On Tuesday, May 17, the Chief Marketing Officer Institute will reveal the winners of its "CMO of the Year" award for leadership excellence. As we did last year, CMO.com is publishing exclusive interviews with each of the nine finalists, who discussed with the CMO Journal the strategies and tactics they employed to achieve marketing success at their respective organizations.
>> Category: Large Organization
>> Company Description: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is a semiconductor design innovator leading the next era of vivid digital experiences with its ground-breaking AMD Fusion Accelerated Processing Units (APUs). AMD’s graphics and computing technologies power a variety of solutions including PCs, game consoles, and the servers that drive the Internet and businesses.
>> Highlights: Last year was significant for financial, business, product, and technology momentum at AMD. The company finished 2010 in a strong position, poised for an even more successful 2011. The company’s momentum in 2010 was a result of its commitment to its corporate strategy, which included focus, consistent product execution, and a continued transformation into a chip design company. Under Nigel Dessau’s marketing leadership, AMD invested in marketing campaigns to target cloud computing, graphics, client, and server markets where the company determined it could best succeed.
>> The Conversation:
CMOJ: One of the most popular articles in Volume 1 of The CMO Journal was a piece by Cindy Commander on the “Marketing of Marketing” -- essentially about the need for marketers to purposefully communicate the role of marketing internally. You’ve clearly recognized the importance of this concept as well and pursued it through “town hall” meetings open to all company employees and a regular sequence of podcast interviews you’ve conducted with other company leaders. What kind of feedback have you received on those efforts relative to helping employees understand specific company objectives and how marketing plays a role in meeting them?
ND: We receive very positive feedback, but we break it down into three very specific categories: enabling our colleagues to tell the company story and strategy, articulating a clear role for marketing as part of AMD, and improving the communications within marketing. Each is very different, and the tools we use are different.
Every two years we conduct a companywide survey to understand how our employees understand, feel about, and are engaged in our strategy. Two years ago we noticed a disconnect between the senior leadership and some of the director teams that were driving the strategy. Across the leadership team we worked town halls, focus groups, site visits, and one-on-one meetings to bridge that gap. As a team we were proud that two years later -- and during intermediate sampling -- this focus had paid off. Additionally, marketing helped by producing a corporate tagline -- The Future Is Fusion -- that both helped our customers understand our focus and let our employees rally behind it. Our internal communications team is part of the marketing team, and this provided many synergies.
"The Future Is Fusion” was a major change for the marketing team and allowed us to assert a clearer role in the company. Another example was the rebranding of our consumer products under the AMD Vision Technology brand. Marketing took a leadership role both within the company and within the industry to drive towards usage marketing. We built a solid data-based strategy and then sold this across the company. Moreover, bringing consistency to this strategy for more than two years has also been key. If CMOs want a seat at the top table then they must present game-changing strategies and be accountable for their success.
Finally, within the marketing organization, one of the things we’re most proud of from an internal perspective is something we started to put into place last year that we call the Marketing Academy. When I joined AMD, I was struck by the volume of tools available to help our engineers continually grow their skills sets, yet almost nothing of the sort existed for our marketing team. So we put together a group to take a step back and assess the best way to address that, and from that effort we’ve now put in place the Academy as a way to help drive marketing skills across the team. This is supplemented by AMD Marketing Live! --- a monthly conference call, which is more of a talk show than a lecture, focused on what and how the marketing team is doing and presenting a more human face to our broader teams.
CMOJ: You provide marketing updates on a quarterly basis to AMD’s Board of Directors. What’s included in those updates? And, more generally speaking, how would you advise peer CMOs in managing board relations?
ND: I am very lucky that I have worked for bosses that want marketing to be part of a board-level conversation; I know this is not true for many of my colleagues. At AMD our updates to the Board tend to be about what AMD is doing in terms of marketing, and in particular they want to know how that is driving success in terms of selling product and gaining market share. We review significant brand and marketing direction changes, so Vision was presented to the Board before we rolled it out.
In terms of managing board relations generally, I think it's incumbent on any CMO to know his or her Board, to understand their role in managing the direction of the company, and to have a clear sense of how the marketing organization’s priorities are mapped to that. A Board is no different really from any audience -- you have to know your audience in order to reach them. However, I would encourage colleagues not to dive into too much marketing detail -- sometimes doing the "sell" to them is as important as it is to customers, press, and analysts.
CMOJ: Probably more than most CMOs, you’ve embraced the ability of social media to increase customer intimacy, but what’s been the real ROI -- and how have you measured it?
ND: The ROI of social media for AMD is twofold.
First, from a competitive perspective, we simply can’t afford to match our competitor in terms of advertising or even overall marketing spend -- they outspend us by quite a bit. So we find that social media is a cost-effective but most importantly effective way to interact and engage with our key audiences.
Secondly, the key to marketing is to understand that the market knows the answers; you just need to figure out the right questions. And to do that you need to listen to the market, and social media is a great way to do that. In everything from blog posts to Twitter conversations, social media is a good way to stay engaged and listen to the market.
CMOJ: Describe the relationship you have with AMD’s interim Chief Executive Officer, Thomas Seifert. What are his expectations of you and your team, and how are those expectations measured?
ND: Thomas joined us as CFO a year or so ago, and I learned a long time ago: if you spend lots of money, be friends with the CFO! Therefore, I like to think I had a good working relationship with Thomas for some time before he took on the role of Interim Chief Executive Officer, and that relationship really hasn’t changed.
As Interim CEO, Thomas’s expectations are that his senior staff members are focused where we should be, and that we’re ensuring our teams aren’t distracted. The press likes to speculate about the CEO search, but the truth is that AMD is a company of many thousands who are doing the same jobs today they were doing at the beginning of the year. We have some of the most compelling technology in the market, and Thomas is helping all of us do our jobs to ensure those products drive market share gains.
As a marketing team we do worry about the messaging in a time of change. I am fortunate that I have a good and experienced team to help. From our PR Group through our Internal Communications team to our colleagues in Investor Relations, we work well as a team and we work through our issues.
Together we want to make sure both AMD and Thomas are successful -- two things that are very linked, and it’s really hard to measure the success of one without knowing the success of the other.