Brain Chatter: Former CMO Of Mondelez Sets The Story Straight About CMOs

May 25, 2017 Shane Schick

Dana Anderson is telling a story about a storyteller to an audience of other storytellers.

And they’re loving it.

The story is about Bill Johnson, author of A Story Is A Promise, a book Anderson had just recommended.

“He was a very strange man,” she said, leaning in conspiratorially to the crowd at the InfluenceThis conference in Toronto last week. “We once hired him to speak, and he left a jacket behind, and when we looked in the pocket, we found a frozen tater tot.”

Anderson, who left her position as the international chief marketing officer at Mondelez last month, probably has a lot of other good stories about packaged food, but that’s not why she was on stage. In her new role as CMO of consulting firm Medialink, she was reflecting on the biggest challenges brands face, and how marketers are trying to adapt.

For those who want to become CMO one day, or who are seeking to build a better relationship with one, here’s a sample of what we learned:

Stop trying to turn CMOs into chief content officers: “It used to be that all you had was an agency and a few freelancers. Now they’re offering you the writers of Empire for free,” Anderson said. “CMOs now have an incredible palette in their hands but it’s hard to manage. Who do you bring to the dance?”

It’s not that CMOs don’t care about the stories their brands tell, but their role is really more about setting overall direction and managing problems. “Only the doo-doo lands on your desk,” she added.

Your followups with CMOs are probably failing. CMOs are now bombarded with pitches well outside of their agencies. Anderson said she routinely got more than 50 out-of-the-blue email messages from vendors, influencers and other people every day trying to get her time.

“They resend and resend and resend. They’ll say, ‘This is the fifth time I’ve sent you this e-mail.’ Well, that’s the fifth clue you’re not going to hear back,” she said. The only real way to get the CMO’s attention is through personal referrals from their agency. In other cases CMOs will do the outreach themselves based on something they’ve seen or read.

The cost of content depends on the thinking behind it. Some campaigns cost a lot, others don’t. Anderson says she’s more focused on how well what’s produced speaks to the company’s values and target audience.

“With a more digitally-born kind of client, things can feel temporal and temporary. You can really feel the difference in strategy,” she said. “They’ll be filming sh*t at the corner of their desks -- ‘Hey, I can produce 100 videos today!’ But if it’s not on brand, I’m not interested.”

What really counts is what you can count. For all the talk of influencer marketing and less tangible metrics, Anderson suggested CMOs will become increasingly focused on making sure their spending was worth it.

“(Marketing content) has to be interesting, memorable, sustained and scalable,” she said, but noted that even the most fascinating digital opportunity will be ignored depending on the expected ROI -- and the state of a company’s fortunes.

“If your business is tanking, brands will move off of what they can’t measure,” she said.

You better believe it -- few would know the inside story better than Dana Anderson.  

Shane Schick is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and tells stories about innovation in IT, content and more.

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