Secret Marketer: Marketers and agencies gain real strength by believing they are the best at what they do

I am often asked about the core skills to become a CMO with a major brand. Having considered this, I believe one of the measures that sets apart a true leader from a wannabe is their ability to orchestrate and coordinate a group of disparate individuals – both within the team, and across one’s agencies – to deliver an award-winning and consistent articulation of the brand to a wide customer base.

This time of year is a great way to test this, and this week I have run my own internal awards ceremony.

As a true democracy, I asked all of my team to vote for a colleague who they believed was worthy of an award – the ‘Going the Extra Mile Award’ for the person who had supported them the most over the past 12 months; the ‘Marketing Activity of the Year’ for the campaign, event or other initiative that had impressed them the most; and, of course, the ‘Young Marketer of the Year’ and ‘Marketer of the Year’ – the individuals in the team who had stood out as demonstrating the epitome of world-class marketing skills.

I also asked people to vote for their ‘Agency of the Year’ – which agency on our roster, across multiple disciplines, was the easiest to work with and had delivered the best work. And, for the first time, I asked the agencies to collaborate and come up with their ‘Marketer of the Year’.

This proved fantastic fun, but also a very telling insight into how the team thinks and operates.

Just about everyone voted, but the key statistic for me was that almost 90% of people in the team were nominated in one or more of the categories. Now that is real strength in depth – to think that someone believes that almost everyone in the team is best at something.

The agencies were also enthusiastic about the awards; they were hugely competitive about the coveted title, as well as having detailed alignment conversations to separate the best PR manager from leading campaign marketer – the push-overs from those that challenge them the most.

The entire event proved a great success. There was a clear winner in each category – most of which I agreed with (though I was miffed that I only got votes for the ‘Messiest Desk’ category) – and it was interesting to see that the clear winner in the ‘Agency of the Year’ was a smaller, specialised agency – the main roster agencies barely getting a look-in.

Was this because of its can-do attitude, its high responsiveness or simply because big campaigns are complicated?