Chief marketing officer Blair Christie ’94, ’99 of Cisco Systems and Xerox’s Christa Carone discussed “Changes and Challenges Facing Today’s Chief Marketing Officer” during a panel discussion May 17 in Philadelphia’s historic Union League. The talk was moderated by Elliot Schreiber, Ph.D., clinical professor of marketing and the executive director of LeBow’s Center for Corporate Reputation Management, co-sponsor of the event with the Philadelphia American Marketing Association.
During the morning presentation, the pair fielded questions by Schreiber who asked about basic challenges and changes in their profession. Accessibility and the importance of data were a major theme.
“We have a way of measuring marketing like never before,” said Christie of Cisco, a networking equipment company headquartered in San Jose, California . “We can show value in how we are doing, so we can close the loop; that’s very important. We can now see the returns that used to take months.”
Xerox’s diverse product offerings and perception of the 100-year old company make marketing the challenging, Carone said. While the company had been known for mostly copying products and services, Carone said that the company has transformed itself into a business services company and is the largest outsourcing company in the world in transaction processing.
“This presents a real challenge for us marketers,” Carone said. “We have to have strong integration in our marketing and communication so that our message gets across. We’re no longer just a copier company.”
Both Carone and Christie agree that the role of the public relations professionals in their organizations has significantly changed in the last decade and how their company’s public relations and marketing departments now work more closely together.
“PR is no longer just looking at media hits,” Christie said. “They are the content creators, the storytellers. They have the translational ability to adapt our messages. They are the tip of the sphere.”
However, choosing the right marketing medium is not always easy, especially when ther eare as many choices as we now have among all of the media.
“We have a lot of marketing choices, which is both good and bad,” Carone added. “I believe in integrating both digital and traditional marketing. I can’t get as strong analytics in traditional marketing, but I still think it’s important. Marketing is both a science and an art. I believe in the importance of the gut check. What we think that makes sense. We have a lot of data, and so we create a diverse mix. I also put about 5 percent in experimental marketing and I protect that in my budget. I think it’s important to try new things.”
Both Carone and Christie also discussed the important of internal and external marketing and how they as marketing professionals balance the two.
“We want to harness the voice of our employees,” Christie said. “They are your brand ambassadors. We provide social media training for our employees. About 800 employees are on Twitter, not that they are all tweeting about Cisco all the time. “
“Marketing starts with employees,” Carone agreed. “Every employee has a voice through social media channels and they are all spokespeople.”
Social media and technology also play an important role as both companies extend their global reach and need to determine effective strategies for reaching different markets.
“We work with our team member and learn what works for them,” Christie said. “Our marketing mix is going to vary from region to region. We need adjust to the culture and economy of the region.”
The presentation concluded with a question-and-answer session and networking.