Inside the Mind of a Global CMO (Sarah Kennedy Ellis, Marketo/Adobe)


In the series finale of Exceptions, we go inside the mind (and schedule) of one of the world’s top CMOs, Sarah Kennedy Ellis of Marketo. We discuss the acquisition by Adobe, how brand affects her team’s work and her own, and why the Exceptions exploration is the most important journey for modern marketers to make today.

To our listeners: Thanks for your support of this series! Keep in touch with Drift at and host Jay Acunzo at

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Full Transcript

Jay Acunzo: What is a brand? Search for that exact phrase on Google, “What is a brand?” in quotes, and you get 90,800,000 results. There are essays and lengthy PDFs, blog posts and short videos, analysts who pontificate, and authors who write hundreds of pages on the subject each. Me? I keep it simple. In fact, we keep it simple. We have, across 20 episodes, now, of this show. Brand is how others feel about the collective behavior of your people.

If you like this show, if you appreciate how we’ve explored, how the best in B2B are building their brands proactively today, if you feel a certain way about this series, well, it’s because of the collective behavior of the people behind this show. There’s me, I’m the host, Jay Acunzo, I write books, I give speeches, I make shows, and I teach people how to make shows, specifically marketers.

And then, there’s Drift, and their marketing team, and their co-founder and CEO, David Cancel, who, after I interviewed him for a previous show, asked me once I stopped the recording, “Hey, why don’t you pitch us a show idea, and make one for us? We’ll fund it, we’ll market it. Go make something special.”

And thus, Exceptions was born. We wondered from the very beginning, who are these outlier companies in B2B who dare to believe that brand is an important thing, especially after decades of that idea being overlooked, or even scoffed at, in B2B companies? But in this noisy world today, especially, where buyers have all the power, because buyers have all the choice, where your competitors can easily copy your products and game the system, or algorithms constantly change, and people start churning out crap and commodity stuff. Where all of that is the backdrop, brand has become the defensible strategy, the moat around your business.

It’s the one thing that your competitors can’t copy in B2B. Brand is also the one thing your customers truly remember. As we wind down this series with our final episode today, I hope this show can be remembered as an early mover, an early exploration, into why so many B2B companies care about this craft.
Jay Acunzo: So, today, in the series finale, we’re talking to the CMO of Marketo, who is now also a VP at Adobe after the B2B tech giant acquired the marketing tech giant. And to end our run together, I just needed some catharsis. Seriously, I just needed a deep and honest conversation about all this stuff, and I think we got one. Enjoy.

So, I want to start with something that’s pretty fun, Sarah, which is, you’ve worked in marketing for a while, and it’s changed a lot. There’s a lot of, say, surface area to the job. I came out of content marketing, and that’s a job that looks a lot different than what somebody else would say is a marketing job. So, there’s not one flavor, and there’s so many tactics and channels and technologies and tool. It’s just a morass of stuff. What is it about all that stuff that you find most appealing, because you’re obviously continuing to work in this domain?

Sarah Kennedy Ellis: Oh, goodness. Actually, the thing I love most is the morass. It’s the entirety of the complex ecosystem that marketing has become, and has been for quite some time. But I think it’s a great signal of how important and potentially valuable marketing can be to any business, the more and more complex it actually gets.

Because we’re dealing with more things, we’re involved in more decisions, we’re involved in more needs across the business. And I think that marketing can be the answer in many ways, and the technology behind it is actually what’s unlocked a lot of that potential and that opportunity.

So for me, it’s actually the complexity of our job and the labor of love that it is, it’s a thankless job many times, is actually part of … I don’t know why that motivates me, but I kind of enjoy it, because there’s never a dull moment, and there’s never a day that we don’t get thrown a new challenge or problem to solve, and that keeps things interesting.

Jay: All right, so this is going to be fun, because first of all, I’m so glad you said it’s kind of a thankless job sometimes. My marketer brain was just like, “Hell yeah.” Second of all, I’m with you. I have a bias here. I came out of mostly startups in tech, and so, obviously, we’re creating some of the change that people often complain about.

But I spent the last three years, when I’m not hosting shows, on the road as a speaker. And one of the things I noticed every single time at every event, there’s this chorus of people going, “Things are changing,” right? And I get it. I know they are.

Sarah: Of course they are.

Jay: But of course they are, right? Exactly. And so, I never quite understood. I understand that that is a just given, again, of course, that it is changing. But I never understood why the implied tone was negative, right, like why that has to be a bad thing.

