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The roles of chief marketing officer and chief information officer are blending.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Today’s cmo must be equally fluent in digital and traditional marketing practices as the online space — including e-commerce, advertising, social media and mobile — contributes an ever-growing percentage of sales for brands and retailers. Gone are the days when cmo’s focused mainly on booking space for TV or print ads and promotional fliers. Now their reach stretches across all aspects of a brand, from marketing to digital platforms to in-store technologies.

“You are getting this new wave of cmo that is often times younger, innovative, more entrepreneurial, and comes from a background of social media,” said Juliet de Baubigny, partner at venture capital and private equity firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “And if not, they are radically embracing the shift in understanding how to get the consumer.”

De Baubigny noted that this encompasses a different point of view than their predecessors when it comes to communicating with and influencing consumers. Authentic marketing is still paramount and she emphasized that it’s imperative to speak to customers in a way that encapsulates the authenticity of the brand. But she said that from a core marketing side, there’s been a “huge shift of social dollars.” She started noticing the shift a few years ago — that dollars at companies were being divided between the cio’s and cmo’s organizations.

“They have to make sure the foundation of the corporation is scalable and robust at the global level [too]. The cmo is really thinking about the epicenter of the consumer, the consumer experience and how the company communicates in all aspects with the consumer in a very deep, authentic and holistic way,” she said.

Topshop chief marketing officer Justin Cooke, who spent six years at Burberry as head and then vice president of public relations before joining Topshop last September, said he typically finds himself in a situation where he’s approving a billboard and a print ad and drawing video copy for an online project, all at the same time.

“I go from one thing to another. I have been around artists, film directors, musicians, video producers and actors and taking bits of these people and becoming someone that can do all of these roles,” the 32-year-old Cooke explained of cultivating a genuine point of view on each aspect of his job. “That filter is quite powerful.”

He cites a statistic from McKinsey & Co.: 90 percent of shoppers’ journeys start online. Although he readily admits that there isn’t a “great way” to measure return on investment for online, “the greatest irony in this world is that putting an ad in a magazine is [still] the best measure” for some organizations.

“Your awareness levels have to be much higher. If you ask the average cmo at a fashion company, a lot of times it’s a marketing and public relations director working side by side. You need someone with the vision and the clarity who can connect the dots. You sometimes almost have a situation where they are competing, and they have their own objectives,” Cooke said.

As an example of the new order, Cooke took the Harlem Shake video craze — a colleague sent him a YouTube link as a joke — and applied this to conceptualize a digital campaign with a pop culture marketing element during London Fashion Week in February. Featuring models Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn and Rosie Tapner, the video garnered 20,000 views within one hour of going live and one million in two days.

In this day and age of “BYOD” — bring your own device — where people are toting several devices around with them at all times, a cmo must be forward thinking and take this into account, according to de Baubigny. This means a brand must be nimble enough to accommodate a user accessing their site from a desktop at work, on a mobile phone at lunch or on an iPad on the commute home. This also includes maintaining a relevant but platform-appropriate presence on different social mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and, more recently, Vine.

For Les Berglass, chairman and chief executive officer of Berglass & Associates, there are two principal functions that he takes into account when placing a cmo today. The first is the ability to be “brand right” — as the organization is talking to the consumer and presenting a seamless portrayal regardless of where product is purchased. The second is being “incredibly Internet savvy.

“You do not speak to the same consumer in different languages,” Berglass said. “That is what we look for when looking for a cmo. You want someone who understands they are one brand and who thirsts for information about the consumer. They want to talk to her in a very focused and not overbearing way.”

He doesn’t see the cmo absorbing the cio’s duties, although a good marketer thrives on the information that comes out of the organization.


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“The merchant you have evolving embraces brand as much as product, and they all have to understand that if ‘I don’t know how to speak to this woman digitally,’ then I am a dead man,” he said.

A significant driver of this change is the Millennial — 18- to 25-year-olds — who are about to or already make a sizable income for the first time. This consumer lives online, and Berglass anticipates the group will “turbocharge” the retail scene at a level that most people in the industry aren’t prepared for.

Coca-Cola chief marketing and commercial officer Joe Tripodi agreed that these under-30 “digital natives” will greatly influence retail and the amount of transactions that happen online — and this means the way brands market to this consumer must also evolve.

He predicted that in the next decade, most apparel, office supplies, home decor and health and beauty products will be sold online and there will be a greater adoption of using e-commerce for grocery and household products. But buying habits are only part of the story — the way in which a brand is built is also changing.

“Television, print and radio are still important, but clearly the world is moving towards more digital and social platforms and that’s where you’re seeing the growth in investment and resources and activity,” Tripodi said of the company’s social media strategy, focused on the creation of “compelling stories” that are authentic and shareable. Coca-Cola’s Facebook page has more than 67 million fans as well as a YouTube channel with nearly 138 million views and 136,000 subscribers.

“I believe the winners of the future are going to be those organizations that can take great ideas and innovations and execute them the fastest. That’s where the networked organization comes into play — it’s not only connecting ourselves globally in a highly functional, collaborative and entrepreneurial way, but it’s connecting our entire ecosystem of partners, agencies, and creative talent into a virtual enterprise that shares our vision, our values, our bias for action and our deep sense of accountability,” Tripodi said. He sees the role of a cmo today as the “chief growth enabler” and “enterprise connector,” and views himself as the architect of this networked organization.

