Chief Marketing Officer Conference Report
Making the Shift from Tactical to Visionary Marketer

James Aitchison

It’s indicative of marketing’s rise up the corporate food chain that the Chief Marketing Officer Conference, first held in Switzerland last October, recently returned for a second year. Under the auspices of the Swiss Association of MBAs and the sponsorship of Prophet, the brand strategy consultancy, some 120 senior marketers once again gathered at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute just south of Zürich.
The significance wasn’t lost on Martin Roll, conference chairman, consultant and author of the award-winning Asian Brand Strategy. “When I came from the world of advertising in the 1990s, there weren’t CMOs,” he said in his opening remarks, reminiscing how “marketing would leave the boardroom when remuneration issues were discussed.”
Over the course of the day, he introduced a diverse roster of speakers, including consultants, CMOs, academics and a new media owner. Among them were Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder; Michael Conrad, a former creative engine of the advertising agency, Leo Burnett; Arun Sinha, CMO of Zurich Financial Services; Ely Dahan, a professor at UCLA; Andy Stefanovich, of the innovation consultants, Play; and Roger Sinclair, a former academic turned brand valuation consultant.
But the highlights came at the start and end of the morning session, when Prophet’s Scott Davis called on marketers to make ‘the shift’ to fulfil their true potential and Philippe Zell, CMO of Novartis Consumer Health, showed what an FMCG marketer’s mindset could bring to the tightly-regulated world of OTC pharmaceuticals.

Scott Davis: Making the Shift to Visionary Marketer

Whatever progress marketing has made over recent years in establishing itself as a key function in the C-Suite, the conference’s opening keynote speaker argued that too many marketers remain short-term tacticians which is holding back the discipline’s true potential to set and lead the strategic business agenda.
“There's no bigger growth engine than marketing, but at the moment it's an under-leveraged asset,” Scott Davis, a senior partner at Prophet, told delegates.
He cited a well-known Achilles heel - the tendency of top marketers frequently to change jobs - as a major hindrance to progress, pointing out that the average chief marketing officer typically moves on every two and half years. This compares to the average of four years for chief finance officers and over six years for chief executives. Davis described this situation as “the marketing doom loop”.
He conceded that cultural issues, whether traced to historical structures or the background and attitude of a specific CEO, could still impair the influence of marketing but nonetheless called for a new breed of “visionary marketer” able to: 

  • Drive strategic, board-level discussions on growth 
  • Maintain balanced short- and long-term perspectives 
  • Recognize that customers own the brand 
  • Drive profitable, insight-driven strategic initiatives and innovations 
  • Co-own the customer acquisition strategy and budget 
  • Lead through collaboration across all dimensions of the business.