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Simplicity is a CMO’s most valuable skill says Suncorp’s Pip Marlow

The smartest capability a chief marketing officer can provide to executives and board members is simplicity, Suncorp’s CEO of strategic innovation, Pip Marlow told a forum in Sydney this morning.

Speaking at ReThinkTV’s second forum, Marlow said it was important chief marketing officers simplified what they were telling executives and board members, and that they learn how to speak about return on investment.

Today’s panel (L-R): ThinkTV’s Dom White, Suncorp’s Pip Marlow, Iselect’s Scott Wilson, and Lion’s Matt Tapper.

“At the end of the day, we are not spending our money. We are spending our shareholders’ money,” Marlow said.

“We better be able to invest those dollars better than mum and dad who invested in our company can.

“They are looking for a return on investment they have made in the money.

“If you can’t tie what you’re doing to that, then we shouldn’t be spending their money.”

She said while most people like to show off their intelligence, the information becomes hard to consume and do anything with.

“When you are sitting around that table, either or the exec team or the board team, you are running at great pace,” she said.

“The smartest people, and a capability I really respect and really drives difference is simplicity.”

She said she did not want to hear about events and click-through rates, but would rather about outcomes.

“Return on equity, growth percentage, and market share are all metrics talked about in a boardroom, and metrics marketers need to understand and use,” Marlow added.

“When it comes to the board to translate that, as board speak, is really important, because they don’t really care – not to be disrespectful – about those things, they care about what it drives,” she said.

“The ability to deal with speed, to be able to filter through that and work out what’s important when the volume coming at you is huge.

“That means to me you have to be able to hold the right altitude as the CMO, and bringing people underneath you who actually have those deeper skills.”

For Matt Tapper, managing director of global markets for Lion, success metrics are dependent on the organisation.

However, he said marketers should talk about metrics which “broadly speaking in the panel sheet”, and are consistent with the leadership team and the board’s focus.

“Most organisations probably have three our four, or a handful of key metrics, so you should align yourself behind those, and talk in simple language.

“Talk to the difference you can make to the primary metrics that everyone on the table is focused on.

“Increasingly I would suggest, leaders, CMO, or teams that from a marketing point of view, can take complexity and make it simple,” Tapper said.

“Simple communication is the primary enabler for great board communication, it sets aspiration and inspiration across your team, and its wonderful for briefing partners to make great advertising content.”

Scott Wilson, ISelect’s managing director and CEO said the biggest mistake a CMO could make in a boardroom was talking about brand health.

“Talk brand health and not aligning in back to what the business is trying to achieve, and not being able to translate from a language that we are comfortable talking to,” Wilson said.

“If you can get the CEOs attention, and its all about return on investment, you will get more and more of their time.”

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