CMOpinion: The two types of marketers in a COVID world

In her first regular Mumbrella column, Optus' head of marketing - CMO Melissa Hopkins suggests embracing Australia's strong COVID position in order to pursue risk and opportunity.

We really do live in the lucky country and I firmly believe how we have navigated the last 12 months has reinforced this. Our patriotism and indeed statism is at an all time high. Our little bubble of an economy has on the whole been unaffected (not discounting the massive hit for the tourism or hospitality industries). Europe and the US would be rejoicing with the low level of COVID cases. 

Weekends for the most part are spent maskless, as we have been able to indulge in a lifestyle very similar to that pre-COVID. Our favourite local restaurants, bars and brunch spots certainly missed us, but not as much as we missed them. It’s liberating to wander down the streets, seeing families, friends and even colleagues congregating together once again all wearing vibrant smiles that really do cement the feeling we are living in a protected bubble in our special corner of the world.  

Consumer spending is strong and some categories at an all time high. In the wake of an incredibly tough 12 months I am seeing and experiencing a wave of optimism in Australia I have not experienced since the 1990s. 

As marketers and indeed as a wider industry, are we embracing the very special and unique bubble we are currently living in? Are we able to fully comprehend how fortunate we are?  How rare and amazing the conditions are for brand building best in class innovation and meeting customer needs in ways we never thought possible? This is a bubble that I firmly believe no other market (with the exception of our NZ neighbours) in the world is experiencing. We have a moment in time to let go of all of the shackles of the past, embrace amazing talent and a crazy captive audience to go forth and build strong brands. We can reinstate marketing firmly at the c-suite table and quite frankly show the rest of the world what great marketing looks like. 

Let’s face it, marketers can be guilty of a bit of whinge – my budget keeps getting cut, procurement are making my agency/media/partnerships debilitating, my EXCO doesn’t get marketing or the approach, we don’t have the right talent at the agency, my team is running too lean, the competitor has a bigger budget, I am hamstrung when it comes to innovation. This whinging can not only relegate your role in the business, but also can make us become blind – blind to opportunity, blind to innovation, blind to change. The fact that as an industry, given the strong position Australia is in, there is still so much of the whinge frankly makes me frustrated. 

What COVID has demonstrated is that there is now two firm types of marketers. The true entrepreneurs, the ones with the spirit of the daring do. Give them a challenge or blocker and they will dart around it to still work to drive amazing outcomes. They take calculated risks, appreciate the opportunities and the essential value that we play in our companies and the landscape of Australia. Then there are the ones that are rigid and fixed, happy to live in the bubble of whinge, contently clinging to the negative headwinds, hiding behind economic and marketing, happy to speak at conferences on how the role of marketing has become diminished.

Susan Coghill (left) and Jo Boundy

As an industry let’s champion those with the spirit of the daring do, embrace the amazing opportunity Australia has to put us back on the global marketing map, welcome back old Aussie friends from abroad and coach the ones stuck in the ridged and fixed mindset that there is a better way. Two of the best examples of the ‘spirt of the daring do’ are two CMOs that have had the most challenging of years, Susan Coghill, CMO of Tourism Australia, and Jo Boundy, CMO of Qantas. They look to the opportunity, understand that they are critical to the success of the business turnaround and impressively have jumped in head first to what will be a challenging couple of years. Their optimism keeps me pumped up and striving for better.

Prof Don O’Sullivan from Melbourne Business School has a fabulous definition on the role of marketing: “Marketeers’ role is to pursue tomorrow’s money.”

We are essential to the success of our businesses, we are the ones who truly propel and drive growth and we are the risk takers (that often the more conservative members of the c-suite secretly wish they were). 

2021 is the start of a new generation of marketing and I cannot wait to share my thoughts and views as we embark together on this journey. 

Melissa Hopkins is the head of marketing – CMO of Optus. CMOpinion is a regular Mumbrella column.


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