To generate buzz and engage its fan base before the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola “gamified” the big game through a second-screen experience. A 30-second trailer was published on January 23 at, where users were able to vote on three different endings, as well as participate in a “sabotage their fictional foes” through a gaming element. The one with the most votes appeared in the brand’s 60-second Super Bowl spot, resulting in more than 11 million fan engagements. To break it down, the initiative saw about three million YouTube views (almost double the company’s Polar Bowl spots for the 2012 Super Bowl) and almost 910,000 votes and 7.3 million “sabotages” were cast on — in addition to exposure to more than 100 million broadcast viewers.

Audi also is innovative in the way it connects with the consumer. Loren Angelo, director of marketing for Audi of America, credits this to the building of brand aspiration, increasing product excitement and evoking an emotional connection with the brand for consumers. Angelo calls digital the “perfect platform” to keep consumers engaged, noting that online has gone from being a destination for information to an “experiential platform.”

“Traditional and online have become one in the same. We look at traditional and online marketing strategies both as ways of building excitement and passion,” Loren said, whether it’s a TV spot, a social media initiative or digital content. The company relaunched its digital flagship recently, which allows users to customize a car, search for it at nearby dealers and schedule an appointment to test drive and/or buy it. At Audi, it’s been the combination of traditional and online programs that have resulted in the most impactful campaigns. Angelo also pointed to the Super Bowl and explained how the integration of digital has created consumer engagement beyond expectation. In 2011, Audi became the first brand to include a Twitter hashtag in a Super Bowl spot, and a positive response led it to do the same in 2012 and 2013.

For the last Super Bowl, the car company engaged fans with a contest where viewers, like at Coca-Cola, got to choose the ending of a commercial featuring a dateless and shy teenage boy on the way to his prom. The boy’s father surprises him with a new Audi S6, and the boy is infused with a burst of confidence — one that leads him to strut into his school gym and kiss the prom queen. The winning ending found the teenager driving off alone in his S6 with a black eye and the short ended with a bumper that read, “#braverywins.” The hashtag garnered 14 million impressions on Twitter and 19 million on Facebook during the game weekend, and the YouTube video of the spot has received 10.5 million views to date. Last year’s “Vampire Party” spot was YouTube’s fifth most viewed Super Bowl spot (of 58), and has received almost seven million views.

Like Angelo, Target cmo Jeff Jones makes no distinctions between traditional and online marketing. “It’s no longer possible in my mind to think about digital and traditional. As an organization, the way we’re structured is that there are teams that have come together to really try to blur those lines. It’s not the digital or the traditional strategy, it’s what is the right thing for the guest,” Jones said.

He declined to reveal by how much the percentage of online spend has increased, which has allowed Target to be more “nimble” in terms of what it can invest in in real time. (“If something is not working, we can stop investing in real time,” Jones said of online investments.)

“As a marketer, it’s far broader than marketing, communications and advertising. Cmo’s today that can really add strategy value to the company’s growth are essential,” Jones said.

Jeff Hennion, president of Branding Brand, a company that puts mobile strategies in place for retailers, was cmo of Dick’s Sporting Goods and GNC before leaving the latter eight months ago to help organizations like Costco, Crate & Barrel, Sephora, American Eagle, Nasty Gal and Rent the Runway optimize mobile versions of their Web sites and check out on tablets, create mobile apps, and enhance in-store and marketing solutions.

According to Hennion, the biggest change for a cmo is that this individual must truly understand the digital landscape, followed by the ability to measure what they do. The only two marketing jobs he’s held were cmo positions — and he found that it was surprising how much of the day was spent in the quantitative measurement of everything the company did.

“That can be through CRM [customer relationship management] and everything you’re doing from CRM, to loyalty, to a customer send-point and measuring every last e-mail,” Hennion said. “The shift [is] from ‘Let’s put a 30-second spot on prime time and hope it does something for sales,’ to being able to measure each direct mail and e-mail piece. Also, the response rate on QR codes was just huge.”

He contends that Branding Brand has clients that will see over 50 percent of their Web site traffic coming from mobile and tablets, up from about 5 percent just three to four years ago.

The biggest challenge that retailers currently face, according to Hennion, is adapting a brick-and-mortar store for the online space. It’s not just creating the same experience digitally; it has to be adapted specifically to every online medium, he explained.

Tory Burch cmo Miki Berardelli said that Burch and president Brigitte Kleine were “ahead of the curve” when they decided to have the e-commerce team report into marketing. She sees the digital flagship at as one of the most significant marketing vehicles for the company, as the site is the most “visible, trafficked aspect” of the brand. However, she still remains focused on traditional marketing duties like direct mail, events and print marketing as each of these has garnered positive results with consumers.

Different customers possess different preferences, and as Tory Burch expands globally, Berardelli acknowledges that digital and traditional marketing are important everywhere. In China, having a presence on Weibo is mandatory — the same way being on Facebook and Twitter is in other regions.

Berardelli believes that the approach is for technology to enhance the in-store experience, not just using technology for technology’s sake. Senior vice president of retail Matt Marcotte joined the brand from Apple, and along with Berardelli, the two have made it a priority to embrace the presence of digital in-store.

IPads are used in all stores to leverage online content, from editorial content helping give shoppers a better understanding of product to the upcoming rollout of “clientelling” technology that enables customers and associates to work together on building a wardrobe based on past purchases and their wish list. Berardelli noted that this program will bridge a customer’s browsing activity at brick-and-mortar locations and on

“When Tory started the company, she opened a store and launched e-commerce, so both have always been at the forefront of our strategy. We are fortunate that we have never experienced channel conflict or organizational silos,” Berardelli said. “While traditional retail and e-commerce are very different and require unique operational skills, we see direct-to-consumer as one, making Matt and my teams’ collaboration critical to success and our customer’s experience.”


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