The CMO role has evolved dramatically since the late ’90s, when marketers were focused on closing business deals with customers. While some of the fundamentals have remained constant over the years — for example, customer-facing teams need to connect marketing efforts back to sales goals –the way CMOs execute their jobs is fundamentally different from when they started out decades ago. Marketing has become data-driven and, as a result, CMOs now play larger roles in key corporate functions such as HR, finance, and IT.

We explore the CMO role with two prominent marketing leaders: Suzanne Kounkel, Chief Marketing Officer of Deloitte, and Norman de Greve, the Chief Marketing Officer for CVS Health.

The conversation covers these topics:

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: We're discussing the chief marketing officer role with two CMOs from very large organizations. Suzanne Kounkel is the chief marketing officer of Deloitte, and Norm de Greve is the chief marketing officer of CVS Health. Welcome, both of you. Suzanne, please tell us about your role as CMO of Deloitte and tell us about Deloitte.

Suzanne Kounkel: We're the largest professional services organization in the U.S., but a little bit about what Deloitte means so that you'll sort of see the way it might color some of my answers to the questions. I'm obviously a B2B CMO. We have about 120,000 people in the U.S. and about 330,000. Norm and I would share a very big employee base.

We serve clients, helping them solve their most complex set of business challenges, as well as stepping into opportunities, and shaping their industries and functional areas. Because of that, we have a very wide set of capabilities and services that we offer to the marketplace.

Michael Krigsman: Norm de Greve, tell us about CVS Health and your role as the chief marketing officer.

Norman de Greve: Most people know CVS because they know our stores; 10,000 pharmacies across the country within a few miles of most of the people in the country. That is a big part of our business, a very important part of our business. It is also less than half of our business.

What many people don't know is that we play in a lot of areas in the healthcare space. For example, we own Aetna, the insurance company. We own Caremark, which is a pharmacy benefits management company that helps control the costs of medication for companies and people.

We own a few other companies, and it's actually taken us to become the largest healthcare company in the U.S. Just last week, Fortune said we were the number four company in the Fortune 500.

We're blending technology and human interaction in order to make healthcare easier for people. And so, my job as a CMO is to be that voice of the consumer and to make sure that we're building the products and services that consumers want to engage in so that they become healthier. Better for them and better for us, of course. Then make sure that they're aware of those services so that they go to those services first. That's what I do every day.

What is a Chief Marketing Officer?

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, the CMO role has been changing. Pieces of it have been almost kind overlapping with the chief information officer, and we have chief digital officers. Really, today in 2021, how do you define the scope of the CMO role?

Suzanne Kounkel: The modern CMO basically has four facets to their job. The first is certainly a growth driver, and that's changed pretty dramatically over a period of time. we've talked a lot about that with the CMO set of responsibilities, but that is absolutely 1000% true today.

We definitely think that a part of the CMO role is as an innovation catalyst and specifically about digital. Norm talked about how dramatically technology is changing all of our businesses. It certainly has changed the face of what we do as marketers.

Obviously, brand storyteller, bringing creative to light, and being the face of the organization (both internally and externally) is a big part of the CMO role. Last, but not least, is the capability filter, making sure that we're doing the things that we can do with the CFO watching to get the highest return on the investments we make in marketing.

Michael Krigsman: Norm, I'm sure that you have some thoughts as well on the scope of the role today.

Norman de Greve: I probably anchor a little bit more on the first one, which is to create customer-driven growth, though I think every element you said there is exactly right.

Most companies go through (in my view) a few different stages. You start by finding an unmet need in the marketplace. You create a product or service to meet it. It's quite an entrepreneurial sort of idea.

Then they go to the next stage of, let's say they have these customer relationships. What else can they sell to them? Now you've got kind of a marketing mindset, an innovation mindset there as well.

Then many companies are really in this third stage, which is, how do you drive operational profits out of a company that you've built and the relationships that you have?

If I look at that curve, in each stage marketing plays a really important role. Certainly, at the beginning, that is what marketing does. We find an unmet need in the marketplace and we help create a product or service to meet it. In the second stage, we're really helping to figure out what else could we do to help those customers.

Really importantly, in these big companies that are focused on operational efficiencies with an analytic mindset – very important. Lots of value in this area – the marketer's job is to make sure that the company is also creating these products and services to meet unmet needs in the marketplace so that it can drive the next iteration of growth.

Suzanne, I liked the way you said it because I think that's a bit of customer-driven growth, a bit of innovation, and a bit of capabilities as well. You had one other one in there. I forgot it, but I like them all. I thought that was right.

It can feel a little different sometimes sitting at the executive table because many people at that executive table are driving the operations, the finances, and what's happening. The marketer's job is to be a bit of that outside perspective to say, "Where do we have to go and why should we go there?" and make sure that the company is focused on their customers.

Suzanne Kounkel: The thing I would add, Michael, in response to your question is the CMO in the C-suite is, in my opinion, an important voice. The thing that you need to do to land that the best is to make sure that you're at the highest intersection point between not forgetting that you do have unique superpowers and that is the reason why you're in the C-suite, but also knowing that it is the set of capabilities that, as a general rule, most of the executives are least comfortable with.

You really have to be able to land your message in a way that can be heard from the various viewpoints. I think that's something that CMOs are trying to very actively bridge that gap with respect to language and metrics and being able to talk about the impact they're having through the eyes of the business.

Norman de Greve: That point is really, really important. I started part of my career in management consulting, and I lean on that skillset an awful lot in the C-suite because it enables me to speak the language that the other executives are speaking and to connect with them.

Now, what's also important is for me to realize the importance of creativity and bring that forth. But if you just go in and talk about creativity, they're not exactly sure what to do with you. At the same time, there's somebody sitting next to you who has a bunch of ideas with exact profit dollars that can be driven. And so, you have to do both.

Now, what I also see happening is (to your point) then the marketer wants to speak the business language. Where has that taken us? That's taken us to, "I want to talk about ROI."

ROI is an efficiency metric. It is not a business outcome. [Laughter]

I think there's been too much of a focus on ROI versus incremental profit dollars with a reasonable rate of return. Why are we focused on a rate of return versus the total profit dollars that we're bringing in? I think, in some ways, we've had an overcorrection in marketing to focus on a metric that actually has harmed the growth of the company because we're focused too much on efficiency.

How to plan and allocate marketing investments?

Michael Krigsman: How then do you think about the allocation of your budget as an investment, as you kind of look at both efficiency and then innovation (to Suzanne's original point)?

Norman de Greve: You can think about allocation of investment in a couple of different ways. Number one is the investment needs to produce a return (generally) this year, right? Most everybody in an organization has to deal with it and you need to deal with that too. When you show up and talk about brand and the exciting opportunity to be associated with something, it's kind of like, "Well, to what end?"

Now, what I will tell you is that if you want to drive the maximum return, the maximum return for your investment over multiple years – and I'm just talking about two to three years – it takes you to a very different set of allocation activities than it does if you say, "I want to drive the return in a quarter." As an example, if I want to drive a return this quarter, I will focus on selling products that are already known to existing customers.

Now, you can't grow a business just by focusing on your existing customers, [laughter] and so you have to think about (over a couple of years) what's the right allocation? When we look at allocation, it is the idea of, what's the best return for the money? But again, it's not just the percentage return. It is the total dollar return at a reasonable rate.

