Other than a cup of coffee — and I mean a good, strong, dark cup, there’s nothing I love more than making new friends with a thought leader i.e. a CMO.
Ok, I guess I love my kids a little, too as well as pepperoni pizza, but… yes that was sarcasm boys and girls. Something I am overflowing in if you didn’t know.
On a professional level, seriously, there is not much more I enjoy more than meeting, getting to know and establishing a relationship with than a CMO/marketing leader or just thought leader in general.
A few weeks ago I made a new friend.
Clean Up Aisle 4
Being the mistake-prone fool that I am, I am quite familiar with the brand Clorox. Oh Lord am I. Their wipes alone have saved me many a time from permanent damage to carpets, clothes, cars, the list is virtually endless.
However, there is more to Clorox than just Clorox. There are many other brands within The Clorox Company including Kingsford Charcoal and Glad bags, to name a few.
Not long ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Stacey Grier, the relatively newly-appointed Chief Marketing Officer of The Clorox Company. In January of this year, she replaced Eric Reynolds, who was promoted to executive vice-president.
Prior to taking the mantle of CMO, Grier served as vice-president of brand engagement and enhanced wellness marketing for the company. Her most recent role prior to Clorox was chief strategic officer of DDB San Francisco.
She and I had a fabulous conversation about a wide array of topics including what it means to be female business leader, her leadership style and what she believes are most critical for brand success over the next 5 to 10 years.
SO: Do you look at what you do as a role model for other female leaders or those looking to get into similar roles? As a follow up what advice would you give to women in marketing who have aspirations to get into a CMO role?
SG: I think of myself less as a role model and more of an advocate. Every woman is unique and has her own experience so there isn’t one model. I do think that I have a responsibility as an advocate for women in places of power within the marketing community. My best advice for women (or really anyone who aspires to marketing leadership) is to sign up for an agenda that is bigger than yourself. People follow leaders who have a clear agenda and leader champion people who further the agenda. If your agenda is about you, no one is interested.
SO: How would you describe your leadership style?
SG: My leadership style has a couple of components to it. The first, is about emotion. I allow my vulnerability to show and allow others to express theirs. It is a powerful way to connect with people and build relationships. We know as marketers that people respond to emotion. It is a powerful force in marketing that we don’t often utilize in leadership.
There is a sense in business that there is no room for emotions and we often use language to speak in a way that hides meaning and feelings. We’re told to bury our emotions or overcome vulnerability. But we can’t connect with people without it
The second aspect is my leadership style is to bring my authentic self to work. I always want to bring the strength of that to work rather than trying to reshape myself for a job or try to repeat what someone else did. But one of the best pieces of advice I ever received is to “be yourself.” While that might sound like a cliché, I often think as women we try to be what the world wants us to be versus what we want to be.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, but people too often waste time trying to make up for their weaknesses. This takes a lot of energy and only brings parity. By playing up strengths, it distinguishes you from others and allows you to stand out for what is great about you. Recognizing and feeding your authentic self is something you can continue to do in your career no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
SO: How would others describe your leadership style?
SG: You’d have to ask others how they perceive me, but my guess is they’d say that they always know where I stand on an issue and that I’m coming from an authentic place. I listen to as many points of view as appropriate then I make firm decisions.
SO: How does the Clorox brand connect the dots between its brand purpose and consumers’ values?
SG: Brands serve people, hard stop. The purpose we create for our brands must be relevant to people’s values. Our brands need to connect by having shared values with the people who buy and use our products. Otherwise we are just a commodity to them. This comes from our brands having a strong core and knowing as much as we can about what interests our consumers have, and how we can help them along their journeys as people. This helps us build relationships with them that are mutually beneficial. This is critical.
SO: What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you that you would want them to know? (could be either professional or personal).
SG: That I am exceptionally proud of what I do but it is not the whole of who I am.
Finish these sentences:
The best brands in the world today are___________.
SG: Those that use data and technology to understand and connect with people on a human level.
The brands that will be successful 5, 10, years down the road are those that___________.
SG: Will do three things: 1) embrace change and innovation, 2) harness the tremendous amount of data to put people at the center of their brand and business, 3) don’t try to do it all alone but rather use an ecosystem to deliver against people’s rising expectations.