Lessons From the World’s Most Influential CMOs

Overview Among the World’s Most Influential CMOs, a list compiled by Forbes, are chief marketing officers from tech companies Pandora, The Trade Desk and Cadillac. These leaders spoke with Jenny Rooney, editor of the CMO Network at Forbes, on the CES 2019 stage about their experiences building global brands and marketing in the technology industry.

Rooney outlined the three areas of influence on which Forbes selects the CMOs named world’s most influential:

  • Having influence internally within their company.
  • Having influence externally in their industry at large.
  • Having a voice, perspective and impact on cultural and social issues.


The three leaders have used this influence to change the marketing industry.

Pandora CMO Aimee Lapic has used her position to foster more female leaders. At Pandora, there is a Women at Pandora Community Group as well as a mentoring program that is open to every employee. Looking ahead, Lapic hopes to serve on a board to showcase what it means to have a voice as a female leader.

"I want to be a role model," Lapic said. "I want to show women — starting with my daughter — that women can do important things and have a real impact."

The Trade Desk CMO Susan Vobejda is also focused on fostering a collaborative and collective environment on her team and beyond.

“There’s a duty — in an honored sort of way — to be an example and coach for young women,” Vobejda said. “It’s truly a privilege to be championing women leaders.”

Cadillac Global CMO Deborah Wahl said Cadillac’s upcoming move back to Detroit will allow her and the company to show their global audience how to develop skills and capabilities in the workforce in many different ways and places.

I want to be a role model. I want to show women — starting with my daughter — that women can do important things and have a real impact.

Aimee Lapic
CMO, Pandora

Put the Customer First

The three CMOs have each leveraged their extensive marketing experience to change the field for their current companies.

Speaking to her biggest learnings from her tenure in the marketing world, Lapic emphasized the importance of the customer experience.

“If you put the customer first, you can pretty much market anything,” she said.
Vobejda agrees, adding that it’s all about the big idea that is going to resonate personally and emotionally with customers.

Having run content services and been in retail merchandising, finance, advertising and fashion, Vobejda views marketing as being about building excitement for people.

“We are really seeking to describe and tell stories about our brand, not just the features and functionalities of the product, but what the brand is doing for people,” she said.

Wahl said these fundamentals have remained constant. Business leaders need to focus on driving the business and growth through the customer.

“The approach and breadth of change that CMOs can bring because we are focused on the customer value, it’s unlike what it’s ever been before,” Wahl said.


Use Data and Technology to Improve Customers’ Experience

As the tech industry grows, data provides CMOs and other C-suites the ability to analyze their customers and think about and build relevant strategies as well.

The growing volume of customer information allows marketers to understand and guide the behaviors and decisions of their audience.

“You have to think about data in a proactive way,” Lapic said. “My early experience in [customer relationship management (CRM)] and how to use data to serve up the right messages has served me well throughout my career.”

In looking at growth for a company, investment in technologies and new advertising strategies must work for marketing, but they must also be vetted by all teams who contribute to the business.

Creating customer strategy is ultimately a partnership for all company leadership, extending beyond just the CMO.


Hiring Is Hard

Summarized by Rooney as, “Marketing has a marketing problem,” the three CMOs agreed on the importance of hiring the right talent for marketing, and why that is a challenge for CMOs across the board.

“I always find that a team that comes from many different skillsets is much more powerful,” Wahl said.

The significance is to place people who are specialized in their skillsets in functional roles that allow them to be the most effective.

Particularly at a time when the industry is growing so rapidly, it’s important to set up talent in a way that generates value — decreasing repetitive tasks and increasing strategic work that creates forward strides for the company.

As all three CMOs continue to propel the global growth of their brands, they left the CES 2019 audience with key takeaways for what’s next in marketing and inspiration for the next generation of marketers.

ON THEIR CMO SUPERPOWERS

Aimee Lapic, CMO, Pandora

Aimee Lapic, CMO, Pandora

Susan Vobejda, CMO, The Trade Desk

Susan Vobejda, CMO, The Trade Desk

Deborah Wahl, CMO, Cadillac

Deborah Wahl, CMO, Cadillac

"I am an authentic leader. As a leader, allow people to make the best decisions they can for their lives."

"I am a good head coach. I know what the game plan is, I can set the vision, I can call the plays, I can champion and develop the skills of the team."

"I am an eternal optimist. I like to see what’s possible and say that we can create that future. If you can envision it, you can make something amazing happen."

Watch the full session, including audience questions for the leading CMOs.

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