Sarah: Right, right, and that’s such a good point. Because same way, I would go and sit at these conferences, especially my old life in the travel tech industry. It was even probably worse and more pronounced in that industry than most, just because it’s the aviation hospitality industry mindset that was a bit slow and [inaudible 00:05:11] in a sense of adopting new tech.

And so change was a threat to those businesses because innovation in tech was actually shifting business models and making it harder to make a dollar in that industry, in fact, while making it better for consumers, which was the entirety of the point. And the interesting thing is that we sit through those sessions, I’m sure, and I’m sure you have heard many, as have I, but we’ve also probably presented them as well. And I looked at it and go, kind of, I stood back one day and I was like, “What is this actually driving us to do as marketers?”
Sarah: And I think the issue is that others that are our peers, or are the CEO of companies like ours here, those trends and those changes coming as well, and they do view them as bad, and they then think there’s a solution that we’re not providing, instead of actually accepting that changes are a constant reality.

And in marketing, I actually think the cycle time of change, it gets shorter and shorter more than any other discipline, to where change management is actually our real job, and there’s a lot of research on that that’s been done recently that I love, because I think that’s so true.

It’s actually the single most important skill set of a marketer today is, in fact, not marketing, and anything to do with it. That’s important, and it’s probably second and third on the list, but the number one thing is change management. And I think that’s, for us as marketers, us acknowledging that and accepting it, and then honing that skill set is going to be, for us as we move forward, actually the most important thing that we can do as leaders.

Jay: I love that. Let’s explore that just briefly. So, the vast majority of people listening are not CMOs, and certainly, if they are leaders of organizations or departments, not nearly as large and successful as Marketo, which is now an Adobe company, for people who, I don’t know, I guess are living under a rock. This is a marketing show. I’m pretty sure everybody knows that, now. But can you just describe your day yesterday? What does your calendar look like? What’d you go through yesterday?

Sarah: Well, this week is a especially unique one. So, what was yesterday? Most weeks, I don’t know what day of the week it is. Catch me at the end. And the sad thing is, actually, when you asked what was my day like yesterday, in fact, if I look at my calendar, it is always lying. Because there’s never a day that is perfectly scripted and ever actually plays out the way that you design it to. That’s number one.

Any and every marketer knows that, that’s for sure. Probably anybody in [inaudible 00:07:37] who’s in a high growth industry would know that. But I actually sat through, as I’m thinking through this, a few different weekly meetings, which are super fun, because I get to attend two.

I now dotted line into Ann Lewnes, the CMO of Adobe, who’s fantastic, and I sit in now on her weekly staff meeting, just because it’s super helpful for me to start to hear how all the other marketers across the business are thinking about things like creative cloud growth, as well as document cloud, and what they’re doing in that space. And we hear a lot more now about just the subscription business and it’s super interesting because of all the innovation that they’ve had in that business, that’s grown the business in itself overall at Adobe in a massive way over the last three, four, five years. And-

Jay: It really is incredible, when you think about where Adobe used to make their money, and how they’ve shifted. If possible, they’re like a sleeping giant in this industry. It’s wild.

Sarah: It is. They’re very humble. It’s like humble, but confident, and so it’s a very polite company, I find. And their pride and their culture is evident when you walk in the door and when you meet with them for the first time. And that was really refreshing, surprising, actually, for any tech company that has as much power and size and scale as they do, to kind of have kept that humility along the way.

They still operate with a culture that is scalable, but also feels like a company would when it’s a much smaller place, that’s kind of a family, in a sense, that’s just massively grown over the years. Pretty much exploded, in a sense, to now, I think, 21, 22,000 employees.

Jay: Crazy.

Sarah: The things that I think about in a given day, a day like yesterday, we’re thinking about everything from what’s our approach to pricing and packaging as we try to optimize for some of the smaller, up and coming startups in the space, who are now actually more advanced in marketing, and they’re actually taking marketing on as a earlier stage investment in their business, more so than the last three or four years, when marketing was something that you thought about a little bit later. Maybe after a few more rounds of funding, and to bring it in house.

So that’s an interesting dynamic that’s happening in our space. Because a lot of those startups that see marketing as a growth driver don’t have time and don’t have a mistake to make on which tech staff they choose, and so for us to think about that in a different way and make sure we’re there and able to support them and scale that support, those are kind of the things we’re thinking about on, really, a given, daily basis.

