Antonio Lucio, former CMO of Meta, Visa, and HP, was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame® by the American Marketing Association New York. He was honored alongside fellow marketing legends Bozoma Saint John, former CMO of Netflix, Marc Pritchard, CBO of Proctor & Gamble, and Ann Mukherjee, Chairman & CEO of Pernod Ricard North America.
As a trusted inspiration to so many leaders across the marketing industry, we are thrilled to share Antonio’s thoughts on the critical elements of true leadership.
Following are insights from Antonio’s powerful Hall of Fame acceptance speech, in his own words. We hope you are as inspired as we are with his poignant reminders about what it means to lead with grace, ambition, and excellence.
Here is what Antonio shared:
I left the CMO chair two years ago following 40 meaningful years in our beloved practice. I left to devote this next chapter of my life to transferring knowledge and helping to develop the next generation of marketing leaders that will hopefully be more diverse and a clearer representation of the communities that we serve.
As I look across the industry and consumer landscape today, marketing is more necessary than ever before. I get frustrated and sometimes even mad because marketers continue to be disregarded and disrespected. As recently as a month ago, yet one more study was released about the CMO losing relevance in the C- suite. We must change that narrative for the greater good.
Success is an obligation, not an option for marketers and the business community. Our economy rests on the shoulders of businesses big and small. Marketing contributes to business success by driving growth. We drive growth by building brands that stand the test of time.
In the simplest terms, when we succeed, we create jobs and prosperity. When we fail, jobs are lost, our economy is put at risk and the people who matter most to us – our families, our teams, our friends – endure significant stress. As we come out of this pandemic, now faced with war in the Ukraine and global inflation stalling our collective growth, our work as CMOs matters more than ever, to ensure prosperity and well-being for our teams.
Trust is the new brand equity. Over time, the marketing practice has moved from building preferred brands to building preferred – and trusted – brands. When we build brands for preference, we build them within our categories as a frame of reference. When we build for trust, we build not just within our categories, but we must build within societal values deeply entrenched.
The general population and specifically the new generations expect corporations to play a more active role in driving two global causes: sustainability and social justice. In fact, the younger population, Gen Z, has a deeper level of trust in corporations than even in the government. Marketing has a really important role in guiding the corporation into a more trusted space.
When it comes to societal values, we must move as an industry from the “I’ to the “We” space. No individual or company can do it alone. Helping the world become a more sustainable place for our kids and helping drive more social justice are huge undertakings that require holistic and systemic change, not just posts or ads. We must work not only across our teams and our companies, but with each other as colleagues to have impact at scale. We must break down the walls between brands so we can work closer together and share learnings, best practices, even mistakes.
As we move into the future, we are going to have to answer some fundamental questions. Some are the same questions that each generation has had to answer. Others are a sign of the times we are living in. Who are we? Why are we here? What is the world that we want to build? What really is the Metaverse? How do we maintain free expression and safety? Who determines truth? How do we balance growth with the environment?
To answer these questions, we need to lean into STEM education with Humanities and Ethics at the core. Math, Science and Technology will help us solve problems at scale. Humanities and Ethics will enable us to do it within the societal values we want to preserve. As business leaders we need to create the right forums and spaces to have these important conversations.
Within the complexity of this world, we must do a better job developing our leaders. In my new chapter in life, I am spending a lot of time working with middle-level executives as they begin to approach their next level of leadership. Overall, I am finding the same things I found when I approached that level, 20 years ago.
We are spending a lot of time teaching all the new dimensions of the Marketing equation: Metaverse, NFT, Crypto, et cetera – but not enough time transferring skills to people who are moving from owning the work to owning the work done through others. In my career, I have found that truly successful people have had four things going for them in their journey. These four pillars need to be built, especially for women and people of color, if we aim at having future leadership that clearly represent the communities that we serve.
The obvious one is Capability. We are talking about not just functional capability but leadership capability. Women and people of color get the same functional training as everyone, but they do not get as much leadership training. That needs to change.
The second is Community. I am not only talking about community within the company; I am talking about building and encouraging communities of people at the same level but across industries where they can share the good, bad, ugly, and extraordinary of the leadership experience. This adds perspective to new leaders and helps them avoid the feeling of isolation that sometimes comes along with a promotion. As we all know and sometimes do not admit, it can get lonely at the top.
The third is Mentoring. By mentors I mean people outside of your company who have lived a broad life, and that know the emerging leader well. These are the people that will guide you in safe spaces through the hard questions that we all need to answer in life. These are the people that can point to issues at work or at home. These are the people that will remind you that perhaps it is time to change things in life.
Fourth, there is Sponsoring. Sponsors are the people inside the company who will not just spend time with the emerging leaders but will advocate for them. These are the people that will ensure the emerging leaders get stretch assignments which are critical to be able to develop and demonstrate their leadership. We all need it and we all deserve it.
To navigate this meaningful, but sometimes uncertain, journey it helps if you are anchored in purpose.
As a friend once told me: “Purpose is the only way to navigate the divide between the spiritual self (the person that we want to become) and the material self (the person that we are in our day-to-day).”
Living a life with purpose and finding purpose in our lives is what makes us whole. But let me be clear, purpose is not your work. Your work is the canvas in which your purpose unfolds.
Taking time to find your purpose in life is important. Purposeful people will drive purposeful work and purposeful companies. If you have doubts on this, remember that you are the person that is left when all companies and titles are removed from your business card. Second, that purpose will drive your legacy, and legacy is not something that you will build tomorrow. You are building your legacy every day. Because legacy is nothing more than the impact you have had on this world.
And guess what? Everything counts: what we say, what we do, how we do it, even those things that we decide not to do. We will make mistakes because we are human. At the end of the day, we have one life to live. Let’s make it count.
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