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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Has it Been 10 Years?

I have not seen this since 2001. Thanks to GT, for sharing this interview from Cannes. Great, still relevant thoughts and bon mots from Amir.

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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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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Best (Business) Crime Reads

Having ghostwritten books and put out my own on marketing’s rich history, I have a grasp of what books do well. Self-help, leadership, romance, and wellness are hot categories. So, too, is true crime, and not only in the form of books. Podcasts, streaming content, traditional television, and long-read articles abound, sharing the depravity and cruelness of the human condition to huge audiences.

True crime is not my genre though I must admit, while cutting the lawn, I will listen to the podcast version of NBC’s Dateline. Spoiler alert: 99 times out of 100, the boyfriend or husband did it, or, the girlfriend or wife.

What I want to share are books that have fascinated me going back 30 years. That is, business crime. It all started on one of my first business trips. In 1988, I traveled from Winnipeg to Toronto. At the “tender” age of 25, I was a professional fundraiser for nonprofits. I was representing three Winnipeg institutions and soliciting big business Toronto for large corporate cheques.

Between meetings, I entered a Coles bookstore underground the towers of First Canadian Place. Later, in my career, I had an office in the building while working for Price Waterhouse. One book cover called to me from the shelf. The gold embossed lettering and clever title beckoned and enticed.

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Now is the Time to Write that Book

In addition to our branding and marketing services, Swystun Communications helps thought leaders get their book from concept to shelf. It is great way to get your thinking out there while growing contacts, leads and business. Click here to learn more.

When You Go To Hire An Agency, Don’t Pick a Dog

Let me make this real quick. Advertising, marketing and creative agencies are horrible at marketing and building their own brand. Cobbler’s shoes and all that (“someone very good at their profession but are completely unable or unwilling to use this ability on themselves”). While head of marketing at Interbrand, I obsessed over our brand. Given Interbrand was the leading global brand consultancy, my many lost sleeps were to be expected.

As Chief Communications Officer at DDB, I felt the weight of legacy while trying to make a Mad Men-era brand relevant. I give thanks that the competition were more laconic and greatly paralyzed in managing their own brand. While at the iconic agency, I tried to point out that PR was not brand-building. Further, award shows and sending out a press release on a new client win is table-stakes. To be more pointed, agencies of any size should redirect award show cash towards thought leadership and staff development (but I partially digress).

Over the last few years, I have consulted to over 20 agencies and consultancies on their business and brand strategies. It has been challenging because true sources of differentiation are elusive. All have great people, a smattering of cool clients (often the uncool ones keep the lights on), talk about a unique, cool culture that doesn’t actually exist, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and too many have an office canine featured in the people section of their website (agencies have made a cute pet table-stakes).

Here is more frank, straight-shooting … every agency should be a best practice case in their own marketing. When you are looking to hire an agency, look past the Nascar slide of past client logos. Discount the featured case studies unless they include impressive quantifiable results (97% of agency case studies are wishy-washy fluff). Drill down on process and methodology. See if they hint at their revenue model because that will drive how they behave and serve.

As much as I detest the proliferation of marketing award shows (a cottage industry of vanity), it could be fun to start one that recognizes agency marketing. There would be a lot of participation ribbons with very few standouts. So, when you go to hire an agency, do so based on its marketing. Otherwise, you may be hiring a dog.

Narrative Psychology in Brand Storytelling

Let me tell you a story. It’s a bit about our past, a bit about our future but more importantly, it concerns what is happening right now. It is also a story that nears 2,500 words because our complex world cannot be dumbed downed, reduced to a vague tagline, summed in a tweet, or captured in an oversimplified how-to formula. True learning and understanding requires time and effort so heat the kettle or uncork a bottle and enjoy.

Marketing and advertising agencies claim to be professional storytellers. Agencies deliver a brand story as part of engagements while creative briefs bring the story to life. Agencies pump out papers on the subject and profile case studies where the story is key to client success. Within the industry, marketing conferences make room for storytelling as part of the agenda. Media and publications write on the topic with frequency. Storytelling permeates the profession. Here are three changes taking place in business storytelling:

They Don’t Tell: by its very definition, storytelling is broadcast in nature. We tell a tale. It is ‘one-to-many’ like the Mad Men era of advertising. We know that no longer works. Stories must now invite consumers in and let them be both character and storyteller. It is now about storyparticipation not passive absorption.

They Are Organic: the best brand stories take root organically and get consumers involved. Then they really evolve. This scares traditional marketers. They fear ceding control. Granted it is a bit of a wild ride when consumers help build the story but this is what is taking place with Uber and Airbnb and has taken place with Apple and Red Bull.

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