What challenges are CMOs facing in 2022? (S2, Ep4)

Artificial Intelligence, marketing automation, retaining talent, branding, keeping your pets out of Zoom calls – these are just a few of the things that are potentially keeping CMOs awake in 2022. Victor Milligan, Chief Marketing Officer of Fastmarkets joins Mary and Gifford in a wide-ranging (and amazingly pet-free) discussion, providing invaluable insight into his day-to-day world, some of his key priorities, and what it means to be a marketing leader in 2022.


Gifford Morley-Fletcher (00:00):
Hello everyone and welcome to Funnelocity, the B2B sales and marketing podcast, where we exchange views with some of the top industry experts on what it takes to succeed in global demand generation and elevate the customer experience. We’re your hosts, Mary Kleinsorgen, Principal consultant, and Gifford Morley-Fletcher, that’s me, Senior Marketing Strategist here at MarketOne. So without further ado, grab a tea or coffee, get comfortable, and let’s get to it. This is Funnelocity.

Mary Kleinsorgen (00:45):
We are joined today by Victor Milligan, Chief Marketing Officer at Fastmarkets. Prior to joining Fastmarkets, Victor has led the marketing organization for Forrester, Nexage, Lavastorm Analytics, and a Senior Partner at Gartner. I’ve been working with Victor, for our listeners, and team on a MAP consolidation project since last November. Although, I would consider it more of a transformation, because really the project is one of many initiatives centered around elevating the customer experience. And then with that, Victor is leading this initiative by reshaping, how marketing really thinks about going to market with more customer centric and more customer first approach. Victor is in scenic Vermont, and when he’s not hiking or scoping out bears and coyotes, he is often joined on calls with his four-legged coworkers, Bumba, Ziggy and Pumpkin. So hopefully Pumpkin will make an appearance today and welcome everyone.

Victor Milligan (01:43):
Hope all you want. We are, we’re trying to keep him over there.

Mary (01:48):
All right. So before we start diving into the CMO challenges, so Victor, do you wanna just take a moment to talk a little bit more about your journey with Fastmarkets. For those of you that, may not be familiar with your organization?

Victor (02:00):
Sure. So, I’m essentially two years in. Fastmarkets itself is a price reporting agency. So we provide price, data, market intelligence, analytics forecasting into the commodity markets. Specifically, agriculture, forest products, metals, and mining, and energy transition. So, these are the key market and price signals that help, you know, to make decisions as well as, you know, particularly in the energy transition space used by trillion dollars of plausible investment monies coming in. And what they’re looking for is better clarity as to how the market really works and where the market’s really going, you know, get beyond the hype and into the real movement of the supply chain.

Mary (02:42):
All right. Awesome. All right. Why don’t we just start diving into the conversation here?

Gifford (02:50):
Makes sense to me.

Mary (02:51):
So if we look back a little bit on 2020, 2021, the CMO challenges, the biggest CMO challenge, well, was this quote “new” challenge of being forced into this digital transformation overnight. And I’m smiling about that because, you know, I feel that this was raised in the industry as a new issue. However, we kind of really look at it, you know, how the CMOs and the marketing organizations were pressured to compete in this environment and making your brand stand out from the rest. But you could argue that this is something that we should have as marketers been doing all along. Although digital transformation has been kind of pitched as this new term. Putting, well, maybe, we don’t put that aside for a second, but Victor, I just wanna get your thoughts on that because, we had another recent podcast around, you know, a similar topic and we’re talking about the challenges of 2020 and 2021 and what has really changed. And, you know, I would be curious about your thoughts around this idea that everyone to go into digital transformation overnight. And was that really a thing or was that something that really we should have been doing all along?

Victor (04:08):
Well, I mean, I kind of think that digital transformation began in the 90s. I mean, I think that you have seen technology play a larger and larger role in all parts of the enterprise, including marketing, for a while. And I think, you know, whether you’re gonna look at the .com world, you’re gonna look at e-business, you’re gonna look at sort of B2Cs challenges with that, the beginning of social, all those pieces begin well before we coin the phrase digital transformation. So I think transformation is sometimes an overused concept. I think we’ve been well underway with it for a while. I think the thing I worry about sometimes from my chair is that digital transformation comes with a lot of cautionary tales. And I could equally argue that there’s been digital destruction of marketing. And what I mean by that is, is that marketing was more born as a, you know, mass media kind of thing, a 1-to-many push. And what happened in my mind is technology simply made that easier.

And one of the key competencies of marketing is storytelling. And I kind of think that storytelling got lost along the way. I think it was part of the collateral damage of digital transformation. Because it just was too easy, too tempting to be able to an email against a well understood template. So now the template is now removing the design thought process and people are they’re looking at it from a conversion rates standpoint. And so, it’s all good and we’ll get into it obviously on the metrics and analytics, but I don’t think storytelling had to be collateral damage, but I think it was collateral damage. And I think if you look at the marketing discipline now, you sometimes hear the word copy-editing, and that’s almost an issue of velocity. How fast can I get something out into short form?

