How Do CMOs Inspire Genius?

Originally published February 27, 2012.


 CMO Report Cover

Top Chief Marketing Officers continue to generate brilliant, innovative, often magical ideas. What is their secret? What do they do to create a seemingly constant outpouring of ingenious ideas that perpetuate continual success?

Webtrends’ CMO, Hope Frank, was one of 20 top CMOs from influential Bay Area companies, including Wells Fargo, Sybase, EMC, Hitachi, Accenture Technology Labs, Marketo and Fireman’s Fund, who gathered recently at The CMO Club’s dinner in San Francisco where they shared insights from a recently published report titled “Patterns of Marketing Genius” by Taryn Voget, CEO of the Everyday Genius Institute.

Taryn opened the evening by challenging the members of the Club to answer: “How do you dream up wickedly brilliant ideas that get great huge results? What is your process for creating genius?”

She shared examples of other leading CMOs who created smashing campaigns that delivered; for instance, Phil Clement, CMO at Aon who launched an extraordinary and somewhat unexpected sponsorship of the powerhouse Manchester United soccer team, creating global reach and brand buzz for his risk management and insurance company.

In writing the report, Taryn and the Everyday Genius Institute wanted to discover the process of how great marketers get from A to B. The answer is simple: patterned thinking. Five basic patterns emerged as a result of exploring how the top CMO geniuses generated their uber-smart campaigns:

Aim high with unwavering focus. Have a high quality goal with a passion to get there. Use laser-sharp focus — remain ruthless in your attempts to reach your highest dream and always couple efforts with measurable, trackable metrics. Aspire to attain something bigger and better than you already know and use tunnel vision to achieve it. Always tie efforts and tactics back to a business goal – i.e. revenue.

Get personal! Know your customers. Once you know them on an in-depth level (whether through metrics, market research or firsthand experience), use that knowledge as a filter through which to run all of your creative ideas. “Trusting your gut” and “Just knowing what will work” is really just knowledge of the customer combined with a clear set of objectives — and running ideas through both of these filters.

Brilliance in the shower? Yes, this means that brilliance can come anytime and anywhere. Create an environment that allows you to clear your mind from distractions. Thrive in the creative process. The objective is to open up the horizon, not just solve the problem. Notice where your breakthrough moments of “Aha!” happen and foster that environment. Filter new ideas through your original goals.

Politics at Play. Learn to play at politics and be good at it. All the CMOs studied had the ability to finesse their way through others’ motives and solidify their ideas against pushback, while maintaining razor-sharp focus. They also knew how to build internal excitement prior to executing ideas externally.

Step and Repeat. Milk your innovations — replicate your ideas in various market segments. Explore new ways to exercise this success. Make the ideas bigger, expand on themes and create different spokes from the core. Be relentless — and continuously build on proven success.

Extract a few of these ideas and create something truly genius within your own organization. Which of these patterns are you already using? Which could you add to current strategy to generate even greater results?

For the full report, check out to learn how they deconstruct genius behavior and see their full line of titles (new book release coming soon). For information about The CMO Club and how to become a member, please visit