Foxtel has a “death watch list,” companies it has identified that are heading for extinction.

Speaking on a panel at ADMA Global Forum yesterday Andy Lark, CMO of Foxtel, revealed the pay tv channel had conducted its own analysis of leadership roles and company performance across Australian businesses.

Andy Lark, CMO Foxtel

According to Lark, Australia’s highest performing listed companies and highest valued start-ups all have a CMO. While the worst performing businesses in Australia — the ones on the “death watch list” — have all gone sustained periods without a CMO or typically have a CMO tenure of less than 12 months.

“There is an absolute correlation between business performance and CMO tenure and CMO quality,” Lark said.

Despite those stats, Lark said only 28 to 30 of the ASX 100 actually have a CMO and around 11 have a chief customer officer.

Lark, who’s resume includes stints with start-ups like Xero and Simple as well as more traditional businesses like CommBank and now Foxtel, argued the disruptive impact of technologies is often overestimated and high profile business failures are the result of poor leadership.

“The effects of disruption are vastly overstated relative to time and affect. It takes 10 to 15 years for any technology to make its way to the mainstream and it takes another 10 to 15 years for business models to evolve, so the runways and horizons are wide,” Lark said.

A cynic might argue Foxtel, as an incumbent in the age of digital streaming, is in a precarious position given the rise of disruptive businesses like Netflix. However Lark played down the threat the streaming giant poses to Foxtel.

“Netflix sells in a different segment of the market to what Foxtel sells to. We sell to premium home-based subscribers, who typically want a lean back experience and a shared family or household experience. Netflix doesn’t,” he said.

“Netflix stacks onto us. Netflix is actually really good for us because it encourages more people to video consumption.”

Lark made the point that a very small percentage of the population exclusively uses Netflix, and those customers aren’t Foxtel’s target market.

“It is so important as a marketer to know who your market is. The real danger you have as a marketer is when you go ‘this bright shiny new company over here has appeared – we should do that’.”

“No! You shouldn’t do that. Be true to who you are and what your product is and what your product is about. The hardest thing you have to do as a marketer is understand the customer you do not serve.”

Customer focus

Lark’s advice to the marketing audience was to focus on your customer and not get distracted by hype in the digital sphere.

“You’ve got to really understand the customer, you’ve got to have a much broader range view of what tech trends are going to matter and then you’ve got to innovate like crazy,” he said.

Lisa Ronson, CMO, Tourism Australia

Lisa Ronson, CMO of Tourism Australia echoed that sentiment, urging delegates to focus on the customer and not get distracted by bright shiny things.

“CMOs can really drive growth in an organisation and one of the criticisms of marketers is we run too fast at things,” Ronson said.

“What are we doing with AI? What are we doing with VR? AR? I think we get too distracted.”

Ronson argued the fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed despite the rise of technology.

“Focus on the customer, use the data to understand who your customer is, what their barriers are and how are you going to connect with them. In terms of creating great marketing teams that can work through all of this, it goes back to the consumer, always.”

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