Q&A with conference chair Jay Wilson

Jay Wilson, Senior Director, Gartner Research


How have marketing leadership roles and responsibilities evolved over the past few years, and how does Marketing Symposium/Xpo address this evolution?

Marketing leaders are increasingly responsible for delivering business results across the organization, especially as those results relate to the customer experience, product and service innovation, and commerce. No longer just the bullhorn for a brand, CMOs are now responsible for driving profitability — 78% tell us they have sole or shared responsibility for a P&L. Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2019 is designed to help marketing leaders deliver on these new responsibilities, with sessions on how to deliver transformative strategies, innovation and digital commerce results, and how to position the role of marketing within the organization.


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What skill or quality do today’s marketing leaders need to possess to succeed?

Gartner research has identified seven key attributes of a successful marketing leader. The conference content will help attendees hone their skills in these areas, which include strategy and business acumen, customer-centricity, digital know-how, operations and execution, branding and messaging, revenue accountability, and, of course, leadership. Each track has been designed with these focus areas in mind. In addition, we’ll have esteemed Professor Kim Whitler of the Darden School of Business addressing how CMOs can leverage personal influence to succeed. We’ll use proprietary Gartner data to inform attendees about how their marketing peers are investing in technology and designing their teams, while looking at best-in-class brands through our Gartner L2 Digital IQ Index. Most of all, the conference provides opportunities for marketing leaders from across industries to share their own successes and challenges in a collaborative environment.


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How can marketing leaders evaluate marketing technology to prove ROI?

Technology evaluation is at the core of Gartner’s DNA, and we bring that expertise to the stage this year with an entire track dedicated to emerging marketing technologies. We’ll help attendees evaluate their existing martech stacks and identify emerging technologies that could be game changers, or simply expensive hype. We’ll help you separate the two through our Magic Quadrant research on ad tech, multichannel marketing hubs, and mobile marketing technology. We’ll discuss the impact of AI on creative, using martech to deliver seamless customer experiences and the emerging role of blockchain for marketing. We’ll do this all with an eye to helping you focus your investments on where they’ll actually impact your bottom line.


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As a Gartner expert, you talk with marketing leaders daily — What challenges are they asking you to help them solve?

I’ve found it personally gratifying to hear more questions from clients around purpose-driven marketing. At prior events, we discussed how brands like Sephora make the world a better place through social impact initiatives, and last year, we talked about why, in today’s polarized political environment, it’s more important than ever for brands to take stands, although the risks have never been greater. At both presentations, the passion and commitment of our attendees to use their brands to make a difference was palpable, but frankly, they were often fighting battles internally to get more focus on purpose. Over the past year, we’ve been hearing from CMOs who are committed to making purpose part of their brand value, and want to do it the right way. At this year’s conference, we’ll have Jill Cress, CMO of National Geographic — a brand that’s had purpose at its core for 120 years — talk about how her organization is making a positive impact on the planet, and I know there will be some great takeaways for our attendees to put into action as soon as they get back to their offices.


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What do you personally think is interesting or game-changing in marketing right now?

Despite the proliferation of marketing and advertising technology, and the incredibly seducing power of customer data, in the end, neither of these things will guarantee success for a marketing organization. It comes down to the people and teams using those technologies — and we’ve definitely seen a renewed interest from clients in recruiting, developing and retaining talent. The nature of that talent is going to evolve quickly over the coming years — the importance of specialists in areas like social and mobile marketing will largely fade as marketing leaders require more well-rounded skill sets in their team members. At this year’s conference, we’ll address what marketing leaders need to start looking for as they optimize their internal teams, and how the role of outsourced talent, like agencies, is fundamentally shifting.


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What are you covering at this year's conference that has never been done before?

Over the past five years, this event has grown annually, both in attendance and subject matter, but never more than this year. This is immediately noticeable not only in the number of Gartner experts we’ll have on stage — over 40 individuals with deep backgrounds in hands-on marketing — but in the depth of the topics we’re able to cover this year. We have an entire track dedicated to the unique needs of B2B marketers and another focused on customer and market insights — from research into Gen Z and millennials to emerging trends from China. These are areas — B2B, customer insights and global markets — that attendees have told us they want, and this year we’re able to bring those to you like never before. Still, another thing we’ve heard time and time again from our attendees is how much they appreciate the intimate, collaborative environment at the event, and even as it grows, we’re maintaining that through workshops, peer meetups and other networking opportunities so that folks can learn from and commiserate with others facing the same challenges.


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What will a CMO gain from the content in the Gartner CMO Circle that they can’t get anywhere else?

CMOs have never been in a more precarious position — responsible for delivering better results from a wider range of activities, with budgets that have flattened. No longer just responsible for telling the world about a product, they’re now faced with guiding the development and innovation of that product, while increasingly on the hook for delivering profitability. It’s a daunting position, but an exciting one, if CMOs are armed with the right skills and tools to deliver. We’re seeing successful CMOs elevated to the CEO role more than ever before, while those who lack the business acumen to deliver are getting phased out. The exclusive CMO Circle experience at Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo will expose you to the data, the insights and the collaboration to succeed in this increasingly challenging environment — both personally from finding your own purpose and job satisfaction, and professionally.


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Itching for more?  Watch the recording of our Facebook Live interview with Jay Wilson to learn about Jay, the evolution of the conference and the topic he's most looking forward to speaking about in San Diego.

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