Building Better CMOs
Building Better CMOs
Rebecca Messina (McKinsey & Company) Transcript, Part 2
Greg Stuart: This is Building Better CMOs. Let’s get back to my conversation with Rebecca Messina, a senior advisor at McKinsey & Company.

So here's the thing. What we don't really necessarily track on this, what we're not really always sure about is that as markets, we love shiny objects and we tend to run at what's next and new. It doesn't mean for the strategy that we have that we should be doing that or doing it in the way that we are sometimes.

Rebecca Messina: That's right. You nailed it. There's a chart I used once was like all of the activities present in marketing 20 years ago and the activities present today, and it's enormous.

GS: Oh, it's insane. Yeah. People want to go search. I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt. Just search online. Look for the MMA capability. I'm sure it's MMA MarCaps. Do MMA MarCaps capability map. You'll find a Google search.

RM: Yeah. You are exactly right. Which is we hear about a new area and we think we too have to go become best in class in that. And the question is, no, you don't.

GS: Not necessarily.

RM: What Coke needs to be good at, Uber doesn't need to be good at. What Uber needs to be good at, Coke doesn't necessarily. And we start to chase these things. It doesn't mean that they don't matter in a business. There might even be a role for it, and there might be some value you can create. And the question is, when is the right moment to go do that? And what has happened, and I see this in a lot of companies, is they tack on all these new capabilities and all these new people come in and it's really hard to understand what role they play in value creation because nobody's ever articulated how the vector's pointing. And so it ends up becoming fragmented and dispersed versus coordinated and value creating and accelerated. And so it's a big one, but we all chase them. And somebody's going to come down the hall to you one day and go, "Hey, where are we at on..." Name the new thing.

GS: Yeah. Name the new thing. I think we constantly spin out of control of that kind of thing.

RM: We do.

GS: Rebecca, let's go back, though, to one of the other elements you said. Let's talk about mission a little bit. Because I think what's been funny on this work as I've observed it... Tell me if I'm capturing this right. There's a very mathematical orientation to capability fit this strategy. That's what they created then, and that's very cool because no other part of the business has done that. However, I think in most of the engagements or most of the... When I see Omar working with a CMO, I don't get a sense they even hardly get to fit. They never get past mission.

RM: That's a great point.

GS: Is that true?

RM: Right now we have five active. I'm involved with five clients. We do get to fit.

GS: Okay. Okay, good, good. Thank you. We put a lot of time to get that right, but yeah.

RM: But let me rephrase it. You nailed it. Often, this is the statement that's opening. We have a mission. I think we have a fit problem. We do the assessment. We find out, well, you're right about the fit problem, but you actually have a mission problem.

GS: We've measured them, by the way.

RM: You have a mission problem.

GS: How does it pop up? I mean, listen, we're obviously not going to talk about companies here, but in the abstract, how does mission... What happens?

RM: We try to ask, is there a mission that's present? Is it one you're engaged in? Is it one you're excited about? Is it one that you understand? And what we consistently find... We often find one, often there is a mission present, but the engagement in the mission is low. We also have some clients where there is no mission present or then we ask the question, articulate the mission to us. We'll have somewhere there'll be, let's call it 60 percent of the people that were surveyed will say there's a mission present. You ask what's in the mission, we word cloud it, there's a thousand different things. So there's no consistent mission present. Not one that they really at all could play back. So most companies do have a marketing mission problem. And then we work with them to help them articulate what's already present in the DNA? Where is there some naturally occurring themes?

And then we start to formulate a mission. But it's based on the bigger question, which is where in the value equation are you? Are you that exchange company? Are you that engagement company? Are you that experience company? What is it? And then articulate in the mission in a way that's really unique. Whatever you are, how is it that you uniquely create experience? How is it that you're going to uniquely deliver on engagement? And so that's how we get at it. And then from there, I tell you, the dominoes fall a lot easier on capability fit. If you can do that—

GS: When you get them aligned on mission. Yeah. No, I've heard that again and again from the CMOs that I've watched walk through the process or spoken at our conferences or in board meetings. It seems so clear. And some of the problems of mission are like... I think you've found, at least what I think I've heard, and you should clarify because you've been closer to some of the engagement. But it's like there could be completely different orientations to what marketing is in different regions. What's really weird about that, I think in the example I'm thinking of, is then what the core damn business is about. So run out of America, but the regions are off doing a whole different thing, not really respecting. And that was a brand issue. People didn't get the orientation to brand and the importance of that, and yet that was the core strategy of that company and was always going to be the core strategy of that company, I think, if I remember right.

