We had the privilege of speaking with Bob Kraut, long-time marketing leader and 2014 recipient of the CMO Club’s CMO of the year, about marketing in a non-marketing world. This is what he had to say:
1. OMC: Tell us about your first job.
BK: My first “legit” job was in the JFK airport working the graveyard shift—from 11 to 6 am—in food service. I saw a lot of colorful people pass through bleary-eyed and I discovered I really liked the customer contact and bringing enjoyment into people’s lives. It’s a theme that carried through most of my career.
2. OMC: What did you go to school for?
BK: I majored in marketing and minored in philosophy. Then I got my MBA in brand and product management. Since I was 15 years old, I knew that I wanted to do something in marketing and advertising.
3. OMC: Was there an epiphany moment when you knew what you wanted to do?
BK: I think I did have an epiphany moment—when I was the editor of the high school yearbook, we were budget challenged, so I went out and I hustled to get some ads placed in the yearbook by the businesses near the main drag of the high school. I was able to make the yearbook much better than previous years because there was more money to spend. Communication and observing what made people tick became a theme for me and I saw that I really enjoyed that.
4. OMC: Why did you want to become a CMO?
BK: When I was a project director and researcher, I saw that account management on the agency side had a big impact and I wanted to have that. I’d done all the roles that report into a CMO—digital & social media, media planning, creative, PR, and sales promotion—so I knew the individual jobs well and I thought why don’t I just quarterback the whole thing?
5. OMC: What’s your biggest challenge as a CMO?
BK: It really had to do with making sure marketing had a seat at the table. Marketing is both an art and a science. There are things that are very tangible and empirical and then there is the soft side, but companies are not always wired for the soft side of things. So my role was really being a senator for marketing. You need to be a very persuasive salesperson that develops relationships with C-suite partners because ideas don’t matter unless you have strong network to support them.
6. OMC: What projects are you doing now that you think are exciting?
BK: I’m a B2C marketer, but I’m choosing to take on more roles in B2B companies with subscription-based and SaaS-driven models. I’m on the board of EDO, which is a data-science company who does what no other company can really do—measuring the effect of linear TV on organic search as a surrogate for engagement. Instead of top funnel things you’d measure in traditional tracking studies, now you can measure engagement, which is a much better indicator of purchase. I’m very excited about the company and right now I’m helping EDO in their restaurant corridor to penetrate big advertisers.
7. OMC: What’s one thing you wish CEOs understood about marketing?
BK: Some CEOs think that CMO means “chief magic officer,” but a lot of it is unglamorous and detail oriented. What they need to understand is that marketing teams are different than rest of their company. They need to create risk-free safe zones for marketers to experiment. Once it’s not safe for marketers to think then it’s game over—you’re not going to get great ideas out of people.
8. OMC: What job would you never want to do?
BK: Have you ever been to the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland? There’s a littIe kiosk that someone sits at on top of the water—I would not want to do that job. 24/7 you’d be listening to the same song. I’d go mad.
9. OMC: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
BK: So much of what I do is about helping other people and making a difference. I advise and mentor a lot of people. That’s exciting since I have a fairly large network around the country. Giving support and making people’s days more enjoyable is exciting to me. What’s great about being a CMO is working with a team that’s energized against a problem. Winning as a team is the biggest reward.
10. OMC: What do you think marketing will look like in the future?
BK: I think it will all be massive, personalized campaigns…intricate campaigns marketed to one person at a time. Context is going to be more important and marketing is going to be immersive, delivered by augmented reality through holographs. You won’t have a screen. You’ll be seeing the screen through your eyes. And automation is going to enable it all. We’ll need people to run these massive campaigns. We might have one person doing all the work for a campaign, and it will be less about being a specialist, and more being a generalist over a full campaign. Marketing roles will be brand-focused as opposed to function-focused. Technology will take care of the expertise.
“CMOs are the first and last word on marketing—they control the entire value chain of customer touchpoints.” - Bob Kraut
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Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.