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TODD SMITH'S SPIN CYCLE: Habits of highly successful marketing execs

Todd Smith

Todd Smith

The most successful marketing executives are, above all, people persons who can advance their company’s brand experience with diverse – and ever-changing – audiences. They’re savvy. They keep a finger on the pulse of a rapidly transforming digital society – with a keen eye to the future. And, they understand how to harness data to appeal to an evolving marketplace that spans the generations. They are brand thought leaders blazing a trail across the digital frontier.

Are you on the fast track to becoming the next chief marketing officer in your company? It’s a good idea to learn from, read up on, and follow in the footsteps of the greats. You can be a fantastic CMO, a mediocre one, or a total failure – and it’s all up to you. Check out these 12 common habits of successful CMOs, according to Inc. and make sure you’re on the right path:

1. They keep their eyes on the future

Marketing is an industry that’s evolving at lightning speed. A successful CMO knows where marketing stands today, how the company is dominating it, and where the company wants to be every day in the next 12 months.

2. They revere native advertising

Consumers don’t want hard sells or pitches – they want native advertising that looks like regular content, is entertaining and informative, and has nary a sell in sight. A successful CMO knows what the consumer wants and how to dish it up.

3. They’re people persons

Obviously, right? Marketing is based on the ability to work with people, read people, and deliver to people. However, not all CMOs are natural social butterflies. Socializing (well) is a skill that can be learned, faked perfectly, and always improved on. Successful CEOs practice.

4. They’re fantastic mediators

Not all CMOs are actual marketers coming up with new campaigns or choosing a brand’s motto. Much of a CMO’s job is making sure the marketing team is working as a unit and handling issues that come up between departments. For natural parents, teachers, or mediators, this will be much easier. Otherwise, some CMOs may need a coach.

5. They’re totally on the digital bandwagon

There’s certainly still space for traditional marketing techniques, but the reality is that the digital realm is king. Ideally, a CMO has a background in classical marketing but also plenty of experience in digital marketing. They know how sales funnels work in a virtual landscape, and words like mobile readiness don’t scare them off.

6. They’re not stuck in ruts

Humans are creatures of habit, but that’s a death sentence for a marketing team. The marketing landscape is evolving, customers are evolving, and CMOs need to keep up. Just because a marketing tactic worked last year (or even last month) doesn’t mean it will now.

7. They’re all over big data

The management and analysis of big data should be dictating any marketing team’s next moves. However, if the CMO doesn’t revere the importance of data, don’t know how to wrangle it, or can’t translate it into actionable tasks, it’s worthless. Successful CMOs find a means of data collection that works for them.

8. They’re leaders

This one should be a given, but not everyone whose title includes chief is a natural leader. This skill can certainly be honed, sometimes with the help of a consultant. But successful CMOs don’t say yes to a promotion or job offer just because it sounds impressive or because of the pay, or because a consultant says to. They make sure they understand the issues. CMOs need to be leaders to ensure the company’s success.

9. They’re on the thought-leader track

CMOs are experts in their industry and ideally on track to becoming thought leaders. This means focusing on personal branding, sharing expertise, and making a name for themselves (and their company).

10. They have just the right amount of experience

In rare cases, there are highly successful CMOs in their early 20s or late 70s. However, too little experience or unbending, rigid experience can be detrimental. There’s no magic number, but somewhere in the middle may be ideal.

11. They have the ability to innovate and think outside the box

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for being a flawless CMO and mistakes will be made. However, marketing has always been about innovation opportunities. A great CMO is innovative and always forward-thinking.

12. They’re committed to the company

Loyalty can go a long way in business, and it’s unfortunately becoming less and less common. A fantastic CMO is committed to the company and his or her employees, and will watch for ways to lift them up.

Whole Foods Launches National Marketing Campaign

The country’s largest organic and natural foods chain, Whole Foods, is running its first national marketing campaign. The push now appearing on billboards, magazines, on TV and online marks a major departure for a company long focused on regional marketing.

Its goal is to make the Whole Foods brand stand out among increasing competition in the organic market. The ads carry the tagline “Values Matter” and feature images of livestock and farms bathed in golden light. They were designed by Partners & Spade, which has created campaigns for Warby Parker, Target and AOL.

The campaign aims to make the $14.2 billion chain’s name synonymous with humanely and sustainably grown food and fair labor practices. The company is already known for its food and high prices, but the organic goods it sells are close to becoming ubiquitous at supermarket chains and corner grocers. Whole Foods hopes that if customers define themselves by what they buy, they will want to shop at its store.

When looking to buy organic produce and pantry items, shoppers have a lot of places to choose from. Three out of four conventional grocery stores carry organic goods, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture study.

Whole Foods is launching the campaign as other supermarket chains such as Kroger, Safeway, and Walmart are offering more organic options. Kroger, for example, advertises its Simple Truth organic line as “Free From 101,” emphasizing the lack of artificial ingredients.

Whole Foods has been using sustainable business practices long before they came into fashion. Whole Foods won’t sell meat from animals raised on antibiotics; it rates all of the seafood it sells; it voluntarily label foods made with genetically engineered ingredients. Whole Foods is starting to appeal to customers in other ways as well. A rewards program to retain customers is being tested at several stores in the Atlantic region and a rating system for its fruits, vegetables, and fresh flowers spreads the perception of responsible production to customers in-store.

Holiday Mic | Black Friday & Cyber Monday Aren’t Turkeys 

As we all recover from the bounty of the Thanksgiving season, two other holiday traditions are cranking into high gear. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us, and with it, it’s the official retail start to the holiday season. Those events continue to dominate holiday shopping, with online sales for Black Friday up 18.9 percent and US shoppers made Cyber Monday the biggest online shopping day in history with a 20.6 percent increase in online sales last year. Marketing and social media efforts are a key component to a brand’s success in 2014’s holiday shopping season – and brands across the land are making strategic moves to make this year even brighter. For that, both of these over-the-top commercial traditions take a slightly overstuffed, yet golden Holiday Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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