With shrinking budgets and short-term expectations, marketing leaders must balance delivering for the business today while investing in the brand for tomorrow.
Indra Nooyi, former CEO and Chairperson, PepsiCo, once gifted us with a motto that is incredibly grounding in times like these: “Be nostalgic about the past, realistic about the present, and optimistic about the future.”
And during our recent forum at the Instacart Headquarters in San Francisco, optimism is exactly what we felt in the room.
Visionaries: Laura Jones, CMO of Instacart; Jacqueline Woods, CMO of Teradata; and Nii Addy, CMO of Philo, shared the realities of short-term pressures as well as the silver-lining for marketing leaders.
This article includes five high-level takeaways from the discussion on how CMOs and marketing leaders can navigate these challenging times. Be sure to check out the full conversation to hear their insightful examples and real use cases on the MTM Visionaries Podcast episode: Driving Brands Through Short-Term Expectations.
1) There’s Risk and Reward in Short-Term Pressures
As businesses take more short-term views, there’s an institutional momentum to forget about the long-term plan.
Nii Addy cautioned that, “There comes a risk in putting a band-aid over things or making drastic decisions to make the balance sheet look better in the near term. And if you get disconnected from the long-term brand ethos, it will make it harder to prioritize how you should be taking action right now.”
On the other hand, in times of pressure comes focus, and experimentation informs how we move forward. Laura Jones sees the silver lining in these short-term expectations.
She stated, “Instacart had such explosive growth during the pandemic, but now we need to ride the strength of our value proposition and show value outside crises. Short-term expectations can help marketers find clarity about the metrics that matter most by focusing on what gets you closer to the business’s goals.”
2) Understand Marketing’s Direct Line to Revenue
Whether you’re in B2B or B2C, do you know how your business really runs? What is your role in that business? How do you make an impact?
Jacqueline Woods emphasized the importance of connecting your marketing metrics to the business’s goals.
She stated, “Regardless of your KPIs as a marketer, the most important metrics are those that help the business acquire customers, retention rates, or deeper engagement. Understanding your direct line to revenue is the biggest key to driving your career.”
3) Expand Skill Sets
While many CMOs are constrained by hiring freezes, don’t forget to take a closer look at the talent you already have on your team.
Laura Jones has been thoroughly surprised by the outcome of tapping into existing talent and giving them opportunities to try something new.
Can you think of someone on your team with a growth mindset, who is coachable and ready to develop new skills? By doing this, you can not only provide new opportunities for your team members but expand their impact and open up a bottleneck.
4) Balance In-house with External Support to Gain Momentum
Priorities are evolving, and while businesses are still trying to grow, the locus of investment has changed.
Nii Addy challenged the notion of “doing more with less,” and thinks of it more as “doing less because you’re focusing on what’s important and what makes an impact.”
It’s important as leaders to define and own the core elements of the business, but then get temporary support from agencies or contractors to give you the momentum you need.
In cases where skills are specialized, but you’re in a hiring freeze, bringing on contractors can give you the benefit of the talent without being constrained.
5) Look at AI as an Added Superpower
AI can offer incredible applications from a consumer standpoint, and internally it can be a force multiplier for our teams.
Laura Jones stated, “I have a five-year-old son who’s really into all the Marvel superheroes and all the tools that they have. I try to bring that ethos and say, look, rather than fearing that AI will replace our jobs, how can we see these tools more as superpowers?”
As CMOs, encouraging teams to utilize tools that can cut an hour’s worth of work into an hour can upskill this entire team to get better, faster, and ultimately create more differentiated work.
For example, we are developing “Character Rigging” using AI technology to make a webcam-controlled illustrated character library for animation (see below).
Jacqueline Woods added, “When you think about how society has evolved, every time we’ve had more innovation and automation, these new technologies have only helped us improve.”
If we maintain optimism in this environment, constraints will only encourage a deeper level of focus and innovation. If you have a growth mindset and know that the top of the funnel is part of that, how you achieve that reach within those budgetary constraints can help take your business to the next level, even in challenging times. While it’s certain we are up against several challenges and crises, we can expect that whatever is ahead of us will be way better. As marketers, we have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in how companies show up and what companies stand for.
Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every week and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plan and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.
Meet The Visionaries
Laura Jones, CMO, Instacart: Laura serves as the CMO at Instacart. In her role, Laura is responsible for shaping a cohesive brand, fueling the company’s growth, and scaling the marketing organization. Since joining in June 2021, Laura has led a comprehensive brand identity refresh, launched the company’s first-ever integrated brand campaign, built out its Creative Studio, and developed a full-funnel in-house media team. Previously, she led the Rides business and Masterbrand at Uber Technologies. Her work has been cited by national and global outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, Bloomberg, AdAge, AdWeek, Business Insider, Vogue, People Magazine, and Good Morning America, among others.
Jacqueline Woods, CMO, Teradata: Jacqueline Woods is Teradata’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and a member of the company’s Executive Leadership Team. Jacqueline joined Teradata from NielsenIQ where she was a member of the executive leadership team and Global Chief Marketing & Communications Officer. Previously, she was with IBM for nearly 10 years, including as CMO of IBM Global Partner Ecosystem Division, where she focused on building cloud, Data, AI and SaaS strategies. She also led strategy, marketing, communications, and offering management as the CMO of IBM Global Financing. Before that, she was Global Head of Customer Segmentation & Customer Experience at General Electric. Jacqueline also held roles of increasing responsibility at Oracle for 10 years, as well as leadership roles at Ameritech and GTE. She serves on the Board of Directors for Winnebago Industries, the Board of Trustees for Community Reinvestment Fund USA, and the board of the Greater Fairfield County Foundation, Inc.
Nii Addy, CMO, Philo: Nii Mantse Addy is Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at the television streaming service, Philo. In this role he sets the strategy around brand, customer acquisition, retention, and marketing partnerships for the TV provider. Since joining the company in 2017, Nii has helped launch the service and steward Philo’s explosive growth, leading Philo to more than double its subscriber base, year-over-year, for three consecutive years in the highly competitive streaming industry. Nii has a demonstrated track record of scaling tech businesses and products during his well-rounded career across strategy consulting for Fortune 200 companies and investment banking. Prior to Philo, Nii pioneered an international streaming video business (Australia, Americas, Europe, and India) as head of marketing for a division of Comcast. As a strategy consultant with Deloitte, Nii focused on helping tech businesses capture the small-and-medium sized business (SMB) market. His purview spanned companies including Adobe, Ebay, and Paypal.
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