CMO Smart Roundup Part 3: Takeaways from Two Marketing Experts

By John Lawrence

This is Part 3 of 3 of our CMO Smart recap blog series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

We asked marketing executives who attended CMO Smart back in June 2107 to share some of their key takeaways with us. Here’s what Doug Davila, Senior Vice President Agency Strategy and Development at CBD Marketing, and Randy Wagner, Former Global Chief Marketing Officer of Orbitz and current owner of Trans4mation, Inc., told us.

Q: After attending CMO Smart, will you be reexamining your business strategy to better manage the speed of change?

Doug Davila: Coming away from CMO Smart, I see the need to keep everyone who is client-facing more up to date on market changes—it’s not a question of what but of how often do we introduce new things and then reinforce these learnings so that our teams, including junior-level people, can have substantive conversations about what’s new and how it might benefit the client. Sometimes these conversations in between the big meetings can be very beneficial.


Randy Wagner: I’ve effectively been working on strategic change initiatives for my entire career. Whether they’ve been labeled that – or usually: not (often, for reasons above!) What I’ve learned is most important is pretty simple to say, but hard to do: Figure out what’s important. With the deluge of change arriving daily, what’s really most relevant? FOCUS is the challenge for everyone in rapidly changing markets – particularly the C-suite. But it’s a continual process.

Q: The title for this event was “Managing at the Speed of Change.” But let’s be honest, people don’t like change. Matt Gonterman, one of our panelists from JLL, said that managers must be prepared for employees to question and challenge change. What’s the number one thing that you’ll take away from CMO Smart about managing and implementing change across your organization?

Randy Wagner: People will ask questions whether you serve up ‘change’ or ‘evolving’. You should hope they do! That’s an opportunity for engagement. It’s also an opportunity for marketing leadership, since our job is creating answers for internal as well as external audiences. Actually, I’ve found pro-active answering, even before questions get asked, can be the best way to engage everyone in any organization in strategic execution, which only helps achieving goals. The change that will impact your business is already happening somewhere! The key is being vigilant. Not as part of some separate initiative, but as part of your ongoing, collaborative work process.

Doug Davila: Honest communications. People can be jaded about change, especially when they don’t fully understand the organizational benefit. If change is truly going to take hold internally, you have to show your people the benefits, and incentivize them to accept the change. We’ve seen too many cases of change, or acquisitions not going well because of poor communications and no demonstration of true benefits to those who are not senior managers. A change that only benefits the C-suite and investors is not one that the rest of the organization can get behind.

John Lawrence is a marketing specialist at DeMarche Associates, an institutional investment consulting firm. He recently completed his MBA at Loyola University of Chicago. Marketing is actually his second career. John is a former journalist and television news producer. In addition to volunteering for the AMA, John is a member of the community advisory council for The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.


CMO Smart Round Roundup Part 2: How Leadership Manages at the Speed of Change, and How C-Suite Partners Resource Ideas

By John Lawrence

Marketing executives from some of Chicago’s most prestigious companies and non-profits joined moderator Kim Feil for two CMO Smart panel discussions. They shared their professional experiences and offered advice on managing a rapidly changing business landscape and fostering best practices for working across the C-Suite back in June 2017.

Innovation, solving problems for clients, and investing in digital marketing and analytics were some the key ideas that emerged from the first panel, which was titled “How C-Suite Partners Manage at the Speed of Change.” The panel featured Patrick Bernardi, CMO for Hu-Friedy, Jennifer GoodSmith, VP for The Morton Arboretum, and Jonathan Copulsky, Retired Principal and CMO for Deloitte.

Patrick Bernardi set the tempo by challenging the audience to tackle change head and seek new business developments and emerging trends. Bernardi’s firm, Hu-Friedy, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of premium dental instruments. Bernardi noted, however, that his company has begun to see diminished returns from traditional advertising in dental journals. Instead, they’ve found that marketing can create value for a new generation of customers by allowing dental hygienists to connect with each other using the Salesforce Community Cloud. To stay competitive, his firm is also creating added value services such as a dental tool recycling and an infection control compliance program.

Jonathan Copulsky observed that during his time at Deloitte there has been significant blurring between traditional sectors. This creates what Copulsky called ‘adjacencies,’ business opportunities from new segments which an alert executive can use to create growth.  Added value services or allowing customers to connect with each other, as Hu-Friedy has done, are effective ways of exploiting these adjacencies.

Innovation and technology, of course, must serve to satisfy client needs. Copulsky cautioned that CMOs today must balance innovation with the tried and true and he challenged executives in the audience to put themselves in the shoes or their customers. “Most of us have never been a customer of the company for which we work,” he said. Jennifer GoodSmith, reminded audience members that branding is as important as ever. As VP for The Morton Arboretum, she faces the challenge of making scientific data interesting and relevant to a general audience. “Tell a story that people can relate to,” she advised.

Bernardi, GoodSmith and Copulsky all agreed that managing at the speed of change required investing in digital technology and analytics. From social media and geotargeted digital advertising to narrative science technologies powered by artificial intelligence, the panelists described how their firms are experimenting with technology to reach the right audience in the right place at the right time.

The second panel, “How C-Suite IT and CMO Partners Resource Ideas” featured Jones Lang LaSalle North America (JLL) executives Jill Kouri and Matt Gonterman. Kouri has been the CMO for three years while Gonterman became the new CIO in 2016. Kouri and Gonterman have been working on a transformation initiative for JLL North America, a major player in the commercial real estate services sector, that includes repositioning and rebranding. These two executives displayed a dynamic professional chemistry that other teams will be inspired to replicate.