But also, on the flip, how do we grow into the enterprise and serve the needs of a global CMO of a multi-national corporation in a way that is cost effective, but also scalable and secure? That tiny little word. But also, thinking about talent a lot. I did a couple of interviews yesterday for a few roles in our content organization, we’re rebuilding that. And I spent time talking to multiple people.

I talk to Steve a few times every day, our CEO. And just generally interacting with my team, and trying to kind of figure out for us. As we move toward the end of this quarter, we’re spending a lot of time talking about getting our engine refined and optimized as we start to kick off 3Q for, now, Adobe’s fiscal year, which is one month earlier than what ours ways. And to prepare, really, for 2020. We’re already doing 2020 planning.

So that’s kind of top of mind for me in the last day, and then I was in San Jose both days before that. Got to spend some time with Shantanu, with Ann, and a few other leaders on the team, just talking about the DX business, and how do we really want to think about our position in the market, and who we want to be, and who our brand should be in comparison to the competition, to differentiate what we are bringing to marketers and digital [inaudible 00:11:39] and people all over the world who are actually in need, in a business sense, of driving growth through new and innovative ways.

And I think marketing is going to be at the core of that, and it makes it a really cool time to be a marketer.

Jay: So, a couple things. Couple of knee jerk reactions. Number one is, I’m tired just hearing you talk about it, and number two is, we preceded that rundown of your day with this idea that, really, change management, which is directly related to learning and just continually updating your knowledge, is the number one skill for marketers, and certainly marketing leaders.

So given that that was your day, or the beginning of the week, and given all the large scale things you’re working on, now the stakes get higher at Adobe, where during your day or week are you finding time to keep up with what’s going on in the industry? Maybe what would be helpful is … Do you have dedicated time, number one, and then number two, what’s your consumption habits look like? Are you subscribed to lots of newsletters or podcasts? So one, where’s the time, two, what is it going into that time?

Sarah: So, I am the single worst example of healthy work life balance, because I don’t sleep enough. But I typically … 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. is when I’m looking at what is going on in the world. And I spend a lot of time, I’m planning for my holiday weekend coming up, and have downloaded a few different books, because I haven’t given myself the gift of time to read an actual book. I’m kind of tired of reading just quick hit articles, candidly.

It’s nice to dive into something that has a lot of depth to it, and give yourself the gift of time to do that. So hopefully, I can carve some time out this weekend to do so. And I’m reading Measure What Matters, and I like nerdy fictional business books, like John Maxwell style. I don’t know why. It’s like the manifestation of training and compliance videos put into written word, but it’s actually quite insightful and really helpful.

So, I like thinking about scenario planning, and honestly, going back into a larger business, for me, it’s important to kind of … I call it breaking my brain, and I mean that because I broke my brain when I came to Marketo, in a way, because I had to switch from large scale, publicly traded, $5 billion company at Sabre that was very, very established, and slow growing, but growing steadily business, in a sense that there’s a different mindset and approach to how you do your job every day, and then bringing that enterprise grade software marketing experience that I did have there, that we were very successful at, but also learning how to be comfortable with things that it is drilled into you in a large company to never do.

And things like over-hiring and things like not … Underspending is the single greatest sin of any marketer in a company that’s worth its salt and growing. And yet, in large, finance-driven organization, not that finance-driven organizations are a bad thing, you just aren’t taught actually early days how to be comfortable taking the risk, or putting things out there that are the only ways you will actually drive growth, versus kind of safely growing it four to five percent [inaudible 00:15:00] being comfortable with that, and growing through cost cutting in many ways.

And I think there’s a very, very big difference. So, when I think about the transition from job to job, it’s about breaking my brain and also retraining myself on things and skills that I need to have and remember that I’ve had to shake, and so it’s like this constant cycle of breakage in a good way of habits, or behaviors, or thoughts, or areas of focus that change from job to job, and just stage to stage in a given company’s growth.

Jay: There’s this quote, and I think marketers, maybe mostly practitioners, but I think it’s endemic to all of marketing. We like the neatly packaged, blueprint guide, tips and tricks, et cetera, in a way, because a lot of us perpetuate that with our content marketing, unfortunately. But the prescription-

Sarah: Yeah. And they always suck. I’m joking, I’m joking.

Jay: What’s that?

