CMO Insights: No One Dies in Marketing

an interview with
Jeffrey Hayzlett Chief Marketing Officer, Kodak

Two days after resigning from his position as Chief Marketing Officer, Jeffrey Hayzlett was still saying “we” when referring to Kodak, a habit I suspect will take some time to break. Speaking with understandable pride after four years of remarkable accomplishments, Jeff answered my questions with an authority that at first left me baffled. Then it hit me. This is not your typical marketing maven. Jeff Hayzlett actually puts the Chief in Chief Marketing Officer.

Instead of talking about ad campaigns, we talked about products and value propositions. Instead of talking ideas, we discussed what a marketing chief needs to do to succeed in a rapidly changing media landscape. Its not that Jeff doesn’t care about ideas, its just that he knows those are by products of performing the CMO job as a true leader, a practice that I have broken down into seven bite-sized morsels for your immediate consumption.

1. Align Goals

Making sure your marketing goals align with the goals of the company seems like a fairly basic place to start but it is amazing how many senior marketers forget this important first step. “A lot of CMOs fail because they forget to get conditions of satisfaction,” offered Hayzlett, who spends a lot of time setting the goals and won’t move forward until he knows what will make his customer (in this case, his boss) happy. Jeff acknowledges that “a lot of CMO’s aren’t even in the C-suite,” which can make nailing down the goals quite a bit tougher.

2. Create Tension

Once your marching orders are clear, Jeff believes the next priority of the CMO is “to create tension in order to encourage more innovative activity.” When reviewing the launch of a new video camera, Jeff created tension “by asking questions no one thought to ask before,” even going so far as to publicly ridicule an alphanumeric product name. “That made some of my people cringe,” acknowledged Hayzlett, whose questions led to a public search for a new name that generated millions of free PR impressions, thousands of entries and one winning name—PlaySport.

3. Act Fast

As we jumped from topic to topic, it was clear to me that Jeff is nothing if not a man of action, and his biggest lament, “wasting time on things that didn’t materialize.” In a period of four years, he was able to launch several successful new products in both B2C and B2B segments, all of which were able to achieve 1st, 2nd or 3rd positions in their respective categories. Jeff noted with glee that 60% of Kodak’s revenue now comes from products that didn’t exist when he started there. When talking about the launch of the naming promotion for Play Sport, Jeff sounded more like the head of racing pit crew, having jumped from concept to execution in two weeks flat!

4. Stretch Budget

It is no secret that Jeff is a huge fan of social media noting that, “It’s a great way to launch a new product and gave us an extreme amount of credibility in the video camera category.” Targeting “every blogger and thought leader,” Hayzlett and his team were able to make Play Sport a strong alternative to category leader Flip without spending a dime on traditional media. As he points out in his new book, The Mirror Test, Hayzlett sees social media as an extraordinary way to connect with consumers and stretch a budget under an umbrella notion he celebrates as OPM, or “Other People’s Money.” Given the low costs, even the smallest businesses can see very tangible returns from social media,” offers Hayzlett.

5. Breakdown Silos

Recalling the extraordinary success that Kodak has had in the ink jet category, Jeff zeros in on how Kodak changed the value proposition in the category, offering reasonably priced ink cartridges to go along with a reasonably priced printer. “When the printing of a recipe is more expensive that the actual ingredients, the consumer knows there is a problem,” noted Hayzlett. Because marketing had a “seat at the table” and participated in the product development process, Hayzlett was able ensure that a strong value proposition was baked into the product, offering a point of difference that made marketing a far simpler task. With the silos broken down, Kodak ink jet printers, according to Hayzlett, “achieved #1 share in some countries.”

6. Take Risks

“No one is going to die in marketing,” offered Hayzlett when discussing the justification for taking risks like playing a video featuring a gray-haired spokesman shouting “booyah” about how Kodak was changing. He went on to note that, “if you want to grow, you’re going to have to take risks. It’s not that Hayzlett is out to offend but as he cautions, “sometimes you don’t know ‘til you try it.” He prescribes “doing it in such a way to minimize the backlash,” and if things don’t work as planned, “its okay to say we screwed up.” Jeff recalls with bravado that his group was fined $500 for not filing a promotional contest in time, a calculated risk that ended up saving his team irreplaceable weeks in program development time.

7. Listen Up

After talking for a good bit, Hayzlett circled back to the importance of listening to the consumer and being “completely transparent.” During his tenure at Kodak, he brought “voice of the customer” to the forefront establishing the position of Chief Listening Officer “to bring scale” to all of Kodak’s social media activities. With a CLO in place, Hayzlett ensured that complaints were heard, questions were answered, comments were responded to and even more PR was generated. “When a consumer tweets ‘they are thinking about buying,’ then we listen and point them in the right direction,” added Hayzlett, whose innovative and authoritative approach to the CMO position at Kodak leaves some pretty big shoes to fill.

Final Note: During his tenure at Kodak, Hayzlett established himself as one of the first “celebrity CMOs,”gaining notoriety on Celebrity Apprentice and extending it with a well publicized book tour. With an army-sized following on Twitter, and a well-established presence in every form of media, I have no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more from Jeff in the near future.

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