Are these the firms you should be working for if you want to be a CMO?

Earlier, Marketing wrote an article on how many senior marketers and chief marketing officers have credited Procter & Gamble for kicking off their foundations in marketing. (Read also: Why P&G produces top marketers: Inside its training strategy)

LinkedIn has recently given us search findings on the companies in Asia Pacific most chief marketing officers have worked at before.

This was done across its network on professionals with the titles “chief marketing officer” or “CMO” for the Asia Pacific region, and the data was compiled on March 2015.

IBM comes in on top with 29 Asia Pacific CMOs hailing from it, and P&G and Unilever second, with 22 CMOs hailing from them. Citi comes in third, with 19 CMOs in APAC hailing from its ranks. See the full list here below.

Interestingly enough, only two agencies were in this list – Ogilvy & Mather and JWT.

Company APAC CMOs
IBM 29
Procter & Gamble 22
Unilever 22
Citi 19
Airtel 17
Standard Chartered Bank 17
Samsung Electronics 16
Microsoft 15
The Coca-Cola Company 14
Ogilvy & Mather Advertising 13
Johnson & Johnson 13
Nestlé S.A. 12
Deloitte 12
Wipro 11
American Express 11
Commonwealth Bank 10
PwC 10
PepsiCo 10
Reliance 9
J. Walter Thompson Worldwide 9
GE 9
Philips 9

We spoke to several of these firms on their marketing grooming strategy, and why they thought they were able to groom so many senior marketers.


Wendy Aitken
Global marketing learning director

Unilever has always grown its own talent – graduates join the business and there is a strong and consistent training programme which teaches young marketers career-long learning on the fundamentals of marketing and how we do marketing at Unilever, using best practice from inside and outside the company. The global programmes also incorporate a number of digital and agency partners, for example a Google Talent Exchange, to help develop and evolve the course. As marketers progress we continue to develop their fundamental marketing expertise, while also focusing on new and emerging skills and other areas, including digital marketing and communications.

We also provide training to our marketers on Unilever’s sustainable living plan, which plays a strong role in attracting and retaining talent. The plan (launched in 2010) decouples growth from our environmental impact, while using growth as an enabler for positive social impact.

For example, marketers working with Dove are not only exposed to the best innovation in the beauty market, they are also helping boost self-esteem. Marketers working on the Lifebuoy brand are not only marketing hand wash, they’re also working on one of the world’s largest hand washing programmes to help save lives.

We have also surveyed our own graduates and we have found that around half of them highlight sustainability as the main reason to join Unilever. Having this sense of purpose in their day-to-day roles increases retention and productivity, as people care about what they are doing and can see the impact they can have on other people’s lives.

In addition to providing access to professional skills training, we encourage our marketers to build experience across the marketing discipline, working across different teams – from consumer insight to business development – and across different categories such as personal care and refreshments in order to progress in their career.

The increase of the use of digital in the workplace has provided new ways of delivering learning. In order to meet the needs of the business, we’re looking at how to make learning more agile and cost-effective, providing a blend of agile learning.

Technology is an enabler of this change which is really exciting and we are embracing this at Unilever.


Jerry Blanton
Global marketing director, Asia and EMEA
Acting regional marketing head

Citi has a two-pronged strategy for finding, managing and developing marketing talent: (1) identifying talent internally and moving them across product and countries and (2) hiring talented marketers from outside the financial services industry to bolster specific areas of need. Successful or promising marketers are rotated into different countries and regional and global roles to broaden their experience as well as to share their expertise across the Citi network.

Citi is a strong training ground for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Citi is a global financial services brand that competes in very competitive markets where the local banks generally have larger presence, budget and share of voice.

To succeed in the way that Citi has in this environment requires innovative marketing approaches and creative uses of alternative media types since expensive mass media such as TV and extensive print is outside of most of our marketing budgets.

Delivering meaningful business results in a constrained environment requires significant creativity, adaptability and deep knowledge of the customer in your respective market. It also requires an understanding of emerging and changing communication/experience channels to reach our customers and prospects in an increasingly fragmented media environment.

Citi relies on a number of measures to gauge marketing effectiveness. NPS, brand preference and business performance are ultimately how our marketers and marketing programmes are measured and evaluated. That said, we believe strongly in a “test and learn” philosophy with regard to new ideas and we commit resources to trying new ideas and approaches that our marketing teams identify as worth exploring.

Irene Ng
Vice-president of marketing, Samsung Electronics, Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Our brand is aligned closely with the quality, design and innovation of our products and services. Over the years, we have successfully increased our brand value through marketing, sponsorship and advertising activities. Our marketing performance has been recognised as among the best-in-class, with Samsung ranked seventh in Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands” 2014.

This marketing excellence has not come about by chance. Samsung has a unique work culture defined by its strengths in quick decision-making and ability to implement a decision, which allows us to adapt to the ever-changing IT trends.

This is possible because we have some of the best people in the world working at Samsung. What’s really important is nurturing them by creating the best working environment and to provide employees with the resources to achieve their full potential.

