By Seth Matlins Managing Director, Forbes CMO Network
No matter how you measure marketing influence, no matter the tweaks made to methodology over time, no matter the sea-change across the marketing landscape itself, the chief marketers being “inducted” into this first class of The Forbes CMO Hall of Fame, have been mainstays of The Forbes World’s Most Influential CMOs List since its launch in 2012.
We consider this proof positive of their enduring influence on the brands and businesses they help lead, on industry, the marketing community and the attitudes and behaviors of people the world over. Individually and collectively, they have shown us what true (marketing) leadership and impact—in the face of unimaginable and unforeseen change—looks like.
Given their influence, given the scope and scale of their achievements over time we thought their perspective on the changes these Chief Marketers have seen (and driven) over the past decade, and the ones they expect to continue to confront in the exercise of their influence were worth sharing.
While we weren’t able to connect with each of those being inducted, we asked those we did how, over the past decade, they thought marketing and marketing influence had evolved, and what and/or who moving forward a chief marketer’s influence will be in service of? We’ve organized the perspectives they’ve shared in 3 buckets.
- How has marketing/marketing influence changed over the past decade?
- Despite transformational change what remains constant?
- What might change moving forward?
Some of answers have been edited for clarity. They are presented in alphabetical order:
Matlins: How has marketing/marketing influence changed over the past decade?
CMO & Head of People, Twitter
What I love about where marketing has evolved over the past few years is that there’s a level of authenticity and self-awareness, honesty and directness that has become critical and fundamental.
Chief Product & Marketing Officer, Lego
A lot has happened in the past decade. This is what is so incredible about the world we work in. It’s the constant evolution of the influence marketing has—as well as the way it can excite people through magic and impactful stories—that inspire change. Creating value through purpose is arguably one of the most defining influences which has set the blueprint for how we think about the way we market our brands.
CEO, J.P. Morgan Wealth Management (former CMO, JPMorgan Chase)
Marketing has always been about growing the business, full stop. A business that can’t grow is a business that eventually dies. And how a business grows has probably changed more dramatically over the past decade than over the past 50 years.
CMO & EVP, Corporate Strategy & Development, Adobe
Over the last decade, accelerated by the pandemic, we have seen the world go from a world with digital to a digital-only world. In this unprecedented environment, marketing has played an even more pivotal role for all businesses—from solopreneurs to Fortune 500 companies. A decade ago people laughed a bit at Adobe for moving so much of our marketing budget to digital. We’re not always right but we were on that one.
Founder 5S Diversity, (former CMO Visa, HP, PepsiCo Int & Facebook)
The Marketing industry has undergone a major transformation in the last decade. While traditionally most marketers were developed in the CPG industry where the practice was created and where the role is clearly defined, today most are working in the vast non-CPG world where the expectations for the practice and the understanding of the role it plays in driving growth is much less defined and understood.
The marketing functions that are mostly integrated under the CMO in the CPG world are distributed across different disciplines and performance marketing, product marketing, brand marketing and comms are seen as separated disciplines with isolated KPIs as opposed to integrated engagement opportunities across the engagement journey all aimed at driving growth.
Chief Customer Officer, CVS Health, Co-President CVS Pharmacy (former CMO IBM & Citi)
The most important role marketers play is to be the voice of the consumer and the engine for growth. While that mission is clear, the means have changed massively over the past decade – new channels, data science, AI, new technologies, new attribution methodologies and so much more – as have the required ways of working, challenging us to be truly inter-disciplinary and agile in all we do.
Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble
Marketing’s influence has evolved over the years to serve a wider range of stakeholders more deliberately – including consumers, retailers, employees, shareholders, and society. Moving forward, given the many disruptions we will inevitably face, it will be increasingly important to stay focused on the marketing industry’s fundamental reason for being – which is to be a force for growth.
Marketing and advertising have always had the power to influence customers, society, and culture. Over the past decade, I think we’ve seen more marketers using that responsibility to build trust with their stakeholders in meaningful ways. As an industry, we’ve become much more purposeful about the stories we tell, the diversity of voices shaping our stories, and how we’re showing up for the communities we serve. Embracing that responsibility is one of the most meaningful evolutions we’ve seen, and the momentum must continue.
EVP, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer, Lowe’s (former CMO Taco Bell)
I believe Marketing has always been responsible for growth, but of course the ways in which that is accomplished continue to evolve. Speaking from the experience of working across multiple industries, I can attest that how the role casts its influence indeed varies.
Global CMO, GM (former CMO, Cadillac)
Customers now have different expectations of the brands they buy from. They want to know companies share their values and their social concerns and treat employees well. People expect companies to act on issues that were traditionally the remit of politicians.
Global CMO, Google
Marketing influence has most certainly evolved over the last decade. Marketers today don’t just run campaigns, we’re testing and providing feedback to our engineers, product teams and sales teams to help make better products and services before they go out into the world.
Matlins: Despite Transformational Change What Remains Constant?
