CMOs are leaders, not conductors

CMOs are leaders, not conductors

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Zoe Pearson shares three key leadership insights from our lunch with Ralph Kugler

Last Friday I was lucky enough to attend The Marketing Society’s latest Power Hour event, an intimate lunch with Ralph Kugler – a true force within the Marketing industry – as he shared his career journey CMO, to CEO and now Chairman.

The room had a diverse mix of leaders from across Hong Kong’s Marketing community from a range of big brands including; HSBC, The New York Times and the Economist. 

An inspirational way to end the week – with lively and varied conversation. In between the excellent food and wine three main themes emerged, each with its own learning and advice on how to be a bolder, stronger marketing leader.

Brand architecture | Organisational design keeping you close to customers

All of us in the room had experienced various forms of brand management and organisational structure during our careers. This led to an interactive discussion on the pros and cons of managing brands centrally, regionally, via channel, etc.

We came to the conclusion that actually there is no perfect marketing structure and there are only two things which really matter when deciding how to divide your team’s responsibilities: the voice of the customer and pride in your job.

The structure needs to keep your team close enough to the customer to be able to listen to them and understand their needs, this is important even for those who are in a specialist role.

The structure also needs to be careful not to fragment responsibilities. Every job within the team should come with a sense of professional pride, achievement and ownership.

Digital disruption |  Tomorrow is important, but do not forget about today

Ralph then discussed the rapid pace of digital change.

As we debated the reasons behind various recent examples of upheaval on the UK high street an important point discussion point emerged – how many companies view “digital disruption” as a set of buzz-words and how many are truly preparing for change? 

General agreement around the table was, yes we need to be preparing for the future but our role as leaders is to identify which trends will impact our business and which won’t.

Ensuring we are ready for the technology of tomorrow without losing sight of our objectives today.

Leadership | It starts with effective people management

Your employer brand is your external brand was the main take away for me from this conversation topic. Ralph shared his experience of managing people from across nations and cultures. Commenting that good business and values are relevant everywhere and to everyone.

A focus on building a strong employer brand should be a top priority for all CMOs. Building and showcasing dedication to our people and their development. 

Ralph commented that in his experience as a senior exec the secret to a sustainable growing business is the same across the world, good people.

The session ended with an inspirational message – CMOs are leaders not conductors.

Increasingly CMOs will have people in their team with a higher technical capability or specialism, our role is to gain their trust and respect. To have a greater understanding of the customer and use this to lead and inspire, we need to set objectives and direction.

Trusting our teams to get us get there.


Zoe Pearson, Marketing Manager, St. James’s Place Hong Kong

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Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 04 Jul 2018
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