Discussing the Hybrid CMO, With Drew Neisser – CB55

Episode Overview

Drew Neisser, who has interviewed over 200 CMOs, and I discuss the evolving role of the CMO, and the expanding “Hybrid CMO” taking on operational responsibility and expanding to influence the overall customer experience.

About Drew

Hybrid CMO Drew NeisserDrew is the CEO of Renegade, an award-winning agency that helps CMOs cut through the digital noise out there. His AdAge column has seen him interview countless CMOs about their challenges and opportunities, and he’s written a book called The CMO’s Periodic Table.

Drew is also the publisher of SocialMediaExplorer.com, a top 10 social media blog, writes a highly-praised monthly newsletter, consults on digital / social media trends via the GLG network and sits on the boards of the Urban Green Council and Duke NY. Drew lives in New York City with his wife, two kids and a French bulldog named Louie. He is also a self-proclaimed Ben Franklin nut.

“The Give and Get Economy”

Drew talks about this in how he shaped Renegade — between posts, a newsletter, a podcast series, etc. he finds ways to talk to CMOs all the time. This helps him when he works with other CMOs in consulting roles. We had a nice exchange at the beginning because I call this “my bag of groceries,” based on my Italian grandmothers filling up bags for us to make sure we were going home with food. Basically: if you share content (give), and provide context around issues people are facing (give), eventually you will get opportunities and experiences of your own. Some also call this “the sharing economy.”

The 2017 CMO landscape

By now, many CMOs have come to understand that experience is a huge element of business. Sometimes, they don’t even own it — for example, a CCO might own experience, but if the experience is bad, it can ding the CMO on the incentive side. That’s why we’re seeing a hybrid CMO approach emerge. This allows the marketing side (the promise side) to be aligned with the experience side (the reality side).

Manny Rodriguez of the UC Health network became a hybrid CMO and created an excellent campaign that aligned marketing and experience. It’s called “Your Life, Your Story” and you can also view some of the assets on YouTube.

By the way, the interplay between “brand” and “experience” has been shifting since probably 2014, with experience now financially (bottom-line-wise) trumping brand as a key driver of success. That obviously has changed tons about the CMO role.

The other major aspect is tech; some CMOs that Drew interviews are spending more money on technology in their company than their CIO is spending on technology. That’s an amazing statistic which never would have been true 10-12 years ago, but now is normative.

What keeps CMOs up at night?

Many things, including two major issues:

  • “We have too much data.”
  • “How can we transform our brand into digital-first or mobile-first?”

On the data front, others have been mentioning this for years. One issue with the era of Big Data is that companies are still largely in collection phase, meaning they’re grabbing everything but not necessarily using it for decision-making or business transformation.

Around the 12:00 mark of this podcast, Drew talks about some conversations he had with the Chief Revenue Officer of The New York Times, which involves setting up a content studio to help marketers interact with the paper. It’s interesting because many CMOs are now realizing that aside from selling/marketing a widget, they also need to add a service.

A new CMO measurement?

One of Drew’s recent interviews was a high-level marketer at Intuit, and she told him that her focus was “increasing employee satisfaction” to the point that “even if they got a better job offer, they wouldn’t take it.” That’s a very internal, people-development-focused view — making sure you have the best team possible and engage them — and it usually translates to success. Remember: hiring is the most important thing most managers do. Shifting to a focus on employees can benefit this hybrid CMO model.

Hiring has also become a challenge because you usually need a “tech” person underneath you, as well as an analytics person. (Hiring an analytics person is often about understanding “data translators.”)

Ultimately, the best CMOs speak the language of the CEO. If the CEO gets “brand” and “experience” as a metric, then this journey is a little bit easier. If the CEO is mostly focused on quarterly revenue, then it’s probably better to invest in building your team around direct marketing activities and not much more.

The hybrid CMO “operationalizes the promise”

That’s where the role is headed. It will be a person who mixes conventional marketing/brand knowledge (old-school marketing toolkit) with operational knowledge and customer-driven growth knowledge. This is a lot of skill sets and there’s only so many hours in a day. The best advice is to focus on 2-3 core issues and then surround yourself with a team who can handle the sub-sets (analytics, surveys, customer journey, social media, etc.)

Who do CMOs listen to?

Drew sent over this graphic to us:

Hybrid CMO Influence


The four chief characteristics of a great CMO in the modern era:

CCourage: Need to have this to drive your brand forward.

AArtfulness: Need to be nimble, work with many departments/silos, and focus on internal/external.

TThoughtfulness: This is the cornerstone of the give-to-get economy.

SScience: Need to understand your numbers and how the pieces fit together. McKinsey has also mentioned this repeatedly.

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