RM: This happens a lot. Very, very often companies have more of a "traditional." The center does certain things and the field does different things. And the field could be cities around the US or countries around the world.

GS: There could be some reason for doing that, but there needs to be a conscious decision. This was not that. This was just like it had grown that way.

RM: And by the way, not only there probably needs to be a reason for that, the key is coordinating the efforts and often they're not coordinated at all. And so there's no reason that the core mission of the company's marketing discipline at large should be able to be stated in a way that no matter where you sit in the world, you can see yourself in it. It was something we worked really hard on at Coke was to articulate ours in a way that no matter where you sat, you understood. And it's really a powerful place to work once you can get at that.

GS: So Coke had gotten it right. I mean, I guess so. Of course. Omar was there, right? So of course.

RM: Yeah. Omar and I were actually leading the charge on this. There was another... He's now the CEO at Danone. Another guy who worked very closely with me. It was Marc Mathieu's era. So Marc was there as well.

GS: Oh yeah, another great marketer.

RM: Amazing marketer. His intuition is unbelievable.

GS: Amazing. Oh my god.

RM: Unbelievable.

GS: Unbelievable. He's one of the very few that gets to totally rely on intuition. I mean he's still data oriented, but he doesn't need no damn data. He's that good. He's very rare. Unbelievable.

RM: Unbelievable. I used to always say it, two minutes with Marc and I could go create gold. But it was that clarity that... At that time we had almost 3,000 marketers at Coke. I mean, we created a model that enabled every single person, no matter where they sit: big country, small country, developing market, developed market, heavy on the still side of the business, or the CSD side. It didn't matter what side of the business you were on, everybody understood the value marketing created and where they fit in. And that's available to every company. It just takes the CMO's mindset of really wanting to go and do that.

GS: Hey, didn't you have another mission statement, a mission work and stuff, a company in the West Coast. And the issue there was that the marketers ultimately... What was the dynamic? They didn't feel empowered to really lead or make decisions. Do you know which one I'm referring to?

RM: That one was a really interesting one because they were... Today we don't often have a lot of... I would say maybe 40 percent of the companies we deal with don't have direct revenue responsibility. This company was delivering a very large part of the company's revenue. This is a very big company. But what was interesting is when we did the survey and did a lot of interviews, what we saw was that thing that most people clamor for and wish they could be a part of was actually proving to be a bit of a burden for them. A burden because they were valued for the revenue they deliver, but not for the insights they had, not for the bigger role they could play in marketing. They were sitting on some of the most important insights that could actually create even more value if only they could bring them to bear with the product team and with other teams. And so that was a big piece of it. And they were a little bit order taking versus on a front foot.

GS: That's what I heard. Right. Yes. They would get a request to execute a marketing plan and they would do it successfully.

RM: They would do it, and they would deliver the revenue promised and everything.

GS: But it missed the leadership component of that.

RM: You got it.

GS: Wasn't part of the conclusion that you all and the CMO got to on that one was that there was a phrase... Maybe I'm going to give this away so I don't know if I should say it, but there was—

RM: #Lead?

GS: Well, yeah, it was like lead. Yeah. #Lead. Yeah.

RM: Yeah. They started signing internally all whatever they were working on, it kind of became a rallying cry of #Lead. Which was just the simple reminder that actually if you bring insight and if you bring value, people will follow versus you don't have to be in the order-taking seat. They were sitting on a gold mine. They had delivered and demonstrated their value over and over again on the revenue role, but they knew in their heart of hearts they were leaving value on the table. And so through the data-driven approach, we could show all the revenue-driving activities they were doing a really good job on, but yet the fit said the business needed more insights. This team had access to it but was never asked to use the lever. It was just white space. That was a really eye-opening one in from-to's of really helping them. It was revenue as an outcome to almost insight and insight as a core input and value as an outcome. And revenue was in there, of course.

