‘Right hand to the CEO’: Marketers on the changing demands of the CMO

Former Burger King CMO Fernando Machado, talking alongside PepsiCo’s Mark Kirkham, say it’s crucial marketers are a “fighting force” for their company.

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To get a seat at the top table marketers have to show they can contribute to the overall health and growth of their business, according to top marketers speaking at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity today (19 June).

“I see myself as the right hand arm of the CEO,” said Fernando Machado, CMO of startup NotCo and former Burger King CMO. “I get involved in ESG [environmental, social and governance], diversity and inclusion, recruitment, culture – all those things which back in the day marketers maybe wouldn’t have been [part of]. [Historically] we would have been more boxed into the marketing department.”

While the fundamentals of marketing remain the same and he insists CMOs must get the basics right to afford them a chance to get to this position, he said he has seen “a big shift” in the role of the CMO since first joining Unilever back in 1996.

Former Burger King CMO Fernando Machado on moving into a ‘scrappy’ startup role

As a result he said he has tried to evolve his leadership style, adding “the CMOs I know and admire are also doing that”. “They go beyond the 4Ps and become more of a fighting force for the company.” He believes marketers must put themselves in a position where they are constantly learning.

He added: “If the right hand arm of the CEO is always the CFO things aren’t going to end so well. You need to be in that mix and if the company… has a vision for marketing that ends up happening naturally.”

Calling it CMO – fine. It’s what you do with it. It’s how you shape the CMO.

Mark Kirkham, PepsiCo

PepsiCo’s CMO for international beverages, Mark Kirkham, agreed it’s crucial that marketers “fight to have a seat at the table”. And while there has been debate about whether chief marketing officer is still the right title for the most senior marketer in an organisation, he said it “should be protected”, because without a CMO there is no one to make sure the consumer is sitting in every conversation, which “ultimately is our job”. But at the same time he said the role has “evolved”.

“Calling it CMO – fine. It’s what you do with it. It’s how you shape the CMO. Jane [Wakely, PepsiCo’s chief consumer and marketing officer] jokes that she should be the chief smile officer, I’ll probably get in trouble for saying it but it’s true,” Kirkham said.

“I think Raja [Rajamannar, Mastercard CMO] said it a few years ago, but a CMO is a GM [general manager] who knows a hell of a lot about marketing, which gets back to that growth mindset. You need to define what the CMO does and what impact they have, but ultimately I think we do need marketers at the highest levels in organisations. We need to be fighting to have a seat at the table.”The language of the boardroom: What to say and what to avoid

Don’t be afraid to fail

In order to get to the top table, Kirkham said marketers must push themselves, adding: “If you’re not a little bit afraid you’re probably not doing your job.”

He admitted that some of the greatest lessons he’s learnt throughout his career, which includes more than a decade at PepsiCo, as well as nearly five years at Procter & Gamble, have come from the failures he had.

“Some of the greatest learnings I’ve ever had have been campaigns that bombed, ideas that probably weren’t consumer based and not [developed] on insight,” he added. “Fear is actually just excitement in disguise. You actually have the same physical feeling… You’ve just got to embrace that and turn it into something powerful.”

“If you’re not afraid to fail then you’re not going to do the things that will make you successful,” he added. “We all have different challenges but if you don’t take them on, we won’t be successful, not as an industry and not as marketers.”



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