We give employees the freedom to be creative and to learn new things. We offer optimised career planning, with our marketers having the opportunity for on-the-job rotation to develop their skills across the full range of product marketing, retail marketing and consumer marketing. We also offer structured training courses, both classroom and online, covering areas such as customer service, retail excellence and scenario planning.

We have diverse and global talent in our company – across all ethnicities, genders, languages and regions. Samsung’s strength lies in our marketers across the region collaborating and learning from each other. We strive to gather our brightest minds at global and regional events and training workshops. If they are not able to fly in across the region for these events, we offer online training as an alternative to allow them to connect and share best practices with their counterparts in other parts of the world, such as the US and Europe.

Elizabeth Suwanto
Marketing capability director, ASEAN

For many years, our objective has been to build the world’s most loved brands in ways that fuel the sustainable value growth of our business. This calls for a fusion of marketing art and marketing science, a critical skill of any good marketing leader.

From a talent and development perspective, in addition to the regular conversations with managers, we have disciplined routines to discuss our talents and develop strong talent pipelines. We track talent movements as they take on new challenges outside of their comfort zone (for example, outside of their function or home market) before coming back to be stronger leaders. We also review scope of work to see how to expand or stretch them to continue to learn and grow.

As part of marketing capability, we look at a variety of ways to groom marketers:

  • On-the-job experience: What roles or assignments would be appropriate to help marketers grow? How do we expand their scope so they are able to evolve from managing a brand to a category or a total portfolio?
  • Mentoring/coaching: Apart from their manager, we believe it is important for marketers to identify mentors they can learn from.
  • Training: We have a list of trainings that caters to various learning methods – from e-learning modules and classroom sessions to workshops that combine theory with application. With our concept of “leaders as teachers”, our marketing leads walk the talk in building capability and we ensure it’s embedded as part of what they do.

While we have a framework for growing our talents, there is no one right or correct way. There is a need to balance market needs with talent aspirations, as well as to take into consideration market complexity, talent readiness, etc. The constant engagement with talents is critical, so we understand the situation and context and are able to provide the right and timely response.

To groom marketing leaders, we organise development forums where our marketers experience “a day in the life of a senior marketer”. As they go through various simulation exercises, they will learn their natural strengths and identify potential development areas. This gives great insight into the design of their personal development plan, making it more effective and focused.

Ogilvy & Mather
Alan Couldrey
Chief talent officer, Asia Pacific

Those of us who have been at Ogilvy for any length of time need to be careful not to sound arrogant when we talk about the culture of training and development that we believe makes us different. Hidden in the simple fact that many of Asia’s marketers have spent time at Ogilvy is the fact Ogilvy is constantly changing, always adapting.

Yes, some of the central tenants of David Ogilvy’s approach – that creativity matters above all, that you can be “gentlemanly” (or womanly) and still be professional and successful, that the more you know about who you are communicating to the more effective your work will be – those don’t change.

But anyone joining Ogilvy today would equally be learning about the continuous interactions of social media and the latest ways to work with data, mobile and user experience.

The brand has always come first – David was one of the first to see that and understand its implications. Today, advertising is part of a well-told, well-co-ordinated story that reaches consumers wherever they are, and on their terms. Keeping ahead of those trends is a challenge, and explains why Ogilvy is always on the look out for hires which will feed the process of transformation.

There is no better learning environment than to be on the same team as very bright, very driven, people. We do have formal training that explores the changing nature of the communications profession as we respond to clients’ changing needs.

But managers at Ogilvy learn most from working closely with clients and live business issues. The familiar balance of “heart” and “mind”, of “logic” and “magic”, is as true today with grooming marketers as it has ever been in the agency’s long history. The skills may be changing, but the way to be sure those skills are relevant is to watch how they help solve real brand issues.

Ogilvy’s own internal research shows us, reassuringly, that our most contented professionals are those whose jobs involve the most diverse range of skills and challenges. Our structure is geared towards encouraging cross-fertilisation of learning so that solutions can be found laterally that would simply not be possible otherwise. And, of course, a high level of interconnectedness between teams and across national or discipline borders is essential for that – something that’s hard to replicate.

We have to be brave and open to the fact that not everyone will stay at Ogilvy for as long as we would like – there’s a big world of opportunity out there and markets are competitive. Nevertheless we try to ensure long-term career paths within the Ogilvy group are as challenging and rewarding as possible.

Transfers to other markets and different roles are part of the solution. And it is always very reassuring to see a high level of returnees over time.

We have three levels of training ongoing at any time: at a local level for essential skills such as presentation, client service, creative idea development, research and effectiveness and measurement; then regionally we have two sets of client-related training, one focused on introducing new skills that can help with client brand growth, the second focused on helping our service teams explore and develop their relationship with our own client base; and finally we have WPP and other long-term programmes that concentrate on the development of top potential and senior personnel.

As with all such things, it is the doing and the redoing of training that makes a difference – we are always vigilant to protect our learning time against the pressures of day-to-day business.

[Image from Shutterstock]

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