GS: Rebecca, this is all very interesting. Because we started with the semi dismissive like, oh, is this just a unique snowflake. Which I think marketing does sometimes. I think we do like, "Oh, only we get it. Only we know. There's no structure to what we do." We all think we're Marc Mathieu and we're not. It just is what it is. But what you're talking about here is a real structure around how decisions get made, how you process through, how you measure your alignment to what it is based on proven models come before. And I suspect over time, knowing Dr. Omar and Neil and the rest of the group, that we will continue to improve upon those things. I think what you were really saying... And it's something I use when I talk sometimes about the job I have. I think that, sure, there's structure, there's rules, there's dynamics, but it is different for the situation.

I'm constantly having to improve my game. And in fact, I said to somebody about a year or so ago, I said, "I think my job ..." And I'm a CEO of a very small company, so just let's keep that in perspective. I know where I sit in the world. But I think I like what I do because for me, it's my game of golf. It's like you constantly need to reassess how did I hit the last hole? How do I hit this one? Because now the terrain's different. The trajectory's different. But it's still the same basic principles. And I think that's really what you were saying. You were saying marketing should be like golf. What are we doing to never be perfect, but to try to be a little bit better on every hole versus what we played this year or last season or whenever. And then my body changes. Everything. It's all different for every time. That's kind of what you were saying, I think. Right?

RM: That's a very good analogy. I don't play golf.

GS: Me neither, really, because I have my work, but yeah.

RM: Well, I really don't. But that's a great analogy. Yeah. The fundamentals of golf sound like they're seemingly the same to me. But to your point, the conditions every single time, I would imagine every single thing, every action you take is something... Wind and terrain and how you're feeling that day. And so I think we can all talk ourselves into anything we want most of the time. We could talk ourselves into why we're so unique. This is about actually going this function, this area... Whenever somebody asks you, "Should I go into marketing?" Your answer should be, "Do you like change?"

Right? Because if you like change, this is the discipline to sign up for. And that's what makes it interesting is you're never done. You're absolutely never done. Just when you think you figured it out, you won't. I mean, I was the worldwide media manager at the Coca-Cola Company in the late '90s. I would be the worst person for that job today. Despite all the things I've done, that function has moved on so much. And that's humbling. It's humbling to be a part of something that in a 30-year span you don't grow up necessarily and get better at all aspects of this.

GS: I don't know that anybody here is asking you and I for career advice, however we'll give it anyway. Which is really, there's only three areas you want to work in today. Energy is one of them. Health care is the other one. And I think anything connected to... I don't know if it's just digital marketing. Feels a little simple. I'm lowering the whole thing. But anything connected around what's happening around the internet and being connected as humans are, which has been the backbone of the change that we've been a part of. And what's funny about some of this, I used to say to people, "Listen, I'm not so sure that advertising is a noble business." I'll acknowledge that. That's fine. It doesn't matter. At the end of the day, it can be good for businesses and that's the valuable thing. But we are the engine that is bringing content, commerce, community to every part of the world. It's crazy, especially the history that you and I would have. I would've been doing this back in the dawn of the internet when only rich people with PCs could have access. That was the dynamics of that. And then mobile gave it to billions. Billions. Everybody. Billions of people are connected. Like crazy, crazy.

RM: But to think that even there, not everybody's connected.

GS: Very limited, but still, you're right. We're still not 100 percent there. Exactly.

RM: I would argue, too, I think sustainability is another very interesting one. It's a part of everything you just said. It also is a big part of marketing. I've always been fascinated with things that help me navigate the world a little bit and I think marketing plays a big role in helping you navigate the world. It really does. Do I think all of the aspects—

GS: And its base is about making my life easier. Go to a country where you don't speak the language and you can't read the signs and try to buy something.

RM: That's me right now.

