A successful CMO has many roles, including leading an organization's marketing department, establishing marketing strategies, and tracking successes and failures. How can a CMO create a highly successful career? What tools, strategies, and approaches can a CMO use to be successful? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Peirona.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To start, can you share a bit of your personal ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Growing up, I was not really invested in mathematics. I leaned more toward creativity and storytelling in liberal arts. When I was in college, I had to take math as part of the curriculum, and ended up loving a statistics class. I had never felt that way about numbers before!
After I graduated, I realized I could blend my love for statistics with my love for storytelling. I initially moved to Italy and worked at marketing and fashion PR firms. Then I came back to the US and worked in media planning. I liked the that it involves both creativity and numbers.
I continued my career working at a creative agency on brands such as Elizabeth Arden, eBay Fashion (which I helped launch), Comcast and more. I continued my work in beauty at MAC cosmetics and as a CMO at a hair color company before I started on with Ultimate Ears, where I am now, as Head of Marketing.
What do you think was a pivotal moment that led you on your path to becoming a CMO?
A pivotal moment actually happened in college when I was on the debate team. It really gave me the insight to see both sides of an argument. An important part of marketing is that you always have to play devils advocate for yourself. Now I will argue the opposite just for fun, which, admittedly, isn’t for everyone. I’ve found this comes in handy though—for example, sometimes an old formula or idea works, but you might need to update it to ensure success.
Can you share an interesting story that has happened since you began leading your company?
It has been interesting to be a small little part of a broader company. There’s a real passion people have for our brand and our products. Every day is a learning experience and an exercise for my team and me to translate that enthusiasm and feedback into messaging and marketing that works for us holistically. I’m constantly challenged, in the best possible way—I love it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you’re grateful for?
I spoke about my college debate team earlier and how that was a pivotal part of my path. My debate coach ended up being a lifelong mentor. She instilled a lot of confidence in me, and her ability to think through challenges and difficult times became a vital part of my toolkit. Even 20+ years later, we keep in touch.
Can you please share your favorite ‘Life Lesson Quote’ and how it has been relevant to you in your life?
My dad told me this quote: “If you chase your shadow you will never catch it, but if you walk down the street, it follows.” It applies to relationships, life and business. If you try to be what someone else wants you to be, you are not being true to yourself. You need to know yourself and be confident. In marketing specifically, if you do what someone else has done, you are not being true to yourself. You shouldn’t look backward but rather adapt and move forward.
Can you share with us three strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others actively build these areas within themselves?
I am detail oriented, a good collaborator and strong communicator. I believe that good ideas can come from anywhere, and that people should feel encouraged and empowered to share their opinions.
Which skills are you still trying to grow now?
I always strive to zoom out to see the bigger picture. That’s a big one for me, along with keeping my team motivated in tough situations.
Having reached this space, what do you believe are the five things you need to be a highly successful CMO?
1 . Compartmentalization. As a leader, you are most likely working on many projects all at once. It’s important to trust your team, delegate and compartmentalize when you need to. This is crucial when thinking about how to keep people motivated and on course.
2 . Balancing short term initiatives and long term goals. You need to keep people focused on the short term while also planning what you’re going to do long term. There are always going to be times that you need to make decisions that affect the short term, but as you have to put out the short term fires, you always need to keep your eye on the long term plan. You can’t get so caught up in the day to day, even when faced with distractions that can easily get you to fall off course.
3 . Celebrate quick small wins! This also helps keep my team motivated. One time, a mentor told me to write a to-do list each day that includes everything you plan to do. Even tasks such as brushing your teeth or taking your dog out. It helps to have small wins that you can check off, knowing that you’re making success in the long run.
4 . Have an endless sense of curiosity. I find everything interesting and always ask questions. I will take a stranger’s movie recommendation! I love hearing different perspectives, reading about obscure things, and setting goals. A goal that I have this year is to read a new book each week.
5 . Collaborate. Don’t lead by dictating. I want everyone to feel involved, not just on my team but also when I work cross functionally with different teams. People always feel more motivated when they are invested in what they’re doing. Being a leader is sometimes about letting other people lead.
Are there any underrated skills or qualities that you encourage others not to overlook?
The skill of 'distraction' is often overlooked. People who distract can actually lead you to places you wouldn’t get otherwise. Sometimes, those distractions lead to 'aha' moments and spark something brilliant.
What are some of the main issues that other CMOs commonly struggle with? What can be done to address those challenges?
The role of the CMO has changed so much in the past decade. There is a new level of accountability that includes managing P&Ls. It’s not just all about brand and marketing. To address this, you need to be able to work well with others in your C Suite and work closely with your CFO. The more in line you are, the more successful you’re going to be.
Additionally, we now have access to a lot more consumer data, which is also an opportunity. With this data, you need to constantly learn and test and see what works. There’s no specific roadmap.
What do you believe is the most effective way to stand out and make an impact as a CMO?
Being able to listen to the C Suite. You need to take that and interpret that for marketing. Also, work on things that matter and that are important to you. It’s not necessarily all about sales.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
I would create a 'Be Nice' movement. Be kind to other humans. There are so many kind people in the world and yet there is not enough kindness. Stop making judgements; just be kind.
Lastly, is there a person with whom you would love to have a breakfast or lunch with, and why? They might just see this!
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