The question is where’s the stories? Where’s the narratives? That keep the customer as a protagonist. And when we do that work, what does it mean that the customer is a protagonist? Like how, what kind of stories do they have? What kind of issues do they have? And now I’m far, far, far away from automation. And now I’m into the hearts in mind of my customers where I should have been in the first place. I kind of, I hope that we write this, but I worry that digital had as much benefit as it had damage.

Mary (06:27):
That’s interesting. And maybe you coined a new phrase of digital destruction. But I mean, quite often though, I think that there’s this perception that marketing automation is just completely hands off. It’s like the AI conversations and predictive analysis as well, where there’s a lot of perception in the industry that, you know, I don’t need to program anything it’s plug and play, or plug and pray, depending on what you’re choosing. Yeah. But you know, the automation factor you’re right. Like we get away from, actually the design and thinking through of what our message is going to be and what our tone is gonna be. And then it’s just all about, well, the system’s going to do it for me. So I don’t need to raise a hand, but that’s completely the opposite it’s supposed to enable marketing, not replace marketing.

Victor (07:16):
Yeah. I mean, I think the ideal was that technology was going to remove the menial, highly repeatable tasks that marketers had to undertake to do simple things. And now that time is freed up. They could further invest in those that create most value, which again, is getting closer to the customer. My worry is that the first part didn’t really take place like people promised because the technology was not that easy to manage. It wasn’t plug and play. I’m not sure how many CMOs allow their technology just to run and how much requires constant manual intervention. So I’m not sure that that was freed up in the way that some of the promises suggested was gonna be freed up. And the second one is, I’m not sure that that then brought people’s skills over to the higher value areas.

I think what it did is it brought, we almost doubled down into the technology, into the metrics, into some of the vanity metrics, other types of things. And I’m not sure we insulated ourselves in the customer, but I don’t think we went running towards them either. And again, value is created when the customer says it’s created. And if, I don’t know when that takes place, how it takes place and why it takes place, I may not know that even value was or was not even created. All I know is I sent the email out and I’m seeing conversions on the other end. And so, I think you’re right. I think the equation was set up to be successful, but I’m not sure if was fully executed.

Gifford (08:41):
On, the storytelling side. I mean, the kind of the dream when the internet became a real thing and digital, you know, started becoming not so much something for the few, but for the many, the theory was in marketing at any rate, the customer/prospect could have more control, but do you think that what marketing did at that point was kind of go, oh, well, you just take over and we’ll stop telling any story at all, and you can tell your own story and there wasn’t kind of a middle to be met somewhere.

Victor (09:24):
Yeah. I dunno if there was a relationship between the two. I think that social proved that you certainly lost control of your brand, and you certainly lost control of your brand message. And you somewhat lost control of the dialogue if you weren’t in the dialogue. You know, it didn’t partake. But I think those are two separate topics. I think customers took far more control or command of their environment, both B2C and B2B, that ultimately is a good thing. They’ve become far more of a protagonist, an active protagonist.

Gifford (10:00):

Victor (10:01):
You can, I mean, on a very basic way, you can capitalize on that momentum, but you have to meet them where they are. And again, it goes to the same question, where are they? Who are they? And when they’re there, what are their worries? What are, or what’s the sense of possibilities that they carry that mobilizes to go from point A to point B? And does the marketer know? And are they storytelling, you know, between them? And so, there’s a, and I know Mary, you & I have talked about there’s this classic and inevitable integration between CX and the underlying practices in marketing, because they both center rightfully so on the customer. And there’s a whole set of design thinking sort of principles underneath that. I think there’s this opportunity for marketing to embrace that in full, but I think what it did is it sort of, in some cases, took the journey structure, slightly translated it to be a channel structure, so now the journeys were channels, and the customer was faded back into the background again, and now I’m just trying to move channels around. Right. I’m trying to optimize accordingly. So I thought CX was the next opportunity to bring the customer to the fore and from a design thinking standpoint, have the underlying marketing capabilities align to that. And I still think that’s quite possible. And I still think that the possibilities of having technology help think with you is there, but you still have to do the thinking, ‘cause the technology can’t do it for you.

Mary (11:34):
Absolutely. Yeah. Tech is supposed to empower you. And yeah, I think, just sometimes, or quite often with some clients there’s just too much of a reliance on the tech to be doing all the heavy lifting for them versus..