GS: It's a colossal—

RM: In Amsterdam every day. I take a kid with me.

GS: And say, what is this and what is it? But even the kid, though, if she or he doesn't have the brand background to things or have heard the advertising, you don't know what you're trying to buy or if that product's going to take care of what you're really looking to accomplish.

RM: Oh yeah, I've bought a lot of wrong things. We've had a lot of lactose-free things in this house we didn't need. I've done a lot of things that just are wrong.

GS: Oh, you're just talking about simple label reading then. Yeah.

RM: Yeah. But it's humbling. That's what is so exciting about this. And I think I've been fortunate that to get involved in this kind of work, this is a frontier that hasn't been over measured. We have measured everything. When you think about the change in measurement and what we used to be able to measure versus what we can measure today, but this is still an area where, let's face it, relationships still come into play. Intuition plays a big role and when all else fails, it's often right. And networking, we've been able to put some fact to it. And I think that's been really helpful and is to just put some teeth on this and to put some fact around it. And then I'm kind of interested lately in how we're seeing some full circle stuff. I don't know if you remember even, Greg, three to five years ago, the debate on performance versus brand. Product versus brand.

GS: Oh yeah. We're still deep in that.

RM: We're still deep in it, but yet I do think I'm seeing a softening on the two edges.

GS: Yeah. Okay. Okay. In what way? What do you mean? Yeah.

RM: Well, I'm seeing a softening. I think if you chose to approach that by taking a side, which I didn't, but I was always in companies that required I didn't take a side. If you so chose to take a side, I'm seeing less of the side taking. And now what I'm seeing is more of folks trying to lean in and understand true full funnel, really starting to believe that each one is better with the other one. A performance-marketing-heavy company that really does lean in on brand, as you could talk about all day, really we do know creates more value. The reverse is also true. If you're going to be a company that's going to lean in heavy on performance, and really it cuts both ways. But what I would say there is the marketing is always... By the way, I hear insource, outsource, center field, centers of excellence, no centers. I mean it's endless. Endless. And I think because you and I are—

GS: Yeah, endless. Oh my god.

RM: You have a few more years on us than maybe some of the listeners. I think in the way things start to come back to an equilibrium. And I think on a couple of these areas, I'm starting to see more of that equilibrium of we actually need both. To the degree you need it goes into your capability fit. And that's a healthy place.

GS: It did feel a little bit like a war was going on. Yeah. Exactly.

RM: And you had to choose.

GS: There were battle lines being drawn around performance. Yeah. Exactly. No, I think you're right. The world's more complicated than that.

RM: And even brand versus product. I see product-led companies all the time, and I think they're amazing. I don't think every company has to be the Coca-Cola Company's approach to brand building. I think that's a little bit of the model, too. In an engagement model, that's kind of what you signed up for, but an experience or an exchange, very often product is the brand. So I think we're softening on that. But there will be more debates. They will emerge.

GS: Yes. Part of the reason why you and I are advocating people get into marketing because it's always constantly changing.

RM: That's right. Don't you have a daughter that's getting into this?

GS: Yeah, I do. Actually, my daughter just got a job at NBCU. I'm very excited for her. I wasn't really pushing her to get into marketing media, but she decided to do it so good for her. Yeah. She's very excited. Yes. They're doing a good job over there. And obviously Linda built a great organization, no question. And Mark now will take that over and run it further.

Hey, Rebecca, let's change degrees here for a moment. Let's talk a little bit about... We've talked a lot about trying to be successful within marketing, but let's just talk about being successful through marketing and business and so on, and what it takes to get to the upper echelons. And without a doubt, not only... I mean, your perspective is particularly interesting, right? Because Coke was a phenomenally... There was a bevy of talent within that organization as we talked about. It's really some of the most famous people in our business still. And then you're on to C-suite in Beam Suntory. You move over to Uber. Totally different kind of business, different culture, different part of the country, just everything different and different marketing capability, strategy we talked about. And now you sit within McKinsey as an advisor to a series of clients so you've got other digital. Just talk to the listener a bit about what it took for you to really get to the top of the biggest, most successful or some of the best luxury brands out there. What was that? And then just talk about that a little bit. Then I'm probably going to get into what's it mean to stay in those roles? Because that's hard, too.

