“Your life’s course is not determined by the things you do or know, it’s really determined by trying hard outside your natural skill set.” This is Lee Tonitto’s message to marketers who are struggling in the face of disruption and the need to constantly reskill.
This week we take a deep dive into the colourful world of modern marketing to ask the hard questions; What does the future of marketing look like? How is innovation impacting the skills needed to survive and thrive? What should graduates and career professionals do to make sure they remain relevant and continue to add value?
In this episode of The CMO Show, Mark and JV are joined by Lee Tonitto, CEO at the Australian Marketing Institute and a lifelong marketer. With more than two decades of experience across several areas of marketing, Lee brings a mix of unique customer insights, industry experience, and data and analytics to the fore, to discuss the current state of the industry and where it’s all headed.
“The fundamental principles of marketing will always be the same in terms of marketing activity meeting unmet needs. The how marketing is executed has changed enormously, and it’s all led by marketing technology and automation,” says Lee.
In particular, the burgeoning of marketing automation tools and resources available to marketers is having a continual impact on the industry. Five years ago there was around 250 such tools whereas today, marketers have access to around 3,500, says Lee. This is why marketers must commit to being lifelong learners.
“I always recommend to marketers, whether they be seasoned professionals or starting out in their career, they keep across the latest trade articles, webinars, podcasts,” says Lee. “The dynamic nature of the profession is that if you want to be part of it you need to be relevant and create value.”
- Lifelong Learning: In Marketing It’s A Must!
- How to Be a More Curious Person: 7 Tips for Becoming a Lifelong Learner
The CMO Show production team
Producer – Megan Wright
Audio Engineer – Jonny McNee
Design Manager – Daniel Marr
Graphic Designer – Chris Gresham-Britt
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Mark Jones (MJ)
Jeanne-Vida Douglas (JVD)
Lee Tonitto (LT)
JVD: Welcome back to the CMO Show, thanks so much for tuning in. I’m here with Mark Jones.
MJ: Yes hello, and I’m here with JV Douglas.
JVD: [Laughs] That’s our shtick, we’ve got to keep doing that hey?
MJ: I think – well, you know, practise makes perfect.
JVD: Yeah absolutely, and you’ve been speaking with a really interesting woman.
MJ: Yes, so Lee Tonitto is the CEO at the Australian Marketing Institute, a friend of mine actually, developed a relationship in the last year or so, and she’s got a fascinating story that we thought let’s unpack that a bit on the show.
JVD: I’ll tell you what, she has been making some really interesting changes because I’ve been noticing the Australian Marketing Institute popping up in a number of different places where I hadn’t seen it previously. It seems to be growing.
MJ: It is growing and there’s a fundamental reason for that, is that there’s more marketers out there. So the AMI is an interesting organisation because focusses on individual marketers, so you as a marketer, or a professional, can join the organisation essentially by yourself.
MJ: It’s – it’s not really under the banner, if you like, of a – of a big brand or your employer. You have other organisations such as ADMA which also serves a – a really important role. Typically they – they rely on large organisations and funding, or if you like, supporting…
JVD: On brands and affiliates and things, yeah.
MJ: That’s right, yeah.
MJ: So it’s a – it’s a different type of organisation and – and for that it’s actually has a – a slightly different perspective in that it’s interested in the long term career development of marketers.
JVD: So it’s really about professionals and professionalisation, yeah?
MJ: What’s been fascinating for me to think about in recent times is, is the, if you like, the core skillset of marketing changing or is it the – if you like, the – the technologies and the approaches and the channels that we have to deal with that’s changing and you know, what’s the intersection between the two?
JVD: Is there a fundamental change in what marketers are and what they need to do or is it just the same thing that they’ve always done but through a different set of channels now?
MJ: And she’s got some really great personal lived experience and also her contact with the academic community and so she – she brings a really interesting perspective to this which is – and I won’t steal her thunder but she has a – a great way of helping us understand how those different ideas are – are coming together.
JVD: Wow, okay, well let’s switch over to Lee.
Mark: Welcome back to the CMO show, I am here with Lee Tonitto who is the CEO of AMI, Australian Marketing Institute. Thanks for joining us.
Lee: Thanks Mark, thanks for having me.
Mark: I’m wondering what are the skills you need to survive in modern marketing?