Sarah: I said, “They always suck, don’t they?” No. [crosstalk 00:15:51] headline promises, and that’s our job. I’m joking. But-

Jay: No, I agree. It used to be. I think you’re hinting at something really interesting, which is, it used to be that marketers were about headline promises, and now it’s like where we have to excel, in this analogy, is the body copy. We have to be good at not just grabbing attention, right? Grabbing attention was once the job. Now it’s about holding it, I think.

Sarah: Amen. You’re dead on. And the depth that we have to be able to go, that’s actually one thing I love about Adobe, is Shantanu’s level of involvement and appreciation for detail at deep levels in a business. I don’t know how the man does it, because he’s always seems well rested, and is very calm, and is constantly having to be in the public eye on the street.

But he’s often heavily involved and deeply involved in the business, and I think us as marketers, walking into a room any given day with him, I know that I have to know my business backwards and forwards at a level of depth that’s actually quite different to scale, sometimes, but is the single most critical thing I can do as a leader, is make sure that we’re involved where it matters.

And especially involved where we can actually make a difference that is not just a tweak here and there that will make one to two percent of an impact, but where five, 10% difference of our heavily, hands-on involvement is actually possible. And I think, actually, Shantanu made an interesting statement the other day about the combination of storytellers who can go deep on data, and I think that’s what he has hired into his marketing organization, and that’s what he knows we will continue to need in our industry.

And I think we do have a shortage of that. And I think even just data literacy, and how to make sure that you can tell a compelling story, but you understand the why, and you also, even at a fundamental level, know to ask why. The data, in its own right, data for data’s sake doesn’t actually help anything, because the whole point is to actually figure out what to do next.

And I think we’re just getting to the place where we’re able to effectively, as marketers, report on the data and the metrics that matter. And I think we’ve got also a bit of a lab, we’ve got to get our earlier, less experienced marketers who are coming in the door out of the gate. They’ve got to be able to put a story to data and actually explain why it matters and what it means, and what to do next. For me, that’s a really critical part of our team’s progression.

Jay: We’ve been talking a lot about team and learning. We really haven’t talked about the theme of the show yet, which is brand, but I think, in a way, in a very real way, in a very important way, we have been, because … So, we’ve done so many of these episodes already, and we’ll end at 20, and with each brand, we learn something new, and take an angle.

But there’s been this through line which was developed in the first, say, half of those episodes, of what brand actually is. Because I think there’s a lot of misnomer, especially in B2B, historically. What is it, a viral video? Okay, let’s do a culture video. Whatever. No. Brand, in our definition, is, and I’d love your take on this, is how others feel about the collective behavior of your people.

And just for people listening, just to break that down, so it’s how others feel. We don’t say customers or prospects, because employees, the team. If you feel a pride in where you work, that’s brand doing its job, and then you do your job better, harder, et cetera. So it’s others. Anyone involved. Investors, stakeholders, you name it.

And then, the collective behavior of your people, I think, catches some folks off guard. Because there’s these words we use like brand, like company, like team and organization, which, these are just empty shells, or shorthand, for a group of people doing the work.

And I think so often we forget that, and so we look at brand as this amorphous, ephemeral thing we go chasing instead of looking at our team and being like, “Okay, what can we do to improve, to align, to communicate the right things in the right times to our audiences?” It is the people doing the work. So just to spit that back again, brand, we define as, how others feel about the collective behavior of your people. And I’m just curious, as a leader, how you’d react to that definition.

Sarah: Yeah, I would tend to agree, and I think it’s a interesting representation of it. And I think it’s accurate. Because it is, it’s about the emotional feeling, and I think it’s the … The others thing is interesting to me, because I often probably don’t spend enough time, maybe I spend the right amount of time, thinking about what anyone other than those who are in the marketing field think of my brand.

Well, I say that. Anybody who is involved in a company, or a team, or a what have you, that actually touches our product, or engages with us ever. But I don’t often think about kind of the rest of the stakeholders in the world that may have a perception, and who are often calling us Marketo, which is super fun.

But I actually think a lot about our community whenever I think about our brand, and I think if you ask me what’s one word that comes to mind, this is cheesy, but family is what Marketo comes to mind, because it is this hyper-connected sense of community that is not something I created, I got to inherit it. And my job was to just not screw it up.

But it was something that was so powerful and so impressive walking in the door that it was actually intimidating. It was kind of like, “Who created this and how in the B2B tech space? What B2B company ten years ago in [Martek 00:21:30] was actually so, so connected to its community, it inspired people to dye their hair purple and to literally change their lives and their careers, at times, to orient around all things that that brand is doing, and to advocate, and to be a voice for that brand?