Suzanne Kounkel: I would just add that, over the brand-to-demand spectrum, we're constantly making choices (depending on how the business is performing) to accelerate and make those shifts.

I think the one thing that has changed pretty dramatically (that I've learned very specifically in my role) is that that is a great place to tie in with the other executives to make that very explicit and known and collectively agree that that's what we need at this moment in time.

That allows for two things. It allows for that collaboration with the business and it also allows for we, as marketers, to then go do the things that we do particularly and uniquely well.

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question from Twitter, from Arsalan Khan, who is a regular listener and always asks great questions. Thank you for that, Arsalan. He says, "How do CMOs define innovation, and is the definition different from what IT and the CIO might think innovation to be?"

Suzanne Kounkel: I think there are sort of two things that we think about with respect to innovation. One, we think about meeting our clients/customers where they are and, as they're innovating and doing different things, how do we innovate to be able to meet them where they need us to be?

We've certainly seen some very interesting things around one of our mottos, which is, "You don't go it alone in this world." There would be very different things that we're doing today with respect to some of the partnerships, alliances, and co-collaboration inside and outside our organization. Certainly, innovation is to respond to both the market needs as well as the things that are truly differentiated about who we are and how can we meet the client where they're at.

The good news about innovation, as well, in today's parlance, in my opinion, is that it also helps. Again, I like, Norm, what you said about the return on investment being a pretty narrow metric. However, a lot of the digital capabilities and innovative ways to deploy some of those assets help pretty significantly in that. That's the other thing that we think about it is, how are we able to reach more of the market faster?

Norman de Greve: Sometimes people can think of innovation as a new way of doing things or an exciting new thing (whatever that might be). I think that marketers think about it, first and foremost, through a better way to solve customer needs.

I think it's quite easy for big companies to skip that part, to say, "Here's the thing that I want to do because, if we can do it, we make a lot of money."

It's like, "Okay. Well, that's great. But do customers want it?" [Laughter]

I think marketers are more likely to think about it customer-in versus what we have out.

Customer experience and the CMO

Michael Krigsman: It's this notion of customer experience, which everybody is talking about. As a practical matter, how much do each of you actually think, talk about, invest in customer experience? By the way, what exactly is it anyhow?

Norman de Greve: If a CMO's job is to drive growth – and, in that equation, building a brand is partly how you drive growth – then you can look today. I've done this study multiple times. Seventy-five percent of a brand is now built through experience.

If a CMO's job is to build the brand, then they better be spending a lot of time on what the experience is. They don't have to own it all, but they need to be working with people about how it becomes a great experience.

What is an experience? It is very different depending upon the industry.

In the service business, it's pretty easy – what's the experience. In a product business, it's the usage of the product. But they can get very different. Well, anyway, there are different ways to come at it.

I do think that you've got a digitally enabled consumer, low friction of information flying around, and if the experience is great, terrific. If it's bad, then there is no marketing that's going to cover that up.

Suzanne Kounkel: I love what you said earlier as well.

The way I think about customer experience is two things. One is, as a CMO, I can see things that others struggle to see (in the business). I can also listen differently, and so really making sure that I contribute those things back to the business in a unique way is a key part of my role.

To your question about can it be owned by marketing; I think it can be led by marketing. Both in my personal life and my professional life, I say life is lived in the small moments every day. Because of that, the experience has to be thought about and contemplated through the roles of every part of the organization and the talent experience. Otherwise, you can't ever land an authentic, repeatable customer experience that really engenders loyalty with customers.

Michael Krigsman: That's such an interesting point: authentic and repeatable customer experiences that engender loyalty. I suspect how you each do that is very, very different because your businesses are so different. How do you create repeatable experiences that are authentic that engender loyalty?

Norman de Greve: Yes. I'm actually interested from the Deloitte standpoint. It's complex. You've got so many people. By the way, I'm sure they all believe they're super smart and have a great way of doing things, and so how do you do that?

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, it's interesting. When I'm sitting on panels with B2C CMOs, I always say, "Imagine a world in which your products walked and talked."

You're right, Norm, that it is harder. The repeatability (to us) gets down to a certain set of values that we want to make sure are present and a set of things that are differentiated about who we are and the way we do the work we do. It is not necessary to make everything 1000%, 100% repeatable each and every time.

But to be able to do that – and I know this is an area that I got some responses on LinkedIn when I talked about this talk – is that it does require (for us) digital innovation. That digital innovation is really all about making sure that our humans can be more human at the time they really need to be.

That's what we're always trying to do is make sure people have the information, the guidepost that they need to be able to make choices in the moment, and that it's really sort of value-based and responsive because one of the other things that we do believe is that this set of complex and new business opportunities presents itself in a slightly unique way client-by-client. It is more about helping our people make choices in the moment than it is repeatable, meaning exactly the same each and every time.

Norman de Greve: I was thinking about this at one point – actually, I was thinking about this still today – about all of our stores. How do we create the right experience?

I remember thinking about Disney, which is just an organization that, of course, I admire a lot for what they've done. It still continues to be an excellent organization.

The challenge that I noticed between my organization and Disney was that they have (in the U.S.) two locations and I have 10,000. It's just really hard to get a culture through. You can see it in two locations, how you do the onboarding, how you manage people every day.

What's really (in a similar way to what you're saying) made a difference for us is the idea of purpose. We can have a long talk about that. But when you create a culture, similar to your values (in a way), of what you expect, what you believe, and how you want people to behave, then that's the best you can do. I think that, in a rapidly changing world, that idea creates more unification and delivery of your brand than being prescriptive of exactly what to say and do in a moment.

Not to go too far down this path, but if you look at the way the military is changing the way they work, it used to be command and control, and now it's very different. It's all along this idea: know exactly the rules of the road, values, and how to operate, and be prepared for a situation that you're going to have to make the decisions.

Suzanne Kounkel: A lot of terrible things happened in times of COVID. I think that muscle really got strengthened.

Norm, you would have seen this in spades, right? Things were moving so fast, just generally, and then specifically by geography and by certain demographics and all that sort of thing. Getting comfortable with that notion things needed to change and needed to be able to have decision making in the moment was actually a really critical muscle to develop.

Norman de Greve: One of the things that COVID did for us that, at the very beginning, we really changed as my role became not just the voice of the customer but the voice of the employees. We were doing surveys all the time figuring out exactly what employees needed. Then we had PPE (protective equipment) that we had to get to people. We had to think about our operating procedures and all that stuff – the safety. People felt really stressed going to work.

We were listening more than ever to our employees and then helping them to make changes. I wonder if that was the same for you, given your disbursed workforce.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, it was absolutely the case, and we had to really radically change the way we communicated internally and externally. One of the things I was most proud of our executive team was that they were really clear from the very beginning.

I think the natural tendency is for leaders to speak with authority and conviction. What our executives did was they spoke with conviction, but they said, "We only know what we know today, so we're going to make it as clear as possible, as simple as possible, but do what you need to do and let us know how it reacts."

Norm, we absolutely did a lot to really listen to our clients and our people.

What is a purpose-driven business?

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned the term purpose. I think Norm brought this term up earlier. It seems evident to me, as I hear you both talk, that purpose and culture underly a lot of how you both think about the world.

This term, purpose, and purpose-driven, has become a buzzword where it sounds really good but it can be very vapid and devoid of meaning. What does it actually mean and how do we bring substance to this concept of being purpose-driven?

Norman de Greve: I think it's impossible to be a purpose-driven brand. You have to be a purpose-driven company.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah.