Lee: Well to me it’s all about attitude and mindset and having an insatiable appetite for learning. So remaining relevant and consistently thinking about ways you can create value for your business is important and constant training and continual upskilling is really a crucial factor for success. I always recommend to marketers, whether they be seasoned professionals or starting out in their career or anywhere in between that sort of continuum, the latest trade articles are important, webinars, podcasts, through respected publishers – because the dynamic nature of the profession is that if you want to be part of it you need to be relevant and create value.
Mark: Basically if you’re a marketer you’re committing yourself to constant learning, right?
Because it’s very easy to kind of coast along, go to a couple of courses and hear a podcast and so forth but, you know, do you – do you understand how they fit into an education plan for example if – if that’s where you think things are going.
Lee: At the end of the day I just think it’s much like exercise, you have to you have your marketing exercise if you want to practice in the profession.
Mark: So in that context what do you think marketing means today in Australia?
Lee: I don’t think that marketing has really ever changed. You know, the marketing concept of the 50s was the satisfaction of customer needs at a profit to the company. What I’d add now is to do it better than the competition because marketing is accountable for every part of the customer journey or if it’s not it should be and we’re also accountable to the customer to make it relevant, personable and easy to deal with. And if you don’t someone else will because everybody talks about digital disruption, well someone will find a better way these days because of the ability to do that – you can really do that fast and cheaply.
Mark: So there’s 63 marketing disciplines I understand, there’s essentially this enormous set of disciplines you can bring into the mix.
Mark: What are the ones that matter the most right now? Have you ranked them or how have you sorted through the priority list?
Lee: The marketing disciplines that matter most are dependent on the needs of your customer and also the industry you’re in. However we’re conducting research all of the time listening to the marketing professionals and the community and the most important disciplines from our recent research are strategic planning and business development, consumer insights, digital marketing, data analytics, content marketing, customer experience and having a handle on marketing technology.
Mark: Right, just even within that there’s a lot going on, right?
Lee: There’s a lot going on.
Mark: So then given that what’s the success metrics that we should be thinking about – how do you understand the best way to firstly set your targets and your goals and then measuring towards that?
Lee: Marketers, like a lot of C-suite executives, are under constant financial pressure and marketers are always striving to exploit new media vehicles. Recently I was speaking to a CMO and he was juggling 18 different media channels to ensure that the right message got to the right customer at the right time and you can only do that through a team approach and superb analytic tool – and tools that you have. And to me the best way through to drive returns on marketing spending is all about making sure that you have commitment across the stakeholders where you’re spending your money.
And what I mean by that is often marketers get excessively bogged down in firefighting, futile debates around justification and the certainty of measurement and what do likes on Facebook mean and is that the right measure, you know, what are the right impressions that we should be having, how do you measure attention span, viewability, are my ads being served, what about ad blockers. And so a little bit of information sometimes is dangerous as people around a company can hear all these terms not really understanding what they mean and then all of a sudden the credibility of the measurement tools goes out the window.
Mark: So have we got the wrong focus then on success?
Lee: Well I think that when marketing spend is contemplated that what media exactly influences a customer journey needs to be thought about and agreed and then what metrics should we track, as imperfect as they may be, the options and that the – the stakeholder group needs to agree what that looks like as their KPIs and measure against that. And if it’s not the right measures iterate, constantly evolve and iterate and learn more each time you go through.
Everybody’s on the journey to the holy grail and I know we’ll get there but to me it’s about saying what do you need to believe, what are the proof points that will satisfy your company and then build from there.
Mark: So what is it about this industry that, you know, has – has drawn you in? What – what keeps you going and keeps you fired up? It sounds like innovation is one of the things.
Lee: Certainly. It certainly is. If you could indulge me to go back into my history a little bit…
Mark: Yeah all right.
Lee: At the University of New South Wales I had great professors and I will never forget from my very first lecture I was explained what the marketing discipline was and it was all about – and what captivated me was the power to breathe new life into tired businesses and brands and once you understood the customer need. And I will never forget also that he used Luxaflex brand as an example.
So what he said was that Luxaflex was not in the business of making blinds it was in the business of environmental screening.
Mark: Very clever.
Lee: That’s right, and so that really simple story sparked my imagination and marketing is very much hardwired into my DNA.
And I’m pretty passionate about the transformative power of marketing because I always think when you’ve been in the company of marketers you’ll always leave in a better place than where you started.
Mark: So how then have you seen the marketing industry change? Your role as a marketer has obviously changed as well and we’re seeing all these sorts of technologies emerge, what’s your perspective?
