IDG CMO Perspectives: Jim Jackson, CMO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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09/13/2018
IDG CMO Perspectives

HPE’s recently appointed CMO shares his thoughts on building a modern digital marketing organization and the importance of aligning closely with sales across the buyer journey

The role of Chief Marketing Officer has grown increasingly complex. But to Jim Jackson, CMO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the key to success is remaining focused.

“When marketing doesn’t deliver, it’s usually because we try to do too many things,” Jackson said in a recent interview at HPE’s New York office. “It’s better to break through on a couple of things than to try to do too much.”

Jackson, a 20-year HPE veteran, has applied this focused approach to HPE’s marketing organization since assuming the CMO role in June of 2018. “We’ve invested heavily [in our people and our technology] to move to a modern digital marketing organization,” he says. “We’re still learning, and still experimenting, but we’re much further along than we were. You’re going to see us continue to aggressively push down this path.”

The impact of a modernized structure and a renewed focus is already registering: The marketing team has reduced the number of campaigns from 37 all the way down to four over the past three years. “We’re able to double down because we’re aligned and focused, and that means we can get a consistent message out to the marketplace,” Jackson says.

Part of that message is positioning HPE as a purpose-driven brand. “Our brand promise is: Advancing the way people live and work,” says Jackson. Whether it’s using memory-driven computing to help to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, or improving fan experiences for British soccer’s Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, HPE wants to demonstrate how its technology is making major contributions to society.

“You’ll see some amazing stories coming from us,” Jackson says. “It’s a great opportunity for us to build that brand promise on top of 80 years of proven history and trust, while projecting to the future.”

Better alignment with sales has been a critical part of the transformation. Jackson and Chief Sales Officer Phil Davis collaborated closely on a go-to-market framework that aligns sales and marketing across a half-dozen strategic solution categories, including edge computing, hybrid cloud, software-defined solutions, and storage.

“We’re working with sales closely to tell that story and position the company,” says Jackson. “I’m in a very unique position to have an amazing sales leader to partner with. The relationship with sales is really important.”

The goal is to provide sales lift across the buyer journey, from awareness to purchase. For some categories, the focus is on driving awareness to remove upper-funnel friction from the sales process; for others, the emphasis is on delivering high-quality leads to accelerate conversions.

There’s also room for some fun. HPE’s recent “Taming the IT Monster” campaign shows a playful side to B2B tech. Jackson says he challenged his team to be bold as it sought to drive awareness around one of its core solution categories: software-defined technology.

“There can be a lot of sameness in IT marketing: the professional talking head discussing digital transformation,” says Jackson. “In the Twitter world, people are only going to give you a bit of their time, so you have to have some creativity to break through. We wanted to be different.”

Jackson says feedback on the campaign has been “amazing.” The IT Monster even made an appearance at HPE’s recent Discover conference in Las Vegas. To that point, Jackson noted that despite the emphasis on digital marketing, events such as Discover remain a key part of HPE’s marketing mix.

“At the end of the day, you can’t replicate the energy you get at an event,” he says. “At an event like Discover, we do a lot of one-on-ones with customers. The ability to sit across from someone and feel their energy – and to give customers an opportunity to look into the eyes of the leadership team and see our commitment – that goes a long way.”

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