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 Fern Pucheu.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To start, can you share a bit of your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in your career?
I was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I moved to the United States to go to college. Believe it or not, I was a chemistry major at Smith College—the analytical aspect of chemistry really drew me to the subject.
Post-graduation, I actually ended up spending my first year out of college working in investment banking. I made the move into marketing shortly after, and have spent the last 20-something years working in the media and entertainment space.
In that time, I’ve held senior marketing roles at Xandr/AT&T, Vox Media, PubMatic, Hearst, Univision and CBS. I’m currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor Streaming, where I’m responsible for building and strengthening the brand, supporting growth strategies and increasing global demand for our products and solutions.
What do you think was a pivotal moment that led you on your path to becoming a CMO?
During my first gig at an investment bank, I worked in research. I loved that I was able to be analytical and use data to develop recommendations; it was what drew me to investment banking after studying chemistry in college. Both disciplines focus on looking at data, analyzing the results, and then using those takeaways to explain why something did or didn’t work.
However, during my time in investment banking, I realized that as much as I loved to be analytical, I also craved more creativity within my career. That realization led me to marketing and kickstarted the journey that ultimately led to becoming a CMO. I found that in marketing, I was able to flex those same analytical muscles while also developing creative solutions and focusing on the human aspect of data and information.
Can you share an interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Throughout 2022, I led my team through the development of Endeavor Streaming’s rebranding initiative. As the direct-to-consumer subsidiary of media conglomerate Endeavor, Endeavor Streaming is a trusted partner of many of the world’s largest brands including the UFC, UEFA, NFL, EFL, WWE, NYFW and others. However, we quickly realized that the company lacked its own unique persona outside of the larger Endeavor brand.
To help give Endeavor Streaming its own voice, we put together a core team of branding consultants and internal stakeholders to reevaluate and revamp Endeavor Streaming's holistic brand concept. We worked together to establish the core ideas, purpose and goals that the company represents. It was a fun, challenging project that was incredibly rewarding to see through to the end.
We started with an idea and some rough guidelines, and overhauled everything from the logo, typography, color palette, graphic elements and all of the messaging for the brand. We ended up with a new cohesive look and feel for Endeavor Streaming that’s reflective of the company’s overall business transformation journey and indicative of the brand’s future.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you’re grateful for?
I’m beyond grateful to Charlie Echeverry, one of my managers at Univision and a mentor for life, who made an enormous impact on my career. He was the first manager to notice that I, at times, lacked confidence in myself and he helped me realize that I had been doubting my own ability to take on challenges and advance as a leader. This was a huge turning point for me. Knowledge and skills are the foundation of any successful career, but confidence is the driving force behind growth.
Charlie cared enough to notice I suffered from imposter syndrome and he pushed me to develop confidence in myself and in my abilities. It’s been over 10 years since then, and I’ve only just recently begun to feel like I’ve overcome the self-doubt that used to hold me back.
Can you please share your favorite ‘Life Lesson Quote’ and how it has been relevant to you in your life?
“Nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it’s not about how hard you hit back. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”
As a child of the ’80s, that quote from Rocky shaped my outlook on dealing with challenges in life. It serves as a reminder for the importance of resiliency, both personally and professionally. There will always be new challenges to contend with as a result of change–whether that’s new technology developments, marketing trends, or even changes within your organization. You need to be able to take change in stride and constantly 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?
As I mentioned above, resiliency is a crucial component I’ve learned to hone throughout my career. Two other characteristics that have helped me are adaptability and patience.
Being adaptable allows you to embrace change and continue to learn and grow. It goes beyond being resilient; it’s about learning from failed experiences and being agile when facing challenges. It’s also important to be curious. Don’t wait for a setback to teach you a lesson. Look for new ways where you can grow and improve.
The third skill I find essential is patience. Success doesn’t come overnight, so be patient with yourself and with your timing. Expect to make mistakes along the way and be prepared to learn from them so you can move forward. Take the time to celebrate the wins and to enjoy these moments.
Which skills are you still trying to grow now?
Parenting three teenagers/young adults is top of mind! But in all seriousness, right now I’m working on finding more balance between my personal and professional lives. I think maintaining work-life balance is an important skill that needs to be practiced.
Taking my own advice, I’ve been trying to be stricter with myself about signing off at the end of the workday and fully disconnecting. I’m someone who will keep working late into the evening just to get as much done as possible, but I’m trying to keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to ever have everything done. Plus, taking time to step away from work is essential for productivity.