And there were some brilliant marketers that came long before me at Marketo that put that in place, and put that in motion, and it built organically upon itself for many, many years. And when I got here, it has become one of the most special parts of this job, is being a part of that community.

And I view, actually, our brand, when we went through our rebrand last year, it was terrifying. Because I had learned how special it was, and how many people’s careers had been built on Marketo’s brand, and I knew we had to go through the rebrand process, because it was time to kind of move from our original routes of being a bit more lower end of the market, and feeling a lot more approachable, I’m sure, but we had to be able to scale up to the enterprise, and have a little bit more of the grownup version of Marketo’s aura, while bringing in a lot of the goodness from our history, and not making people feel like we were changing completely, but we were evolving.

And I think that was a very intentional process that we went through. It took our time. But the one thing that I explored during the process that I still think about a lot is, I believe our brand is owned by … The majority of the shareholders of our brand, in my eyes, are our customers and our community.

Because they’ve built their brands on ours. And I look at the democratization of the ownership of a brand, in a sense, and I think about that a lot in what even Airbnb has explored with thinking about their actual asset owners being shareholders in the business as well, in a sense.

And I think about, what would the world look like if our customers actually did own the brand? And I don’t know what that means to them. I don’t know what that would look like, but I know that it’s true in spirit, today, and it’s part of how I operate in my job, is with the mindset, they own this. This is theirs, not ours. We’re just here to be stewards of that, and of their careers, and support them however we can.

Jay: Well, I think when you talk about a group of customers owning the brand, you’re seeding something that, oh my, do we love as marketers, which is a sense of, we control it. We control the message. We’re the owners, we’re the drivers. Our value to the organization, in part, not everything, especially today’s marketing, but in part, it’s, we came up with that, right? And now, what you’re saying is, “The customers own it, and we’re stewards.”

So how do you get a team of people to feel pride about their work and to get on board with that idea? Because it does kind of get rid of this idea that oh, it came from the heads of this great team here.

Sarah: Yeah, this is the thing. That’s not something we struggled with because I brought in … So, most of our team here over the years, changes in ownership, the team has changed with business. And we have a ton of new people in this marketing organization who actually all were kind of fangirls and fanboys of Marketo long before they came here, and kind of always were excited about the prospect of being apart of this brand, watching the others who came before us do what they did to build out that community early days.

And we came in, I think, with an immense amount of respect for that. And I don’t think we actually struggled with the ownership piece. It was, in fact, the driving … It was our beacon of light throughout the whole process. And in fact, when we had some of the hardest days and decisions, every single time, we would honestly go straight to what we call our Marketo champions.

It’s our top tier of power users, and they’re the ones who run their own user groups. They are the kind of power players in their companies, and often, some of the most heavily recruited marketing operations professionals, because of what they’ve done earlier than most in this field.

And they’re very opinionated, and I think, over the years, have gone through feeling really special to being maybe ignored, not engaged enough in the brand, as ownership changes have evolved. And I think we brought them back in into that process, but even more so, to make the story their story. And I think that was the really special part of this brand relaunch, and also just the thematic that we had out there last year of the fearless marketer.

It was the thing that was originally a theme of our conference, and it kind of became a bit of a rallying cry throughout the year to also be okay sharing where we’re not perfect, because we are going through the same cycle of change that our customers are. So being willing to say that, and being willing to say, “We don’t know what we’re doing either, some days, just like you guys. Cool? Cool? Yeah. Okay, let’s do this again.”

Jay: Well that, to me, that speaks to this idea of change management and lifelong learning that we started with, where I think there is a sense of an old school B2B organization. Not even old school, just in the past few years, we’ve seen with content marketing’s rise as an example, a B2B organization wants to be positioned up on the hill. We think about [inaudible 00:26:55] leadership. We think about, “Here’s our expertise, and everything is hunky dory.”

We have the answer, and I think now, when it’s about building community, getting into that community, providing a platform for that community, as you mentioned you’re doing, I think now, you’re seeing a shift to people, or brands, and teams, who are saying, “We don’t have all the answers.” But the beauty of saying that is you can then say, “But we’re going to go figure it out.”

And then you get to invite the audience along with you. It’s like a journey. Like, “Hey, we have questions, too. We’re exploring this. If you’re excited, subscribe and come with us.”

