CMO Powerlist: ANZ’s Sweta Mehra Wants Customers to Fall in Love with Brands Again

February 25, 2022
CMO Powerlist: ANZ’s Sweta Mehra Wants Customers to Fall in Love with Brands Again
For Sweta Mehra – one of the supremely talented marketers to make it on this year’s CMO Powerlist – there’s no right or wrong answer in the marketing discipline.

The field is a free-for-all, combining elements of economics, statistics and behavioural science which allows one “unlimited whitespace” to formulate strategies and achieve goals.

Despite Mehra never originally aspiring to become a CMO, it was this flexibility, and the opportunity to continually learn and grow which drew her in.

Mehra – who has been CMO of one of Australia’s largest banks, ANZ – has been a marketer from day dot.

After graduating from university, she held various marketing roles at Proctor and Gamble in Singapore – including brand manager and associate marketing director – before arriving in Sydney to consolidate her years of hard work with a top job at one of the region’s leading financial bodies.

“I’ve been fortunate to learn from and work with many great marketers in my career at Procter and Gamble, with many of them being by my managers and mentors,” she said.

“I don’t idolise any particular marketer, but I admire many of my peers in the region.”

Given the average CMO tenure is two years, it comes as little surprise someone as experienced and dedicated as Mehra would maintain her position since July 2017.

“It’s a great responsibility to be a CMO, and it does take about six to 12 months to get to know a business and build deep relationships,” she says.

“A change every two years runs the risk of brand positioning not being consistent, and an organisation where marketing is lacking a strategic direction and has a limited influence at senior levels.”

Considering this, it’s no surprise Mehra is well aware of what separates a good marketer from a great marketer.

While the former may understand the brand, the ANZ CMO says the latter understands the business and the category as well as the brand. A good marketer also understands the customer’s needs, while a great customer creates the customers’ needs.

Furthermore, a good marketer tells a story and creates solid campaigns, while their “great” counterpart instead leads in experience and innovation.

“A great marketer will go beyond the brief and be bold, curious and persistent,” says Mehra.

John F. Kennedy once eloquently said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

It doesn’t take an Apple Store Genius to realise technology is speeding ahead – and often veering-off in unexpected directions – at a breakneck pace. And while a marketer’s role has leaned more into tech every year with new tools and platforms, that doesn’t mean they’re always experts in it.

That said, Mehra believes marketers have adapted well as the field has shifted from “door to door, to print and radio, to TV, and now digital.”

“It just requires us as professionals to remain on our toes and be lifelong learners. Those who don’t will struggle to keep up with the pace of change,” she says, echoing the former U.S. President.

“Great marketers are always clear on demonstrating value and deliverables most relevant to the business and brand objectives. Technology has just added to their arsenal of measurements.”

As to whether or not technology is making marketers more accountable, Mehra says it depends on how it is ultimately used.

When used well, she says tech has provided “extra visibility and depth” on customer actions, following multiple brand engagements which can result in improved customer experience and business outcomes.

However, Mehra warns improved tech can also lead to data overflow, which in turn creates “indecision and confusion on where marketers should focus their efforts”, resulting in short-term goal emphasis at the cost of long-term brand and business health.

So, what channels – tech or traditional – have worked for the CMO of one of Australia’s “Big Four” banks?

Despite print’s diminishing role in the encroaching shadow of other content and customer engagement formats, Mehra says every media channel continues to play a role in the “marketing mix”.

For Mehra, marketing in the modern day hasn’t deviated from that of yesteryears, so much as the role a marketing plays.

“The process of creating, crafting and delivering valuable offerings for customers, clients, partners and broader communities remains the same,” she says.

“However, marketing’s role varies across industries quite significantly. In some organisations, marketing plays a strategic role with end-to-end ownership from innovation to sales, while in others, marketing is relied on primarily for brand communication and advertising alone, with limited influence on all levers of revenue and growth.

“This is where confusion on marketing’s definition arises.”

She says the evolution and introduction of platforms has placed more budgeting pressures and time constraints on the modern marketers.

And while this may be the case for innumerable industries and businesses in the rapidly shifting, globalised world (Mehra admits, “this is not a good enough excuse”), she understands why certain criticisms are often levelled at others in her profession.

“I can understand why for many marketers it is incredibly tempting to stay in safe zones and to keep on doing what worked before,” she comments.

“I would agree with the sentiments from the agency that marketers aren’t daring enough day to day! The incentives for experimentation in the system need to be nurtured and encouraged by CMO and other senior leaders.”

With more pressure on every industry and business – from Hollywood to Hungry Jacks – to continue playing it safe, lest they deviate from the norm and risk business harm, it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine a future where “daring” is the norm.

Even the once celebrated Super Bowl commercials, depicting A-list celebrities galivanting through self-deprecating and nostalgic scenarios has become the norm, and borderline formulaic, as of late.

“While continuing to be customer-centric and commercially driven, the future marketer will be data- and insights-led, technology savvy and an expert on new and emerging business models,” says Mehra.

“Most customers don’t love every brand in the marketplace. The trick is to be the brand that customers love like Apple or Nike. It’s a great mission for marketers to build a brand that customers love, and it’s my primary focus at ANZ.

“I’d like to believe that customers see what ANZ is doing for their financial wellbeing and appreciate this. I believe it’s a great mission: to make a brand that customers fall in love with.”