Brand and Demand: Brad Kreiger On Driving Brand Marketing and AI through a Historic Economic Downturn
Scott Davis, Chief Growth Officer at Prophet, speaks with Brad Kreiger, CMO at Cushman & Wakefield on AI powered marketing.
Brad Kreiger is the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Cushman & Wakefield and is responsible for the organization’s global marketing, communications and research functions. Within his role, he focuses on building the brand, demand generation, marketing technology and digital platforms, regional and service line marketing and business development activities, and research and thought leadership.
Before joining Cushman & Wakefield, Kreiger co-founded Hard Hat Hub, a technology startup that created a digital talent marketplace in construction and facilities management. Prior, he spent a decade as SVP of Marketing at JLL, where he oversaw various corporate communications, marketing and business development functions.
Scott Davis: Given the disruption and uncertainty we have faced over the last few years, how do you approach both executing your marketing strategy and organizing your marketing team?
Brad Kreiger: COVID started as a big challenge no one knew how to solve. But at Cushman & Wakefield, we had the expertise and a powerful POV within our industry on how companies should operate relative to the pandemic. Some of that came through our experience during the SARS pandemic because we have a significant presence in China. By the time the pandemic had reached the United States, we were three months ahead of many of our competitors, which allowed us to position Cushman & Wakefield as an industry thought leader. That shift in our positioning positively impacted all of our brand metrics, especially PR.
We have a senior team of economists and market researchers focusing on creating best-in-class thought leadership. I also have a smart, lean and scrappy corporate marketing team that manages PR and content marketing and also sits alongside the team of market researchers and economists.
And in this uncertain environment, we are constantly evolving our go-to-market playbook. For example, we recently launched a new campaign called “Behind the Numbers,” which features 90-second Tik-Tok style videos from the perspective of a senior economist who just stepped out of a meeting with a client. We see phenomenal reach with these videos, much more than expected for a B2B organization.
In addition to experimenting with our go-to-market playbook, we’re also doing a lot to mobilize our content by experimenting, taking risks and modernizing our channel mix. We’re also launching crisp positioning and messaging and trying to implement a marketing strategy that is more B2C in terms of our message delivery, which has worked well and helped us increase our speed-to-market. My team is concentrating on launching quality and relevant content that helps our corporate and investor clients decide their next move.
SD: It’s incredible how Cushman & Wakefield has taken major disruptions like the pandemic or the return-to-office debate and has risen as an industry thought leader shaping and directing the narrative around these significant events.
BK: We’re not afraid to stand up and speak the truth as a brand. We saw a great reaction from our clients and the marketplace, so we continued to double down and go harder, which has become our signature go-to-market strategy. We lead with a strong POV and thought leadership. It’s fantastic when that aligns with us driving more revenue, but it can be even better if it doesn’t because it demonstrates the risk we are willing to take as a brand. That type of risk-taking has helped increase our credibility because we are saying things before our competitors and, therefore, have been early on many industry trends.
SD: How has the relationship between marketing and sales within your organization shifted due to where you are as an organization? Does that relationship feel different than it did pre-pandemic?
BK: We have a “we’re in it together mentality” because we’ve had some downturns within the market, which has enabled marketing to take the lead on driving demand. The results of marketing’s demand generation wins in the last few years have proven to our salesforce the importance of our relationship and have helped them see that marketing can do things they cannot do on their own. Additionally, our senior management sees the important link between sales and marketing, which is very different from other B2B organizations.
SD: What is marketing’s role in shaping the overall corporate strategy for your firm, and how has that changed over the years?
BK: Our organization is in the process of refreshing our strategic goals and business strategy, and marketing has a seat at the table regarding the overall corporate strategy. I also have a position on our firm’s global management team.
SD: It’s fascinating to see you play a pivotal role in reimaging what Cushman & Wakefield can become and shift the frame of reference for what this business has been for the last 100 years.