Sarah: Yeah. And it’s so powerful, because somebody does know the answer, and collectively, we are, of course, smarter than us as individuals. And I think that as we’re managing this change, it’s fighting a losing battle if we do it on our own, because there’s never enough hours in the day to read enough articles or reports, or study enough models, or do enough experiments on our own to actually be able to ride the wave and get ahead of the curve in the areas where we need to.

And I don’t think anybody now is foolish enough to believe they can. I think we’ve all tried, and I think the community piece is really, really critical. It’s also therapeutic, and the thing that I’ve enjoyed so much about this brand and this community, too, is that they’ve let me by myself, and that there’s no other way for me, personally, to enjoy and succeed in a job. And I’ve learned that over the years, too, is to not apologize for that.
Sarah: And I think that they’ve really embraced our imperfection as marketing at Marketo. We went through our own nightmare upgrade of our own instance. We were using the oldest version of Marketo up until last year, literally. From 2009, we had … It’s like shoe cobbler’s kids had no shoes, and [inaudible 00:28:38] and bubblegum, and we were still performing. I was blown away by the performance of the team, even with that instance, because we couldn’t even use some of our own new features. That was the worst part.

And we now can, but it was a year of transition, and we were hitting obstacles left and right. And I, this year, was able to get up on stage at Marketing Nation Summit, and when I write my keynotes, I just think about honesty, and then, is it honest enough? And when I don’t quite feel like it’s right, I’m like, “Am I totally telling them the truth? What else am I hiding or pretending or posturing on that I’m not saying that I should?”

And I think this year, we finally got to the talk that was the one, because I was able to kind of share my own fears as a first-time CMO, and I think that opens up the dialogue, and it certainly did with many of those that were there. I was like, “Listen, I had no idea CMOs were getting fired everything 18 months, but apparently they were,” and then I started freaking out. “Wait, I probably am going to get fired, too,” and I had no idea why and what was driving that trend.

And then I found all these other people who were in the same situation who actually just needed a community to share with and start to problem solve with. And so, that’s been a really cool part of it, as this community, especially this brand, for whatever magical reason, it’s been able to do it. People are able to open up and be honest, and because of that, learn more efficiently together.

Jay: I love that last point, too, because one of the things I learned making … Wow, if I had to count, I’m going to take a stab in the dark, 12 branded series in the last three years, I’ve been very … I have a lot of gray hairs now compared to when I started.

But it’s been a learning experience not just about making shows, but about this fundamental shift in marketing from, as we mentioned before, grabbing attention to holding it, and holding it is our new mandate, I think, and I believe, and I’ve seen it.

And one of the ways you can hold attention really well, and therefore their trust and loyalty, all this stuff marketers want, is stop saying, “I have the answer, here it is, it’s a checklist.”

Sarah: Right.

Jay: It’s saying to them, “We don’t have all the answers. We have a lot of questions. We have a lot of ideas and theories. We’re going to go put them to the test. We’re going to explore.” And then you invite those people to come with you, and on this show in particular, we started with the premise, look, B2B used to disdain branding, and brand ideas, because it was fluffy, immeasurable, unimportant, consumery, and today, it’s one of the few remaining true differentiators that competitors can’t outright copy. It’s a moat around your company.

And when we started, we’re like, “That’s our belief.” Now, how does that work? Well, we have some ideas. We have more questions. We’re going to go journey to the far ends of B2B, in North America, anyway, and talk to all of these companies who are doing it, and explore. You should come with us, subscribe.

And that, to me, was such a better way to do marketing, because not only did we feel better about it, because we were honest, everybody started learning together, and the community we’ve built has been wonderful. I don’t know. It was such an eye-opening experience.

Sarah: I love it. Love it, love it.

Jay: So, let’s sort of end here. We’ve been talking, like I said, for this entire show about brands and et cetera, and there’s been two continual areas of hesitation that we’ve heard from our audience, and they both involve the CMO. So I thought, “Okay, maybe I should ask a CMO about this.”

So one is, I’m not in a brand marketing role. Right? So I’m in marketing ops, I’m in paid advertising, I’m in whatever role you want to paint, and I’m not on the brand and buzz team, so to speak. So how does us having a strong brand or having teammates dedicated to cultivating it benefit my job?

And I’d be curious, if you look across your team, Marketo has a very strong brand, joining Adobe, even more so now. How does the brand of Marketo and Marketo plus Adobe make all the jobs on the marketing team better, easier, more effective?

