Ambitious CMOs must 'think like a CEO' to win respect

Marketers with aspirations to become CEOs must think about matters other than marketing and "adopt a CEO mindset", according to William Hill CMO Kristof Fahy and former Virgin Media marketing boss Jeff Dodds.

Marketers are chasing boardroom success
Marketers are chasing boardroom success

Dodds, ex-CMO at Virgin Media and recently-appointed chief executive of Dutch telecoms company Tele2, and Fahy were speaking at the ISBA Conference at the Kia Oval in London.

In a session called "Marketing in the boardroom", the duo cited a number of high-profile marketers who have made it to the top of the hierachy, such as BT chief executive Gavin Patterson.

Fahy shared a number of insights with the audience. "If you want to be the CEO, be the best CMO you can be now," he told delegates.

Don’t wait until you get the deskplate that says ‘CEO’ and then think about it. Think about it now.

"Another is to adopt a CEO mindset. Don’t sit there and think only about marketing; think about how to change pricing, about structure, about tax regime, about technology and how it affects the business. Don’t wait until you get the deskplate that says ‘CEO’ and then think about it. Think about it now."

Meanwhile, Dodds admitted that marketing professionals "are some of the worst people at marketing themselves", adding that, partly as a consequence of this, the board often mistook what their marketers actually did.

"The board confuse marketing and advertising," he said. "They look at numbers all day long, they are extremely commercial, tasked in general not in building the brand but in growing revenue. We [marketers] don’t work hard enough to explain what we do up the line."

But Fahy, a member of bookmaker William Hill’s executive team, issued a warning to marketers looking to rise to the board. "I’ve been to board meetings and they can be boring, so I’m glad I’m not on it," he half joked.

Fahy and Dodds also used the session to share their experiences of working in the inaugural Marketing Academy Fellowship, a programme supported by management consultancy McKinsey and aimed at helping marketers move higher up the boardroom table.

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