They offered several key insights to help other executives coordinate their team’s efforts. Kouri was clear that to be successful, the CMO and CIO must be in lock step. Gonterman explained that he and Kouri have been able to work well together because they first ensured they were solving the same problem. They have focused on JLL’s business goals and how the firm makes money. Then they asked whether the company’s technology and marketing approach was helping the bottom line.

From this approach, you’ve probably detected an emphasis on strategy. Gonterman explained that this was intentional. Executives, Gonterman emphasized, must focus first on strategy, then structure, and finally on people. That’s not to diminish the importance of people, but rather to emphasis the plan and processes that will allow employees to succeed. Of course, change is never easy and Gonterman cautioned the audience to expect employees to question change. To address those concerns, Gonterman said, “Listen, acknowledge, move forward.”

John Lawrence is a marketing specialist at DeMarche Associates, an institutional investment consulting firm. He recently completed his MBA at Loyola University of Chicago. Marketing is actually his second career. John is a former journalist and television news producer. In addition to volunteering for the AMA, John is a member of the community advisory council for The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Read about Kim Feil’s powerful keynote presentation with our CMO Smart recap here.

CMO Smart Round Roundup Part 1: Dynamic Market Forces Facing Today’s CMOs

By John Lawrence

In June 2017, Chicago AMA held its first CMO Smart forum, bringing together some of Chicago’s most dynamic marketing leaders to discuss the changing landscape while sharing best practices to collaborate across the C-Suite and tap into the resources needed to achieve growth. The event was moderated by Kim Feil, CEO of bizHive and CMO/CSO for Aspire Healthy Energy Drinks. Kim is also the President of the CMO Club Chicago and has been a retailer, general manager, consultant and e-commerce leader in marketing, sales and strategy with OfficeMax, Walgreens, Sara Lee, Kimberly-Clark, Information Resources Inc., Dr. Pepper/7UP and Frito-Lay.  Kim shared her unique insights on the strategies that marketing leaders need to adopt and master in order to thrive.  I’ve shared some highlights from her powerful keynote address:

Life is getting better for your customers. With just a mobile phone, your customers can shop online, arrange for an Uber, order and pay for Starbucks, and book a flight and Airbnb for an upcoming vacation. Technology is disrupting every industry from retail to transportation to food services and hospitality. And the speed of change is accelerating. In her CMO Smart keynote address, Kim Feil boldly declared that tech is going to drive everything that we as marketers do. While life keeps getting better for your customers, it’s only getting harder for chief marketing officers.

Amidst the peril of technological disruption, however, there’s also untold promise as new markets and unexpected opportunities emerge. CMOs need to do two things to prepare according to Feil: embrace technology and go back to the strategy drawing board to reevaluate how you do business. Now is the right time to do it because the economy is healthy and that means businesses have the opportunity to innovate and grow.

To illustrate her thesis, Feil surveyed a number of key industries that are experiencing profound change due to technology. Retail was first on the list. In no uncertain terms, Feil declared that retail is NOT dead but the future is complementary software design. To succeed, retailers must create a seamless experience for customers between online and offline shopping. Exactly how that will work is an area for experimentation and innovation. It’s clear, however, that retail is at a turning point and the strategies many retailers have been using simply no longer work.


Transportation is another major industry undergoing technological disruption. We all know about the impact of Uber and Lyft on the taxi business. That will pale compared to the impact of self-driving cars. Feil explained how the widespread adoption self-driving vehicles will disrupt hundreds of industries across the globe. Auto makers, car dealerships, gas stations, auto repair shops, parking garages, rental agencies, auto insurance, tire manufactures, and even ride-share firms like Uber will all have to transform the way they do business. Not all of these enterprises will successfully navigate the new transportation landscape. However, the firms that hone their strategies to embrace tech developments and exploit new opportunities are much more likely to survive and even thrive.

Along with adapting to the revolution in technology and the rapid evolution of consumer behavior, businesses need to look inward. C-suite executives must ensure that they have the workforce, corporate values, and company culture necessary to meet the challenges ahead. Feil pointed out that the increasing importance of technology has revealed a growing skills gap in many marketing teams. Digital marketing literacy and analytics proficiency are essential to your team’s success. Business leaders must also be aware of how implementing change will impact the culture and mission of their firms. Change management is a critical skill for executives.

Managing at the speed of change may seem daunting, but Feil suggested several ideas to help CMOs stay ahead of the curve:

  • Stage war games with cross-functional teams to test your response to changes in the marketing environment.
  • Study industries that are far from your own to gain new ideas. Shop your category with millennials.
  • Dedicate team time to debate the impact of external trends.
  • Create contingency plans to handle internal and external changes.
  • Identify potential support partners and resources that are needed to successfully pivot your strategy.
  • Finally, know where you need to build, buy, and ally to prepare yourself for the future.

As marketers, we’ve watched as technology has revolutionized the entertainment industry. We’re now seeing the profound impact it’s having on retail. No industry is immune. As Kim Feil made clear, technology is going to drive everything we do. Reinventing our approach to business means we’ve got some hard work ahead but the new markets and the new opportunities for success should keep us energized and ready for change.

John Lawrence is a marketing specialist at DeMarche Associates, an institutional investment consulting firm. He recently completed his MBA at Loyola University of Chicago. Marketing is actually his second career. John is a former journalist and television news producer. In addition to volunteering for the AMA, John is a member of the community advisory council for The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.