RM: Yeah. This is not true any longer. I think one of the things I started my career in the early '90s. I think many people who start a career would say, I'm not going to a company for 30 years. I would've in my life thought I was there for that long. I was at Coke for 22.

GS: Yeah, there go.

RM: And the reasons I stayed—I think were very good ones and same ones I would give people today—are my experiences were different and diverse. I lived on four continents. I got to see marketing from all different angles. From the field, from the center, from a region, from stills to our biggest brands, to our smallest brands. I got to work across many disciplines. So that's a reason to, I think, stay somewhere for a long time. But I know that it's not what most people aspire to today. But I think getting to the top of that company and doing the roles that I ultimately did, I think came apart from doing many roles and from doing many roles that were often white space roles. Roles that nobody had before me. And that was really excellent because I've carried that principle of find the white space. Don't worry about the job description. If you see there's value to be created, chase the value. And that's really served me well. Leaving after you've been somewhere for as long as I was and you come in at the top. It's entirely different than growing up somewhere. So I got to see what it feels like to come in. Boom. A lot of these people have grown up here and here you are. I'm now that person that I used to see come into Coke sometimes.

GS: Got it. Okay.

RM: And there I had some hits and misses. I had an incredible boss at Beam, and he was excellent at, "Hey, everyone here thinks you're holding them up to the Coke standard. Hey, you're telling too many stories that are like this." And then you start to see, and I really appreciated. I'm so glad I had to go hone my narrative and figure out who I was without this thing I knew so well called the Coca-Cola Company and to really learn how to operate in an entirely vertically integrated system, which was amazing. Had RD in that remit. And so again, it was so helpful for me to have a true end-to-end remit. That's rare for a marketer. From innovation, product creation, commercialization, all the way. It was incredible. Japanese ownership, all the fun stuff. And then of course, two and a half, three years later to get the phone call from Uber at such an interesting time in that company's trajectory.

GS: Oh my god. You had to say yes to that.

RM: Well, it was funny because initially I didn't even return the phone call the first time.

GS: Oh, really?

RM: No. And I was out for a walk a month later with a friend, and she's like, "What's going on?" I'm like, "Oh, I'm loving my job. I got this call from Uber." And she's like, "And?" I'm like, "I didn't call them back." She's like, "Seriously? You didn't call them back?" And I said, "No, I didn't call them back." And she's like—

GS: Why did call them back?

RM: Why didn't I call them back? Because it was right when Dara had just come in. He's been in like two, three months. And at this point it's still like "Delete Uber."

GS: There's a lot of negativity at that time because of Travis.

RM: Yeah. And I think you know me well enough, the listeners don't have a clue, but I'm not that person. I'm not—

GS: You're not a go to war person.

RM: No, no, no. I was like, I lead different. And I saw some early signs that Dara really wanted to build a different leadership team. And so my friend's like, "I think you should return the call and just maybe talk to them." So slowly through 2018, we had many, many, many, many conversations. And as I got to know the company, I saw that indeed they were fundamentally trying to change that narrative and take that next step to this grownup moment for the company, if you would. And there, you know what you're walking into. You know you're walking into... It's a high-growth environment. It's a high-pressure environment. And I would do it again. I left after a year, but I would do it again. It was that meaningful. The people I was able to impact, the changes I was able to make or at least get started.

But I think in all three instances, we did the MarCaps work in all of them. In every one of them I was able to start with a mission, the clarity of the capability map and all of that. And I would do that all again. I think sometimes we hold the expectations that... I always tell people I would go to Uber again and I would go to Australia again. And what does that mean? I took a one-year assignment to go with Coke and live in Australia, and I knew it was a one year end-to-end fixed. And they were two of the best years of my life. So I think sometimes people are afraid of things.

GS: Wait, so the one year job turned into two years, just to be clear.

