Thursday, April 14, 2011

CGG CMO Dinner and Dialogue in Chicago

On Thursday March 10th, 2011, the Chicago skyline served as the backdrop for a dinner hosted by Creative Growth Group. We gathered our Chicago-based clients and friends into the Signature Room on top of the John Hancock building for a dinner discussion focused on growing professional services. Our dinner guests included Managing Directors and Chief Marketing Officers from a number of leading accounting, public relations, legal, engineering and consulting firms. We asked two renowned marketing gurus to serve as first among equals at the dinner table to jump-start the conversation. The discussion lasted well past dessert, and we have included just a couple of top-line highlights of the evening’s discussion here.

Serving as catalysts for the discussion around the table were:

  • Tom Collinger: Chair of the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Additionally, he’s an Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Medill.
  • Karl Hellman: Founder and President of Resultrek, a global marketing consulting firm dedicated to creating great marketers. Karl co-authored The Customer Learning Curve and is also the primary driver and author of Kotler Marketing Group’s 2011 Marketing in Hard Times Study of CMOs.


The Mind of the CMO

Karl Hellman provided us with a summary of the research that he conducted with the consulting firm, Kotler Marketing Group, founded by famed Northwestern University, Kellogg School professor, Philip Kotler. The study was of nearly 200 senior marketing executives from major U.S. corporations including professional services and financial services firms.

While Karl’s findings were comprehensive – one of the key highlights that stimulated much discussion was around the idea that “Innovation is the Road to Recovery: Hellman and Kotler’s study found that the companies which performed best during the recession emphasized “New Product/Solution Innovation” in their study responses and in their market actions. Though it may be somewhat more challenging to pursue service innovation in a professional firm, Karl suggested adopting an “agile service development” model akin to what technology firms use when developing software. Involving the client in this collaborative and iterative process is also associated with agile development to ensure that new solutions are best-fits for the client audience. Agile development also connotes a diverse portfolio of new service creation taking place at any one time.

CMO as Chief Media Officer

Tom Collinger challenged our guests to think of the CMO as “Chief Media Officer” “What I think is the sea change is that all companies, all brands, have both the opportunity and the necessity to operate the way media companies operate,” Tom said. “Media is concerned with building a marketable audience franchise through information, news that matters and in some cases entertainment for purposes of engaging their constituents in an ongoing dialogue. “

Adopting the media company model calls for more than a change in the marketing communications function. Consider, Tom suggested, what kinds of talents would be needed in the enterprise if you were to follow a media model; how your enterprises might be organized differently; what kind of partners you might need to be bring in to help behave differently. Other roles Tom suggest the CMO of the future may need to take on included Chief Trend Spotter, Chief Content Officer or simply Chief Media Officer in addition to being a superb block-and-tackle marketer.

The evening was full of provocative discourse and gave everyone much to think about. We hope these two highlights stimulate your thinking as well.

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