Marketing Pays Dividends at Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley CMO Mandell Crawley is on a mission to get his colleagues to view marketing as a commercial asset rather than as merely a creative asset. Although the first-time CMO runs marketing like an ROI-obsessed CFO, he’s also displayed creative chops of his own, despite lacking, as he puts it, “traditional credentialing in the marketing discipline.” The financial services firm’s successful “Capital Creates” campaign was launched under his watch, and it demonstrates Crawley’s commitment to making marketing a central character in Morgan Stanley’s growth narrative.

What’s your marketing passion?
The firm has tremendous momentum, and the role that marketing plays in our growth narrative is my greatest passion. Personally, this role is a transformative opportunity from a career perspective, especially as someone who, until this point, has spent my entire career on the business side. 

After 23 years in various business roles at Morgan Stanley, what drew you to marketing?
Our firm has not been all that visible from a traditional marketing perspective, especially in terms of advertising. Marketing in an investment bank can be difficult to execute. I saw that we were making strides on the digital front, and that there was an opportunity to do a lot more there. That was incredibly attractive. I also saw that we were positioning our firm to tell our story to the marketplace in a clear, consistent way. Given my experience, I thought I would have an opportunity to shift the perception of marketing at this firm from simply a creative asset to a commercial one. 

You’ve been CMO for about a year; what were the most important actions you took during your first six months in the role?
Some of my actions were relatively “textbook.” Anytime you take over a new organization, you assess the current state to gain a sense of the strengths and gaps in terms of talent and strategy. I spent a good bit of time meeting with the existing team to assess and calibrate talent. I also invested significant time talking to a lot of people around the organization. I think one of the missteps that someone can make in this seat is trying to operate unilaterally, without making sure that the business is clear on the marketing approach we’re going to take. It was important to me to have the business feel genuinely connected to everything that we were looking to do, especially our global advertising campaign and our activities on the digital side. I wanted to ensure that there was organizational buy-in.

How have you gained that buy-in while strengthening your marketing function’s commercial focus?
In terms of reinforcing it within the marketing organization, the approach I’ve taken as CMO has been to run marketing like it’s a business. I’ve introduced processes that weren’t in place before, such as quarterly business reviews. I have regular check-ins with business heads—who are clients of ours—to get a sense of how well the marketing strategy is aligned to the business strategy. We also centralized our metrics reporting infrastructure. As a result, there’s now a great deal of transparency around all of our different marketing initiatives and the performance of those initiatives.

How else do you enhance transparency?
As you know, ROI can be a unicorn for marketers. I will say that bringing a true business discipline to marketing and holding my team accountable for our outputs has done a lot to make transparency a priority in our marketing organization. Another key is to stay close to our colleagues across the business to ensure that they have a clear sense of all the different priorities that we’re trying to execute within marketing. Every two weeks I send out what we call the “status tracker” to a wide range of senior leadership. The report is designed to increase the transparency of all current marketing projects.

What’s an example of a marketing metric you’ve recently reported to the business?
One relates to the way more of our marketing is shifting to digital. This shift gives us much more clarity, not just on impressions, but on how many folks are actually engaging with our ads, which we’re using to drive people to a wealth of content on our new corporate website. Today, 12% of all of our Web traffic is the result of the new global advertising campaign that we’re running. We’ve had well over 100,000 folks come to our website strictly because they saw one of our digital ads across one of our media properties. As more of our marketing makes the move from traditional print to digital, I think that it’s going to give us a much greater sense of how well we’re connecting to our target audience.

What else have you found valuable to measure?
We’re becoming much smarter about understanding the demography of who’s attending our events. By looking over three-, six-, and nine-month periods, we get a sense of how much new business we may or may not be getting from attendees of these events. Those insights are helping to inform how we put on experiential programs for clients and prospective clients.

Social media is a game changer, as is the case for most industries, so we’re also getting a sense of how many folks are following us from a LinkedIn perspective. We recently launched our Instagram account, and we’re tracking how people are following us there. The same holds for Twitter and other social media platforms. This gives us a much greater sense of what type of impact we’re having based on our initiatives.

And we’re sharpening how we track our product mailing—with our private bank, for example, we do a lot more direct mail—by identifying which prospects or clients received our marketing materials and who ultimately act on those materials. All of this helps us improve the overall efficacy of our marketing efforts.

Tell us about “Capital Creates,” the global advertising campaign Morgan Stanley launched relatively early in your CMO tenure.
Morgan Stanley’s brand is largely influenced by our people touchpoints. Within our investment banking business, those touchpoints involve our investment bankers. In our sales and trading business, it’s our sales traders and relationship managers. Within our wealth management business, our brand is linked to our financial advisors. So, the challenge was to come up with a narrative that fully represents the firm while cutting across three of our distinct business areas. That’s not easy, particularly when you’re looking to be incredibly authentic in that narrative. We think we have achieved that narrative with our Capital Creates platform. We’re basically telling stories of real clients who had innovative ideas that, fueled by capital—which is the role that Morgan Stanley plays, have the opportunity to truly transform society. There’s a real human benefit to capital, and telling that story is important.

What do you look for when you’re recruiting and hiring marketers?
First, domain knowledge and skill as marketers is important. I also look for folks who actually understand our business and the financial services industry. I have a huge desire to hire internally because I think it’s incredibly important to have an appreciation for our culture here. I also look for people who can thrive in a culture of collaboration. You’ve got to be collaborative, inside marketing, as well as with our business unit clientele. If you don’t have “team DNA,” it’s going to be very, very difficult for you to succeed here. 

What has surprised you most since you entered the marketing realm and became a CMO?
I fully expected that I would see and experience what was clearly a gap in my own experience—a high level of acumen on the creative side of things. What I’ve been most surprised by is the level of strategic insights regarding financial services and our business that the folks on my team and our agency partners possess. I’ve been really, really impressed with their level of strategic talent.

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