SXSW CMO Panel Recap: Mashable, Equinox, Bloomberg LP, and Marketo Weigh in on the Current State of Marketing

Engagement Marketing


Earlier this week, Marketo hosted a panel at SXSW in Austin, TX, with of some of the brightest minds in marketing. Joining our own Sanjay Dholakia on stage were the CMOs of Equinox, Bloomberg, and Mashable. Over the course of an hour, the panel weighed in on the state of marketing, the changes that our industry is undergoing, and what the next three to five years will bring. What follows is a recap of the discussion as covered by Mashable:

Monday morning in Austin, dozens of marketers converged at the Marketo Engagement Lounge to discuss the modern marketing landscape. The lively panel of CMOs—Dierdre Bigley of Bloomberg LP, Carlos Becil of Equinox, Sanjay Dholakia of Marketo and Stacy Martinet of Mashable—touched on storytelling, organizing successful marketing teams, how best to leverage real-time data and more.

To kick off the conversation, the CMOs talked about the role of marketing today. They acknowledged that a brand is what the audience says it is, not what the CMO says it is, reinforcing the need to create touch points with consumers throughout the marketing funnel to win their loyalty.

“The role of marketing today is to bring the brand to life,” said Becil, adding that the field of marketing today spans communications, digital media, technology, content and more, citing Equinox’s Q blog and data-driven Pursuit cycling class as examples of the varied efforts that fall into his purview.

Bloomberg’s Bigley said the modern marketer has taken on more of a sales role, becoming a true revenue driver when working with the sales team and troves of data to target customers and push conversion.

Big data was a huge topic of conversation, and while all the CMOs celebrated the abundance of information, data has a downside – complacency. Bigley cautioned marketers to keep a firm grip on a culture of innovation and experimentation. Just because we have hard and fast data doesn’t mean marketers should sacrifice creativity; if anything, it should inform and encourage new forms of creativity across platforms. In fact, despite the ever-evolving technology landscape—did you see all the Meerkat streams in Austin??? —humans have never been more important in marketing, says Martinet. Data is simply a tool, informing marketers and helping them optimize and target their efforts when used smartly and responsibly.

“We have so many signals about who customers are and what they’re doing,” said Dholakia, adding that this information can be leveraged to cultivate one-to-one relationships and build brand loyalty and affinity, thus making marketing smarter and more effective.

And those signals should live across platforms, not in silos. With smartphone penetration reaching new heights, the CMOs discussed omni-channel marketing and lamented the industry’s emphasis on “mobile-first” campaigns in recent years. “We did a disservice coining the “mobile first” phrase—mobile should not be seen as a silo,” said Dholakia. “Marketing campaigns ought to be developed holistically and lean into audience behaviors to be successful”.

And in 2015, no media panel is complete without a discussion of content marketing and storytelling. Dholakia noted that CMOs are investing so much into content that VP of Content will be a common role within a marketing organization. As brands scale their content efforts, Becil said the key is to understand your brand and its strengths as well as your audience; he cited Equinox’s provocative #Equinoxmademedoit as an example of a campaign that represents the brand and evokes emotion in the audience. Bigley also noted the importance of transparency and authenticity in your brand’s content.

Meanwhile, Martinet emphasized the importance of humanizing the brand and creating a persona far beyond the products you sell. “You can be both serious and fun. People are multi-faceted – brands can be, too,” she said.

“It’s better to be bold than boring,” said Becil.

What do you think about what these CMOs have to say about the future of marketing? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please share them in the comments section below.