Meet Kathy Button Bell, VP, CMO, Emerson Electric

For Kathy Button Bell, marketing is constantly in “beta.” Experimentation is in her blood. She sees the CMO role as more than just a marketing position—embracing new, expanded definitions of the job, including chief inspiration officer, chief integration officer, chief transformation officer, and chief complexity reduction officer. Button Bell believes that great marketing is simple marketing, as is clearly evidenced by recent Emerson campaigns such as “Consider It Solved” and “The Extra Mile With Charlie.”

Marketing strategy: First, do no harm. The only way to be successful as a change agent is to perpetually be working on integration. When you integrate, you silo bust—and silos are where the big problems happen. Don’t try to re-create the “perfect” business model that you learned in school. There’s no perfect way to do things.

Winning ways: We launched our “It’s Never Been Done Before” campaign in the teeth of the recession, at a time when everyone was depressed and no one wanted to watch CNBC at lunch. It was all about driving research and development dollars to where the innovation is. As a $25 billion manufacturer and technology leader, we have to keep that idea front and center.

Defining moment: The biggest challenge I faced by far was building the brand architecture of Emerson. A big part of the job is integration and simplification. Fourteen years ago when I got hired, the question was ‘How can we simplify who we are and how we reflect ourselves from the very top of the company to the toes?’ Ultimately, we took 27 companies in the process management business and made them into one group.

Trend watching: Right now it’s all about digital evolution, although it’s probably more correct to call it the digital revolution—the extraordinary 24/7 customer experience. It’s flattened the playing field so that extremely small enterprises can be wildly competitive online. Digital has truly changed the competitive landscape.

Words to live by: Never forget to be the chief inspiration officer because it’s the soul of your job as a marketing person. We have tons of functions as marketers, but we also have to remember the aesthetic experience of making things beautiful, sexy, happy, and motivational both inside and outside the company. With the digital revolution comes metrics and ROI pressures, but I don’t want marketing to become a math problem.

Good read: I’m OK, You’re OK by Thomas Harris. I probably read it the first time for a high school psych course. The underlying notion of the book is that there are three ways of interacting: as the parent, the adult, or the child. If you’re the parent, you’re either in charge or you’re a bully and the child brings out the petulant worst in us all, but if you’re the adult, you can interact with people in a level-headed way.

Good advice: Make sure to throw yourself in the face of great challenges and volunteer for the things you don’t necessarily know how to do. Also, make your boss a hero.

Meet the rest of the 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honorees and read their inspirational stories.

Related Posts