Global CMO, Stellantis, Global President of Fiat
We influence the way people feel -not only about the Brands; but about themselves, the world, and the society we all live in. This type of influence needs data (for the mind) to be collected. And stories (from the heart) to be shared. And when combined, in that rarest kind of magic, we are reminded that MINDS AND HEARTS together make up MARKETING.
Lemkau: The CMO role, to me, is always in service of the customer… obsessing about what their experience is like, how consumer behavior is changing, how to acquire them efficiently, and which competitors or new entrants are doing things better than you.
Lewnes: Marketing drives loyalty, community and growth; connecting, engaging, educating and transacting business with customers. Marketing has always been on the front-line to customers.
Pritchard: Deeply understanding the needs of the people we serve, who are the consumers of our brands, and ensuring that we offer the very best performance and value. When we do that well, we will drive growth, which can do a lot of good – economic good by growing markets and enabling economic inclusion. And when we are a sustained force for growth, it gives us the means to do even more good for society and for the planet.
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard
A chief marketer’s influence will continue to always be in service of the consumer! They have the power to make real, impactful change that will improve peoples’ lives. It’s critical that chief marketers listen, and support consumers’ wants and needs – they have a responsibility to reflect their customers’ voices and put their brand values into action.
Scotti: The chief marketer’s influence should be in service of the customer. Without them, the brand doesn’t exist.
Thalberg: Fundamentally, a chief marketer must be in service to – and the C-suite voice of – the consumer, with accountability to the CEO/overall business.
Twohill: While we take great pride in the fact that our influence and storytelling helps drive business growth and reinforces Google’s values, ultimately, we’re champions of our users. We’ll always work to understand their needs and put them at the forefront of our decision-making. We’re also committed to making sure they’re authentically and accurately represented in our work and that we continue to challenge ourselves and others to get it right.
Wahl: The stakeholder capitalism argument might suggest you serve everyone, but we believe that knowing your customers well is the best way to know who else you need to serve. So, it’s back to basics here. Don’t get distracted by the increased scrutiny; stay focused on your customers and then you’ll know what else you need to engage in.
Matlins: What might change moving forward?
Berland: Culture and conversation move so quickly, the lines between what’s happening inside companies versus out is becoming invisible, and that’s an incredible opportunity and responsibility for everyone in the industry. Don’t just look outward, look inward, always. Vulnerability and humanity (will be) key.
Francois: Rather than marketers, I think we are curators. Storytellers who craft the narrative scene by scene. Architects who build Brands brick by brick with a mortar that holds interest and creates bonds.
Goldin: The fundamental changes that the world has experienced in the last decade has raised consumer expectations of brands to deliver real, impactful value beyond just good quality products and services. This has meant that consumers, and especially younger generations, will choose companies and brands based on their purpose and values, not just their utility. And it is the role of marketing to ensure that purpose-led thinking is at the heart of brand and product development; not something that sits in a silo.
Lemkau: Marketers must lead (the) transformation for how their companies can grow or they’re not doing their job.
Lucio: We will need to build brands not only based on our ability to solve problems relative to category but within culture.
Rajamannar: As an industry, we can strive to create a more inclusive society that benefits everyone. Meaningful action will always speak louder than a well-intended marketing campaign. Don’t leave anyone behind.”
Wahl: (There will continue to be) increasing scrutiny on brands and brand values from a much wider range of audiences (e.g., ESG investors, policymakers, modern citizens) than ever before. In a world of stakeholder capitalism, the role of the corporation goes far beyond responsibilities to shareholders to cover all stakeholders.
That gives marketers increased influence across the entire stakeholder landscape and equally the stakes in getting it wrong have never been higher. Brands must constantly be aware of the sentiment of a wide range of stakeholders to avoid the kind of employee activism that got many well-known companies into trouble…the responsibility is now on selling vision and values as much as products.
What’s clear from what’s been shared is that the world’s most frequently recognized influential marketers recognize in turn that while they’ve been and will be confronted by torrents of change, what remains unchanged is that understanding and serving the user to drive growth remains fundamental even if and as the “how-to-do-it” continues to evolve. While one could reasonably argue this isn’t news, given that change often begets more change and a reflexive shift in focus, we’d suggest that maybe this is exactly the point.
What’s equally clear and we hope offers reason for optimism at a time when socio-economic indicators globally provide few, is that these chief marketers clearly see their role and influence serving more than a shot-term sales imperative but, rather, the long-term best interests of an eco-system of stakeholders and the world at large. And that they consider the activation and expression of “purpose”—a word oft over and mis-used—not as window dressing but as an economic engine.
Finally, by definition, induction into any “Hall of Fame” is rooted in looking backwards, in what has already been done and accomplished and contributed. But, we consider at least the early years of The Forbes CMO Hall of Fame more as a living museum because those inducted continue to do, contribute, accomplish and, yes, influence.
With this in mind, we give the last word to inductee Michelle Peluso:
“Here’s to owning our own future and having the curiosity, grit, and grace to shape it.”