What MediaLink’s Dana Anderson Thinks New CMOs Should Focus On

The veteran marketer explains how to navigate this tough environment

Dana Anderson, chief transformation officer of MediaLink
Headshot of Diana Pearl

The average CMO tenure has gotten shorter and shorter in recent years. Routinely, top marketing executives will leave their posts almost as soon as they’ve settled in them—a sign, perhaps, of an industry that’s changing so rapidly that even those at the top can’t always keep up.

Dana Anderson, however, has managed to remain at the top of the marketing world throughout all the upheaval. For over three years, she served as the CMO of Mondelēz, a post she left in May of last year to join MediaLink, a strategic advisory firm where she works to aid and improve brand and marketer relationships.

At October’s ANA Masters of Marketing event in Orlando, Anderson sat down with Adweek to chat about the role of CMO today—which she says is has more required duties and tasks than ever before—and what new CMOs should keep in mind as they start in their roles. The five biggest takeaways from that conversation, below.

Pick your primary goals.

Coming into a new organization, Anderson said the most productive approach is to pick three to five areas of focus that you really want to tackle in your new role. “Do not boil the ocean,” she said. “Figure out the three things you need to get done that will convince the organization and move it ahead and show what you need to do.” Choosing these major points to prioritize will help to chart your course early on in a new position.

Remember the long-term.

But when you pick those goals, stick to them. Anderson said that too often, she sees CMOs come into a business with big ideas, but they get bogged down in the more immediate tasks their job requires of them and lose sight of those ambitions. “Sometimes I see them come in and they have a lot of bright ideas about what they’re going to do and they get sucked down in the day to day so fast that they forget all of the long range stuff,” she said. Anderson’s team at MediaLink tries to help balance the long and short term during what she calls a “transformation year,” where MediaLink drives the more big picture goals as the new executive focuses on the more immediate, day-to-day tasks.

Work with those who are interested in working with you.

Or as Anderson said, “dance with the people who want to dance with you.” It’s easy to come into a new position starry-eyed about the future, only to be caught off guard when people are reluctant to let your presence shake up the way things have always been done. Anderson said that when she was in that situation herself, a new planner at an agency that previously hadn’t had a planner, her boss told her: “focus on the people who want to do stuff together and go there.”

Get the metrics right.

Dealing with faulty metrics is one of the biggest issues marketers face today, said Anderson. As marketers try to make sense of data, and what it can do for their businesses, figuring out how to measure it and what metrics are the best to use has posed a major challenge. Even though it may take time and effort, Anderson has no doubt that marketers will figure data out to their benefit: “We’re going to manage to learn how to use data,” she predicted. “We’re not going to be overwhelmed by it, we’re going to be inspired by it.”

Purpose is vital.

Seemingly more brands than ever are aligning themselves with a cause, ranging from the near universally-supported—think Dawn’s work with wildlife rescue—while others can be seen as more political, like Nike elevating NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick. Whatever you do, Anderson said that taking some sort of stand is essentially non-negotiable in today’s climate. “Purpose and premise is vital,” she said. “People want you to commit to a larger role [in society], and that they will be loyal to you for that.”

@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.