We are undoubtedly living through a turbulent and pivotal time, and every industry is feeling the impact. That’s why we’re bringing together top marketing and retail executives and academics for two days of peer-to-peer learning, collaboration, and networking. Kicking off the Transformational CMO & Retail Virtual Assembly with a keynote address is Jon Iwata, Former IBM SVP & Chief Brand Officer and Fellow at Yale School of Management.
Jon Iwata is Executive Fellow at Yale School of Management, an appointment he received upon his retirement from IBM in 2018, capping a 35-year career with the company. As IBM Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Jon led the company’s global marketing, communications and corporate citizenship organization for a decade. He was chairman of IBM’s corporate strategy committee for three years.
We’re looking forward to hearing Jon Iwata deliver his keynote on the long-term implications of COVID-19 at this week’s event. In the meantime, we asked him some questions to get a better idea of what to expect. See the full Q&A below!
Q: We are so excited to have you join us this month as our Virtual Assembly Keynote Speaker. Can you give us a preview of your message?
Jon Iwata: It’s tricky, perhaps futile, to try to predict the long-term implications of 2020, but I’m going to take a shot at it. I’ll describe three shifts that business leaders, and particularly Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Communications Officers, should think about. I’ll say in advance that none of them are revelations. They were set into motion before 2020, but the events of this unforgettable year have intensified them.
Q: Purpose-driven marketing has never been more critical to brands’ messaging than it is now. What advice do you have for today’s marketing leaders in light of this?
Jon Iwata: Make your purpose more than a “We’re the company that is making the world _______” statement. Create something more substantive than an “anthem” video that stirs emotions. Do more than storytelling. Advance more than your ‘narrative.’ A company’s purpose is its raison d’être, so get into the hard stuff. Play a role in ensuring that your offerings, operations, culture, policies, governance — all of it is in service of your stated purpose. That will require you to engage leaders across the company. Get really good at that. Be the Chief Collaboration Officer.
Q: You’ve been doing a lot of talks at universities, especially in your current position as Fellow of Yale School of Management. What have you found to be the biggest challenges for marketing executives during this time?
Jon Iwata: Re-inventing themselves fast enough. The profession of marketing and the CMO role are changing so quickly as to be almost unrecognizable. We have to embrace data and digital (which are not the same things, by the way), drive customer-centricity, train our teams to be agile, invest in the new stuff while extracting greater ROI from everything, help the company grow and be true to its purpose. Meanwhile, the CEO is stamping out new CXO roles left and right: Chief Commercial Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Experience Officer, etc. But I’m optimistic. I think this is an ideal time for marketing and communications leaders who revere the fundamentals while embracing the ‘new’ with speed and determination.