Tommy Hilfiger, Facebook and Burger King on what makes a marketing leader

Top global marketers discuss the key attributes a modern marketing leader needs to succeed in 2017.


From sales and commercial acumen to strategic vision and a commitment to empowering their teams, marketers must possess a diverse range of skills to succeed as a leader in 2017.

To decipher the essential skills and attributes needed by today’s marketing leaders Marketing Week has carried out an in-depth qualitative and quantitive study, mapping out the ‘Anatomy of a Leader‘.

READ MORE: Do you have the Anatomy of a Leader?

Here top marketers from Microsoft, Burger King, Diageo and Facebook share their thoughts on the core attributes that make up the anatomy of a modern marketing leader. Click on the aspects of leadership – left and right brained, bravery, humanity, the ability to inspire – to find out more.

Left and right brained

Fernando Machado, head of brand marketing, Burger King: “It helps to have a balance of the rational and emotional side, so the left and the right side of the brain. This goes back to the question around data. If you’re in the marketing business, you need to know your numbers. At the same time, marketing is creative. Marketers that manage to balance the two things tend to succeed.”

Kathleen Hall, corporate vice-president, global advertising and media, Microsoft: “One of the amazing things about being a marketer is the balance between the right brain and the left brain. You have to be analytical and business-driven, and understand business and data, but you also have to be a good ideas person and communicator. It’s a rare combination of skills that I love and that are still absolutely necessary to be a marketer today.”

Alison Lewis, global CMO, Johnson & Johnson: “Ambidexterity is a really important part of being a CMO today. In the early 2000s a lot of people went dotcom and they said, ‘Alison, if you don’t go dotcom then you’re going to be a dinosaur staying in packaged goods’.

I didn’t become a dinosaur because I embraced that ambidexterity in terms of the old world is here and the new world is going digital. I immersed myself in that digital world and joined the two together.”

READ MORE: Chief growth officer is just a symbolic role, says J&J CMO

Simon Jones, founder, Marketing Return: “Modern marketing leaders also need to have a great grasp of the numbers, both analytically and commercially, as well as having an inquisitive nature to use that information to get better at what they do.”

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Carolyn Everson, vice-president of global marketing solutions, Facebook: “Marketers need to be brave, agile and have a philosophy of test, iterate, and learn as opposed to getting it perfect and hoping it works. Marketers should be constantly intellectually curious, because the market is changing so quickly. We are learning every single day.”

Burger King’s Machado: “Having a brand positioning requires courage – you need to have opinions on issues and you can’t be everything to everyone. You also can’t be the CMO if you’re not able to bring the company along with you, whether it’s franchisees, a sales team or a CEO.

“You need to be able to galvanise people around the idea, especially if it’s a campaign that will get people talking and therefore isn’t vanilla.”

READ MORE: Burger King – Galvanising the whole business around an idea is the only way to ensure it isn’t vanilla

Microsoft’s Hall: “There’s got to be a degree of bravery. This isn’t a risk averse business to be in and you have to have a degree of personal conviction and sense of comfort with risk that is unusual in a lot of other industries.”

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Tim Kendall, president, Pinterest: “You need to be transparent and it sounds a little cliché but you need to be authentic. Part of being transparent and authentic is that when you feel insecure about something you’re OK communicating that vulnerability. I think that resonates with people.

“The archetype of a leader that’s got it all figured out and knows exactly how to handle every situation – I don’t think that’s who people want to follow.”

Marc Matthieu, CMO, Samsung: “A leader is human. After all – consumers are people too, and marketers should be people-focused. Care about the people you serve. I’m also a big believer in curiosity and constantly in reinventing the playbook.”

Avery Baker, chief brand officer, Tommy Hilfiger: “The number one word that comes to mind is humanity and that encompasses empathy, and a different type of leadership than what I probably grew up with. Especially with new generations, we can’t pretend that my generation has all the answers anymore.

“Being a leader that is really engaged with your team and empowering them and learning from them and being open to lead without ego and doing it in a human way – I think that’s the way to get the best out of new people coming into our company.”

READ MORE: How a startup mentality put Tommy Hilfiger at the centre of a fashion revolution

Simon Jones, founder, Marketing Return: “The modern marketing leader needs to lose some of the ego and gain a depth of understanding that they haven’t had to before. Marketing doesn’t have to be at the centre of an organisation to be most effective, it just needs to be the one place that everybody can go to, to understand what needs to be done.”

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The ability to inspire 

Pinterest’s Tim Kendall: “Leaders are great storytellers because leaders have to energise and inspire people, so how you narrate and explain what you’re doing as a company and what you’re doing for your end consumer – that’s how you get people energised and sustainably committed to something.”

Syl Saller, CMO, Diageo: “We need to be obsessive about talent and coaching. Everything we do comes down to the talent of our people, the talent of our partners. People are not just naturally good. Coaching them in a way that grows them as fast as possible to lead now and in the future is the answer to most things.”

Amanda Royston, head of marketing, Pizza Express: “I genuinely think the ability to listen should be every marketer’s number one priority. It’s the best way to unleash brilliance in people around you. Two other big priorities that you need to succeed are being a voice of reason and staying grounded.”

Marketing Return’s Jones: “The modern marketing leader needs, primarily, to be able understand, engage and influence people. This isn’t just to get new customers, it’s also imperative to engage and influence the organisation they work in. Marketing is changing rapidly and a good marketing leader needs to bring marketing, sales, service and all the other customer and prospect touchpoints along on the ride.”

Johnson & Johnson’s Alison Lewis: “The other thing from a pure leadership perspective is just the ability to build followership. Particularly if you think about my role, and it’s the same with most of the global CMOs you talk to, you may have 30-50% of the marketing organisation reporting into you, but you don’t have all the marketing organisation.

“So you have to build followership and have people come along on that journey because it’s all those people that don’t report to you that you still need to follow the direction you set. That ability to build followership comes from inspiration.”

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