RM: Yeah. But as long as you go in to create value. I think sometimes we think we have to sign up for these five years and we joke about the CMO tenure and all of that, and I don't think every job requires you to be in a three to five years. There can be new value to be created. There can be a lot of reasons. But again, it goes back to moments in time. As Uber's coming out of its IPO, the landscape is shifting. It's time to really rethink things. A lot of the job in marketing that I came in to do, they were rethinking whether it was still the way they wanted to point the value. That's fair. And I think having that ability to have that mature conversation of is this the right place for me to bring my skills in this moment? It's kind of like the golf game, right? It's a windy day.

GS: What advice would you have for people, Rebecca, having been through that now, having been through a couple of different companies, like you said, come in at different places in different ways, different industries? What advice do you have for people now?

RM: One, there's risks. There's risks in staying and there's risks in going. So who knows, right? But my advice is go in with the right mindset of creating value, not being the hero. And they're different.

GS: Oh, that's interesting.

RM: And I sometimes think I see it a lot. Phone calls come, they need a transformation. They need a change agent.

GS: Oh my god. Which is always a lie. By the way, that's a lie. Nobody ever really wants transformation or change. It's just a lie. You need to assess how far they really think that is and what their limitations are.

RM: Right. Because as soon as you start to push the knob, I see this a lot with my clients—

GS: Nobody wants it.

RM: Right. And then you went from hero to zero, right? And so I think you've got to really get clear on am I the right person for what they're saying they need? And it becomes like, what does it need now? Not what did I read in the paper, not what do I think. Right now. And I feel good when I look back on my career. I saw why I was the right person for the job in that environment at that time. And I would say to anyone, that's what's really important is does it feel right? Does it feel like a place you can bring value? Does it feel like you can push the boundaries? And I have been one that took a lot of risks. I put my family through a lot of change. I moved them around. That's not for everyone.

GS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

RM: That's not for everyone.

GS: What does it mean to create value? Talk one more step. And listen, you don't have to name the individual companies, but maybe if you can give examples on how you think about that. It feels like it should be obvious, but it's not obvious, is it?

RM: It isn't. But that's the beauty of it is I could create value with it. Think about these multi-stakeholder businesses. Sometimes it's going to be creating value with our stakeholders, in which case consumers can be our stakeholders, but they're one of many. It could be creating brand value that's going to pay out over a very long time. You might not even see all the value you're going to create in that way. It can be value for people. It can be value for employees. By the way, I've always thought the environment was a stakeholder. Creating value for the environment, creating value for the communities we live in. And I just think the word is a little bit more meaningful for me than just growth. Growth is value, certainly, but it can maybe destroy long-term value in the pursuit of short-term value. So I just think if you put your vector in that direction and articulate it in a multifaceted way, you can help the business see. I used to love the way Coke did this incredibly well. It was a really good friend of mine, Scott McCune. The way any of our really, really big partnerships—FIFA, the Olympics—it was one-eighth of the equation was the financial value that we could create. It was do we leave the cities better that we worked in? That was a really powerful lesson in terms of what you can create in these kinds of roles.

GS: What does value creation have to do with having alignment to those who are already there? Isn't that sense of... I mean, I think we broadly call that politics, but we get misaligned about how we're trying to... I don't know. I don't know. I don't want to define it for you. What do you think goes wrong? Where does it not work?

RM: Because everyone is looking for something different, I think one of the things that I've always tried to do is what is valuable to them? Everyone wants to create value. I've actually found that to be the most common galvanizing feature.

GS: Okay. Everybody's aligned.

RM: But if we don't align, if I'm there and I'm like, you're going to help me create value for this function, that never works. It's what is it that we both need here? And the more we have those conversations and that's that integrate. Not everyone's here to deliver your value equation. And I think that's a hard piece of marketing today because it sometimes requires so many dots to be connected. And again, they don't often work for you. So the easy way is not because I said. And so I think that it's fatiguing by the way, too. Connecting the dots can be fatiguing. Omar always taught me the thing, and I think he's really right. Talk about a guy who used to work for me, but really I think I've always worked for him because I learned more from him than the reverse could ever be true.

