Digital LeadersTwelve industry experts answer: What makes a great marketing leader?

Twelve industry experts answer: What makes a great marketing leader?

Whether you plan to spend the next twelve months breaking down siloes or building up a social media presence, now is the time to embrace shared learning within the digital marketing communities. What better place to start than by listening back to Marketing Masters Season 2 over the holiday break?

Twelve industry experts answer: What makes a great marketing leader?

In October 2022, the ClickZ Marketing Masters podcast returned for its second series. Across twelve insight-packed episodes, we spoke with marketing leaders from PwC, Mastercard, Snapchat, and more. Industry experts including Raja Rajamannar and Margaret Molloy have examined the role of the marketing leader in areas such as championing AI, social media marketing, and embracing simplicity.

Each episode kicked off with the same question designed to discover the characteristics of truly effective leadership, from the industry’s leading directors, VPs, and CMO:

What makes a great marketing leader?

The attributes of an effective marketing leader

1) Franklin Parrish, Senior Director, Brand, Marketing, and Creative Services at Kaiser Permanente: Using storytelling for strategic planning

“A great marketing leader can communicate up and down the chain. They know what their goals are, and what the strategy for achieving those goals is. Also, they can connect marketing activities to business goals. Lastly, they should be a great storyteller.”

2) Skip Wilson, VP of Brand, Shutterstock: Maintaining a cohesive brand personality throughout change

“I’ve had the pleasure of serving under some great marketing leaders. All of them gave me the space to grow, develop and feel comfortable failing and failing to learn.

Marketing is a little bit of strategy and research insights, but also instinct. Developing your chops for what’s right, and what’s not right for your brand, is extremely critical to succeeding as a marketing leader.”

3) Azlan Raj, CMO, EMEA, Merkle: Measuring for the customer: The future of brand loyalty

“The ability to adapt. There’s a moth called the peppered moth. Through the Industrial Revolution, there was a lot of black smoke in the UK because of all the factories. The moth was white in color. And when the soot landed on the trees and the buildings, the white moths stood out. So over time, it had to evolve to be a darker color. That ability to adapt to your environment is something that marketers need to be able to do.

There’s a lot of talk about the blend between brand and performance or brand and data and technology. We need to be able to balance both ends, and marketers need to work along that spectrum.”

4) Matt McGowan, Country Director, Canada, Snapchat: Bringing AR into your traditional marketing mix

“Great leaders recognize that business is a team effort. I’ve always found it very helpful to practice servant leadership. You flip the org chart upside down. It’s my job to focus on ensuring that the team has what they need and that there are no blockers. The best leaders can bring out what’s best in their teams to accomplish their goals.”

5) Sabrina Rodriguez, Global Head of Digital Marketing, Ericsson: Make or break your digital center of excellence

“Always being able to anchor your short-term needs and priorities within a longer-term, shared ambition. It’s key to make sure that everyone’s on board and has helped co-create that long-term vision and ambition.

A great leader makes sure that their team is focusing on the high-impact wins, and not getting too lost in the weeds. Your job is to challenge your team to walk the talk. That comes from how you organize your content, your estate, and your channels to be truly audience-centric rather than product-centric.”

 6) J.C. Lapierre, CSCO, PwC: How breaking down marketing siloes helped PwC reimagine its global strategy

“Bringing out the potential of your team beyond what they even know they’re capable of. I’ve always tried to help people see that they’re capable of so much more and make the sum of the parts so much greater when they are all put together.

It all starts with listening. You must be willing to know that you do not know the most and that you should listen to your people and your clients. And you can’t just listen once but listen over and over and over because the world changes quickly.

Secondly, set clear goals with the team. Help them understand why those goals are the what the goals are goals for the entire company. Then out of that, how does marketing play a role in helping to achieve those? And advocate for your team.

You must break down silos and be willing to be a decision-maker. Oftentimes the enemy of organizations moving quickly is an inability to make decisions.”