In that same vein, I’m also more conscious about setting the strategy for a project and entrusting my team to execute. I have an incredible team, but sometimes I have to remind myself that my role is to help them navigate and balance their work rather than being involved with all of the details of a project. Being able to step back and have trust in them allows me to find better balance with my own workload.
Having reached this space, what do you believe are the five things you need to be a highly successful CMO?
First and foremost, strong communications skills are imperative. As a CMO, I prepare presentations for the executive leadership team to demonstrate how the work of the marketing department directly supports larger business goals. I need to simplify and translate operational information into meaningful insights and relate those to the strategic objectives of the business.
It’s one thing to be able to analyze and aggregate the marketing data from my team, but to be successful you must then communicate how that data delivers a return on investment, breaking it down and explaining it to non-marketing stakeholders. At many organizations, executives outside of marketing think that they understand the work we do, but they tend to oversimplify the effort it takes to run a successful program.
Second, strong financial knowledge is key. Beyond being able to communicate about the work, you must stand up for the value of your team. There’s often the perception that marketing is a business expense, but successful leaders need to justify marketing spend as an investment. A solid understanding of corporate financial principles is also important for laying out your marketing budget. Compare different areas of spend objectively to decide which investments will be the best for hitting your KPIs.
Third: be agile and decisive. With the rapid pace of innovation we’re seeing across all sectors, speeding up time to market is critical for any product or service. Product lifecycles are getting shorter and there are more markets to serve. Marketing leaders need to make sure they have solid research so that when the opportunity arises to execute on a go-to-market plan, they can hit the ground running and be sure that they’re making the right moves.
Fourth: have the right team. Know where your skills are lacking and hire to fill those gaps. A good marketing team will have a diverse range of perspectives, skillsets and personalities. You need people who are highly analytical alongside creatives and strong communicators.
And lastly, understand that success is built upon small wins. For example, Endeavor Streaming operates globally, so to scale, we need to find the best ways to localize our offerings for each market to increase the number of markets we’re serving globally. For any international business, you’re not going to achieve the global scale you’re looking for all in one sweep. Smaller, localized successes make up the building blocks of a larger international marketing discipline.
Are there any underrated skills or qualities that you encourage others not to overlook?
Strategic hiring is a skill often overlooked in marketing. The quality of your work is only as good as your team, so it’s important to hire the right people. Our teams are no longer limited to people with marketing backgrounds; hybrid skills and expertise in areas like data analytics and writing are highly valuable. A good team will have storytellers, problem solvers, creatives and data analysts.
What are some of the main issues that other CMOs commonly struggle with? What can be done to address those challenges?
Many CMOs struggle with planning for accelerated digital transformation. CMOs need to keep up with advances in technology, since those often shape the way we live and work. To be able to scale marketing tasks and maintain operational efficiency, CMOs should have a pulse on the latest tools and integrations that will best serve their teams.
CMOs also often struggle to manage organizational change. When leading a marketing team within a larger organization, it can be hard to strike the right balance between prioritizing organizational changes to match your strategy, especially when these changes can lead to losing momentum on your goals. In my experience, the best way to find that balance is to build flexibility into every plan and assume that there will be change. Leaving a larger margin for change in your strategies can allow you to be more creative in finding solutions.
What do you believe is the most effective way to stand out and make an impact as a CMO?
The most powerful way to make an impact is to be fully invested in the success of your team, as a whole and as individuals. A strong leader will empower every member of their team. Take the time to understand each person’s strengths and weakness, identify ways you can help them tackle challenges, and look for opportunities to let them flex their skills. Create a collaborative work environment that encourages everyone to share ideas.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
The world needs an empathy revolution! The world is lacking in empathy; the ability to connect with others and to act with compassion is critical for us to thrive as a society. In work life, demonstrating empathy creates trust within a team. Trust leads to having empowering and honest relationships with your colleagues, fostering collaboration and productivity, and creating an environment of open communication and feedback. In everyday life, understanding the importance of empathy and strengthening the empathy muscles in ourselves and our children is key to creating a more civil and humane world.
Lastly, is there a person with whom you would love to have a breakfast or lunch with, and why? They might just see this!
I’d love to have lunch with Serena Williams. Beyond being one of the greatest athletes of all time, she’s an extremely intelligent businesswoman as well as a devoted philanthropist and mother. She embodies resilience and has demonstrated time and time again how being dedicated to your own growth drives success. Watching Serena’s stellar career has taught me the value of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. She has also demonstrated the positive impact of acknowledging when to take a step back to focus on herself so that can lead to long-term success.
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