GS: He's pretty damn smart. He really is.

RM: He's amazing.

GS: It's crazy. Yeah. Go ahead.

RM: He's amazing. Not everything has to be collaborative. Just be clear when it can't be.

GS: Oh.

RM: Just be clear when it can't be. Because we pretend like... Let's take something easy where everybody loves to collaborate. Creative. Sometimes collaborating on creative is the recipe for the worst creative ever.

GS: Correct. Correct.

RM: So let's just be clear, and let's just state it that this is not going to be collaborative. Here are the two moments you're going to get input and that's it and no mas. But instead we pretend that it's going to be highly collaborative. And then along the way, all we do is disappoint you with our lack of collaboration and the creative that you don't like.

GS: It's funny, I had a coach actually point out to me one time. The trick he taught me was really good to say, "Listen, I'd like to hear your opinion. I mean, I understand I need to make the decision here, but I'd like to hear your opinion." So what you're doing is you're creating a collaboration, but you're telling them at the end of the day that it's my decision. I'm the one empowered and forced to make that, and I will make that decision. I have found that to be really kind of good sometimes with people, especially you're—

RM: I think it's an incredible principal.

GS: Especially when you're a C-suite executive. At some point somebody's got to make a damn decision and we got to move on the next. Exactly.

RM: Right. So telling people when it is or isn't. But stringing them along as if this is always going to be collaborative and co-created isn't right either. But there are moments when it is necessarily so. I sometimes say to people, it's going to maybe feel like it's slowing you down in the beginning, but you're going to go so much faster and so much farther. It's that old proverb, right?

GS: Sometimes you need a little break. Listen, you have brakes on a Formula One car so you can go faster. It's the quality of brakes on Formula One that allows them to go as fast as they do. And some people forget that brakes are what matter.

RM: Oh, I didn't know you were a Formula One fan.

GS: I'm not, but I hang out with Lou Paskalis too much and he tells me everything. But I got that. Yeah, he loves it. Okay. Listen, we're going to wrap up with a couple of lightning questions. There's going to be caveats on yours. Okay. The question I'm going to ask you is who else in marketing, person or company, do you really admire today? Okay. But by the way, you can't pick Coke. You can't pick Uber. You can't pick the Beam Suntory. I'm trying to think who else you can't pick. You can't pick McKinsey. So what person, company do you think is just doing a kick-ass job today?

RM: I'll say a couple of my clients actually, that I can name. I think Kellyn's doing a killer job in a very complex environment.

GS: Oh my god. That work that she presented at the CEO/CMO Summit about how she crafted that brand and the... I—

RM: But all three things were true. She inspired.

GS: Unbelievable. Yes.

RM: She innovated in the approach and she integrated.

GS: Oh my god.

RM: And I love what she's doing.

GS: Oh my god.

RM: So I think she's doing a very, very good... And I think there's a classic example of where the value will be short and long term.

GS: Oh my god. Listen, we've all done brand exercises. I've never really heard it like that at that scale.

RM: So I think that's a person that I think is killing it. She's very impressive. Another marketer who I think is incredible, and I think she's really helped turn the company around is Nikki Neuburger at Lululemon. She worked for me at Uber. Unbelievable talent. She was running marketing for Uber Eats. Incredible talent. Just incredible. But just think about what they've done. I experienced the brand a lot. The way they've become more inclusive, the way they use community, the role of product, how they're not afraid. The work they did on the dupes. And you could bring your dupes in and we'll give you a pair of our... I mean, brilliant. Very proud and confident of the quality of their product at standup. So Nikki is just one to watch. She's exceptional, but I think she's done really good work expanding that brand and around the world, getting into men, getting into footwear, everything.

GS: Wow. Okay. So obviously two next questions. First, what's most overhyped in marketing and then followed by what's most under hyped or most underappreciated. But what's most overhyped right now in marketing today? What do you think we're just all wrought up against and like, oh my god, let it go people?

RM: I hate the word hyped only... So I hate not answering your question the way you asked it. I think AI is most overhyped and most under hyped. I think it's going to change everything.

