Richard Fouts

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Richard Fouts
Research Vice President
2 years at Gartner
23 years IT industry

Richard Fouts guides digital marketers on best practices for evaluating and deploying emerging digital marketing techniques to ensure marketers make fully informed decisions about their marketing investments. With extensive experience in brand management and marketing communications ... Read Full Bio

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Why CMOs Shouldn’t Shun Failure

by Richard Fouts  |  March 21, 2013  |  3 Comments

I know we all hate to hear old clichés, like “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but after talking to Adobe’s CMO, Ann Lewnes, I just can’t help myself.

Ann doesn’t like to fail. In fact, her success in helping move Adobe into the digital marketing space has been impressive.  Her global marketing organization is actually a case study in using Adobe’s tools and technology to improve her team’s marketing efficiency, measurability and impact.  Not surprisingly, it often lends itself to experimentation and is often leading edge. Ann loves to win, she loves to inspire her people to do the same… and she sees a lot of success in her future.

So why then, is she also a proponent of failure? Let me explain.

Ms. Lewnes would never encourage her people to fail, but when I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by her open attitude about failure. But it made sense. In the digital age, marketers are moving so quickly, that perfection is an absurd goal.

Today’s marketers must have a passion to experiment, to try new things, to move fast, to do things before competitors. Sound stressful? Of course. Add the need to succeed every time, and you’ve got a sure recipe for cardiac arrest. It simply isn’t possible.

When I interviewed Ann she elaborated on the need to experiment, saying “We conducted a dozen experiments last year. Some of them were spectacular failures. Some were abandoned, others spectacularly succeeded after being reworked. But I’m okay with failure. We learn from it, and through our misfires, we come across new findings that we weren’t even looking for.”

Sage advice from a CMO who’s been in the role for six years, at least twice the current tenure.


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