Lee: My journey started in fast moving consumer goods at Unilever where I had the pleasure to launch Domestos which is now a staple in most Australian bathrooms.
That’s where my journey started with new product development and innovation, solving the unmet need of bathroom grime. [laughs] From that extreme I then joined Revlon as a product manager in the cosmetic division and so from one extreme to the other and there’s nothing that was more exciting in the 80s than being a part of supermodels.
And one of the things that we did there was transform the way cosmetics were merchandised in Australia.
Mark: You can tell I don’t have any idea here, like you know, completely out of my depth on that one. [Laughs]
Lee: Well it’s good – well okay, no comment, [laughs] no comment, no comment. So it was – yeah, it was completely moving to self service and sales went up, sampling went up, testing went up and women got to play again.
And from there an opportunity came up as head of marketing for AMP Financial Services in Australia and I was the successful candidate. And within a couple of weeks I was put in charge of the Olympic bid for the 2000 Olympic Games to win the insurance category, and it’s not often that a marketer is given a four year mandate to leverage an Olympic asset of at that time around $160 million spend and help transform a – a brand that was iconic in Australia from a life insurer into a broad-based wealth management firm.
Mark: And what – what was the kind of focus that you had for – or maybe the inspiration for helping you achieve that because that’s – that’s a pretty significant job?
Lee: Yes, the inspiration interestingly was Woolworths. So we drew a lot of inspiration from Woolworths and it was at the time that they started talking about the fresh food people…
And our advertising campaign focussed on real people as well and in the late 90s and focussing on real people achieving extraordinary things. So as the MasterChef franchise today takes ordinary home cooks and they’re doing amazing things similarly we took employees, financial advisers and our customers and we put them in settings from – in one of them I recall in a backyard pool and then we transformed her and showed her winning at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre and on the podium and going through the whole medal ceremony. And it was all about achieving of your dreams and your aspirations and it was – it catapulted AMP and really strengthened our brand image and perception amongst our customers.
Mark: You’ve talked about some of the industries you’ve gone through, how – how have they changed, what you might consider to be the – the fundamental principles of good marketing, how have you seen them change and evolve during that time?
Lee: I think that the fundamental principles of marketing will always be the same in terms of marketing activity meeting unmet needs. The how marketing is executed has changed enormously – and all led by marketing technology and obviously automation. So I think I was reading about five years ago there was around 250 different marketing automation tools available to marketers and now there’s 3,500. And I think even in Australia there’s 1,800.
So there’s no way that one single person can be across the opportunity list that exists to meet your business goals and serve your customers better.
Mark: Yeah that’s a really good perspective because I think that’s where we see a lot of confusion, isn’t it? It’s like well I’ve got all these different options now, which one do I pick or which set do I pick.
Lee: And so one of the things we also say that marketers are – not only need to be very skilled in digital data marketing, brand reputation management depending on your industry, customer of course, we also say that you need non-technical skills in terms of leadership and managing change so that you are able to know who to go to, to collaborate with to assess the variety of different platforms available.
Mark: Tell me about the chief marketing technologist. We hear a lot about that role and I’m interested to know how you think that will evolve particularly in light of, you know, how that role works with a CMO and then more broadly how it works within the structure of boards and management teams, what are your thoughts?
Lee: Well I think that there are three things that are always really important when marketing needs to fit in complex large organisations. And so if you have CMOs and marketing technologists and chief digital officers, chief data officers and this everything, C-suite that you need three things. First of all in the increasing complexity of the world you’re going to need a number of specialists and I see that the chief marketing technologist is a key asset in the CMO’s team. You can’t get skills and knowledge all in one person these days, it’s impossible and not – you can’t also get everything internally. So the smart marketers have also an ecosystem of external suppliers, vendors, agencies to help them.
The second thing is that you’ll need somebody to integrate all of these marketing efforts across channels and also someone that is doing that measurement we just spoke about to integrate to the bottom line so that when the CFO comes knocking on the door and says, you know, how is that marketing spend going that you have a good, you know, score card to – because marketers need to, particularly at C-suite, increasingly speak in the language of the board and senior management.
Mark: Yeah, and to show impact.
Lee: Very much so. And then finally to make all that happen I think clarity and processes, roles, responsibilities, not only within the marketing team in the broader company because marketing just doesn’t rely on the marketing teams – everybody’s looking after the customer.
