Feeling Optimistic: Event Highlights from AMA-Toronto’s Annual CMO Breakfast Event



Taking place at the LoyaltyOne head office on King Street East, AMA Toronto's Annual CMO Breakfast once again brought together leading marketing executives for a town hall conversation about the state of marketing.


This year's distinguished panellists were Clinton Braganza (Chief Marketing Officer, Scotiabank), Christine Jakovcic (Vice President, Marketing and Nutrition, Kellogg's Canada Inc.), Pina Sciarra (Managing Director, Consulting, PwC Canada), and Kaiwan Suntok (Director and Chief Marketing Officer, IBM Canada). They were joined by host and moderator AMA board member Craig Lund (President, Marketing Talent Inc.)

Despite their diverse industry segments, one of the clear takeaways was that all marketers are trying to address common challenges across categories, including change management, technology, and consumer experience.


Craig, the moderator, began by highlighting some findings of the AMA Bi-annual CMO Survey, which samples 2500 CMOs across the United States. One finding of the survey was that CMOs are feeling their lowest sense of optimism since 2011, with less than 60% feeling optimistic about the economy.

Despite this, however, the panel was feeling optimistic.

Pina from PwC Canada pointed out that we're still in the transitional phase from the old economy to the digital economy, and that there's still much discussion to be had around how best to measure ROI and highlight marketing's contribution.

Clinton from Scotiabank echoed this, arguing that for every negative data point he could offer a positive counterpoint. One such positive, he noted, is the emerging middle class elsewhere in the world, particularly among the Pacific alliance countries. He felt that sometimes Canadians could be negatively affected by news and opinion from outside the country, rather than the facts on the ground here.

Christine from Kellogg's felt this was an excellent time for some fun, unique problem solving by marketers, highlight opportunities to bring in brands from other markets to address new, growing niches, for example.

Shifting Consumer Desire

Kaiwan from IBM Canada emphasized how foundational trust and the respect for privacy and individual rights has become to consumers and their relationships in the market place.

Pina echoed this, remarking on how devastating a privacy breach can be for a brand. She encouraged companies to foreground their privacy statement as a unique differentiator, and as a sign to consumers of how seriously a brand takes privacy.


Relying on Your Channel Partnerships

Kaiwan encouraged the room to think of channel marketing as an ecosystem of relationships, and not merely selling via channel partnerships. How can your channel partners take what you're offering and build on it to develop new markets?

Christine emphasized taking an integrated approach with your channel partners. Her work involves spending time with partners and consumers alike to understand what the best placement of brands will be in stores, and what positioning will make those products most attractive.

Marketing Spending

As the discussion turned to marketing spending, Pina spoke of the insights gained from a recent global consumer survey tracking how people are spending and what they are spending on. That survey revealed, among other things, that for the first time the majority of online purchases are now being made via mobile devices, which has implications for spend and metrics around ROI.

The feeling of the panel broadly was that clarity around goals and transparency about how and where you are spending are crucial to ensuring that your CFO and your partners within the organization will understand and support your efforts over the long term.

Relationship Between the CFO and CMO

The conversation then pivoted to the importance of the relationship between the CFO and the CMO within an organization, with agreement amongst the panellists about how important that relationship is for success.

Kaiwan encouraged openness and transparency on the budget, and demonstrating "thoughtfulness" in your spending and planning, and executing in a disciplined manner.  

Christine highlighted the need to show how marketing efforts are focused on the full P&L and are about building the entire business, not just one element.

Pina highlighted the need to be more creative in how you demonstrate the impact of marketing on ROI, saying that marketers as a whole had a long way to go in this regard. She likened this to demonstrating the impact of marketing to the CEO, who often doesn't 'get' marketing. She encouraged people to build a brand internally within the company and to avoid silos. "You don't want a mystique around what you do," she said.

From Products to Experiences

There was agreement on the shift from product-based campaigns to more experience-based marketing--a theme echoed at this recent AMA Toronto event about experiential marketing.

Christine spoke of her reliance on plans built around consumer psychology, which give insight into what and why consumers chose or didn't choose a product. She also emphasized the importance of having internal and external stakeholders involved in the initial planning stages.

Kaiwan shared insights on how AI is being used to help marketers understand real customer intimacy, identifying their needs and delivering on them.

And Clinton reminded the audience that a lot of disruption starts with the consumer, and encouraged people to be consumer advocates within their organizations.

Social Politics?

Craig, the moderator, offered up an interesting statistic for discussion: 80% of companies want to avoid contentious social and political issues, while another 20% embrace them. The panellists agreed that if you're going to get involved in social politics you need to do it right, and for the right reasons.

"Fortune favours the bold," Clinton pointed out, highlighting an initiative within Scotiabank that helps fund, support, and mentor women entrepreneurs.

However, Pina cautioned that venturing into social politics must come from an authentic place, one that matches your products or services, and which your employees can feel galvanized about. "It needs to be in your DNA," she said.

Marketing: 2024

As a final question for the panellists, Craig asked them to make some predictions about the skills needed in marketing five years from now.


Pina felt that future leadership would require both emotional intelligence and human experience. Being agile and able to pivot with whatever comes, especially the unexpected, is key to future-proofing yourself. "And science everything," she said. "Marketing science, data science, behavioural science—get your head around being current about that, and don't get swallowed up by it."

Clinton said that a sense of curiosity (why are things the way they are?) and resiliency, especially the ability to keep going in tough times, will be crucial and are traits he credits for his own success.

Kaiwan emphasized the need to leverage emerging technologies like AI to know customers and the market, and to know and understand their needs better.

And Christine felt agility and technology will be essential. The ability to do rapid prototyping and for getting more real-time learning about consumers and consumer behaviour will be vital to the future.


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This article was brought to you through the partnership between the AMA-Toronto and HeadStart Copywriting.


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