CMO Insights: Leading a Culture of Change

an interview with
Elisa Romm EVP B2B Marketing, MasterCard

Today at The CMO Club Summit, I had the honor of moderating a panel called Leading a Culture of Change as Growth CMOs with an all star team of marketers including Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO, Mary Kay Cosmetics, John Costello, President, Global Marketing and Innovation, Dunkin’ Brands and Elisa Romm, EVP B2B Marketing, MasterCard.  Knowing that we’d only scratch the surface in the time allotted, this is the first of my interviews with the panelists.

Here Elisa Romm shares the fundamental culture transformation required when MasterCard went public in 2006, the challenges of a ‘change agenda’ and how such initiatives can and should be measured. For me, the “Priceless” moment of this interview comes near the end when Elisa espouses “show don’t tell” as a means of driving change. By way of example, Elisa noted that some members of the MasterCard sales force didn’t fully appreciate the power of the “Priceless Surprises” campaign until they themselves were beneficiaries.  Yet another great reminder of the value of “drinking your own champagne.”

Drew: Can you talk about the realities of leading a “culture of change” and more specifically, can you share a recent challenge that your organization faced and how you went about tackling this challenge.

When MasterCard (MC) went public we shifted from banks as owners to banks as customers. MC needed to sell where we didn’t sell before, we were solely relationship managers. I speak about the broader business, not just marketing, because Marketing must be part of  leading the change. Marketing had to help the rest of the company define product and service differentiation to customers and to consumers. I helped drive this change agenda byworking with our sales teams for our largest customers to drive differentiated communications and then the sales team endorsed the approach, because the metrics proved it worked. From that point, the company bought the approach.

Drew: How have you overcome the naysayers or those resistant to change?

When I first took a role of running the marketing division within MC for our advisory services, I had one of my peers, a non-marketing person, teach me the 4 Ps of Marketing. Three years later, this “peer”  is a general manager for some of our international markets and I run B2B and we have the tightest alignment and relationship to the point that we are together demonstrating my new agenda.  The idea is to find those who are your toughest critic and turn them into advocates. They will then sell your platforms to their peer group. Having my new projects are filtered through this “peer” gives me a gateway to the international markets. Of course the proof is in the results. There must be metrics for success to show that your strategy was correct.

Drew: Is culture change something that is measurable and if so, what are the key metrics for you and your organization?

At MC we measure culture change internally and externally. Internally we run an employee engagement survey every year, with action plans designed to address the culture shift we want. For example, owning decision-making at middle management. We want everyone to feel empowered so we measure how middle managers perceive their ability to make decisions, and then we measure their managers via 360 surveys on how they demonstrate empowering their teams. For external demonstration of change we run customer satisfaction surveys to determine if we’ve progressed on things such as “easier to do business with.” Everyone at the company owns these ratings.

Drew: Given that the MasterCard brand in many ways is in the hands of others, does this have an impact on your approach to driving change?   

Yes, your path to market is through others, who have sometimes similar goals, other times competing goals. It is a balancing act, because you have to influence your distribution network, which we do through our insights, expertise and superior knowledge of the future trends, and you have to have a sound strategy that differentiates you from your competition, otherwise your distribution partners will level the playing field. Priceless is our differentiator, as is our knowledge and innovation.

Drew: For CMOs new to their jobs, when should culture change become a priority?  Is this something to tackle in the first 100 days? 

Culture change is necessary to achieve your marketing goals but absent firing everyone and starting over, there always must be a culture shift, but 100 days is not long enough for the journey. You can identify the changes that need to take place, find folks within that represent the new way of thinking, but moving too fast, you risk leaving too many behind and not having a team to back you up. That said, your leaders/direct reports better be aligned with your vision and sign up to make the culture shift happen.

Drew:  On Tuesday, we’ll have a bunch of ambitious CMOs in the room, please give them 3 key things to think about when approaching change, two that they must do and one that they should avoid if they can.

The Do – Lead by example – the culture change must permeate beyond marketing to the company, but Marketing must demonstrate it first.

The Do – Show Don’t tell – treating the sales team like consumers let them experience priceless surprises and they became advocates instantly. No powerpoint presentation or video could’ve produced that effect.

The Don’t – create a siloed culture for marketing. Marketing must be seen as integral to driving business results and culture clashes are often a reason that marketing isn’t internally perceived as a business driver.

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