Victor (11:52):
Yeah. I mean, I think the challenge was that marketing wasn’t at the time set up to be an effective technology buyer or manager, and the technologies were beyond the skillset. And so those promises are quite alluring. And you can see why people bought into it, but you know, when I’ve gone into any of the environments and you look at what marketing has to do just to make the technology work, that workload displacement, that was sort of the promise really didn’t occur in full. And I still feel like that one of the strengths of CX is the underlying concept of empathy and, and the underlying concept of context, meaning empathy at context. And I still feel like that skillset, that mindset and skillset of empathy and context isn’t really, promoted, celebrated, rewarded, encouraged, whatever words I should use in the marketing discipline yet. And I still feel like those who do it well, it’s funny when someone does it well again, in the B2C arena, you feel it more, but in the B2B, it is so obvious that they’re doing it. It is so different. It’s so clearly better. It hasn’t really mobilized everyone else to catch up.

Mary (13:08):
Now it’s something what, the way you’re saying earlier about having the skill sets to be able to support the tech. So that was certainly a challenge, you know, a few years ago. I think it’s still a challenge today where we’re bringing more and more tools into this space and organizations don’t necessarily have the resources to be able to set up, you know, continue to maintain all of this tech. So, you know, some of our organizations are looking at outsourcing some of that, but I know that there’s a careful balance here because organizations want to know what is the setup? You know, what is the secret sauce? You know, if you’re outsourcing this, at times it could be a black box situation where you don’t really understand the solution. You know that I’ve outsourced that I have another agency or another organization taking care of that for me, but then there’s still the challenge within the organization where they don’t understand what’s still going on.

All they see is the result. And I think that’s still that careful balance that we’re all trying to work through is, you know, how do we make this transparent enough to the business so that they understand what’s happening. But then, you know, eventually the goal is to empower the organization so that they can take this on and maintain it longer term without having to rely on external sources to manage their tech. But again, I think it’s a careful balance there between what you outsource and what you try to manage inhouse.

Victor (14:49):
Yeah. I mean, I’ll start with the CMO. In my mind, the CMO has to treat the marketing technology architecture as a strategic asset. So you can’t outsource a strategic asset. And the CMO has to understand that that architecture is also your data architecture. It’s your data flows and it’s your opportunity to convert data to fuel versus data as debt. And so, I think you can’t outsource it. There’s too much at stake and there’s too much to learn. And even if I take two, you know, there’s two very different approaches. One says I put all my eggs in one basket, right? So, I choose a large provider who can do all sorts of different, do the full software suite, if you will. And I just sort of hand the business off to them, or I do a best to breed where I have a lot of APIs and a lot of integration issues.

And I just choose the best of the best. Either choice I make will force me to have a deeper understanding of how it works today and how it’ll work tomorrow. And so, one is, I don’t think you can let it go. I think the problem with insourcing on a practical basis, and particularly now in this climate, is that technology resources, human beings, are extraordinarily valuable and it’s a very horizontal discipline. So, you know, I could be, I could be a marketing technologist in finance, and in telecom, in media, I can go anywhere, right? It’s very horizontal. So with that kind of fluidity comes salary inflation because you’re always bidding against the entire industry now. And I think it’s hard to keep that talent, because you have this, you know, the reality of what’s happening in the labor markets. You have that reality that, you know, people will they’ll move jobs because sometimes they just feel like they’re compelled to move jobs just because they’re compelled to move jobs.

And so, keeping them there and then onboarding someone new and dealing with that churn makes having it be entirely an insourced capability. Not that it’s unavailable. I just think it comes with obvious risks that if you can address them great, but they’re hard to address. And you and I talked about near sourcing where you do neither, right? You bring on an agency and you embed them in the team. And so, the at they’re not outsourced, they’re not that black box as you just described it. It’s an extremely transparent, obvious part of the business. And there has to be a skills and knowledge transfer that happens along the way, because even if I’m not on the keyboard, I’m not staring at the screen, I am so incredibly dependent on technology now that if I don’t really understand how it works, I might design my work in accordance with it. So, I don’t know if technology is sort of this thing I can carve off and say, okay, you guys got it. And then I have a team over here because who’s not gonna be involved in some way shape or in a technology driven process. So I just feel like you know, I kind of align towards near sourcing, which allows me to somewhat mitigate the real risks of human beings while maintaining a principle that technology and data are strategic.

Gifford (18:07):
And as far as depth of knowledge within your team, you included, I mean, how much effort have you put into really understanding this technology as a CMO? How much do you think a CMO needs to know?

Victor (18:23):
I think you kind of have to have a choice. I think the issue is that when it goes wrong, your learning curves are often forced to be vertical. And so you can’t afford not to know, because if it goes wrong, it can go wrong and wrong fast. So I think you have to be. And if I make a distinction of being conversant and being fluent. Meaning conversant which is, I know the words, I know the nouns, I know the basic principles. Fluent is I actually can do that work. Expert is I’m an expert. I think CMOs minimally need to be conversant. I think when you get to the data world, I think you need to be fluent. So I’m not sure sometimes the choice of technology is always the most question, but the architecture that you choose and the way that you manage your data is now strategic. And I think CMOs have to be fluent enough. Whether that’s a comment about privacy, laws, a comment about using data as fuel, whichever way I look at it, whether I’m playing it from a risk standpoint or playing it from a strategic growth standpoint. I don’t think you can treat data as a conversant question.