GS: Same thing. Okay.

RM: I think it's going to change everything. I do. But hype because as a result, we become an echo chamber just talking about that. Again, I think it's an opportunity to say, if not this, then what? There will be another thing. Just like 20 years ago when you started the MMA, mobile was everything.

GS: Yeah. Mobile was everything.

RM: It was everything. It still is everything. It's changed every one of our lives.

GS: It's still everything. It doesn't matter as much anymore. Right. Exactly. I totally agree.

RM: But if we've learned anything from that, we will learn how to integrate it. We will learn how to work with it. It will find its incredible place in our lives, and it will be onto a new thing. And I think that perspective, just having now lived through a couple of these, you go, we would do ourselves all a big favor by just allowing ourselves to think that we've been through huge change before. We've seen it. In most instances, it's made us better.

GS: There's risk with AI. There's funny things there.

RM: There's risk. Exactly.

GS: I think you're right. I had an interesting conversation amongst a few of the board members the other day, and somebody's pointed out, they go, "It's cool." Of course, we all like ChatGPT right now, and the excitement around some of that and generative AI, we're all just gaga with. I forget how they said it, but they go... They were kind of saying a variation of, I don't know what the killer app is. That's not the words they used, but that's what they meant. And so here's what's interesting. I think that's true. If you look back on history, the iPhone was introduced in 2007. That's when Apple released the first iPhone. Uber didn't exist on that first phone. In fact, Apple didn't even know that apps were going to be the thesis of the whole damn phone. They didn't know they were going to stop us from making phone calls someday. Nobody makes phone calls anymore at all. I don't know when Travis started Uber. I know the story of how he started. I don't know the actual year he started. But it was a couple years in that cycle. So my take on AI is that it might be being built, I don't know, but we haven't seen the killer app yet.

RM: Yep. It's very well said.

GS: We haven't seen the thing that's going to transform it all. And that to me is very exciting.

RM: It is exciting. And that's one of the things I love about this, but I think the word hype is actually well chosen because hype means we make so much of it that all it can do is disappoint.

GS: Right.

RM: I don't think it's going to disappoint. I think it's going to delight us.

GS: Same as Uber did and changed all of our expectations.

RM: But I don't think it means we have to stop doing everything else.

GS: Yeah. Well, yeah, yeah, yeah. Let's go back to some of the fundamentals, that are a part of our conversation. Let's make sure we get the pieces in place and the foundation.

Rebecca, listen, I can't tell you how much I enjoy working with you. You've been on the board for some number of years. I really appreciate the work that you and MarCaps are doing. I think it's instrumental. I've often said, I think the work in MarCaps, the work around... Its MMA's marketing org structure. We call it MOSTT, it's our thinktank. But MarCaps is the actual company that Omar and team have now founded to perform the service and continue to develop research out of. I do believe it's the most important work I will see in my entire career in marketing. I think there's nothing more relevant or exciting or fundamental than that, and I just wish we could do all we could to really help marketers get there faster because I think we'll see such a transformation in the business of marketing if we can all get there. But it takes time.

RM: Well, you and the MMA have been amazing. I feel fortunate that I now get to partner with these guys and help run these engagements and advance the work. But the pleasure of it is marketing's a people function. That is our greatest asset. And I'm just happy that it's something that focuses on that, and it's available to everyone. So thanks for your support of it and always your support of me as well.

GS: Oh my god, so much fun. Thank you for doing this today. I appreciate it.

RM: You're welcome.

GS: Thanks again to Rebecca Messina for coming on Building Better CMOs. Check the description of this episode for links to connect with Rebecca. And if you want to know more about MMA's work to unlock the power of marketing, visit Or, you can attend any one of our 30 conferences in 15 countries where MMA operates, or really, write me,

Thank you so much for listening. Tap the link in the show notes to leave us a review. And if you're new to the show, please follow or subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeart, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find links to all those places and more at Our producer and podcast consultant is Eric Johnson from Artwork is by Jason Chase, and a very special thanks to Lacera Smith. This is Greg Stuart. I'll see you again in two weeks.

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