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Mark Baynes, chief marketing officer of the Kellogg Company

A 'genuine' challenge confronts today's marketing leaders

Kellogg Company CMO Mark Baynes discusses promise and pitfalls of new era in marketing

By Aubrey Henretty

1/25/2008 - "The interface between brand and consumer has changed forever," said Mark Baynes, chief marketing officer of the Kellogg Company. When Baynes began his career with the breakfast-cereal giant 18 years ago, brand managers talked, consumers listened and a slick 30-second television spot practically guaranteed the success of a product.

"When I was just starting out - when I was in your position - my boss knew all the answers," he told a capacity audience of Kellogg School students in the Donald P. Jacobs Center on Jan. 24. "Your boss isn't going to know. You'll probably be as informed as he is because the rules haven't been written."

Sponsored by the Kellogg Marketing Club, Baynes' presentation focused the ways in which marketing as a discipline is evolving. "It's a really bad time to be a CMO," he said. "But it is a great time to be managing brands."

In addition to a drop in TV viewership, and a proliferation of ad-zapping video recorders, the digital world has ushered in a host of new challenges for marketers, said Baynes, notably the ability of consumers to share information and opinions about products.

"You no longer have control of your brand," he said. "If someone wants to say, 'This sucks,' they've got a right to say it." If companies want to avoid Internet-fueled public relations disasters, he added, they will have to be "genuine and transparent and real," correcting each problem at its source: "The integrity of everything you do will be exposed."

Of course, the wisdom of crowds on the Internet can also work to a marketer's advantage, Baynes said. If people like a product, they'll probably tell their friends. "Advocacy is going to trump awareness," he said. "Can I get people who are aware of this product to become an advocate for my brand?"

Baynes held that, for marketers, creating brand advocates will mean really engaging current and potential customers - not merely inundating them with one-size-fits-all content. According to Baynes, one way the old model failed consumers (and companies) was by creating ads for amorphous, largely unconnected groups of people. In designing a brand that will appeal, for example, to adults aged 25 to 50, he said, "you end up designing for no one."

"Whatever you do," said Baynes, "make sure the company you choose is embracing the new paradigm." He urged students to set their own parameters. "You're going to help write the rulebook."