Norman de Greve: Those are fundamentally different. A purpose-driven brand can make communications that are compelling and tear-jerking. They can maybe do CSR activities, which are also good things to do. But that doesn't make you a purpose-driven company.

To be a purpose-driven company, you need to meaningfully demonstrate your commitment to that purpose in a way that your customers care about and that your employees care about. There's a long history about CVS – we don't have to go into that right here – about the moves we've taken. I think that the real reason to do it is to drive engagement for your employees, actually.

People talk about customers buying from purpose-driven brands, and I do think that that's true, but only after your product or service meets their needs. Once they meet their needs then, yeah, they might make a choice to buy.

More importantly, demonstrating your commitment to your purpose gives your employees something to rally around and, by doing that, you drive more engagement. By driving more engagement, you drive more innovation which drives more growth for your company.

Suzanne Kounkel: Just two thoughts to add to that, which I think the whole notion of "it's got to be a purpose-driven organization, not brand" I think is absolutely spot-on.

The two things that I would add is that purpose is obviously who we are as an organization. That has always been true but, certainly with the agency that our customers and our people have today, they have shown and told us that they're willing to vote with their dollars, and they'll walk if they don't believe that that is the case.

Just two things that I would say that are important about purpose is, one, I always say it's who you are when you think no one is looking. You really have to imbed purpose in everything you do, and lots of those things will be inconvenient but that really shows who you are and what you believe in with respect to the purpose piece of that.

Then the second thing I always say is that the CMO is disproportionately (in a lot of organizations) the voice of purpose because they have the responsibility to be a unique window into the organization with what you see. But again, I could not agree with Norm more. If every part of the organization doesn't believe in the purpose and knows how to express that through the decisions they're making, purpose quickly falls apart.

Michael Krigsman: How do you balance the desire for it to be purpose-driven against what ultimately has to be some cost associated with that, some reduction in your profitability, some "wasted money"?

Norman de Greve: I see purpose as profitably improving the lives of people and improving communities. If you do that – you improve people's lives and you improve communities – then I think you can make money at it. In fact, healthy communities and healthy people drive a lot of purchases, so it's good for everyone.

The famous one on this front, Michael, is CVS's decision to stop selling tobacco, which was a sacrifice of $2 billion in annual revenue, so a lot of money that went out the door. What we were banking on is that by not selling tobacco, we would build the business where we provide benefits to help plans, hospitals, and other companies.

What I would tell you is we went down $2 billion in revenue because of that decision. In the couple of years after that, we went up $16 billion in revenue because we showed our commitment to what was right.

Suzanne Kounkel: I think, too, that it's again decisions that you will feel good about, regardless of the implication knowing that we have a business to run. I'll give you an example at Deloitte.

When COVID first hit, our executive team got together and basically said this is medical. At that point in time (with the response), it was a medical situation, initially.

We said, to be honest, our purpose is to make an impact that matters, and our impact at that point in time was to help our clients and our employees be safe. We couldn't overreach past that. Otherwise, we would get ourselves into trouble.

We made very specific choices, similar to Norm, on a smaller scale. But we helped clients. We helped competitors who were embedded in our clients' operations if they couldn’t have the technology, capability, and connectivity that we could because of choices we'd made about our infrastructure. Because we knew that our purpose was to make sure that people were stronger, faster, we were willing to assume any kind of risk and short-term penalty (if you will) because we knew that longer-term we'd all be collectively stronger.

Now, as that changed to a response type environment, then we started saying, "Okay. Our purpose—impact that matters—is to help some of our clients get together in unusual ways in the marketplace," so we helped some of our hospitality clients – who had a lot of call center capacity open because of what was going on in their industry – lean in with state and local governments to be able to use that call center capacity to get information out to citizens.

Ultimately, we think the third phase, which is unfolding right now, is all about thriving. Then our purpose, we do have a very real role to play and a significant role to play as we set to challenge the next set of problems and opportunities.

It is about making decisions on an ongoing, in-the-moment basis with respect to purpose, and it does lead you into certain actions. But I love the story about CVS and it took conviction and courage. I think those are things that, if you want to be a purpose-driven organization, you have to be able to say that you have courage and you have conviction.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like (for both of you) the idea of community is foundational to this idea of purpose.

Norman de Greve: I think it is. We spend most of our time at our companies. Yet, we choose our homes because want to be in a community that really reflects our values and what's important to us.

Well, shouldn't we be selecting a company that does the same thing? That is a community and I do think that people are increasingly choosing their companies because of that.

I think companies have actually done a really good job. We can all go back to the Edelman Trust Barometer a few years ago. Companies were terrible and nobody trusted them. I think they're coming back a bit because they're demonstrating.

You look at the Paris Climate Accord. The government pulled out and companies said, "I'm going to do this." They really just stood up for what they wanted to do, which I thought was really interesting.

I was thinking about this, Suzanne, when you were talking because I was thinking, "I bet you that the purpose at Deloitte helps create a community and values that people feel proud of, and it helps with retention and engagement."

Suzanne Kounkel: Absolutely. We did our 2021 marketing trends report, which we do every year. That came out very loudly and clearly is that trust is so paramount for people today and they're just willing to vote (either positively or negatively) in that environment with both the companies that they choose to work for, and customers are more than willing to reward or penalize companies that they don't believe reflect the values that they want to see in the world.

Norman de Greve: Yeah, and the interesting thing about the values at companies, take our two companies, they're so large. Because we not only have to recruit from a huge population, we also have to serve huge populations.

It takes us to a set of values that are reflective of mainstream America, in a way, and in a good way, I think – not too extreme in either direction. I think that that's just really interesting. it's what's made many companies leaders in their industry.

CMO and marketing executives as change agents

Michael Krigsman: We have a really interesting question from Twitter from Lisbeth Shaw who says, "How can marketing and the CMO be a catalyst for change in the company, not just for defining products and services but actually helping drive change in the organization?"

Norman de Greve: I worked on a project a few years ago and I completely underestimated how important change management was. I didn't even underestimate it. I undervalued it. [Laughter] I was like, "We're just going to get it done." Lucky for me, I was working with some people who are really helpful and helped me understand what was needed.

Think about what is really required for change management. Listening: What's going on? How do you feel about this? What would be important to you? How can we make it better for you?

Then communications: Again, again, and again, why are we doing this? Where are we headed? What progress have we made? You simply can't overcommunicate in change management.

I just think that that's actually core to what the skill set is of marketing. We can communicate in a way that sometimes is more emotionally resonate, which we know drives memorability, and so that's helpful. I think that they're very closely connected.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, and I think it's why digital and analytics/insight have become such a big part of the CMO role. We can listen and engage differently in complementary ways to what the rest of the business does.

Part of the role of the CMO is making sure and – Norm mentioned it earlier in our conversation – is really bringing this outside in. I do think, again, in COVID, many of us learned how to listen to our people very significantly as well. Those are things that we want to make sure we do on an ongoing basis.

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, raises something of a paradox for me because she was just describing the power of listening through digital, but is there also a concern that digital creates a disconnect and a gap with real people because you're taking the tracks (the analytics and the data), but what about interactions with people?

Suzanne Kounkel: Well, the thing I always say about digital is if you do it the right way, it actually makes sure that your people have the time, the space, and the tools to do what they do best, which is to be human.

