A Tale of Two CMO’s: A Sudden Turn of Events (Part III)

Continuing on the blog series that I started a few weeks back titled, A Tale of Two CMO’s: A Study in Contrasts, the focus of this week’s installation was supposed to be on creating product “desire.” However, we’ve had a little bit of a turn of events as we find that our old school CMO, James Hossenpfeifer, has been asked by the board of directors at his company to step down at the end of the year. While the official word from James and the company is that this was a mutual decision, I’m going to direct most of today’s questions toward James and ask him to give us a little inside perspective on this turn of events.

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James, this news of you stepping as CMO at the end of the year came as a little bit of a surprise. Can you give us a little more insight beyond what was in the initial press release?

James: Ha ha, well, you know that they say that the average tenure of a CMO is only 23 months. Given my run of 14 years, I’d say that I’ve done okay. With that said, I know I’m not “off the record” on your blog but I will share just a little bit more insight as to how this all went down. The bottom line is that the times are a changing. And while my leadership in the marketing world has helped us grow our company into what it is today, my CEO and our board has been pushing harder for our collective style of leadership to change. Between some of the work that John Chambers has accomplished as CEO at CISCO and what A.G. Lafley had done at P&G;, the feeling was that our company should be more focused on open leadership and a flattening of the organization. There has also been a tremendous push to focus more on customer service and social media. Apparently, one of our board members read a book by your colleague, Joseph Jaffe, called Flip the Funnel and it’s got him all hot and bothered about the potential of using social media to better communicate and collaborate with customers. While I don’t disagree with this philosophy or direction, I am also in touch enough with my skills and capabilities to know that I was not the guy to lead us down this path. After a lot of discussion with my CEO and our board of directors, we decided that I would help us look for my successor during this transition.
Tessa: James, I guess I’m not sure whether or not to console you or congratulate you. While I applaud you for being self-aware enough to realize that you weren’t the right fit as the future CMO of your company, it’s sad to see someone with your skill set and knowledge base step down. This may sound a bit patronizing given how much more experience you have than me but I know a lot of people so let me know if you’d like some help finding your next opportunity.

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What will you look for in your replacement?

James: If you don’t mind, I’d like to respond to Tessa’s comment first. Tessa, thank you for the kind words and in this case, you can congratulate me. After many years of working too many hours and getting on too many planes, I think I’m going to take some time off and spend it with my wife in our second home. My company has taken good care of me so I don’t have to go back to work but I may think about writing a book or perhaps doing some consulting down the road. Who knows, I may even think about starting one of those blogs to share my experiences with some of the less experienced marketers out there. I know I can’t teach them much about new media but I can talk about some of the fundamentals of marketing that many digital marketers may have missed as they cut their teeth during the dot com days.
Getting back to your question, Aaron, I think my replacement will end up looking a lot like Tessa. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud because that will ruin any chance of me recruiting her but her new approach to marketing is exactly what our board is looking for. What I like about Tessa is that she hasn’t thrown the baby out with the bath water in her approach to generating awareness and purchase and intent for her company. She’s done a fantastic job in balancing traditional marketing tactics like direct marketing and advertising with some of the newer social techniques. By the way, I was really looking forward to what she was going to say about creating product desire in today’s installment. I guess my news pushed that off for at least another week or so.
Tessa: James, I am humbled that you think so highly of my approach to marketing. At the risk of turning this post into a gush fest, I’ll leave my response to that. I would, however, like to comment on something you said earlier. It’s funny that you mentioned the book Flip th
e Funnel as I just received a copy of it in the mail about a month or two ago. It’s sitting on my desk at work and I keep promising myself that I will read it on my next business trip. Aaron, I think it was someone from your office that sent it to me, wasn’t it? Hopefully I’ll check that one off the list soon.
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Could you give us a little more detail on your answer to that last question?

James: Sorry, I guess I got distracted. In terms of what I’m looking for in my replacement, I have five high level criteria in mind:
1) 15-20 years of brand marketing experience at a B2C company
2) impeccable communications skills — this is probably the most important item
3) a track record of creating successful marketing programs for a midsize to large company
4) an advanced understanding of how digital and social media work and can be applied to generate awareness, intent, desire and action aka purchase.
5) ideally, this person has experience working at a company that is extremely customer focused (like a Southwest Airlines).
Tessa: James, you might talk to Charlene Li from the Altimeter Group. She’s written a second book titled, Open Leadership and I know she has met with a ton of CMOs and CEOs to talk about this very topic. You might also work with Aaron to get some time scheduled with Joe Jaffe. I hear the two of them are doing a series of private dinners with senior level marketers where Joe talks a little bit some of the theses from the book.
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There have been several CMO changes just in the last few weeks with Jeff Hayzlett stepping down from Kodak, Joel Ewanick leaving Nissan to join GM among others?

James: Ironically, I think Jeff Hayzlett is leaving Kodak for the opposite reason that I’m stepping down. I know he’s done some amazing things at Kodak over his last four years and you want to talk about a guy that gets digital and social. In fact, thanks for the reminder because I may have to give Mr. Hayzlett a call to see if he has any interest in my job. Although I’ve heard he’s pretty darn busy with his new book so not sure if he’s really looking for his next gig yet. But back to your question, I mentioned earlier that CMOs are one of the shortest tenured C-level positions in the business. To that end, now more than ever we are facing unusual challenges like budgets that got reduced anywhere between 10-20% in last years’ downturn but with little to no reduction in our marketing outcomes. As CMOs, we are also being pushed to figure out alternatives to traditional marketing tactics as ad effectiveness continues to erode and the popularity of places like Facebook and Twitter continue to grow.
Tessa: Just to second what James is saying, it is a tough time to be a CMO. Not that I’m complaining because I love my job. For me, what seems to have helped me adapt to this ever changing world of marketing is to expand the network of people/companies that influence me. That doesn’t mean I try and read more or attend more events but rather that I look for ideas outside of some of the traditional marketing publications and conferences. In fact, I’m thinking about skipping this years DMA Conference and instead attending Blog World Expo. I know that sounds like a crazy idea but there are so many smart people including more and more brand representatives that show up for
these types of conferences. I know you’re next question will be how the hell I know about Blog World Expo? Twitter of course.
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Well, there we have it. While we didn’t learn how James or Tessa generate product desire through new or traditional marketing means, we did find out a little more about what’s required from the CMO of the future. Next week, I’ll try and get our two CMOs back on track and perhaps wrap up the series with a combined focus on desire AND action. In the meantime, keep those questions coming. [Dwight, sorry I couldn't get to your question/comment from last week's post about brand driving sales. One way or another, we'll make sure to pin these two down].

Comments

  1. says

    I think both of you have made good point over here. CEO is the person who is responsible for all major decision. Your suggestion will help them most to work better.

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