Launching an Organizational Revolution

October 4, 2017

By Kristin Lemkau



When I first became CMO of JPMorgan Chase early in 2014, the best piece of advice I got was to start with the basics. At the time, our marketing was highly fragmented. We had six lines of business within Chase but only two had CMOs. Chase used more than 100 different agencies and had a separate digital agency and traditional agency. We were still spending millions on direct mail and our models said it was working. We were investing in digital, but we had a separate digital marketing group centralized in "corporate," not in the business, that wasn't driving business outcomes.

JPMorgan Chase is a big, complex, matrixed company with three brands and multiple business lines. To change things up, we started with something as unsexy as organizational design. How do you organize a team to set it up for success in a world where the velocity of change is unlike anything we have seen? There were many ways we could organize, but none was perfect. A well-designed organization with the right leadership team can give you scale to focus on your critical priorities instead of being stuck putting out fires and managing your email inbox. If people are aligned around a common brand purpose and are clear on their business outcomes, it shouldn't matter who they report to.

We formed centers of excellence in areas where our scale is an advantage and consistent practices are critical. These included marketing analytics and data science, brand and advertising, communications, sports and entertainment, and digital platforms. We hired CMOs accountable for marketing across six Chase businesses and four J.P. Morgan businesses, each of whom reported to his or her CEO. Marketing was positioned as more than just a staff function and the "support group" and given revenue accountability and a full seat at the table. We also culled our list of creative agency partners from more than 100 down to five or six, and made Droga5 our primary agency. The focus of our digital storefront,, shifted to a customer-centric marketing approach, as opposed to allocations to individual products.

These steps, far from being exhaustive, have led to great rewards so far. As a result of our efforts, we've seen our brand health and reputation soar and enjoyed our best quarter in history in Q2 of this year. Because there is no one right way to organize, we constantly guard against silos and surf. We've also put systems in place as check points to ensure that the tyranny of the urgent doesn't prevent us from being truly strategic and getting the long-term things done.

The process so far has been amazing, exhilarating, sometimes painful, and humbling. Some of the key lessons I've learned are:

  • Be clear about what business outcomes you are driving in your transition to digital.
  • Don't just spend more: that's why CMOs get fired. Only sign up for budget if you can deliver revenue for it.
  • When you feel resistance, teach. Don't storm off because someone isn't in love with your cool idea or doesn't "get it."
  • Get the right measures. Click-through rate isn't a business outcome. It leads you to buy more display and pre-roll, which consumers hate, no matter how good you convince yourself the creative is. Focus on the measure that will drive revenue or customer satisfaction.
  • As a leader, it's more important to be respected than loved. People need tough feedback to get better. You're not there to be liked.


Kristin Lemkau is the CMO at JPMorgan Chase. To learn more about the organizational transformation at the company and other lessons learned along the way, download the ANA CMO Talent Challenge Playbook. The playbook features case studies from more than two dozen CMOs from the ANA Masters Circle who are redefining the rules of what it takes to be a great CMO. Learn more about the ANA Masters Circle.

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