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Kip Knight - Founder of CMO Coaches

CMO Coaches is a team of former CMOs who work with aspiring marketing leaders. They offer an intense seminar called CMO Bootcamp where you learn all the things they didn't teach you at business school.  

Kip Knight.jpg

Kip’s background is 10 years at P&G in brand management, 12 years with Pepsico in international marketing and general management, 7 years at eBay in international marketing and general management, 3 years running his own management consulting company (KnightVision) in Silicon Valley and 6 years at H&R Block as head of the US Retail business as well as president of International. 

Show notes

CMO Coaches Project (03:11) 

Since we learned a lot of valuable lessons on the various jobs, we thought it would be really helpful if we could collect all that wisdom, put it together, and then offer it to people who are currently in a CMO type role or a Head of Marketing role. The project is also suitable for people who are aspiring to become a CMO in the future. 

Getting Started in Marketing (04:24) 

Originally, I thought that I was going to be a lawyer. The LSU Union had a role open for speakers chairman, which I signed up for. Many people who wanted to help me were fans of Star Trek and I didn’t know anything about Star Trek at the time. 

They were determined to bring the creator of Star Trek to LSU, so I signed up to bring Gene Roddenberry to the campus and have him speak at 2000 seat auditorium.

My advisor told me I’m insane because nobody had ever done that and we didn’t have any marketing budget. We’ve managed to do that and I decided that this was for me. I’ve never looked back. I've always thought that marketing was my sweet spot and I've enjoyed every minute of it ever since. 

Early Career (07:37) 

At LSU I ended up as a president of the student union, so at a very young age, I was given a lot of responsibility. I got a taste of managing large teams and budgets and making things happen. That led me to my first marketing job at Burke Marketing Research. 

After that, I got into Procter and Gamble where I did brand management for almost 10 years. 

They are still considered one of the best postgraduate marketing institutions around because they put a high premium on training. 

A Move To PepsiCo (12:03) 

PepsiCo let me work internationally and one of the things I have been really pleased with in my career is the opportunity to work in many different countries. I have worked in a total of 64 different countries around the world on various brands and businesses. 

My role at PepsiCo was for KFC International, which when I first started was a relatively small business. 

Lessons Learned From International Experience (13:48) 

The most important lesson I have learned is that America does not have a monopoly on good ideas. Every country in the world has got really smart people that are working on various businesses. 

The biggest mistake I have seen among international marketers is that they somehow think that being an American gives them some special authority or permission to do whatever they want. That is typically a recipe for disaster.

The First Role as CMO (18:40) 

It was my most exciting, but also the most terrifying part of my career. You have got a team of 80 or 90 marketing professionals, including very large budgets. It also makes you realize how vulnerable you are because if the business does not perform, the first one they’ll go after is the CMO. I was in the role for about two years, and in the end, I ended up being fired because the numbers were not what they needed to be. 

The biggest lesson that I have learned is that you really need to align with your boss in terms of expectations. CEOs are under tremendous financial pressure. 

Leaving Taco Bell (22:08) 

After leaving Taco Bell I was interviewed at a number of different companies, and I have finally landed at eBay. This role made a huge difference to me both financially and from a learning perspective. I had to learn a whole different set of skills and tools, so it was a tough 18 months. 

Lessons Learned While Working At eBay (26.54) 

The biggest lesson I have learned at eBay is that you can take lessons learned in a variety of different categories and apply them to new categories, new opportunities, new countries. 

A piece of advice I would give to aspiring marketers is to mix things up and go to a different function, different country, or simply work in a different category. You have got to be careful not to fall into a rut. Go for the variety, because this worked really well for me. 

H&R Block Role (28:37) 

I have spent six years here and I was president of the US retail business for about three years. We had about 10,000 offices. My primary insight in that role was again listening and understanding what the customer wants. 

Current Experiences (30:23)

The VC world is fascinating and it is something I plan to be involved in for the rest of my days because it keeps you fresh. On the board front - I am on the board of 5.11 tactical, which is the world's largest tactical clothing company.

And then the CMO Coaches is the entrepreneurial thing I'm doing now.

Key Takeaways From Marketing Career (32:00) 

I have two observations. I think there is a real risk of marketers becoming overly specialized. Many marketing professions have a very narrow focus, but I encourage any marketer to see the bigger picture. Try to get a fundamental training on thinking about the big picture. 

The second one is - you never get to kick back and relax in marketing. It is one of the most rapidly changing professions. There is always something you gotta go back to school on.