7) Michael Corcoran, Head of Social Media, Ryanair: Viral is vanity: The biggest pitfalls damaging your social media ROI

“A good marketing leader has no agenda. Speaking from experience, you see people are career driven or have brands they’d like to work with. They have an agenda behind it, so it influenced some of their decision. Coming with no agenda means that we try and make the best decision for the brand and the business going forward from a marketing communications perspective.

That goes hand in removing subjectivity as much as you can from your work. People think they know social media, but rarely do they understand the problems that it could solve for the brand or business. I would love to see marketing leaders think with their heads more and less with their hearts.”

8) Claire Reynolds, Director of Marketing, UK & Nordics: Sports sponsorship: Vista and Liverpool FC’s match-winning model

“It’s about sticking to the fundamentals of marketing and being clear and consistent with your teams and stakeholders. That very much starts with really knowing your audience. So, understanding their needs, their wants, what their challenges are, what their ambitions are.

Personally, throughout my career that’s very much involved staying close to customer service directors or call center teams, spending time in the call center during call listening, or getting stuck into detailed customer insight reports and attending research sessions. Once you’ve got that strong understanding, you can build a clear brand strategy and vision.”

9) Raja Rajamannar, CMO, Mastercard: Multisensory marketing and preparing for the fifth marketing paradigm

“A leader is somebody who has a big vision or dream and has a strategy to realize that dream. They identify, inspire, and retain the best talent. They build partnerships across the board, whether it is agency partnerships, technology partnerships, or client partnerships.

Marketing leaders must realize they are doing marketing, to drive three things. Number one, they’re building and nurturing the brand. Number two, they’re fueling the business and they must enable business results. And number three, they must build platforms that will give the company or the brand, a sustainable competitive advantage.

A marketing leader must be a business manager first, understand the dynamics of the business, and connect the dots effectively and credibly between the marketing actions and the business outcomes.”

10) Darrell Alfonso, Director of Marketing Strategy and Operations, Indeed: The attributes of an effective martech stack

“A good marketing leader marries the skills of building an excellent brand and driving revenue. Today, leaders or marketing teams are good at either one. But marrying the two is challenging.

If you have a strong brand, you win more deals just by walking into a room. Because people are aware of your product, they’re aware of your service, and they are aware of the attributes that you bring. And that can easily make the difference between winning or losing a deal or winning or losing a purchase revenue.

On the other hand, it’s something we’ve over-indexed toward in recent years. It’s important to make sure that our marketing activities are driving revenue. But if marketers focus too much on revenue, and only on revenue-driving activities, brands start to look the same. You need a healthy balance of both.”

11) Margaret Molloy, Global CMO, Siegel+Gale: The power of simplicity

“A great leader irrespective of discipline is a simplifier. A leader who can take inputs, listen actively, and make decisions to set the direction for their teams. That may seem a little counter-intuitive because a lot of business culture lends itself to jargon and the notion of sounding smart. This is particularly pertinent in marketing, given, as you’ve documented, the proliferation of channels, and options available to marketers to persuade, which is the core job of marketing: Persuade our audiences to act.”

12) Teresa Barreira, CMO, Publicis Sapient: The principles of exceptional marketing leadership

“It is about inspiring and motivating your team and people around you, regardless of which function you’re the leader of. Great leaders work across the company to influence business decisions and direction.

And for marketing leaders, this is even more important. Because today, marketing needs to drive growth and strategy for the company, not just for the brand. Being a great marketing leader requires acting as a connector across several functions, from strategy to product to sales and culture.”

Marketing leadership in 2023 (and beyond)

Each of these leaders has their individual ideology and experience in marketing leadership, but there are consistent threads throughout these answers. These themes will continue to define which brands, and which businesses, will thrive in a challenging landscape in 2023.

Marketing leaders should enable their teams to succeed. They should connect the work of marketing to broader business goals. And of course, as with any marketer, they should constantly be learning.

So, whether you plan to spend the next twelve months breaking down siloes or building up a social media presence, now is the time to embrace shared learning within the digital marketing communities. What better place to start than by listening back to Marketing Masters Season 2 over the holiday break?

ClickZ would like to thank all twelve guests from the second season of the ClickZ Marketing Masters podcast.


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