“Did anyone predict Snapchat? Pokémon Go? Netflix?”: CMOs from GE, Facebook and Forbes talk their biggest challenges

The ways in which brands can, and indeed are expected to, reach consumers are changing at a breakneck pace. We talked to the CMOs of GE, Facebook, Forbes, CapitalOne and Lucid – all of whom are set to attend Web Summit in November – to get their takes on where marketing will be in the future.

This year at Web Summit, for the first time Marketing Summit will take place over all three event days. We’re also hosting Marketing X, an invite-only event, where the world’s top marketers can discuss the ever-changing industry.

Meet just five of the CMOs who’ll be joining us.

Linda Boff – CMO – GE


What is the one major change in marketing that you could never have envisaged when you first entered the industry?

When I started in marketing, building a brand was expensive and time-intensive. Today, everyone has the ability to be a brand. You simply need a smart phone and an imagination. Democratisation of media, transparency, new platforms and channels has changed everything.

Given the ever-quickening rate of change in marketing, is it possible to predict where the industry will be in two years’ time?

It’s pretty tough. Did anyone predict Snapchat? Pokémon Go? Netflix? At the same time, some things are perennial. Great stories, told well are more popular than ever. Platforms and distribution vehicles change, but the thirst to tell and share content seems like a constant.

What do you hope to learn at Web Summit?

Meeting global entrepreneurs and hearing how people are engaging on various global platforms are top of my list.

Gary Briggs –CMO – Facebook

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What is the one change in marketing you never envisaged when you first entered the industry?

I started at Pepsi in 1985, a year out of college. There are a few marketing changes I didn’t see coming. The main one is the internet, of course. No one really was using email in ’85, let alone the web. The consumer browser wasn’t released until ’93. In the mid-80s there was some discussion about better direct marketing tools, particularly through cable TV (which was early then, too) but the degree to which advertisers can have more distinct interactions with consumers is far beyond what I expected. That’s even more pronounced on mobile devices, given how many times and for how long we’re using them every day.

The rate of change in marketing ever quickening, is it at all possible to predict where the industry will be in two years’ time?

I think the move to augmented and virtual reality will happen more quickly than we predict. Simply the rapid uptake of Pokémon Go – that the app became so widespread in just a few days this summer – indicates that augmented reality is fun, captivating and broadly appealing. You see people looking forward rather than down with their phones. That’s a use case that’s going to have broad implications, I think.

What do you hope to learn at Web Summit?

I really enjoy hearing about trends in emerging markets, so I will definitely look for an agenda track that gives me more exposure to those insights. I’m also looking forward to spending time in Lisbon, as my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Portugal a few (or more….) years back.

Tom Davis – CMO – Forbes

Tom explains how he looks at Forbes like a startup

With the ever-increasing speed of change in the marketing industry, is it possible to predict what will be the biggest challenge a CMO will face in two years’ time?

I don’t think there’s one answer but I do think marketing’s future is bright. The immediacy of marketing today is affecting the 4 Ps: positioning, price, product, place. That means all are dynamic and can be optimised based on the customer. In a few years, digital tools will be even more sophisticated and helpful to best serve customers.

When you first entered the industry, did you envisage the level of disruption digital would bring?

No, but I’ve always been fascinated with the future and its opportunities.

What do you hope to learn at Web Summit?

I’m looking for inspiration and ideas, to network with good people and, of course, see great technology.

Amy Lenander – CMO – CapitalOne UK

Amy L landscape headshot

What is the one major change you see in marketing since you first entered the industry?

While customer experience has always been important, when I first entered the industry, some companies could successfully use their marketing to promote a message that wasn’t always aligned with the customer-experience reality. Marketers are now more focused than ever before on ensuring their product/experience reality is aligned with their marketing, and accordingly that their product/experiences are great.

What is the hardest obstacle to overcome as a CMO today?

Technology, the market and techniques are moving so fast, it’s no longer sufficient to hire for and develop specific marketing skills in teams. We need to build learning, nimble organisations that are constantly seeking to deeply understand how customer needs are evolving and what new opportunities technology creates. The teams then need to put those insights into action using rapid product development cycles. As someone in the middle of it all, transforming an organisation to operate in that nimble way in all things from product development to procurement is a very hard thing to do, but companies that are able to do that will have a killer competitive advantage.

What do you hope to learn at Web Summit?

I’m hoping to learn about the latest and greatest technology, products, and customer insights at Web Summit. I want to come away inspired with ideas for new ways to help our customers succeed financially.

Elizabeth Brooks – CMO – Lucid


What is the one major change you see in marketing since you first entered the industry

The major change is actually the speed of change. My first marketing job was at Napster, which created what, at the time, seemed a very rapid shift in consumer behaviour around entertainment. Now, new platforms, tools, data, cultural factors and more affect people so swiftly and become accepted and acculturated at such a pace – it’s amazing. Every day brings new opportunities to reach people and this spawns so much creativity in the marketing space.

What is the hardest obstacle to overcome as a CMO today?

The limitations of the title. As CMOs we are often limited by outside perceptions of what that title means and also can be limited by ourselves if we define ourselves narrowly as “marketers”. You could be running brand, creative, digital, analytics, CRM, UX, customer acquisition, media mix, content, PR, social, and more – it’s a broader brief than many think and needs to be a core role in overall business strategy. I’m more and more preferring CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) or other titles that reflect the CMO’s ideal leadership role in company direction and overall growth.

What do you hope to learn at Web Summit?

The key to personal and professional growth is being surrounded by awesome people – I think the most valuable learnings will be surprises! Web Summit brings out the best of the best, so I’ll be open-eyed and open-eared to everything. I particularly look forward to the global perspectives brought by Web Summit attendees.

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