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The role of the chief marketing officer is changing. 

This story first appeared in the October 29, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Today’s cmo has to be open to and absolutely fired up by the rapid change of pace,” said Mary Beech, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Kate Spade & Co. “The consumer is in charge, she’s evolving and technology is driving that. The modern day cmo has to embrace that change and harness it for good — not just react to it. You can’t operate in silos anymore — it’s all about collaboration. Marketing might be the hub, but we aren’t the only ones offering the brand voice. There are so many parts of our organization that reach the consumer, so everyone has to be clear on the brand voice and storytelling. We’re evangelists, in one way.”

At Kate Spade, Beech oversees the company’s three brands, Kate Spade New York, Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade. The firm has more than 200 stores globally, as well as a wholesale and e-commerce business. “We like to say that marketing is our special sauce,” she said.

Oliver Walsh, cmo at Aritzia, said that his job is a balance of three skill sets: creativity, business and digital. “We’re a creative industry and in order for a cmo to really drive the storytelling and be one of the key guardians of the brand, they must have a deep understanding of the landscape, the product and the industry,” he said. “You have to understand the business side to know what a good idea is, and know what will have an impact on the top line and bottom line. And digital underlies all of this. You’ve got to understand how it changes consumers’ reactions and how we interact with one another.”


Ara Katz, cofounder and cmo of mobile-shopping app Spring, further detailed the effects of digital. “The DNA of our company is a technology company,” she said. “We have an agility that is built into us, but at the same time, you are working with hundreds of brands that work in very silo ways. We have two sides of our business: We are a marketplace, so we have consumers that we have to communicate our value properties to and tell an incredible story about the amazing products and brands we have on our platform. At the same, we need to communicate to [other businesses] and be able to communicate our value there, so we have to operate in a very holistic way.”

With the influx of digital innovations, cmo’s find themselves inundated with fresh technology every day — the key is to flesh out what will work best with and for the brand. “Stay focused on your business and what is important to your business,” said Walsh. “Think about your customer and what is genuinely important to them. It’s easy to get distracted by all of these offerings that are shiny and new.”

Added Beech, “The most important thing is to deliberately link everything back to your brand voice. Everything we use, we ask three questions: Does it enhance the brand storytelling? Does it offer superior customer service? And does it give her something that she can’t get, in a Kate Spade New York way, anywhere else?”

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