To find out the needs of German CMOs, Stefan Schütte covered a distance of more than 20,000 km in eleven months. By plane, car and even by motorbike, his path took him across the whole of Germany, starting in Munich. The managing director of the Serviceplan agency holding travelled to Hamburg, Frankfurt, Berlin, Mainz – and even to the tranquil village of Brühl near Heidelberg.
You could say that’s part of his job profile. Travelling around, client acquisition, convincing people. But Schütte’s objectives were different on this trip – this time it wasn’t about getting new contracts. He wanted to convince top marketing decision-makers at renowned companies of an idea: the CMO Council.
In a country with 600,000 associations and countless organisations, that’s a pretty tall order. After all, it’s not as if marketing managers are likely to have too much free time on their hands. But that didn’t deter Schütte. The feedback he received during phone calls with multiple CMOs prior to setting off was far too positive to let the opportunity pass. Time for the Tour de Marketing to commence!
The objective was to put the panel at the heart of the CMO of the Year awards. “We want to increase the involvement of CMOs in the decision-making process in order to further boost the significance of the awards,” says Schütte. He wanted the award, which, until now had been purely chosen by a jury, to develop into one that could rightly bear the label: “By CMOs, for CMOs”. The plan succeeded.
At the beginning of 2017, the council started its work. Over 50 marketing decision-makers are on board, from all industries and large and small companies. Such as Anja Stolz (Commerzbank) for example. And Frank Niewöhner (Renault), Winfried Meier (Arla Foods) and Gareth Locke (Mytheresa), as well as Tina Müller (Opel) and Sebastian Rudolph (Bilfinger). The council members chose the five finalists for the 2017 edition of CMO of the Year in an online voting process; ten of them were also part of the jury who had the final say on the winner. As well as the chief marketing officer’s personality, another decisive element for being invited onto the council is the standing of the brand they represent. “Up to now, membership has been free and bound to one company,” Schütte explains.
That might have been the end of the story. But travelling has a way of changing things. You collect impressions, pick up on moods and sometimes all that triggers other changes and ideas. In his conversations, Schütte noticed that there was even more potential in the idea of the council than just the desire to establish a voting association. “CMOs are clearly feeling the need to connect and discuss subjects that go beyond everyday business,” he sums up. And this was apparent regardless of whether he was talking to consumer goods manufacturers, pharmaceutical giants or car manufacturers.
The council should therefore evolve into a community, like a XING of marketing. There are many reasons why this makes sense, ranging from the growing complexity in the profession, from higher demands and constant pressure on the marketers to assert their own position, to the desire to sometimes be able to just chat CMO to CMO, without having to talk about your own brand and campaign strategy. Instead, CMOs want to discuss topics like creating structures, promoting young talent and retaining them in the long term.
And this is exactly where the council comes in. In the future there will be a forum for exchange twice a year. “Ideally the meeting would take place somewhere where CMOs tend to be anyway,” says Schütte. Best Brands and Innovation Day with highlights like the CMO of the Year awards are the kind of occasions that he has in mind.
Another possible further step would be to offer study tours for marketing managers, for example to the South by Southwest creative gathering in Austin. “This year we organised a kind of test run to Cannes for our clients, where we presented highlights of the advertising festival on one day. The response was very positive,” reports Schütte.
The members could also be provided with studies or lectures specially tailored to their needs. “We need to generate content that our CMOs can work with,” says the panel’s patron about his plans for the coming months. He’s not just planning content though, but specific offers to justify the loyalty and interest of the decision-makers.
During the Best Brands ceremony last February, Serviceplan introduced the “Future CMO of the Year” programme, which enables companies to send their best young talents to the Steinbeis School of Management and Innovation in Berlin. Together with Serviceplan, the college provides five or six course places. “The first three young marketers have already received a scholarship,” says Schütte.
And it’s not just CMOs who are benefitting from the council, but also Schütte and his agency colleagues, which could make future client conversations a lot easier: “I have also learnt a lot and now have a better understanding of how CMOs think and what topics are concerning them.” The Tour de Marketing has certainly made an impact.
This article was published (in German) in the supplement on the 2017 “CMO of the Year” award by HORIZONT (dfv Media Group).
Illustration: Dominique Rossi, Horizont