Sarah: Yeah, great question. So, I think when you look at the power of our brand, Marketo, I think across all of our demand generation efforts, there is certainly uplift. And the more powerful and recognizable our brand is, I think the more we get out of every dollar we invest, whether that’s digital, whether that’s any type of demand generation activity.

So to me, they’re very closely linked, and it also helps us organically. And so I look at that as actually a driver of marketing efficiency, is the value of your brand is in fact a big input into how efficient your marketing spin can ultimately be. So that’s one.

I think if you look at the rest of an organization and a team, pride in your work and what you answer when someone asks you what you do and where you work is important to people, and I think that as a marketer, there is such a beaming sense of pride I see across every person on my team, whenever they are able to say Marketo. And I know that’s for a variety of different reasons that they’ve each built up over the years because of their own exposure and experience with our brand.

And I think they also have come from a community of people that … There’s nearly 50,000 people who have Marketo listed somewhere on their LinkedIn resume, which is crazy to me. And our following on LinkedIn, and the community we built even there, is as big as some of the companies that are in our space that are ten times our size.

And I think that’s a testament to, again, kind of that movement and that pride, and I think if you looked across any marketing team, the pride is real and it matters, and any marketer, no matter what part of the corner, far corners of marketing to the heart and soul of a brand marketing team, everybody wants to wear that logo on their shirt, and they really, really want people to feel like the work that they do every day is as important as what they feel when they get out of bed in the morning, and when they’re working late at night.

And I think that that, for Marketo, has certainly been true. And I think the last thing is, across my team, I think, actually, the global distribution of a team can, in fact, be brought together by that emotion and that connection of a brand in a more powerful way, also. Because we all feel that same sense, and that same mission and purpose in the work we do, so I think that keeps us more tightly connected, and it also helps us, I think, keep a bit of a sense of humor in what we do, and feel like a bit of a family when we’re working the late nights and early mornings.

Because we’re all kind of here just to serve at the pleasure, honestly, of our customers and our community. And I think if we see them successful, we all feel great pride in the work that we invest many more hours than we probably ever should away from families and friends to make possible.

Jay: And I mentioned that was one of two things we hear a lot from our audience. I think you just answered the second one, quite frankly, which is, that’s all well and good, but my boss. And if that’s what you’re saying, hey, maybe listen to a 20-part series about B2B branding. I think one exists right now. I don’t know. I think this is the final episode. I think we’re sticking the landing.

But at risk of just sending people on an hours-long journey to consume all this content we’ve created, maybe we can do the crazy task of summing this up. As a CMO, if you had to give your one liner as like, this is why brand truly matters to our organization and B2B overall, what would you say? Could you condense it into something short and sweet?

Sarah: So, just off the cuff, I actually would say, brand is the heart and soul of what you do and what the world sees you as. And I think every B2B marketer is in the business of making or breaking the careers of those they serve. And I think it’s really cool to get out of bed in the morning and have a brand that, actually, its purpose is to exist to actually help someone else’s career advance, and their success is our success.

Jay: Well, that’s all, folks. That’s the last episode of Exceptions. It will live on as a 20-part series available publicly. There’s 19 numbered episodes, and in case you’re wondering why we stopped at 19, there’s one behind the scenes episode about Drift and creating a book for your brand, so that ran in season two, hence the final episode being 19, not 20. Yeah. Leave it alone.

But if you enjoyed this show, I encourage you to check out two other shows I think you’ll love. The first is Seeking Wisdom from Drift, and the second is Unthinkable, which is my story style business show. Also, if you enjoyed learning about the meta stuff, the craft of marketers creating shows to build passionate audiences, if you want to know what goes on when you make an original series and market it and distribute it and measure it and grow audience around it, all that stuff, I’m now pointing at a new company I launched.

It’s called Marketing Showrunners, and my goal is to bring together the community of people who run branded shows. And currently, we have subscribers from Red Bull, Adobe, Shopify, Salesforce, Wistia, LinkedIn, even the BBC. That’s I just want to say one final thank you to you for listening to this series, whether this is your first episode or your 20th. But if it’s your 20th, please tweet me. I need to shout you out, or give you something, I don’t know. A funny gif at least.

Thank you for coming along for this journey, and making this journey to understand something important even more important to me. In this world of infinite advice, and copycat thinking, and commodity marketing, remember, it has never been easier to be average. So why don’t we try to be something else? Let’s be the exceptions.