Gifford (19:36):
I mean, I agree. I think that yeah, you can’t, you haven’t got the time to be fluent, but if you haven’t at least looked inside the engine room, it’s much more difficult to drive the ship.

Victor (19:49):Yeah. Again, I think on the data side, you have to be fluent and you need, you need people on the team. And I thankfully have been blessed with people on my team that are constantly coaching me, teaching me about changes, subtleties. And what is the reality when you get past the data architecture, what’s the real reality of the data itself. And so, most firms on this planet inherit a diverse data environment, right? Data sits in different places. It’s dispersed, it’s managed differently, it’s governed differently. It’s sort of a chewed up MDM as a key principle. So CMOs rarely deal with this idea that data is homogenous and unified. It is mostly heterogeneous and dispersed, and I think you are always forced to solve that problem. It’s far too costly, and I’m not sure how wise it is to centralize it all. So you’re now stuck with some method to federate, normalize and capitalize. And again, that data process is so central to making marketing work.

Mary (20:57):
I wanted to bring back the conversation to something you said, Victor around, um, you know, retaining the talent because, you know, as we all know, you know, MarketOne is looking to hire too, but it’s so hard to find the tech talent or, you know, the strategic talent to be able to support sales and marketing. And, you know, you were mentioning that, you know, with near sourcing, you’re bringing them in, you’re embedding them into the team, but it’s also this challenge where it’s hard to retain that internal expertise because the talent pool is so, you know, spare out there right now. So I don’t know, what would you suggest as a CMO? You know, how could you retain that talent? What are some of the ways that you can, you know, keep that talent? I know there’s a salary situation. There are some people that will just look at the bottom line, the salary, and if the salary is higher, then some people will just jump from one role to another. But I don’t know, I’m not all that convinced that salary is the main motivator. I think there are other factors there that would help to retain talent at the organization. So what are your thoughts around, how do you retain that talent?

Victor (22:24):
Yeah. The issue is when salary is the only determinant, you’re in trouble. And so, I think this idea of a purpose driven organization or purpose driven company, I think it matters. Do I feel that the work I do creates value that’s larger than myself? Do I believe in that value, does it mean something to me at a very personal level, so that every day I feel, you know, mobilized to go do that thing, whatever that thing is. And particularly in marketing, I think there has been this disassociation from what marketers do in the activity world to the outcomes that the organization is delivering to customers, to shareholders, or what have you. And I think that, you know, marketing, not being at the table sometimes, marketing not being an organization of consequence, but sort of this insular organization that does stuff, makes it hard for that fabric of a purpose to happen because you’re only within the marketing world and, you know, value’s not created in that world per se.

So I think that it’s incumbent for CMOs to create these powerful lines between what does somebody do, whatever they do, and how is value created in the largest sense of the word. And to this idea of purpose-driven organization. To me is not just words. I think it really does matter because if people feel like that sense of belonging, that sense of purpose, that sense of value creation, then salary still matters. But again, now it’s not the only thing on the table. And the only thing I’ll comment is that there’s been, you know, no shortage of activities here. And you could easily see where someone has put forth a purpose and it just doesn’t feel authentic. It feels like they did it, but is that really them? And so, I do think it’s a big deal and it’s a participation sport to put forth the purpose.

It’s not a marketing thing. It’s not an HR thing. It’s the organization’s journey to be on. And that sense of everyone having a deep affiliation to it. A deep sense of purpose, a deep sense of belonging, all those things that, you know, the softer sciences that sometimes get placed in the back burner, in the pursuit of the numbers. The problem you run into is that your point, it goes right to considerations of attrition, retention, and am I hiring the right people and are they doing the right work? And there’s nothing that’s more tragic to me than seeing someone who’s extraordinarily talented doing the wrong work and not really knowing it because they could never connect the dots. But they could have, if they’d been given that information or given that sense of purpose. They could have almost reengineered their world to slightly make some changes to it. And all of a sudden they get connected to this larger value creation equation. So I think there’s a lot of people work to be done that I think is being done, which makes the salary piece, it doesn’t make it secondary, it’s still important, but it can’t be the only thing that’s important.

Gifford (25:39):
It’s very interesting what you say, because I’ve recently read a study talking about what they’re calling the great resignation, you know, loads of people, you know, churning, you know, leaving their jobs in droves and things. And they were looking at what it is that drives retention. And number one was affiliation with the brand. It was about the brand. And it’s actually quite, you know, it’s also quite personal to me. And I believe you are also looking at the brand messaging at the moment. You know, we’ve been looking at it within MarketOne as well. And to give your employees a mission, vision, purpose, promise that they can buy into really helps. And that they can align to and you mentioned at the end about somebody doing the wrong work for the wrong reasons, or, you know, again with clear guidelines, brand guidelines. And branding is obviously we talk about, you know, marketing some sometimes coming second place to sell, branding gets put some for some organizations gets, you know, why are we spending money on what they think of as a new logo, but actually to have those values to align to it really helps.

