Tough Truths Roundtable – Insights from Samsung’s Chief Marketing Officer for Europe on how marketing can achieve stronger influence in the boardroom

As Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung Europe, Benjamin Braun’s commitment to lead, motivate and inspire teams has been instrumental in delivering growth for the business.

Benjamin joined Propeller Group at a round table dinner to discuss how marketing must own more of the conversation at the board level.

He opened his talk by telling a story to deliver his message in a memorable way.

Benjamin’s story focused on an experiment where a group of monkeys were psychologically engineered to avoid climbing a ladder to grab a banana by being sprayed with cold water. Eventually even new monkeys in the group became afraid of challenging the status quo (even though they naturally wanted a banana!).

The lesson? Don’t keep doing something just because that is how it has always been done.

Benjamin knows better than most that there is a tension between CFOs, CEOs and CMOs every day. By using econometric modelling, agencies and brands can prove the value of marketing with clear financial returns to please the CFO and ensure marketing – as function and team – is listened to by the CEO. This is how agencies and CMOs can level-up within the organisation.

Benjamin went on to say that these ideas don’t “need to be expensive”. In fact, it’s better to look for “minimax” ideas” that cost very little but have a disproportionate effect on the bottom line.

To get to these ideas you need to be creative, to tap into the emotional and irrational side of human behaviour. To get to these idea brands need to get comfortable sharing their goals with agencies, to help them really understand what is needed. 

For agencies to be truly successful, Benjamin concluded, they need to become an integrated part of the client’s team. Offer up talks at the clients’ premises, ask to meet additional people within the business, go outside of the marketing sphere, and get under the skin of the brand and its revenue drivers. They also need to interrogate the client briefs, challenge the client to engage in a healthy debate in what the best approach might be. An approach with real focus on achieving results that matter at the highest level, revenue.

But sometimes you have to take the plunge. Sometimes your gut has digested enough data and insights that you can take that leap. Benjamin calls it “gut knowledge”. We’ve all heard the Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” He went off and created the Model T. Sometimes people say one thing but mean something else. Sometimes you have to take that leap for them.

We must build that brand strength while being evidence-led. Good marketers use a combination of “harder” measures to demonstrate what they’ll deliver (incremental sales) and the “softer” ones help to determine how they’ll do it, encompassing the irrational side of human behaviour and creativity.

Benjamin summarised by saying that the risk is that we spend all our time painting pretty pictures. As marketers, we need to keep on doing that, but we also need to elevate ourselves by proving how our campaigns are impacting sales. We need to think about ourselves as not just a creative team, but as one that generates three things: excitement for a brand; consideration for the product; and finally, the conversion of that brand love into sales. Only then will we gain credibility in the boardroom.

And only by thinking that way can marketing agencies and solutions vendors gain credibility with the CMOs they need to convince.

Propeller’s dinner guests sitting with Martin Loat were:

Kieran Kent – Managing Director – Propeller Group

Alex Hole – Vice President &General Manager – Samsung Ads

Colin Kennedy – CEO – Redwood BBDO

Brandon Paine – CRO – Peach 

Steve Bell –  Co- Founder and Global CEO – Iris 

Gustavo Bacchin –  Co-Founder and CEO EMEA – Cadastra 

Claudia Wallace – Managing Director –  BMB agency 

Kathryn Jacob – CEO – Pearl&Dean 

Lindsay Marron – Director of Client Partnerships – Wunderkind

Paul Thompson –  UK and Netherlands Country Manager – Seedtag

Patrick Reid – CEO –  Imagination 

Tim Brooks – Director –  Muzeable 

Sarah Parkes – Chief Sales & Marketing Officer – Talon Outdoor 

Celine Saturnino – COO – Total Media 

Gill Browne – Senior Account Director – Propeller Group