It's not about stripping the humanity out of your operations, your storytelling, or whatever the case may be. It is all about making sure that when you're physically present with someone, with the customer, that you have all of the necessary tools, insight, and information to be able to be very, very responsive in a very human way, to have all of the empathetic response that you can.

Norman de Greve: I love that. A good example of this is our pharmacists in our stores. We're deploying digital for consumers to order their prescriptions online and home delivery. We're deploying tools and technology in the pharmacies. It's all so that we can free up the pharmacists so that they can have conversations with the most vulnerable patients because we know that that can have a lot of impact. I think it's a great example.

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, alluded to this earlier, which is, work is changing and life is changing. Where do you see the world going over the next – pick a time – six months, a year? What are the impacts on your business and how you think about the CMO role and what your activities and investments will be?

Suzanne Kounkel: We're doing a lot of work and thinking right now about what we're calling reimagining the experience. What we're saying is that in a world in which you have a choice between what is done digitally, virtually, or physically, how do we help people make those right choices?

It's interesting because COVID obviously was a very, very hard time and had disproportionate impact on various geographies and populations. We believe it will be true in some way, shape, or form for probably at least the next two years.

Making those choices is an interesting kind of balance. I would say that some of the things that we're trying to experiment with, one of the things that were wildly positive about a 100% virtual environment was the impact on our people and their personal lives, so the ability to be home more and to be present. Also, the inclusivity of a virtual world.

All of a sudden, you could have many more people that weren't constrained by geography, access, or availability participate in things. We have all kinds of conversations that people could drop in and out of in a much more significant way than they could in a physical world.

How do you make sure that you pull the thread on making sure that those advantages continue? But balanced with the fact that, as humans, one of the things that we do exceptionally well are really build deep, trusted relationships. That's the way we're thinking about it, Michael, is what absolutely needs to be done to unlock that human potential and that trust (very specifically) in a physical world, but how do you make sure that some of the things that were very positive about being entirely virtual persists on an ongoing basis.

Michael Krigsman: Norm, I have to imagine that, for you, (the change in the world) your reactions will be very different from Suzanne's in terms of the activities because your businesses are so different.

Norman de Greve: Somewhat, but I do love that example, Suzanne, about the meetings. Remember there used to be, "How many people do we really need in this meeting? Is that too many people?" There used to be a lot of thinking about that, you know, "Why are the meetings always so big?"

With Zoom, nobody talks about it at all. It's like who cares if there are extra windows on. It's fine for people to hear about this stuff. We're just going to have a conversation.

It's really true. It's made a huge difference, and it's really helpful for those people to hear the conversation live, which I think creates less telephone tag of actually what the decision was.

Suzanne Kounkel: Mm-hmm.

Norman de Greve: I think it's a really good example.

I think, very similarly, COVID helped us to realize the power of the human connection.

Suzanne Kounkel: Mm-hmm.

Norman de Greve: We didn't see our grandparents. We didn't see our friends. We became really aware of how much we valued that.

It also made us aware of how digital can make our lives so easy. [Laughter] We kept ordering stuff online, and so everybody started going more digital.

What I think we're going to see going forward is that combination that realizes the power of the human connection and the convenience of digital. You can see it, I think, in the workplace as people go back to work. Everybody is working on what's the hybrid model that makes the most sense. Nobody knows the exact answer. We're evolving our way through here.

Even that model, to your point, Suzanne, it's just going to be less stressful because I can be home sometimes for my kids' teachers meeting and the kids' practice tonight and I can be at work and I don't feel like I'm missing a beat either way. I think that's really good and, by the way, better for the climate.

Then you think about health and what's really happening with health. We saw a rise in telehealth. There was this fringe thing called telehealth that all of a sudden people thought, "Well, maybe it's okay to use it. It seems a little bit more mainstream," and that's really going to grow.

But I also think people really want the in-person meeting with their healthcare practitioner because a human being that cares about you is a very powerful thing. And so, we're going to see this combination go forward.

It wasn't just about the acceleration in digital, which we've all talked about. It was actually about the acceleration in digital and the power of the human connection that we all realized.

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan comes back, and he says, "CMOs alone can't change the organization. Who do you need to partner with to make your organizations better?"

Suzanne Kounkel: The simple answer is yes, and I would say every member of the C-suite, but you have to have stronger collaboration (in my opinion) with the BU presidents. That is a really important relationship.

Michael Krigsman: "What is an experience platform and to what degree will experience versus ad platforms be part of the CMO strategy?" Okay, so now we're really drilling into the weeds here.

Norman de Greve: An experience platform is typically thought of in the digital space as a place that creates the experiences whatever that company wants to deliver. Either a service to order your prescriptions, or it could be an engagement of some sort. Generally, it's a technology platform that can customize some content based on what it knows about people.

The CMO needs to have a big role in the evolution of that experience platform to really deliver for consumers, but I think the CMOs (most CMOs) should also realize that there is a skill set required that isn't in their organization and isn't in necessarily the technology organization either. That there are hybrid people called digital people that understand how to deploy technology that creates great experiences.

Suzanne Kounkel: Norm, the thing I would add onto that, which was fabulous, is that then that gives you a lot of insight. I call it digitally listening.

Norman de Greve: Yeah.

Suzanne Kounkel: You can see customers directly interact and what they want, what they find useful, and what they don't necessarily want. Again, I'm not veering into directly attribute it to a specific individual but, generally, with respect to audiences, and the CMO does have a responsibility to make sure the rest of the business understands that feedback.

Michael Krigsman: We didn't talk about metrics. How do you evaluate the success of a CMO?

Norman de Greve: I'm going to give you three.

  • Growth of the company driven by marketing.
  • Team, capabilities, and skills.
  • Have you left the company better off than it was before you got there?

Suzanne Kounkel: I love that. The only one I would add is engagement and loyalty.

Michael Krigsman: Along those same lines, where is there so much turnover among CMOs? I was looking at some stats and there's pretty high turnover in the CMO role.

Norman de Greve: An evolution in skillsets required to be CMOs and CEOs not always knowing that there are multiple types of CMOs. Suzanne and I are two different breeds of the same thing, and CEOs don't always know that or what they're looking for. I think getting some good advice when they're looking to hire a CMO would be helpful.

Suzanne Kounkel: The thing I would add is just that CMOs have to be able to speak to their superpowers in a way that the CXO audience can hear it.

Michael Krigsman: What are those superpowers?

Suzanne Kounkel: Oh, I think creativity, I think customer engagement and loyalty, I think really making sure that the value and the engagement of your internal population (for those CMOs that own internal comms), all of those sorts of things. Particularly the creative storytelling and the digital innovation are huge things that the CMO uniquely brings to the table.

I think, in today's world, brand, reputation, and risk are things that are of the top of the board agenda and certainly of the C-suite. Those are all things that are better understood, typically, by the CMO than other executives.

Michael Krigsman: Let me ask each of you the same question to finish up. I think it's an important one. Norm, let me start with you. What advice do you have for other CMOs who are navigating periods of rapid change and trying to innovate during those turbulent times?

Norman de Greve: Have a vision for where you want to go so that you don't get pivoted all over the place during those changes.

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, you're going to get the last word on that same topic.

Suzanne Kounkel: Be clear about where the biggest difference you can make is, and make sure that that's well known throughout the organization.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Well, thank you so much. We've been speaking with Suzanne Kounkel and Norm de Greve of CVS Health. Suzanne is the CMO of Deloitte. Thank you both so much for taking time to speak with us today. Thank you to everybody who was listening. Thank you both.