Victor (26:52):
Yeah. The brand animates the soul of the company. And so, the question is what is the soul of the company? And the brand is not only an external thing, it’s an internal thing. And so I think when it gets relegated to logos or color choices, or what have you, it’s going in the wrong direction. And I also think that marketing is not best suited to do it by themselves. This is an all, and you want to really take stock of the entirety of your organization. And as organizations are becoming far more diverse in intellect, in experience and others, and you really need to pay attention to the beauty of that, because that helps to sort of describe the soul more thoroughly. And, so, you know, I think the brand work has evolved to meet that challenge. But I think brands relegated to messaging or logos, or they don’t carry the same weight. And I do think that, I mean, ultimately the team you have will dictate the success you have. And, you have to care deeply about that the team wants to be on the team and they feel like they are part of the team.

Mary (28:07):
I think that’s so important too. And I think that’s the key to keeping, you know, this talent is, you know, having this, this sense of accomplishment. So, you know, going into work and, you know, doing what I need to do. And just at the end of the day, feeling that I’ve accomplished something, feeling that my voice has been heard, and that I can contribute to, you know, the values to the visions and that, that all of that aligns with, you know, what that, that overarching vision is. And I think that certainly feeling that my opinion matters that I’m contributing value to the organization is giving that sense of accomplishment. Because at the end of the day, if you’re doing something, and you know, it doesn’t really align with what, you know, the vision is, and you don’t support what, you know, what that vision is, and you’re just kind of clicking the buttons going through it. You know, you end your day, there’s no sense of accomplishment. Maybe there’s a lot of politics in the organization that are not really aligning with your values, and that could really have a damper on how you’re performing. And that I think could be, you know, one of the reasons why people are leaving organizations is just because of that dissatisfaction and you’re right. It’s not necessarily a salary situation. It’s that careful balance it’s having the culture and aligning with your own values. That’s gonna help, you know, keep you at that organization.

Victor (29:46):
Yeah. I think most organizations are moving towards matrix management. So essentially flattening the organization. And ‘cause I think hierarchies fail because they have the unintended consequence of making the people lower in the hierarchy less valuable. And I think what’s wrong with that and I can speak factually here is my team is smarter than I am. And I think that’s provable almost on a daily basis. And I would be just, it would be absurd to not capitalize on the wisdom and talents of everyone on the team, regardless of where they sit. Because reality sits everywhere. They things you can’t see. They perceive things you can’t perceive. They’re interpreting it differently. And that collective insight, that collective wisdom is what propels you forward. I think hierarchies lock that down and they have a, I don’t think it’s the intent of it, but to me it’s the outcome of it, is it has the intent of making people, some people less valuable than other people or some people inherently more right than other people.

And I just don’t, I don’t buy it. I’ve always been blessed in my work with people that are far smarter than I am. And I think that for leaders, they’re gonna have to make a choice between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is I’m smart, I guess. Wisdom, is I know how to bring a team forward and make them feel like such a deep sense of ownership that we’re all smart. That’s not a game to be won or lost. The game is outside your four walls trying to compete in a marketplace and deliver value. And I think the matrix structure offers that opportunity. It’s work and I also don’t know if, you know, with, as you say with hearing my voice comes the consequence. You know, what if you say something and we say, okay, let’s do it.

And I think, you know, one of the byproducts of marketing not being at the table, which has been a long term, you know, assignment of marketing is that we were able to live without deep consequence. And then you’re at the table and then you have consequence, you carry the risk, you carry the impacts of your decisions. And so when you matrix and now everyone is at the table, essentially the whole matrix is sitting there. You want people to feel the gravity of it and also the freedom of it, but it doesn’t come for free. I mean, and I think that consequence will place forward a higher premium on mindset, a higher premium on critical thinking. The idea that, you know, ideas that have some underlying critique to them and they have gone through some form of friction. Some people have disagreed or thought of it slightly differently. And out from that process comes this far better idea. You know, that those thinking processes, I’d like to see more embedded into the natural movement of marketing.

Mary (32:41):
Do you think there are situations in this matrixed organization, so now that you know, marketing has a seat at the table, or, you know, other teams have a seat at the table, that there’s also this fear of speaking up, or I guess you were kind of talking about that too, about the consequences. So there could be situations where someone, okay, great I have a seat at the table, but now I’m afraid to say something because yeah it’s not gonna align with other opinions or I wanna make sure I’m saying the right thing because I wanna, you know, kind of get into the minds of other people and say what they’re thinking or they want to see not necessarily my own opinion.

