8 Rockstar CMOs That Understand Engagement

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Previously, we brought you a list of some of our favorite rockstar CMOs that are doing interesting things with content. But that's just one piece of the puzzle. In the days of social media and ever-expanding media options competing for eyeballs, a company’s chief marketing executive could now be the toughest job in the board room.

Let’s face it: companies have lost control of the game. Once upon a time, it was easy to control messaging with print, radio and television ads. But these days, unhappy consumers can ruin a brand’s reputation with unchecked criticism on social media. Anyone with a phone is a potential champion or headache, and it’s up to the CMO to take advantage of the opportunities.

Now the game is more about engagement than messaging. Here are some of our favorite chief marketing officers engaging their brand’s audiences in productive ways.

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Beth Comstock - CMO, GE

Ms. Comstock has a tough job as the CMO of GE because of GE’s vast portfolio of manufactured goods: washing machines, jet engines, nuclear energy things, etc. She comes to GE after moving up through the ranks at NBC Universal, so she was almost certainly the basis for a character on 30 Rock at some point. She has harnessed social media to help with customer service in the appliance division; re-envisioned marketing of big-ticket items by seeing GE as “the iTunes of jet engines;” and has cultivated the philosophy that marketers must be innovators and instigators to get the job done.

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Michael Zuna - CMO, Aflac

Mr. Zuna will forever be known as the executive who axed Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of Aflac’s spokes-duck after Gottfried tweeted jokes about the Japanese tsunami that were not in line with the company’s values. As a result, Zuna will always have the reputation of being capable of making tough choices in real-time situations.

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Beth Hirschhorn - EVP global brand, marketing and communication, MetLife

Ms. Hirschhorn acquired the naming rights for MetLife Stadium, the only NFL stadium with two home teams, the Jets and the Giants, which basically means double the impact of, say, Lucas Oil Stadium, in a much more expensive media market. She has also embraced social media to turn MetLife’s concept of “customer service” into a much more encompassing vision of customer-centricity.

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Nicole Vollebregt - SVP Global Brand Marketing, Adidas

Sure, it’s all about social media, and television ads don’t pack the punch that they used to - unless it’s an ad that transcends the genre to keep people from DVR’ing past it. Those are hard to come by, but that Adidas add of a Chicago grieving for the loss of Derrick Rose? That’s one of those transcendent TV ads, and it was Nichole Vollebregt’s baby.

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Richelle Parham – CMO North America, eBay

Ms. Parham has a tough job communicating with both eBay’s buyers and its sellers, and trying to keep everybody happy. She came to eBay in 2010 from Visa, and she’s probably the reason you keep getting emails from eBay reminding you what’s for sale right now. She’s also been a big advocate for women in the workplace, which Silicon Valley needs more of these days.

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Tami Erwin - VP and CMO, Verizon

Ms. Erwin started at Verizon in 1987 and worked her way up the corporate ladder from the inside by distinguishing herself as a sales leader and a strong executive. In the board room, Ms. Erwin has made her mark by making Verizon the largest single buyer of sports advertising.

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Antonio J. Lucio - Global CMO, Visa

Mr. Lucio came to Visa in 2007 from PepsiCo and speaks fluent English, Spanish and Portuguese. Under Lucio’s leadership, Visa re-entered the Olympics marketing zoo in London after two previous Olympic absences and has otherwise combined local and global strategies to improve the company’s marketing engagement.

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Chris Capossela – CMO, Microsoft

Even with a $1 billion ad budget, it’s tough being the CMO of Microsoft, maker of the world’s second favorite operating system. Mr. Capossela likes to talk about “living and breathing the customer journey,” which can be a tough idea to integrate into a product line like Microsoft’s, given its history of difficulty with the customer journey. Consequently, recent Microsoft campaigns have been laid out more like “chapters,” small marketing doses delivered over time, instead of big, blanket campaigns, like the launch of Windows 7.

Did we miss any favorites? Let us know in the comments.