Reinventing the Leadership Imperative: A Keynote by Alex Craddock of HP

In a world where we have almost unlimited opportunities to connect with consumers, what does it mean to be a leader?

This is the question Alex Craddock, Global Head of Marketing, Personal Systems of HP, asked during his keynote speech at the Future CMO Club Fall Marketing and Mentoring Summit.

“This is an awesome time for our profession, and it will continue to be…if we recognize that opportunities will come intertwined in a bunch of challenges," said Craddock.

As marketing leaders, it is our responsibility then to overcome these challenges and develop brands that will withstand the test of time - to usher in a culture that embraces constant reinvention while anchoring everything we do in purpose, integrity and a focus on creating a positive impact in the lives of the people we serve (our customers, our teams…). According to Craddock, there are four things we must do to embrace this new leadership imperative and transcend the status quo:

1. Reinvent the Role of the Marketing Leader

To say marketing has changed over the years would be an understatement, and today’s marketers may feel more like a general manager than an artisan marketer focused on a sole craft. It’s true, we must be adept at building strategic partnerships, fluent in analytics and technology decks, and never lose sight of the consumer voice. However, the success of today’s marketing leader lies in their ability to expand their horizontal reach, creating an ecosystem of experts that work seamlessly together. At that point, you much choose which areas to personally lead, and which to delegate.

“[We] must be business people first and marketing specialists second. Our ability to demonstrate ROI defines our place at the company’s decision-making table,” said Craddock.

2. Reinvent the Operating Model of Marketing

Today’s consumers are complex. Ease of doing business and a purpose built on collaboration now outweigh the practical aspects of price, location and conditions.

This is an unsettling truth for some brands, but for others, it is the opportunity wrapped in a cloak of challenges. To get to the core of delivering experiences that deliver on equal parts emotional and rational benefits, HP uses the equation of E=I2DEA. (That is, a true Emotional connection with your consumer is achieved when Insight, Innovation, Digital engagement, Experiences and Accountability come together to create something that satisfies real needs in people’s lives).

During the process of creating a product – an experience – for your consumer, think about how the promise of your brand stands out and how you are winning the hearts and brains of your customers.

For HP, this was a humbling process. After doing research, they found that customers loved their computers for studying and working – but that they weren’t the kind of computer people wanted to be seen with. So, the tech team went back to drawing board to create something with the highest standards of functionality that was just as stunning to look at.

“We cannot forget that although the appearances of marketing change daily, the fundamentals of marketing continue to be eternal. The task of winning the consumer over continues to be alchemy - an awesome combination of art and science.”

3. Reinvent the Make-up of our Teams

Today’s great marketers will build the business imperative to make change happen within their own teams.

HP recently put their own house in order, seeking to create a balanced team that represented the communities they were selling to. This meant establishing a 12-month initiative that put women in 50% of their senior marketing positions (60% of purchases are made by women). They took the time to source high level, qualified talent - both internally and externally - that brought a female point of view to their business applications and could help forge the emotional ties with their main customers.

But they didn’t stop there. HP also held their agencies to these same standards, asking them to increase the female representation on the teams that handled their accounts.

“History is knocking at our doors and we can make a big difference in the world if we act quickly. These measures are just and necessary to improve our business, the industry, and our society."

4. Reinvent our Definition of Leadership

And that brings us back to the leader themselves. Craddock boiled it down to two things: perseverance and purpose.

If you are to lead successful, purpose-driven brands, you must first define your own purpose. There is nothing more important in life. Finding a role that aligns your life’s purpose with the purpose of your brand is the only way to lead as a guiding beacon for everyone and everything you touch.

Meanwhile, a leader must also know how to dodge all sorts of challenges, because your perseverance will come to define you as a professional and a person.

“I invite you to take the adventure of finding your purpose and fighting tooth and nail to fulfill it. We are not politicians, economists, or sociologists. Our craft is our canvas. We are blessed in knowing that what we do impacts lives. Each message that we send out reaches thousands or millions of people. Let’s make it count.”