Suzanne Kounkel: Thank you.

Norman de Greve: Thanks, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching. Before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the subscribe button at the top of our website. We have great shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com, and we'll see you again very, very soon. 

Michael Krigsman: We're discussing the chief marketing officer role with two CMOs from very large organizations. Suzanne Kounkel is the chief marketing officer of Deloitte, and Norm de Greve is the chief marketing officer of CVS Health. Welcome, both of you. Suzanne, please tell us about your role as CMO of Deloitte and tell us about Deloitte.

Suzanne Kounkel: We're the largest professional services organization in the U.S., but a little bit about what Deloitte means so that you'll sort of see the way it might color some of my answers to the questions. I'm obviously a B2B CMO. We have about 120,000 people in the U.S. and about 330,000. Norm and I would share a very big employee base.

We serve clients, helping them solve their most complex set of business challenges, as well as stepping into opportunities, and shaping their industries and functional areas. Because of that, we have a very wide set of capabilities and services that we offer to the marketplace.

Michael Krigsman: Norm de Greve, tell us about CVS Health and your role as the chief marketing officer.

Norman de Greve: Most people know CVS because they know our stores; 10,000 pharmacies across the country within a few miles of most of the people in the country. That is a big part of our business, a very important part of our business. It is also less than half of our business.

What many people don't know is that we play in a lot of areas in the healthcare space. For example, we own Aetna, the insurance company. We own Caremark, which is a pharmacy benefits management company that helps control the costs of medication for companies and people.

We own a few other companies, and it's actually taken us to become the largest healthcare company in the U.S. Just last week, Fortune said we were the number four company in the Fortune 500.

We're blending technology and human interaction in order to make healthcare easier for people. And so, my job as a CMO is to be that voice of the consumer and to make sure that we're building the products and services that consumers want to engage in so that they become healthier. Better for them and better for us, of course. Then make sure that they're aware of those services so that they go to those services first. That's what I do every day.

What is a Chief Marketing Officer?

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, the CMO role has been changing. Pieces of it have been almost kind overlapping with the chief information officer, and we have chief digital officers. Really, today in 2021, how do you define the scope of the CMO role?

Suzanne Kounkel: The modern CMO basically has four facets to their job. The first is certainly a growth driver, and that's changed pretty dramatically over a period of time. we've talked a lot about that with the CMO set of responsibilities, but that is absolutely 1000% true today.

We definitely think that a part of the CMO role is as an innovation catalyst and specifically about digital. Norm talked about how dramatically technology is changing all of our businesses. It certainly has changed the face of what we do as marketers.

Obviously, brand storyteller, bringing creative to light, and being the face of the organization (both internally and externally) is a big part of the CMO role. Last, but not least, is the capability filter, making sure that we're doing the things that we can do with the CFO watching to get the highest return on the investments we make in marketing.

Michael Krigsman: Norm, I'm sure that you have some thoughts as well on the scope of the role today.

Norman de Greve: I probably anchor a little bit more on the first one, which is to create customer-driven growth, though I think every element you said there is exactly right.

Most companies go through (in my view) a few different stages. You start by finding an unmet need in the marketplace. You create a product or service to meet it. It's quite an entrepreneurial sort of idea.

Then they go to the next stage of, let's say they have these customer relationships. What else can they sell to them? Now you've got kind of a marketing mindset, an innovation mindset there as well.

Then many companies are really in this third stage, which is, how do you drive operational profits out of a company that you've built and the relationships that you have?

If I look at that curve, in each stage marketing plays a really important role. Certainly, at the beginning, that is what marketing does. We find an unmet need in the marketplace and we help create a product or service to meet it. In the second stage, we're really helping to figure out what else could we do to help those customers.

Really importantly, in these big companies that are focused on operational efficiencies with an analytic mindset – very important. Lots of value in this area – the marketer's job is to make sure that the company is also creating these products and services to meet unmet needs in the marketplace so that it can drive the next iteration of growth.

Suzanne, I liked the way you said it because I think that's a bit of customer-driven growth, a bit of innovation, and a bit of capabilities as well. You had one other one in there. I forgot it, but I like them all. I thought that was right.

It can feel a little different sometimes sitting at the executive table because many people at that executive table are driving the operations, the finances, and what's happening. The marketer's job is to be a bit of that outside perspective to say, "Where do we have to go and why should we go there?" and make sure that the company is focused on their customers.

Suzanne Kounkel: The thing I would add, Michael, in response to your question is the CMO in the C-suite is, in my opinion, an important voice. The thing that you need to do to land that the best is to make sure that you're at the highest intersection point between not forgetting that you do have unique superpowers and that is the reason why you're in the C-suite, but also knowing that it is the set of capabilities that, as a general rule, most of the executives are least comfortable with.

You really have to be able to land your message in a way that can be heard from the various viewpoints. I think that's something that CMOs are trying to very actively bridge that gap with respect to language and metrics and being able to talk about the impact they're having through the eyes of the business.

Norman de Greve: That point is really, really important. I started part of my career in management consulting, and I lean on that skillset an awful lot in the C-suite because it enables me to speak the language that the other executives are speaking and to connect with them.

Now, what's also important is for me to realize the importance of creativity and bring that forth. But if you just go in and talk about creativity, they're not exactly sure what to do with you. At the same time, there's somebody sitting next to you who has a bunch of ideas with exact profit dollars that can be driven. And so, you have to do both.

Now, what I also see happening is (to your point) then the marketer wants to speak the business language. Where has that taken us? That's taken us to, "I want to talk about ROI."

ROI is an efficiency metric. It is not a business outcome. [Laughter]

I think there's been too much of a focus on ROI versus incremental profit dollars with a reasonable rate of return. Why are we focused on a rate of return versus the total profit dollars that we're bringing in? I think, in some ways, we've had an overcorrection in marketing to focus on a metric that actually has harmed the growth of the company because we're focused too much on efficiency.

How to plan and allocate marketing investments?

Michael Krigsman: How then do you think about the allocation of your budget as an investment, as you kind of look at both efficiency and then innovation (to Suzanne's original point)?

Norman de Greve: You can think about allocation of investment in a couple of different ways. Number one is the investment needs to produce a return (generally) this year, right? Most everybody in an organization has to deal with it and you need to deal with that too. When you show up and talk about brand and the exciting opportunity to be associated with something, it's kind of like, "Well, to what end?"

Now, what I will tell you is that if you want to drive the maximum return, the maximum return for your investment over multiple years – and I'm just talking about two to three years – it takes you to a very different set of allocation activities than it does if you say, "I want to drive the return in a quarter." As an example, if I want to drive a return this quarter, I will focus on selling products that are already known to existing customers.

Now, you can't grow a business just by focusing on your existing customers, [laughter] and so you have to think about (over a couple of years) what's the right allocation? When we look at allocation, it is the idea of, what's the best return for the money? But again, it's not just the percentage return. It is the total dollar return at a reasonable rate.

Suzanne Kounkel: I would just add that, over the brand-to-demand spectrum, we're constantly making choices (depending on how the business is performing) to accelerate and make those shifts.

I think the one thing that has changed pretty dramatically (that I've learned very specifically in my role) is that that is a great place to tie in with the other executives to make that very explicit and known and collectively agree that that's what we need at this moment in time.

