge recognition in the 1980’s and 1990’s but has since struggled. In 2000, it ranked 75th in Interbrand’s ranking of best global brands but by 2002, it had dropped out of the list (I was Chief Marketing Officer at Interbrand at the time).

In 2017, the company posted a loss of €180 million. Luciano Benetton, who was then 83 years old, came out of retirement, returning as Executive Chairman. Revival efforts also included appointing Jean-Charles de Castelbajac as artistic director and re-appointing photographer Oliviero Toscani to regain some of the old glory. But was it glory or gory?

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The Story of Three 1970’s Posters: Tennis Girl; Hang in There, Baby; and Farrah

Why, oh why, should I write about this, you ask? Well, because, they all hung in my family’s summer cottage. So, let’s find out how they came to be and the legacy they leave.

Remember the Tennis Girl Poster? A very cheeky one, indeed. What throws many off is it is British. Most assume American origins. It shows an attractive woman from behind (hint, hint) walking towards a tennis court net. In her right hand is a (wooden) racquet. Her left hand reaches behind for some unknown reason lifting a short, white tennis dress. The movement exposes most of her back side.

The poster became incredibly popular and was shrouded in a bit of, “who was she?”

According to accepted sources, the photograph was taken by then-30-year-old Martin Elliott in September, 1976. The model was 18-year-old Fiona Butler, his girlfriend at the time. The photo was taken at the University of Birmingham’s tennis courts.

The dress was hand-made by Butler’s friend Carol Knotts, from a Simplicity Pattern with added lace trim. Knotts also supplied the tennis racquet, with all of the borrowed items later returned by Butler to Knotts after the shoot with the gift of a box of chocolates.

The image was first published as part of a calendar by Athena for the 1977 Silver Jubilee, the same year Virginia Wade won the Wimbledon ladies’ singles title. Athena negotiated an agreement to distribute the image as a poster. It achieved widespread distribution, selling over 2 million copies at £2 per poster. It remains a popular print to buy on Amazon and Posters.com.

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