Victor (33:19):
Yeah, so I have someone on my team who I won’t name just ‘cause we’re in a podcast. And, she thinks very differently than I do. And she communicates very differently than I do. And I shared with her just yesterday I said, I find myself reading what you send me twice, not ‘cause I have to, because I want to. Because the linguistic choices being made and how it’s phrased and sort of the way that the idea is brought forth, it’s so interesting. And what I pay attention to is not differences just for differences sake but isn’t it interesting that you can think of it a different way and when I take whatever my perspective is and whatever her perspective is, and I kind of put it together, like you do tend to think of it as now. I have a fuller view of what this thing is a deeper sense of what’s possible and usually there’s a third way that comes out, which is it’s neither.

But I think it’s hard in this COVID world because I’ll speak personally, which is we’re now on Zoom and we’re not in the same room. So I’m capturing about 33% of the communications coming out right now. I don’t really see the body language and I don’t really get a sense of how this stuff is really playing out. And so to me, what happens is people then try to perfect their speech. And when they do that, they lose themselves. They become less authentic because they’re trying to say things the right way. And I think you lose meaning. And it’s hard. COVID has given everyone a video face, right? It’s given everyone a way to talk, and it’s taken away a key part of the humanness of it all.

And with that humanness is the authenticity of that person. And I have no interest in people saying things the right way. What I really want them to do is just say what they mean in whichever way they wish to say it or communicate whichever ways to communicate it. Because its the idea that’s gonna carry it, not the way the idea was expressed. But I just think that’s a challenge. That’s not unique to marketing. I just think it’s a deep implication of this COVID digital world that has created such dissonance in our communications among each other.

Mary (35:39):
I mean, I think the industry tries with opening up video, but yeah, you’re right. I mean, you kind of lose that authenticity sometimes. Although I will say on a couple of our calls, with this COVID world that we have in Zoom, I mean, now there are filters too, so I can totally show up to a meeting as a Lego person or have a pumpkin on my head or..

Victor (36:03):
Yeah. But I guess if I’m saying something and someone is really doesn’t agree, right. I may never know.

Mary (36:15):
Yeah. It kind of forces you.

Victor (36:15):
‘Cause there’s just one tile, right. But I’m in a room. You can get a sense when someone’s body behaviors there leaning back saying, I’m not in here. All these things start to happen and the body starts expressing what’s truly happening.

Gifford (36:30):
You can’t even see I’ve got my arms crossed right now. That, which is one of those classic signals.

Victor (36:35):
Yeah. So, I think, you know, from a standpoint of leadership, I think leadership needs to find ways that maybe are partly contrived. How do I bring the humanness of someone forward and make it okay? And I think that even in the best of lights, you’re gonna have a percentage of it. I don’t think it’s ever going to equate to the direct interactions, the whiteboard experiences, the true fundamental disagreements that exist between two very well-meaning people who see the world from different angles, that friction is what creates great ideas. But that friction, I don’t think really plays itself out well in a digital context, ‘cause it’s too easy to say, oh, you know, come off the meeting and I’m on to the next meeting. Right? And so, I think there’s work to be done still and who knows where we’re going with all this to really unleash the full human capital of humans in this COVID world.

And I just think it’s one of those things. And you know, for me, when we look at people, this is why I still believe that hiring or investing in the concept of mindset versus skillset because mindset will carry one through the day. You can always build skillset. It’s really hard to turn mindset. And I think that in this world you talked about, you know, CMOs and technology. I just think everyone has to be in a constantly adaptive learning mode. Right? They have to believe in every moment. I know some things and I don’t know other things, and I’m really curious about those other things and it’s okay not to know, and it’s okay to ask and you know, that type of thing. So, there’s a lot of human parts of this equation.

Mary (38:19):
I think that also comes back to employee, retaining employees as well. So if you are creating that transparent environment, you’re welcoming that feedback then you don’t have to put on this, you know, inauthentic type of mask when you’re in a meeting or, you know, you’re just feeling that you’re contributing to the organization and that can help relax and understand all right, well, if I know that my feedback is gonna be welcome, that my opinion matters that I’m going to provide value here, then I am gonna be more open and transparent and I am gonna be contributing more to the organization and I’m not gonna be silent thinking about what’s the right thing to say versus all right, now, let me be authentic. And, you know, they’re open to hearing what I really think about, you know, whatever situation is.

Victor (39:16):
Yeah. There’s been a very high premium on the concept of alignment. You know, alignment within the marketing piece, parts, marketing and sales, marketing, sales, and product, whatever which I completely buy into. And the idea of sort of integrated orchestration is a powerful idea. The problem is that it often can get interpreted as conforming. Alignment means that I’m not to disagree ‘cause I have to align. Right. And so earlier this week I was on a call and someone expressed concern because, they weren’t aligned ‘cause someone else disagreed. And you have to parse out those two topics, right? Disagreement is that yeah, I’m glad they disagreed. And you should be celebrating that because what’s happening is someone is now investing in you because they’ve internalized your idea. They’ve given it some thought, and they want to contribute to it now.

