CMOment: Handling change

Q&A with Kim Metcalf-Kupres, CMO, Johnson Controls

What’s the biggest challenge to marketers today: Fragmented media, empowered consumers, evolving technology, or others?

There’s a very fundamental challenge about the identity of marketing. It’s something people are seriously grappling with.

The old days of advertising and lead generation as the definition of marketing are gone. They died a long time ago, but people who equate advertising with marketing have really missed where the profession has gone.

Kim Metcalf KupresThe shift to a more strategic, integrated function that is focused broadly on the growth agenda for an organization becomes more thematic. A CMO is expected to participate and marketing professionals have to round out their capabilities and their overall contribution to their organization.

Of course, the introduction of technology—the opportunities it creates; the challenges it presents and the skills it requires; and the data that is generated and what to do with that data—is the other very rich mine of both challenge and opportunity that marketers are faced with today.

You were the first CMO at Johnson Controls. Can you explain the changes it’s going through?

We are going through the biggest transformation in the company’s industry. We were founded by Warren Johnson in 1885; he was the inventor of the thermostat. We’ve been in buildings forever. We’ve also over the last 50 years become a leader in automotive interiors and seating, as well as energy storage capability, as the largest battery manufacturer in the world.

As we started the transformation we’re in—it actually began in 2013 when Alex Molinaroli became our CEO—it was with the purpose that, for the company to be around for another 100 years, we have to be more purposeful and we have to be more focused and capabilities-driven in our strategies. And as a global, multi-industrial company, our investments and our strategies have to reflect that identity. The way the company was working had been quite successful, but the markets have changed.

We’re in the process of divesting our automotive business and being a true industrial company that is focused on growth in our building and energy sectors. The challenge of the brand—in the separation of the automotive identity—is truly being recognized as the global company that we are. Most of our revenue today comes from outside the United States and our growth markets are outside of the United States.

Being recognized as an employer of choice, a partner of choice and the provider of choice in the different industries we serve on a global basis has been a big part of that transformation.

You’re an enterprise legacy marketer. How have you had to adapt to using channels such as social and content marketing?

Ironically, digital channels and social channels are great for us, because we’re not a heavy traditional advertiser. The biggest challenge we had was that as these capabilities are emerging, we were still operating as a company in a very decentralized way. We had lots of very well-intentioned and creative individuals across the company adapting them on their own.

We realized we had thousands of points of contact for the company and we had the some of the largest cleanup campaigns that Facebook and LinkedIn had to do, in helping clean up our image. That was a huge change management exercise for us.

It was big effort to establish some consistency as it relates to the company’s identity, the way we talk about ourselves and the way we engage in these channels. We’ve made great progress.

Johnson Controls recently announced a merger with Tyco International. You’ll be CMO of the combined company. How do you balance merger disruption and everyday marketing?

It’s clearly one of the biggest challenges that you have with any kind of the major change effort—an acquisition, a divestiture, or in this case, a merger. It’s really having clarity about what the brand is going to be and making sure that your decisions through a change management process are aligned with that future vision.

You have to balance the management of the business today with the investment and the equity you’re going to be building for the future. It all starts with the strategy. We’ve communicated a very strong strategic rationale for this merger.

As we’re managing through the integration process, we have a lot of experience with what we’re calling an integration management office. It’s a very formal process for making decisions and managing the change project the right way—so there’s clarity, explicit choices that are being made, and that we strike the right balance during this transition period.

We’re following all the rules, we’re following regulations, but we’re making choices with the future in mind.

JohnsonControlsYou have been with JCI since 1994 in various roles. Is that an advantage over CMOs who spend their careers solely in marketing?

For me it’s been a huge advantage. When the decision was made to create a CMO role for Johnson Controls and they asked me to fill this role, they specifically said my diverse background within the company and my balance of experience across operating roles in multiple disciplines made me uniquely qualified to shape the role for this company.

My charter has three dimensions to it: protecting, building and transforming the Johnson Controls brands; driving profitable, sustainable growth for the company; and finding new and unique ways to create value for our shareholders. Within that charter, we’ve pulled together a very broad set of functions. I’m functionally leading sales, marketing, strategy, innovation and communications functions for the organization. The experience I’ve had with the company has allowed me to develop the perspective to be able manage this in a very holistic and very integrated way.

What’s next? Will you try some branding after the merger?

You’re going to see us aggressively growing in the spaces where we participate today, and that will probably involve some marketing investments.

We know we have to build our brand in China. We have a great presence there, but that market is growing and maturing so fast, that we need to be doing more. We are doing more than we were doing historically, but I think you’ll see us do even more as we go forward.

As we look at continued investment, both organic and inorganic in these spaces, there will be marketing dollars around them.