Let’s face it: we all love lists. World’s Best Beaches. Most Popular Celebrities. Funniest Cat Videos Ever. We love even better to find ourselves on lists. For those of us in marketing, no list is more intriguing than Forbes World’s Most Influential CMOs list. Forbes’ 2019 roster of influential marketing luminaries came out earlier this year, with former Unilever CMO Keith Weed topping the rankings.
In a metricized world and a highly competitive domain, this kind of acknowledgement is both personally gratifying and professionally valuable. I’ll admit to getting a buzz when I saw my name on that particular list.
Inevitably, we can’t help but ask ourselves, “Why are they on the list? How do I get on it? How can I move up the ranks?” To crack the code on these and other questions, I went to the source: Grad Conn, Chief Experience & Marketing Officer at Sprinklr, a provider of enterprise software that helps large brands like McDonald’s, Microsoft and Nike understand the conversations that matter most across social and messaging channels. Sprinklr provided the data analysis for the Forbes most influential CMOs list.
Peter Horst: Let’s start with definition of terms: how did you define and quantify influence?
Grad Conn: Scores are based on three datasets. First, Sprinklr measured brand performance, which meant aggregating more than 495,427,052 brand-related social media shares, likes, retweets and comments.
Second, Sprinklr measured personal influence by aggregating more than 647,197 news, blog, web and Twitter mentions about or from eligible CMOs.
Third, industry and internal influence was measured by our research partner LinkedIn, which
analyzed more than one million LinkedIn articles and more than ten million LinkedIn
engagements across more than ten thousand topics
Horst: What common traits are shared across the top 50 most influential CMOs?
Conn: Influential CMOs know how to use modern channels to make noise. Many of them have built global reputations, often by using social media alongside traditional channels. But the influence exerted by these marketing leaders goes beyond the scale of their social media followings. Their influence lies in the way they manage modern channels effectively.
There are many channels to leverage, and it’s important to use them with an eye not to telling people something, but rather an eye to making people happier.
Asking yourself what you can do to make the world happier through modern channels forces you to think conversationally. Reading posts about [Chase CMO] Kristin Lemkau’s vacation posts on Facebook makes me happier. If she left JPM chase, I wouldn’t unfriend her—she’s transcended the company brand.
At the same time, these CMOs are influential because they understand what makes customers happier and industry trends. They’re able to use their influence to impact the business and affect meaningful change.
Horst: What kind of response have you gotten from this year’s list?
Conn: A lot of CMOs asked why they’re not on the list, or why their position changed. We have to explain that the ranked list is the result of a data-driven evaluation process that is designed to be consistent and objective; there is no editorial discretion over list members or ranks. All scoring data was compiled, analyzed and ranked by an independent data journalist.
For the third consecutive year, the research and data analysis for the Forbes report were provided by Sprinklr. Each year, we review methodology and see if there are any changes that need to be made based on new data we could include. For example, we had a woman say that because her company is very developer-focused, developers don’t want to hear the voice of marketing. She believes she’s an innovative CMO but feels that she’s unfairly judged by this list because she isn’t as outspoken as others. So we will take this feedback into consideration for next year’s report.
Horst: What other themes cut across these CMOs?
Conn: We also hear that the product feature wars are ending and we’re entering into the emotion wars. I was talking to CDO a European CPG company who said, “We used to sell better wipes. Now they want to know my environmental policy, political views, how we treat employees.”
Customers want to know the values of the people behind the company. As companies try to put a more human face on things, they want a CMO that they connect with. They want to bring in people who are aligned to the company’s DNA. The CMO as the spokesperson will become increasingly a part of the job.
Horst: So how should CMOs go about putting their values on display?
Conn: You need to be more human. Just reposting PR content is no way to grow influence—it’s probably a way to diminish it.
The reality is that we’re moving from broadcast to conversation. When we take a broadcast mentality and put it into a conversation channel, it doesn’t work. The first TV ads had people reading radio ads. The first display ads were just magazine ads online. If you’re more human and having real conversations people will want to interact with you. Many CMOs are afraid to be that open and vulnerable.
Horst: What are some other must-dos for CMOs aspiring to make the most influential list?
Conn: Publish frequently, be on modern channels, be human and listen to your customers.
Publishing long-form content can end up taking months, since most CMOs are worried about creating something perfect. I’d encourage leaders to try to create short snippets of content, more quickly. Small bites of inspiration or lessons for people to grab, rather than a novel.
People often underestimate the power of LinkedIn. I see a lot of CMO profiles that are “Hi, my name is Brad.” Look at Reid Hoffman’s profile. It includes videos of him speaking, articles, various things he does. Why is this important? Consumers are buying into the people, not just the product. Additionally, the CMO is still a role that turns over quickly. You can increase your job security if you have a proven ability to drive brand growth and be influential.
I’d also encourage CMOs to be on all modern channels. In addition to LinkedIn, don’t shy away from having a presence on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Use those channels to listen to your customers, learn from them and understand how to make them happier.