It’s coming through the lens of disagreement, but that’s not really what it is. It’s called, it’s really investment. Alignment is when you get through that and you can collectively agree how best to move forward. But alignment at step one is dangerous because what it does is it really is a conforming step, not an alignment step. And I think it has the net effect of taking away what you said earlier, which is everyone wants to have a voice. Well, if my voice is only within the alignment world, I don’t really have a voice anymore. Now do I? So, I think there has to be steps in the alignment that are intentionally premised on disagreement because it’s just any two people are, and you know, the thing that scares me most well, there’s a lot of things that scare me, so that’s, that’s stiff competition. But the thing that scares me quite a lot is to be in a meeting and say, let’s say five things and everyone agree with you. Like that can’t be true, ‘cause I know I’m wrong. So now everyone, you know, how did that happen? ‘Cause you depend on the critical ideas and the critique of people investing with you. So, I do think we need to learn how to disagree with more enthusiasm.

Mary (41:18):
Yeah. And get away from you can have a voice as long as it’s the same as my opinion.

Victor (41:25):
Yeah. It just, this is the difference to me between intelligence and wisdom. Wisdom is you collectively bring the best ideas forward from all the talent. That’s their intelligence is I’m the smartest person in the room. Well, there’s no prize for that. Right. But wisdom, you begin to capitalize on the entire talent set that’s there. And like you said, when people feel like their ideas mattered, there’s so much more compelld to have the next idea. And now they’re investing in the next idea ‘cause they care and they start caring about the outcome versus the input. ‘Cause they can see themselves in the outcome now. And then you get, that’s a nice cycle to be in. But if they can’t see themselves in the outcome, they really didn’t participate in it. They just executed piece parts of it. You get left a little bit to, you know, I don’t really have a, I’m not really belonging to this organization. I’m just sort of participating. I’m just sort of contributing to it. I’m not contributing with it.

Mary (42:24):
And I think that’s what makes you a unique leader is that you know, you challenge your team, you push them to voice their opinions and you know, creating this environment where it’s very collaborative and they can come to the table with the ideas and it, you know, the old school, you know, corporate structure was, well, no, you, you have to go to your director and you know, you have to go up to the hierarchy, but you know, again, like why I think that you’re such a great leader is that you’re bringing everyone to the table and you’re encouraging people to, you know, to voice their opinions or, you know, feedback on a particular project or on a particular initiative that, you know, it doesn’t matter where you sit, like everyone has a seat at the table and you value everyone’s opinion.

Victor (43:14):
I do. I mean, I will say I have good days as being a leader and I have days where I failed that job. So, you know, I’m trying to have more good days than days I fail at the job. So yeah.

Mary (43:24):
I think we all strive for that. Right. More good days than bad ones. Which day is this day? Is this a good day?

Victor (43:30):
It’s early.

Mary (43:37):
All right. Yeah. Giff, I don’t know. Do you have any follow up or?

Gifford (43:43):
Well, I suppose it’s just bringing it back to kind of, you know, 2022. We’ve talked a lot about people, so I’m imagining that that’s an important factor, but you know, what’s gonna get you out of bed in 2022?

Victor (43:58):
I just, I think there’s no shortage of things that are in front of anybody. CMOs, COOs, CFOs, Directors of Marketing, people working within the automation environment, people working in data. You have this expressed panacea of some type of AI and, you know, AI is a term that means all sorts of things. What’s the true and best implementation of AI that unlike automation delivers to its promise? What’s the work that has to be done for it to deliver to its promise? I think the question about human beings, and I’m not talking about personnel or employees, I’m saying the human being, I still think it’s gonna be one of the hardest challenges because you have real consequential things from COVID that aren’t solved with old tools. And I still feel like I can speak for me. I feel like I get a little bit of it.

I don’t think I fully understand it yet. And I think every day you learn a little bit more about what it means. And I mean, I live it too. You live this sense of being somewhat decoupled from communications that you’re actually in and it can be pretty jarring and then I think that people have different lives to live, that COVID has interrupted at best. And, that’s coming into the work life and the blurring of work and life. And I still think there’s a human being question that for leaders should be front and center all the time. ‘Cause you know, I think, I think people are doing remarkably amazing, wonderful things with what’s in front of them. But they’re hurting, it’s hard and it’s uncertain. And so you have to accept it and begin to work that. I don’t know what that means yet, but I think it’s a big equation to be solved.

I still feel like data sits there as one of those great potential energy questions and are people really harnessing the value of data. And I think that there has to be a, a sizable investment from the CM0. I mean, CMOs come from all different walks of life. They come in as a technologist as a more of a brand person or whatever they come in as, I still think that data harnessing the real value of that and data doesn’t belong to a single function. So creating that matrix fabric of how you manage data across the enterprise, I still think is gonna be a significant issue irrespective of how AI rolls down the road.

Mary (46:38):
Yeah, absolutely.

