This Year’s CMO50 Winners Innovate and Inspire

This is a pivotal time for marketing leaders. There’s more competition and higher customer expectations than ever before. Today — and especially in this market — your customers demand highly relevant, high-value experiences at scale and across every single channel, platform, and device. Great experiences are no longer nice-to-have or even surprising — they’re the expected norm.

While it’s an exciting marketing moment, demands aren’t slowing down. Staying ahead of the curve in this moment and this market requires a level of innovation, passion, creativity, and total commitment to the customer.

Last week at CMO50 in Sydney — an event Adobe is proud to sponsor for the fourth year — we honored the marketing leaders who don’t just deliver, but continuously challenge themselves, their peers, and their customers to do even more.

Now in its fifth year, CMO50 celebrates the 50 most innovative Australian marketing leaders driving business impact in their organisations and beyond. These are the marketers driving innovation, strategic thinking, and bigger, better customer experiences in this fast-paced, ever-changing landscape — and this year’s winners were no exception.

An uber-advantage in a competitive market

Steve Brennen, former Uber Director of Marketing (now Zip Chief Customer Officer), is a perfect example. While at Uber, he was laser-focused on the brand’s competitive strengths and worked to promote them so Uber can gain a critical advantage over well-funded competitors. “At Uber, we have customers using both our offerings as riders and eaters,” Steve says. “So we need to reward and be mindful of our ready-built competitive advantage.”

This pushed him to be more customer-focused than ever, with a level of introspection and emphasis on real-time data to influence the company’s marketing approach. Now, the company doubles down when early signals are positive and pulls back otherwise — “This is a drastic change to even a few years ago where campaigns were much more long-tailed,” he says.

Promoting continuous learning and growth

Also heavily change-centric is Sweta Mehra, CMO for ANZ. Since joining the bank, she’s been working to break down silos while expanding her marketing role beyond just the typical and into wider customer engagement areas.

“We could never drive actionability as it was not rooted in customer needs, wants, and attitudes,” Sweta says of the company’s previous segmentation approaches, which were driven by P&L-focused drivers like product profitability. “Also, these models have a fundamental flaw of being rooted in our existing customer base and our past practices.”

Her refreshed segmentation model is anchored in financial well-being, customer life stages, and first-party data — a model that now informs what products ANZ will and won’t support.

“This work has been hailed as absolutely critical by the leaders in ensuring broad alignment and focus — key to delivery of our transformation program,” Sweta says.

Under her leadership, ANZ also integrated choice modelling, creating a program that combines Qantas points and monthly draw-downs to repay mortgages up to $500,000. This program, she notes, could drive a double-digit sales lift.

Reinvesting in the future of higher education

Over the last three years, University of New South Wales has been heavily focused on increasing its international student enrollment — and its efforts have paid off. In this short period of time the university has grown international enrollment revenue by 70% while driving marketing labour costs by 17%.

Fiona Docherty, vice president of external relations, was behind this growth. Together, her team worked to bolster Indian student enrollment from 300 in 2016 to 1,200, and growing revenue from $12 million to $50 million. This push centered heavily on understanding the customer journey — in this case, the prospective student journey — with an eye on understanding Indian students’ and the “moments of influence” during their decision-making process.

From there, Fiona and UNSW were able to hone in on the one critical question prospective Indian students wanted answered: how will a degree from this university help them get a better job post-graduation?

From there, the team set out on a targeted media and PR campaign paired with an “Indian Centre” in Delhi and an expanded agent network in the region. Beyond that, the university has expanded its social media presence — which, she admits, was lacking before — while centralising its marketing structure to an agency model.

“UNSW now has an industry-leading approach,” Fiona says. “Culturally there has been an absolute shift in mindset…Collectively, the community has helped UNSW pass the 1.4 million follower mark and secure the number one spot in Australia for digital presence.”

Celebrating marketing success in Australia

These are just a few of the leading edge marketers affecting change here and around the globe. We’re proud to, again, sponsor this incredible event — every year we walk away completely inspired, and this year was no exception.

By pushing their own boundaries, these marketing leaders challenge us all to step out of our comfort zones and question what we do and how we do it. And by promoting collaboration, customer engagement, and big picture strategic thinking, they fuel an unparalleled global transformation — a transformation that’s only just begun.

Congratulations — and see you next year.