10 lessons I learned about courageous marketing from the Cojones Awards

Cojones-Awards-finalists2This past Saturday at SXSW my agency, nFusion, sponsored the Cojones Awards which recognized bold marketing leaders who had the courage to disrupt the status quo. As chair of the selection committee which included other CMOs and marketing experts, I had the privilege of interviewing sixteen of best and brightest marketing leaders in the world. What they had to say about their roles as marketing change agents was both insightful and inspiring. Here are a some of my favorites:

10 Lessons on Courageous Marketing

  1. “Put people first, because marketing is about improving people’s lives. To create powerful brands, inspirational brands, we need to market in a way that is fundamentally human.” – Marc Mathieu, SVP Global Marketing, Unilever
  2. “Dig deep into what the brand really means. You have to dig beyond that crusty layer of conventional thinking about what your brand stands for today. It’s like an old house that’s painted with wallpaper and paint on top of wallpaper. You have to get all the way into the guts of the thing to make sure you [know your brand].” – Chris Lindner, Brand President, Keds
  3. “You’ve got to be ‘customer in.’ It doesn’t sound like rocket science but it is amazing how many marketing organizations fall in love with what they’re offering or are so influenced by internal forces that they forget that messages have to be customer-centric.” Blair Christie, CMO, Cisco
  4. “Just start: Don’t be paralyzed waiting for the right strategy or the right data.” – Beth Comstock, CMO, GE
  5. “Be open, innovative, technology-forward and inspirational all at the same time. To do one element well will not get the job done; it has to be all of the above.”  – Zita Cassizzi, CDO, TOMS
  6. “Simple is the new hard. Simplify the way you engage, talk, converse with customers. Get them to understand your products and solutions in a simple easy way.” – Karen Quintos, CMO, Dell
  7. “Create C-suite partnerships. It’s critical for the CMO to build a strong partnership with the rest of the C-suite. You have to be tightly aligned across an organization[’s leadership] to create a marketing lead shift that every company needs to drive change.” – Rishi Dave, CMO D&B

    Zita Cassizzi, TOMS; John Ellett, nFusion; Karen Quintos, Dell
  8. “Be resilient. In a corporate environment courage doesn’t happen in a flash — you don’t get approvals in one meeting and then off you go. In a corporate environment you have to be resilient!” – Mark-Hans Richer, CMO, Harley-Davidson
  9. “Come up with radical ideas that drive key company initiatives. Others will be more likely to support trying your ideas if your ideas support a greater [company] initiative.” – Bridget Dolan, VP Interactive Media, Sephora
  10. “Courage means moving forward without all the answers, in the face of disbelief from others, with complete confidence in what is possible.” – Jeff Jones, CMO, Target

We’ve pulled together some key insights on courageous marketing from the Cojones Awards finalists into an ebook. To learn more, download “50 Tips for Modern Marketers.”