Gifford (46:40):
There a lot there and I think, I dunno. Initially I think the feeling was with COVID was, you know, oh, well it’s a temporary setback. We’ll all go home, but then we’ll come back into the office. I think that it’s done more than that. It has actually changed, well, I dunno, personally, I think it’s changed the way we are going to work as well as the way we work, which also means it’s gonna change the way we market, the way we sell as it has during this period. Do you think we have to adapt or, you know, evolve rather than go backwards?

Victor (47:13):
Yeah. I mean I think sometimes I think that there was all these dystopian stories and what was great about ’em is that they weren’t true. And I think COVID became a little bit too close to that. And all of a sudden we’re like, well, man, this is a pretty uncertain world and things can go horribly wrong and horribly wrong for long periods of time. And we’re not really in control of some things. And so, I go back, yeah, we will, we have to market and sell differently, but step one, take care of the people. Step two is your current future. Customers are also in that context and I think you can less afford to be distant to them. And I think there’s an elusory thing that AI will make you closer. AI simply makes the signals being able to be worked better, but you still have to get the signals.

And I think that, you know, one of the things that we saw that is a sort of a positive in all this is that you saw an increasing kind of digital citizen. So there was sort of an infinite amount of webinars stood up in the last year and a half. And, which all made sense and what was great about it, what we saw was we started being introduced to a whole new type of person that I don’t think would’ve shown up in a different context. So now what do we do? How do we understand who they are? Why are they different? Why do they show up what was good about it? How do we create value for them? You know, that type of thing. So I think that there’s different movements, a foot. But I still, and Mary you’ve heard me say these words before, there there’s a whole future in front of us. But I still feel like we’ve, I don’t wanna lose the fundamentals in this because I still feel like marketing has some basic improvements to make with operationalizing empathy, with becoming better storytellers with unleashing, the contextual value of technology and capitalizing on it in real terms. To being at the table and knowing what it means to be at the table.

I still think there’s some fundamentals that if done well, independent of what happens next, marketing will be a better positioned and marketers at the individual level will be better positioned to capitalize on what’s next.

Gifford (49:36):
Wow. I dunno what you think, Mary, unless you had anything else. I think that’s quite a good point to kind of sum up unless there are any other questions you had cause that’s quite a good, you’ve just done quite a good summary without us.

Victor (49:47):
Yay me.

Gifford (49:49):
You know, thank you very much, Victor, you you’ve covered a huge amount in quite a short time. Uou know, I’ve noted down the importance of storytelling, data is fuel versus data is debt, which I love as a phrase, disagreement being a key factor in achieving alignment.

Victor (50:08):
I’m nothing but pithy, I guess at the end of the day.

Gifford (50:11):
It’s great. Before we wrap up completely, just to learn a little bit more about you, I have 10

Victor (50:19):
Oh, here come the 10. Yeah. Yeah.

Gifford (50:20):
I have 10 quickfire questions. They are either/or, but you can say both don’t think too hard.

Victor (50:27):

Gifford (50:28):
So here we go. Number one, cats or dogs?

Victor (50:32):

Gifford (50:34):
Demand or nurture?

Victor (50:36):

Gifford (50:38):
Beach or mountains?

Victor (50:40):

Gifford (50:41):

Victor (50:43):

Gifford (50:45):
Wine or beer?

Victor (50:47):

Gifford (50:48):
Outbound or inbound?

Victor (50:51):
Inbound is a better reflection of real intent

Gifford (50:55):
Day or night?

Victor (50:57):
I hope both exist.

Gifford (51:01):
Instagram or TikTok?

Victor (51:03):
Oh my goodness.

Mary (51:05):

Victor (51:09):
Can I say MySpace?

Gifford (51:11):
You can. Umm AOL..

Victor (51:15):
I was listening to this show about it was from a music critic that how much TikTok has disintermediated him from being able to even participate in the judging of music because TikTok has taken one more thing away. That’s gone it’s like direct to consumer. It was fascinating.

Gifford (51:31):
Ah, that’s very true. All right. Two more. Car or cycle?

Victor (51:36):

Gifford (51:38):
And work from the office or work from home?

Victor (51:41):

Gifford (51:43):
Thank you.

Victor (51:45):
You’re welcome.

Mary (51:46):
Those were easy.

Victor (51:49):
Yeah. I didn’t wanna take any like, you know, big, you know, moral stance here. Although I thought wine or beer was coming close to some moral judgment.

Mary (51:59):
Or the cat or dog it’s like picking your favorite child or yeah.

Victor (52:02):
Yeah. I’ve always been a dog person, but our cats act like dogs. I mean almost, I mean, Pumpkin almost to the point it was it’s absurd, but so you know, I’m really a dog person though.

Gifford (52:19):
He says it now. Okay. Well, there’s only one more thing to do then, which is just to wrap up. Thank you, Victor, very much indeed for a very wide ranging and interesting conversation. And for more information on MarketOne and to find out more episodes of our podcast Funnelocity, you can visit