That allows for two things. It allows for that collaboration with the business and it also allows for we, as marketers, to then go do the things that we do particularly and uniquely well.

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question from Twitter, from Arsalan Khan, who is a regular listener and always asks great questions. Thank you for that, Arsalan. He says, "How do CMOs define innovation, and is the definition different from what IT and the CIO might think innovation to be?"

Suzanne Kounkel: I think there are sort of two things that we think about with respect to innovation. One, we think about meeting our clients/customers where they are and, as they're innovating and doing different things, how do we innovate to be able to meet them where they need us to be?

We've certainly seen some very interesting things around one of our mottos, which is, "You don't go it alone in this world." There would be very different things that we're doing today with respect to some of the partnerships, alliances, and co-collaboration inside and outside our organization. Certainly, innovation is to respond to both the market needs as well as the things that are truly differentiated about who we are and how can we meet the client where they're at.

The good news about innovation, as well, in today's parlance, in my opinion, is that it also helps. Again, I like, Norm, what you said about the return on investment being a pretty narrow metric. However, a lot of the digital capabilities and innovative ways to deploy some of those assets help pretty significantly in that. That's the other thing that we think about it is, how are we able to reach more of the market faster?

Norman de Greve: Sometimes people can think of innovation as a new way of doing things or an exciting new thing (whatever that might be). I think that marketers think about it, first and foremost, through a better way to solve customer needs.

I think it's quite easy for big companies to skip that part, to say, "Here's the thing that I want to do because, if we can do it, we make a lot of money."

It's like, "Okay. Well, that's great. But do customers want it?" [Laughter]

I think marketers are more likely to think about it customer-in versus what we have out.

Customer experience and the CMO

Michael Krigsman: It's this notion of customer experience, which everybody is talking about. As a practical matter, how much do each of you actually think, talk about, invest in customer experience? By the way, what exactly is it anyhow?

Norman de Greve: If a CMO's job is to drive growth – and, in that equation, building a brand is partly how you drive growth – then you can look today. I've done this study multiple times. Seventy-five percent of a brand is now built through experience.

If a CMO's job is to build the brand, then they better be spending a lot of time on what the experience is. They don't have to own it all, but they need to be working with people about how it becomes a great experience.

What is an experience? It is very different depending upon the industry.

In the service business, it's pretty easy – what's the experience. In a product business, it's the usage of the product. But they can get very different. Well, anyway, there are different ways to come at it.

I do think that you've got a digitally enabled consumer, low friction of information flying around, and if the experience is great, terrific. If it's bad, then there is no marketing that's going to cover that up.

Suzanne Kounkel: I love what you said earlier as well.

The way I think about customer experience is two things. One is, as a CMO, I can see things that others struggle to see (in the business). I can also listen differently, and so really making sure that I contribute those things back to the business in a unique way is a key part of my role.

To your question about can it be owned by marketing; I think it can be led by marketing. Both in my personal life and my professional life, I say life is lived in the small moments every day. Because of that, the experience has to be thought about and contemplated through the roles of every part of the organization and the talent experience. Otherwise, you can't ever land an authentic, repeatable customer experience that really engenders loyalty with customers.

Michael Krigsman: That's such an interesting point: authentic and repeatable customer experiences that engender loyalty. I suspect how you each do that is very, very different because your businesses are so different. How do you create repeatable experiences that are authentic that engender loyalty?

Norman de Greve: Yes. I'm actually interested from the Deloitte standpoint. It's complex. You've got so many people. By the way, I'm sure they all believe they're super smart and have a great way of doing things, and so how do you do that?

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, it's interesting. When I'm sitting on panels with B2C CMOs, I always say, "Imagine a world in which your products walked and talked."

You're right, Norm, that it is harder. The repeatability (to us) gets down to a certain set of values that we want to make sure are present and a set of things that are differentiated about who we are and the way we do the work we do. It is not necessary to make everything 1000%, 100% repeatable each and every time.

But to be able to do that – and I know this is an area that I got some responses on LinkedIn when I talked about this talk – is that it does require (for us) digital innovation. That digital innovation is really all about making sure that our humans can be more human at the time they really need to be.

That's what we're always trying to do is make sure people have the information, the guidepost that they need to be able to make choices in the moment, and that it's really sort of value-based and responsive because one of the other things that we do believe is that this set of complex and new business opportunities presents itself in a slightly unique way client-by-client. It is more about helping our people make choices in the moment than it is repeatable, meaning exactly the same each and every time.

Norman de Greve: I was thinking about this at one point – actually, I was thinking about this still today – about all of our stores. How do we create the right experience?

I remember thinking about Disney, which is just an organization that, of course, I admire a lot for what they've done. It still continues to be an excellent organization.

The challenge that I noticed between my organization and Disney was that they have (in the U.S.) two locations and I have 10,000. It's just really hard to get a culture through. You can see it in two locations, how you do the onboarding, how you manage people every day.

What's really (in a similar way to what you're saying) made a difference for us is the idea of purpose. We can have a long talk about that. But when you create a culture, similar to your values (in a way), of what you expect, what you believe, and how you want people to behave, then that's the best you can do. I think that, in a rapidly changing world, that idea creates more unification and delivery of your brand than being prescriptive of exactly what to say and do in a moment.

Not to go too far down this path, but if you look at the way the military is changing the way they work, it used to be command and control, and now it's very different. It's all along this idea: know exactly the rules of the road, values, and how to operate, and be prepared for a situation that you're going to have to make the decisions.

Suzanne Kounkel: A lot of terrible things happened in times of COVID. I think that muscle really got strengthened.

Norm, you would have seen this in spades, right? Things were moving so fast, just generally, and then specifically by geography and by certain demographics and all that sort of thing. Getting comfortable with that notion things needed to change and needed to be able to have decision making in the moment was actually a really critical muscle to develop.

Norman de Greve: One of the things that COVID did for us that, at the very beginning, we really changed as my role became not just the voice of the customer but the voice of the employees. We were doing surveys all the time figuring out exactly what employees needed. Then we had PPE (protective equipment) that we had to get to people. We had to think about our operating procedures and all that stuff – the safety. People felt really stressed going to work.

We were listening more than ever to our employees and then helping them to make changes. I wonder if that was the same for you, given your disbursed workforce.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, it was absolutely the case, and we had to really radically change the way we communicated internally and externally. One of the things I was most proud of our executive team was that they were really clear from the very beginning.

I think the natural tendency is for leaders to speak with authority and conviction. What our executives did was they spoke with conviction, but they said, "We only know what we know today, so we're going to make it as clear as possible, as simple as possible, but do what you need to do and let us know how it reacts."

Norm, we absolutely did a lot to really listen to our clients and our people.

What is a purpose-driven business?

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned the term purpose. I think Norm brought this term up earlier. It seems evident to me, as I hear you both talk, that purpose and culture underly a lot of how you both think about the world.

This term, purpose, and purpose-driven, has become a buzzword where it sounds really good but it can be very vapid and devoid of meaning. What does it actually mean and how do we bring substance to this concept of being purpose-driven?

Norman de Greve: I think it's impossible to be a purpose-driven brand. You have to be a purpose-driven company.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah.

Norman de Greve: Those are fundamentally different. A purpose-driven brand can make communications that are compelling and tear-jerking. They can maybe do CSR activities, which are also good things to do. But that doesn't make you a purpose-driven company.

