Chief Marketing Officers Tell All

What does a call center, HTML, and a famous shark have in common? Hint: it’s not the setting of a SciFi convention. All were jumping off points in the careers of this morning’s chief marketing officer panel.

A room full of agency, freelance, in-house, and student marketers and communicators gathered on the campus of UW Oshkosh to listen to the following CMOs describe their perspectives on a range of topics affecting most marketers today. These are their stories. 

Meet Jamie Ceman. Chief communications officer at UW Oshkosh, Jamie began her career as a web developer who realized early that she was a better communicator and marketer than programmer. Jamie has been busy over the past few years pulling the brand, marketing and communication strategies of the university under the purview of a central office in order to produce more streamlined, cohesive and effective outputs and returns on investment. More from Jamie in a bit.

Meet Dave Chaimson. Dave is our former call taker, and a pilot who hails from the software marketing world of Sony — yes, that Sony — and in 2014 scratched his aviation itch and joined the leadership team at Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) as the VP of marketing and business development. A proponent of experiential marketing, Dave’s crew will hit the road, simulator trailer in tow, and visit several music festivals this year. For marketing purposes. Best. Job. Ever.

Meet Rich Thompson. The most frightening shark in history (of film) couldn’t scare Rich away from his love of marketing. In fact, it did quite the opposite. Since that fateful film experience at age 11, Rich has been fascinated by the emotions you can draw out of people via visual experiences. Today, Rich’s team at Illinois Tool Works (ITW) elicits emotions other than terror to help consumers connect with the brand, and help employees be good stewards of it.

Q&A RECAP (replies have been paraphrased to protect the panelists):

Which skills are most important for a marketer to hone?


  1. Relationship building. It’s absolutely necessary to being a change agent.
  2. Understand and leverage emerging technologies. Or have great people/partners around you who do.


  1. Analytically sound. Appreciate and seek a return on investment.
  2. Innovative. Embrace change before you’re forced to do so.


  1. The ability to translate insights into strategy and strategy into creative expression.
  2. Resiliency. Marketers continually get knocked down because the majority of people think they understand marketing, but most can’t fully grasp the importance of its role in the customer experience. When that happens, you have to get back up and try again.

What is the greatest area for growth in your marketing strategy?

Jamie: Having only recently launched a CRM platform, we are beginning to put more emphasis on data and marketing automation.

Dave: Intelligent use of data. Marry the CRM insights to web analytics to other databases.

Rich: Help people connect the dots beyond product commercialization. Communicate value over features, benefits and price.

Are you involved in your company’s/organization’s leadership team, and do you influence strategy?

Jamie: Traditionally, the university’s leadership and strategic positioning was driven by the academic sector. However, our new chancellor understands and embraces the value of marketing and has included me in his cabinet. Continuing to demonstrate value has helped us get and maintain a seat at the table.

Dave: We have a relatively small leadership team, and I am a member of it. Our president recognizes that the association is very reliant on marketing for growth. The reality is that our consumer base is aging out of the hobby. We have to evolve in order to expand into new markets, and what we do integral to that happening.

Rich: Yes in both cases. We have a fairly large and inclusive leadership team. Marketing is at the center of our organic growth strategy and long-range planning, in addition to the short-term annual planning season. A big reason for that shift is our dedication to insights, which drives the strategy, and our ability to implement that strategy as creative output.

Main takeaways:

  • CMO roles continue to shift and broaden.
  • Marketing is becoming more intertwined with strategic planning.
  • Relationships, data, innovation. In that order.
  • Demonstrate value. Often and always.

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