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10 CMOs Who Are Kicking Ass (And What You Can Learn From Them)

CMOs who are kicking ass

Being at the helm of a company’s marketing team is no easy feat for any size company, but it’s especially challenging when your company is one of the biggest brands in the world. You need to be able to react to what’s going on around you as well as help steer your brand toward where the market is heading, all while keeping your thousands of customers, employees and shareholders happy.

Want to take your brand to the top? Here’s a list, in no particular order, of 10 CMOs at the top of their game and their key insights on how to be a kick-ass marketer.

Beth Comstock

Where she kicks ass: General Electric

Why she kicks ass: Beth leads by example, truly immersing herself in the new technology that GE is utilizing. Case in point, she’s even managed to turn herself into a powerful brand, with over 27,500 Twitter followers as of this writing.

“If you believe, as I do, that social is going to continue to play an increasingly important role in shaping the way that people connect, live and work,” explains Comstock, “then I think it’s imperative that you, as a CMO, use the technology. I believe in immersing yourself in something to truly understand it.”


Nikesh Arora

Where he kicks ass: Google

Why he kicks ass: We don’t need to tell you about Google and how huge they are, not to mention how many employees they have. Nikesh is not only one of Google’s top employees, he’s also its highest-paid employee, earning a total compensation of $51,145,868 in 2012. In the video below, he explains why you need to look 10 years into the future to stay on top. You need to see where the world is heading and be ready – otherwise, it will be too late.


Philip W. Schiller

Where he kicks ass: Apple

Why he kicks ass: The notoriously tight-lipped marketer rarely gives interviews or shares his insights on marketing, but his record speaks for itself. Anyone even remotely interested in technology has not only heard of Apple, but likely owns one of their devices as well. Apple is also well known for their creative marketing, which makes their technology seem hip and a must-have. Here are his thoughts on the commercials for the first iPhone:

“…We could say all the marketing things we want about it, but at the end of the day when you show somebody tapping on things or flicking a list or pinching and zooming a graphic you’ve got an instant ‘wow, that’s incredible’ reaction. So we knew that probably the most powerful thing we could do with the iPhone was to show that to people and let them experience that on TV and that’s been very true — we’ve got great response to that TV advertising.”


Jonathan Becher

Where he kicks ass: SAP

Why he kicks ass: With locations in over 130 countries, SAP is one of the leaders – possibly the leader – in enterprise software. Becher believes that you’ve got to listen to anyone you can in order to truly understand the market and make your product amazing.

“In some sense you’ve got to be the voice of the market,” says Becher, “not so much the voice of the customer, not necessarily the voice of the product, but the voice of the market – listening to the signals of what the people that don’t want your product want, listening to the signals of your competitors, listening to any of the signals you can, aggregating that data and providing a sort of strategic compass to the company of ‘here are some things that we don’t know about that we need to start paying attention to.’”

BONUS: Full disclosure, we’re big fans of SAP for one more reason. Did you know that SAP uses Uberflip to better engage its audience with its thought leadership? Check out their Hub here!


Jim Farley

Where he kicks ass: Ford

Why he kicks ass: Marketing one of the most important industrial companies in U.S. history that nearly went under if it weren’t for a government bailout is definitely not an easy job. Farley’s been tasked with making the world fall in love with Ford all over again, and that requires getting back to basics. “The fact of the matter is that we’re getting back to the basics now as marketers,” explains Farley. “Customers are done with the fluff – they want the real company, what really makes you different.”

This changing perception of Ford needs to be applied internally as well, so that past mistakes are not repeated. Farley believes, “My responsibility is to teach the organization something that they’re not willing to learn and if I get fired for it or if I don’t fit then I shouldn’t have been there anyway.”


Jon Iwata

Where he kicks ass: IBM

Why he kicks ass: It can be quite nerve-racking trying to position your brand as an industry leader in an era when you’re just one bad review away from a consumer passing on your product. Iwata, however, embraces this as a tool for making his company even better.

“Because of transparency,” he explains, “where everybody’s looking into your company, CMOs are going to have to spend more time on what the company is like on the inside – what we stand for, what we believe, what we value, our purpose, our culture – spend more time there, than what we’ve done historically which has been to manage the brand outside our companies, and for a lot of CMOs that’s new too. So, the basic mission is the same, but how we fulfill the mission – very, very different.”


Karen Quintos

Where she kicks ass: Dell

Why she kicks ass: Karen has helped redefine what it means to be active on social by launching the Social Media Listening Command Center at Dell. Though perhaps a bit gimmicky, this is a symbolic way of showing how Dell is devoting serious attention to customers in whatever medium they are active in, whether it’s phone, email or in this case social media. Direct and instant conversations with customers gives Dell a ton of insight that is then fed directly back into its products.


Jeremy Burton

Where he kicks ass: EMC

Why he kicks ass: Jeremy’s all about thrills and risk-taking, racing cars when he’s not heading the marketing team EMC, a leader in enterprise storage solutions. The fun doesn’t stop on the track, though; he believes that marketers need to take risks as well.

“I see too many marketing people that are scared,” Burton explains. “They’re scared to try things – you often get caught between the sales guy and the product development guy, trying to keep both happy – and you’re trying to be safe and conservative and ‘I’m with this big fortune 500 company’ and ‘can we try anything’ and ‘what will the lawyers think’…You can’t think like that.”


Chris Capossela

Where he kicks ass: Microsoft

Why he kicks ass: Despite heading the marketing team at such a large company with 8 widely different business groups, Capossela isn’t afraid to take an idea and run with it. For instance, the Smoked by Windows Phone campaign that debuted at CES this year was a last-minute idea that someone on the marketing team came up with, which offered $100 to anyone whose phone was faster than a Windows Phone. The idea was incredibly successful and beat every phone tested, but also was successful at getting people to speak to the on-site Microsoft employees. The campaign has since gone on to be in retail stores in 43 countries.

Capossela believes that it’s essential to always be “living and breathing the customer journey. I think great marketing needs to be applied to whatever part of the customer journey your product or solution is falling down at.”


Blair Christie

Where she kicks ass: Cisco

Why she kicks ass: If you’re connected to the Internet right now, there’s a good chance that Cisco is involved. One of the main driving forces behind their understanding of what their customers need is by spending time actually speaking to them.

“I always find it amazing how little time marketers or even business leaders truly spend with the customer; not the buyer perhaps or the CXO who’s doing the buying – but really the people who are really using your products,” she explains. “By spending time with your customer either going into their offices or talking to them live and understanding exactly how they’re interacting with your solution, that is the best customer data that you can get and then you can really create a strategy that will go after solving their most important problems.”


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