In terms of the board we see that the issues of reputation, customer and technology are increasingly governance – on the governance agenda of the board and we are in discussions with AICD and are suggesting that senior certified practising marketers are given a seat at Australian board tables to help navigate the issues of reputation, customer and technology around the board table.
Mark: It sounds like a great direction. So that’s the high level and what about graduates, so from the – if you like from the ground up, what would your advice be for them coming into this incredibly complex world?
Lee: I think your life’s course is not determined by the things you do or you know it’s really determined by trying hard outside your natural skillset. So that’s quite an important message to get across to graduate marketers because employers are looking for diversity in skill. As I have often said it’s not only about domain or professional skills being the best search engine optimisation marketer or SEM marketer or fabulous just at, you know, managing data analytics, business analytics.
And we’re seeing increasingly that they’re putting practice units of leadership, influence, persuasion, in addition to, you know, digital marketing competencies within undergraduate and master’s degrees. And due to the heavy influence of technology the other thing that graduates need to be is adaptable, open minded and agile.
When I started it was really the beginning of big data because it was moving to grocery scan data from replacing warehouse withdrawal data.
Mark: It wouldn’t have been called big data back then though.
Lee: It wasn’t called big data, so the same conditions just different technology.
Mark: What advice do you wish someone had given you when you started out?
Lee: To make change your friend, to be adaptive and able to reinvent yourself with ease and to renovate your abilities regularly.
Mark: Now before we wrap up you’ve got a bit of kudos here, you were named by B&T Magazine as one of the top 30 women in media in 2015. So can you unpack for me in that context what are some of the statistics around women in marketing and I’d really love it if you could debunk some of the myths that are out there around this topic?
Lee: I’ll see what I can do about that. I – marketing is a great career for women – what my advice to women would be is make sure that you can see the bigger picture of your organisation and how your role can fit into that. And if you’re aligned with the company objectives and the culture works for you and you’re positioning yourself as a useful person that gets things done, you know, women are fabulous at solving problems and improving the way things work around here. Women will get promoted. I’d also say that there is high value in women having male mentors to help them navigate because there’s more men than women and women need great mentors to help them navigate to get to more senior levels.
I have never subscribed to the glass ceiling, I believe in meritocracy, I think cream rises to the top and I think that women – you can’t be lazy or fragile. The women that are able to successfully combine a happy healthy harmonious family and a successful thriving business life I think are the richest people in the world, the people that can do that, I think that’s just fantastic.
Marketing, you know, as a profession I think also lends itself to reverse mentoring but the more senior and more mature marketers need to be able to listen and learn from their young counterparts and know when they can shut up and appear not to know everything.
Mark: [laughs] Okay, well particularly when the tech stuff is involved, right.
Lee: Very – very much so. I really believe in reverse mentoring and I’ve found that incredibly beneficial.
Mark: I do wish you all the best with the AMI as you continue to help that organisation grow and particularly the – the member base who are the education focussed. It’s fantastic to see your focus and energy in that direction. Thank you very much for joining us.
Lee: Thank you, thanks for the opportunity.
JVD: What I found really interesting was the fact that – I mean I guess I would have identified technical skills as being particularly in demand whereas…
MJ: Yeah, particularly given the martech explosion, right? So…
JVD: Absolutely, absolutely, and – and I mean there’s a lot about STEM and all that kind of thing going on at the moment but she’s really saying there those more traditional communication skills and strategic skills that we need in this sector.
MJ: Yeah and the strategic things are the interesting one, we’ve seen a real focus on – on almost like a consulting role, you know it’s really playing into that high level stuff with the Accentures and the Deloittes and the PWCs have been in this high level strategic role but actually that – if you feel like some of those functions are now becoming integral to the way marketers develop plans that are, if you like, consistent with and helping a large organisation grow. And that is a really interesting – really interesting thing to think about when you map that against what training is required.
So it’s – it’s applying marketing principles but it’s also applying some consulting principles, economic principles, it’s – it’s very broad.
JVD: It is very broad and it – it reflects too I guess the – the increasing importance of the CMO role I think within all organisations because the CMO has to reach out and actually touch the customer and has to be part of the revenue chain and has to own the brand effectively. And that is now a much broader role than it was say 10 or 15 years ago when it was effectively a one way communication. Now it’s very much an ongoing conversation and a far more complex role for in terms of the different internal stakeholders you need to be able to influence.
MJ: It’s a very good time to be a marketer.
JVD: May you live in interesting times.
MJ: Exactly right.
JVD: Thanks for listening.