To be a purpose-driven company, you need to meaningfully demonstrate your commitment to that purpose in a way that your customers care about and that your employees care about. There's a long history about CVS – we don't have to go into that right here – about the moves we've taken. I think that the real reason to do it is to drive engagement for your employees, actually.

People talk about customers buying from purpose-driven brands, and I do think that that's true, but only after your product or service meets their needs. Once they meet their needs then, yeah, they might make a choice to buy.

More importantly, demonstrating your commitment to your purpose gives your employees something to rally around and, by doing that, you drive more engagement. By driving more engagement, you drive more innovation which drives more growth for your company.

Suzanne Kounkel: Just two thoughts to add to that, which I think the whole notion of "it's got to be a purpose-driven organization, not brand" I think is absolutely spot-on.

The two things that I would add is that purpose is obviously who we are as an organization. That has always been true but, certainly with the agency that our customers and our people have today, they have shown and told us that they're willing to vote with their dollars, and they'll walk if they don't believe that that is the case.

Just two things that I would say that are important about purpose is, one, I always say it's who you are when you think no one is looking. You really have to imbed purpose in everything you do, and lots of those things will be inconvenient but that really shows who you are and what you believe in with respect to the purpose piece of that.

Then the second thing I always say is that the CMO is disproportionately (in a lot of organizations) the voice of purpose because they have the responsibility to be a unique window into the organization with what you see. But again, I could not agree with Norm more. If every part of the organization doesn't believe in the purpose and knows how to express that through the decisions they're making, purpose quickly falls apart.

Michael Krigsman: How do you balance the desire for it to be purpose-driven against what ultimately has to be some cost associated with that, some reduction in your profitability, some "wasted money"?

Norman de Greve: I see purpose as profitably improving the lives of people and improving communities. If you do that – you improve people's lives and you improve communities – then I think you can make money at it. In fact, healthy communities and healthy people drive a lot of purchases, so it's good for everyone.

The famous one on this front, Michael, is CVS's decision to stop selling tobacco, which was a sacrifice of $2 billion in annual revenue, so a lot of money that went out the door. What we were banking on is that by not selling tobacco, we would build the business where we provide benefits to help plans, hospitals, and other companies.

What I would tell you is we went down $2 billion in revenue because of that decision. In the couple of years after that, we went up $16 billion in revenue because we showed our commitment to what was right.

Suzanne Kounkel: I think, too, that it's again decisions that you will feel good about, regardless of the implication knowing that we have a business to run. I'll give you an example at Deloitte.

When COVID first hit, our executive team got together and basically said this is medical. At that point in time (with the response), it was a medical situation, initially.

We said, to be honest, our purpose is to make an impact that matters, and our impact at that point in time was to help our clients and our employees be safe. We couldn't overreach past that. Otherwise, we would get ourselves into trouble.

We made very specific choices, similar to Norm, on a smaller scale. But we helped clients. We helped competitors who were embedded in our clients' operations if they couldn’t have the technology, capability, and connectivity that we could because of choices we'd made about our infrastructure. Because we knew that our purpose was to make sure that people were stronger, faster, we were willing to assume any kind of risk and short-term penalty (if you will) because we knew that longer-term we'd all be collectively stronger.

Now, as that changed to a response type environment, then we started saying, "Okay. Our purpose—impact that matters—is to help some of our clients get together in unusual ways in the marketplace," so we helped some of our hospitality clients – who had a lot of call center capacity open because of what was going on in their industry – lean in with state and local governments to be able to use that call center capacity to get information out to citizens.

Ultimately, we think the third phase, which is unfolding right now, is all about thriving. Then our purpose, we do have a very real role to play and a significant role to play as we set to challenge the next set of problems and opportunities.

It is about making decisions on an ongoing, in-the-moment basis with respect to purpose, and it does lead you into certain actions. But I love the story about CVS and it took conviction and courage. I think those are things that, if you want to be a purpose-driven organization, you have to be able to say that you have courage and you have conviction.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like (for both of you) the idea of community is foundational to this idea of purpose.

Norman de Greve: I think it is. We spend most of our time at our companies. Yet, we choose our homes because want to be in a community that really reflects our values and what's important to us.

Well, shouldn't we be selecting a company that does the same thing? That is a community and I do think that people are increasingly choosing their companies because of that.

I think companies have actually done a really good job. We can all go back to the Edelman Trust Barometer a few years ago. Companies were terrible and nobody trusted them. I think they're coming back a bit because they're demonstrating.

You look at the Paris Climate Accord. The government pulled out and companies said, "I'm going to do this." They really just stood up for what they wanted to do, which I thought was really interesting.

I was thinking about this, Suzanne, when you were talking because I was thinking, "I bet you that the purpose at Deloitte helps create a community and values that people feel proud of, and it helps with retention and engagement."

Suzanne Kounkel: Absolutely. We did our 2021 marketing trends report, which we do every year. That came out very loudly and clearly is that trust is so paramount for people today and they're just willing to vote (either positively or negatively) in that environment with both the companies that they choose to work for, and customers are more than willing to reward or penalize companies that they don't believe reflect the values that they want to see in the world.

Norman de Greve: Yeah, and the interesting thing about the values at companies, take our two companies, they're so large. Because we not only have to recruit from a huge population, we also have to serve huge populations.

It takes us to a set of values that are reflective of mainstream America, in a way, and in a good way, I think – not too extreme in either direction. I think that that's just really interesting. it's what's made many companies leaders in their industry.

CMO and marketing executives as change agents

Michael Krigsman: We have a really interesting question from Twitter from Lisbeth Shaw who says, "How can marketing and the CMO be a catalyst for change in the company, not just for defining products and services but actually helping drive change in the organization?"

Norman de Greve: I worked on a project a few years ago and I completely underestimated how important change management was. I didn't even underestimate it. I undervalued it. [Laughter] I was like, "We're just going to get it done." Lucky for me, I was working with some people who are really helpful and helped me understand what was needed.

Think about what is really required for change management. Listening: What's going on? How do you feel about this? What would be important to you? How can we make it better for you?

Then communications: Again, again, and again, why are we doing this? Where are we headed? What progress have we made? You simply can't overcommunicate in change management.

I just think that that's actually core to what the skill set is of marketing. We can communicate in a way that sometimes is more emotionally resonate, which we know drives memorability, and so that's helpful. I think that they're very closely connected.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, and I think it's why digital and analytics/insight have become such a big part of the CMO role. We can listen and engage differently in complementary ways to what the rest of the business does.

Part of the role of the CMO is making sure and – Norm mentioned it earlier in our conversation – is really bringing this outside in. I do think, again, in COVID, many of us learned how to listen to our people very significantly as well. Those are things that we want to make sure we do on an ongoing basis.

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, raises something of a paradox for me because she was just describing the power of listening through digital, but is there also a concern that digital creates a disconnect and a gap with real people because you're taking the tracks (the analytics and the data), but what about interactions with people?

Suzanne Kounkel: Well, the thing I always say about digital is if you do it the right way, it actually makes sure that your people have the time, the space, and the tools to do what they do best, which is to be human.

It's not about stripping the humanity out of your operations, your storytelling, or whatever the case may be. It is all about making sure that when you're physically present with someone, with the customer, that you have all of the necessary tools, insight, and information to be able to be very, very responsive in a very human way, to have all of the empathetic response that you can.

