The Way Top CMOs Are Overcoming Today’s Challenges | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

The Way Top CMOs Are Overcoming Today’s Challenges


If there's one thing that those of us who have had the privilege to serve alongside the top CMOs and leadership teams know, it is that the best of us consistently find ways to confront disruptive 800-pound gorillas throughout our career journeys – often, together.

Right now, as AI accelerates the pace and force of change, those gorillas are challenging the c-suite more often, requiring the CMO and other Fortune 500 leaders to disrupt themselves and embrace new models together to stay ahead of the market and keep winning.

The good news is that even though market disruptions are much more frequent now – as EY's 2021 Global Board Risk Survey clearly shows – there is a proven "way" for leaders to keep pace, innovate and succeed right now, as well as into the future.

That "way" is a self-disruptive leadership practice more and more brands are adopting to spark the smartest leadership collaborations, hack their own growth, and turn a failing talent model on its head. While business schools have not "labeled" the practice yet, we at Franklyn West call it "ThinkWest," a rapid-growth prototyping offering that embraces qualitative and quantitative research methods to help businesses experiment with speed, uncover blind spots, and identify short and long-term revenue opportunities.

This ThinkWest practice has inspired brave leaders to do everything from moving across the country to strike new growth opportunities to implementing modern trends such as rapid growth hacking. Competition is everywhere and consumer shifts are ever-changing in today's business landscape.

Constant, rapid experimentation is required to learn, iterate quickly, and grow. Sometimes the new opportunities we uncover are easy low hanging fruit areas for the companies to quickly tap into versus some big, behemoth of a new idea. One client cleverly compared ThinkWest to what "agile development" is in product and engineering for business growth hacking.

This initiative was born out of the culmination of successful engagements executed for blue-chip clients like Rakuten International, a Fortune 500 retailer, and a major media and entertainment network. "Our first engagement with Franklyn West empowered everyone on our executive team to participate in structured business prototyping that helped them access their best thinking," said Rakuten International chief operating officer Adrienne Down Coulson. "Working with the Franklyn West team allowed us to pinpoint several compelling innovation and revenue paths, and then focus on two that we could activate and capitalize on quickly."

Today, by helping global brands stay relevant to their customer base (consumers and employees) as well as attracting new customers and talent, they can now see and test what they have right in front of them and then hack that into growth through rapid prototyping and the utilization of what all-stars CMOs have helped us coin "Scalable Expertise on Demand." This allows them to tap into Franklyn West's roster of liquid talent to fill the gaps, rotating in and out new skills as the business requires — a move that allows them to succeed in a growing skills-based and on-demand freelance economy.

In short, the utilization of Scalable Expertise on Demand and liquid talent allows the largest brands in the world to pivot and grow rapidly and train their in-house teams to be the smartest and fastest they can be without the need to bloat hiring. With the rise of on-demand growth needs popping up every day; for example, what does AI mean for my company or how do I build a media network if I'm a brand or retailer? Specialized talent is often needed at a moment's notice.

A Fortune 50 client hired Franklyn West to build an entirely new revenue stream, while upskilling the internal employees as well as hiring and in-housing the whole operation to be self-sustaining. It is now a nine-figure, high-margin, net new revenue stream for the company, that's enabled them to diversify the business and mitigate risk in the competitive retail environment.

Why is this new way so important? Because, as the most recent case studies show, this brave new approach to strategic growth and collaboration is allowing companies to get outside of themselves and scale as they would never have imagined. For example, the hypergrowth we are seeing fuels the retail vertical as companies, some nearly a century old, have turned on multibillion-dollar retail media network opportunities.

In other categories, particularly in media and entertainment, we've seen experts come in quickly to help existing management teams turn on very lucrative and disruptive monetization opportunities that they were literally sitting on inside the company. In other words, very limited investment beyond "seeing the opportunity" was needed to help the companies capitalize on incremental growth and growing without distracting the full-time employees who are focused on their own dedicated remits. This new approach to team building and problem solving IS the future of work. It sets ambitious companies up for success with more speed and flexibility while investing in and maximizing full-time employees' skills.

So, what can you do if you are a brand leader interested in innovating your way into your next era of growth, particularly if you are among the 67 percent of senior leaders that EY discovered have been part of at least one underperforming transformation in the last five years?

Don't go it alone. Talk to experts like us, the all-star CMOs among us, and other great ANA members. Like you, we care deeply about our fellow members and advancing our industry together, so we are all better at what we do and driving our collective growth agendas. In short, be brave. Why? Because we can and will do disruption better together!

With that, I hope you are feeling better-armed and more inspired to build a better future for your company, customers, and the brewing talent pool eager to build portfolio careers of work they are proud of. Want a bit more inspiration? Here are a few recommended reads that have inspired me this week. Give them a look and let's catch up at the next ANA member event.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Ashley Miles is founder and CEO at Franklyn West.