Norman de Greve: I love that. A good example of this is our pharmacists in our stores. We're deploying digital for consumers to order their prescriptions online and home delivery. We're deploying tools and technology in the pharmacies. It's all so that we can free up the pharmacists so that they can have conversations with the most vulnerable patients because we know that that can have a lot of impact. I think it's a great example.

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, alluded to this earlier, which is, work is changing and life is changing. Where do you see the world going over the next – pick a time – six months, a year? What are the impacts on your business and how you think about the CMO role and what your activities and investments will be?

Suzanne Kounkel: We're doing a lot of work and thinking right now about what we're calling reimagining the experience. What we're saying is that in a world in which you have a choice between what is done digitally, virtually, or physically, how do we help people make those right choices?

It's interesting because COVID obviously was a very, very hard time and had disproportionate impact on various geographies and populations. We believe it will be true in some way, shape, or form for probably at least the next two years.

Making those choices is an interesting kind of balance. I would say that some of the things that we're trying to experiment with, one of the things that were wildly positive about a 100% virtual environment was the impact on our people and their personal lives, so the ability to be home more and to be present. Also, the inclusivity of a virtual world.

All of a sudden, you could have many more people that weren't constrained by geography, access, or availability participate in things. We have all kinds of conversations that people could drop in and out of in a much more significant way than they could in a physical world.

How do you make sure that you pull the thread on making sure that those advantages continue? But balanced with the fact that, as humans, one of the things that we do exceptionally well are really build deep, trusted relationships. That's the way we're thinking about it, Michael, is what absolutely needs to be done to unlock that human potential and that trust (very specifically) in a physical world, but how do you make sure that some of the things that were very positive about being entirely virtual persists on an ongoing basis.

Michael Krigsman: Norm, I have to imagine that, for you, (the change in the world) your reactions will be very different from Suzanne's in terms of the activities because your businesses are so different.

Norman de Greve: Somewhat, but I do love that example, Suzanne, about the meetings. Remember there used to be, "How many people do we really need in this meeting? Is that too many people?" There used to be a lot of thinking about that, you know, "Why are the meetings always so big?"

With Zoom, nobody talks about it at all. It's like who cares if there are extra windows on. It's fine for people to hear about this stuff. We're just going to have a conversation.

It's really true. It's made a huge difference, and it's really helpful for those people to hear the conversation live, which I think creates less telephone tag of actually what the decision was.

Suzanne Kounkel: Mm-hmm.

Norman de Greve: I think it's a really good example.

I think, very similarly, COVID helped us to realize the power of the human connection.

Suzanne Kounkel: Mm-hmm.

Norman de Greve: We didn't see our grandparents. We didn't see our friends. We became really aware of how much we valued that.

It also made us aware of how digital can make our lives so easy. [Laughter] We kept ordering stuff online, and so everybody started going more digital.

What I think we're going to see going forward is that combination that realizes the power of the human connection and the convenience of digital. You can see it, I think, in the workplace as people go back to work. Everybody is working on what's the hybrid model that makes the most sense. Nobody knows the exact answer. We're evolving our way through here.

Even that model, to your point, Suzanne, it's just going to be less stressful because I can be home sometimes for my kids' teachers meeting and the kids' practice tonight and I can be at work and I don't feel like I'm missing a beat either way. I think that's really good and, by the way, better for the climate.

Then you think about health and what's really happening with health. We saw a rise in telehealth. There was this fringe thing called telehealth that all of a sudden people thought, "Well, maybe it's okay to use it. It seems a little bit more mainstream," and that's really going to grow.

But I also think people really want the in-person meeting with their healthcare practitioner because a human being that cares about you is a very powerful thing. And so, we're going to see this combination go forward.

It wasn't just about the acceleration in digital, which we've all talked about. It was actually about the acceleration in digital and the power of the human connection that we all realized.

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan comes back, and he says, "CMOs alone can't change the organization. Who do you need to partner with to make your organizations better?"

Suzanne Kounkel: The simple answer is yes, and I would say every member of the C-suite, but you have to have stronger collaboration (in my opinion) with the BU presidents. That is a really important relationship.

Michael Krigsman: "What is an experience platform and to what degree will experience versus ad platforms be part of the CMO strategy?" Okay, so now we're really drilling into the weeds here.

Norman de Greve: An experience platform is typically thought of in the digital space as a place that creates the experiences whatever that company wants to deliver. Either a service to order your prescriptions, or it could be an engagement of some sort. Generally, it's a technology platform that can customize some content based on what it knows about people.

The CMO needs to have a big role in the evolution of that experience platform to really deliver for consumers, but I think the CMOs (most CMOs) should also realize that there is a skill set required that isn't in their organization and isn't in necessarily the technology organization either. That there are hybrid people called digital people that understand how to deploy technology that creates great experiences.

Suzanne Kounkel: Norm, the thing I would add onto that, which was fabulous, is that then that gives you a lot of insight. I call it digitally listening.

Norman de Greve: Yeah.

Suzanne Kounkel: You can see customers directly interact and what they want, what they find useful, and what they don't necessarily want. Again, I'm not veering into directly attribute it to a specific individual but, generally, with respect to audiences, and the CMO does have a responsibility to make sure the rest of the business understands that feedback.

Michael Krigsman: We didn't talk about metrics. How do you evaluate the success of a CMO?

Norman de Greve: I'm going to give you three.

  • Growth of the company driven by marketing.
  • Team, capabilities, and skills.
  • Have you left the company better off than it was before you got there?

Suzanne Kounkel: I love that. The only one I would add is engagement and loyalty.

Michael Krigsman: Along those same lines, where is there so much turnover among CMOs? I was looking at some stats and there's pretty high turnover in the CMO role.

Norman de Greve: An evolution in skillsets required to be CMOs and CEOs not always knowing that there are multiple types of CMOs. Suzanne and I are two different breeds of the same thing, and CEOs don't always know that or what they're looking for. I think getting some good advice when they're looking to hire a CMO would be helpful.

Suzanne Kounkel: The thing I would add is just that CMOs have to be able to speak to their superpowers in a way that the CXO audience can hear it.

Michael Krigsman: What are those superpowers?

Suzanne Kounkel: Oh, I think creativity, I think customer engagement and loyalty, I think really making sure that the value and the engagement of your internal population (for those CMOs that own internal comms), all of those sorts of things. Particularly the creative storytelling and the digital innovation are huge things that the CMO uniquely brings to the table.

I think, in today's world, brand, reputation, and risk are things that are of the top of the board agenda and certainly of the C-suite. Those are all things that are better understood, typically, by the CMO than other executives.

Michael Krigsman: Let me ask each of you the same question to finish up. I think it's an important one. Norm, let me start with you. What advice do you have for other CMOs who are navigating periods of rapid change and trying to innovate during those turbulent times?

Norman de Greve: Have a vision for where you want to go so that you don't get pivoted all over the place during those changes.

Michael Krigsman: Suzanne, you're going to get the last word on that same topic.

Suzanne Kounkel: Be clear about where the biggest difference you can make is, and make sure that that's well known throughout the organization.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Well, thank you so much. We've been speaking with Suzanne Kounkel and Norm de Greve of CVS Health. Suzanne is the CMO of Deloitte. Thank you both so much for taking time to speak with us today. Thank you to everybody who was listening. Thank you both.

Suzanne Kounkel: Thank you.

Norman de Greve: Thanks, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching. Before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the subscribe button at the top of our website. We have great shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com, and we'll see you again very, very soon.