BK: Over the last eight years, the firm has transformed into a multi-billion-dollar global organization. It’s been an incredible transformation. When I think back on the first campaign I launched here, it was the “Welcome to the new Cushman & Wakefield” campaign. Since then, we’ve launched our environmental, social and governance (ESG) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. We’ve expanded into growing sectors like multi-family. We’ve matured our operations and reimagined our global infrastructure. As a member of our senior management team, I always ask myself, “Did the brand keep up with the pace of change?” “Does it reflect who we are and what we want to be in a decade?” We continually ask those questions to ensure our brand strategy meets the demands of our clients and market.
SD: What is your brand and demand mix today, and what will it look like in the future?
BK: As a B2B sales organization, and in a very competitive industry, demand and sales enablement will always be our heaviest weight in the mix. Call it 70% of what we do. That might tilt a little heavier to brand during down market conditions as we try to leverage our thought leadership across common client challenges. As the industry continues to evolve and consolidate, I think brand will continue to grow in the mix. The trick is ensuring the brand messages speak to the very disparate corners across the industry with consistency and relevance.
SD: Given the disruption of the last few years, marketers are often asked to take on greater accountability to demonstrate immediate impact and ROI of marketing investment while creating tighter alignment with the business outcomes. Has that been your experience? If so, how have you shifted your strategy to show impact?
BK: Currently, my team is working on fully automating our digital funnel to get to the point of measuring the critical metrics within each funnel stage. Our team has people sitting across the marketing funnel and within each stage, we identify the critical metrics to determine what conversion means at that stage in the customer journey.
SD: Many marketing leaders are experimenting with AI within their organizations. Are you incorporating AI into your marketing practices, and if so, what does that look like?
BK: We are running a lot of AI pilots and projects. We aim to use AI to either accelerate our marketing efforts or scale them, depending on our needs. We’re also experimenting with creative development, such as copywriting or graphic design. For example, with the video campaign series “Behind the Numbers,” we are using AI software to help accelerate our video editing capabilities. It’s exciting and we have an incredibly nimble team across the organization on AI right now.
SD: It’s evident that AI is enabling your team to be more efficient, but have you experienced any challenges when implementing AI to drive efficiency and if so how did you overcome them?
BK: I feel lucky that our firm has had an AI-backed transformation team now for several years. That’s helped my leadership overcome some of the early challenges around understanding what automation can do. It’s taken some of the fear out of the process. Now that we’re introducing generative AI into our marketing content processes, the challenges are really about training and scaling the process. Which means having strong change management partners. We measure the success based on typical efficiency metrics around shortening processes, but also on quality. Both are critical. I think AI is a means to an end, but you shouldn’t lose focus on the big-picture success metrics of the marketing program.
SD: How will AI transform marketing in the next few years?
BK: Big question. It will likely change the entire way the web works and ‘digital marketing’ around it. It might allow us to leapfrog clunky tech development and focus more on connecting data sets. And it should allow us to be more creative. That might sound counterintuitive, but if you think about the energy it takes to generate one creative idea today, we may be able to come up with 50 concepts in the same amount of time. Add that to reducing all the administrative tasks, what’s left are creative, passionate marketers who know their customers and can use their experience to evaluate the best ways to get messages to market. It’s going to be exciting.
SD: What advice do you have for marketing leaders and CMOs navigating the uncertainty of the next few years?
BK: Leading the marketing function is not for the faint of heart. You have to be ready to react to what’s happening and make decisions fast. The world has gotten very complicated, yet organizations are facing pressure to grow at the same pace as when the world was less volatile. All of this is making it even more complicated than ever to get your message out, which is why great marketing leaders listen more than they talk and are aware of their audience and how they make decisions. If you are an old-school leader who thinks that pretty and shiny ads will beat people down with your message, you will not succeed. In this market, you need to meet people where they are and understand how your product and brand need to evolve.
About Scott Davis
Scott is a senior partner and the Chief Growth Officer at Prophet. He brings over 20 years of brand, marketing strategy and new product development experience. Scott speaks at and chairs branding conferences such as The Conference Board and the American Marketing Association and is frequently cited in publications like The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Forbes. In addition to helping clients unlock uncommon growth, he is an Adjunct Professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a guest lecturer at other top graduate schools, including NYU, Harvard, Notre Dame, Medill and Columbia.
Are you interested in talking with Scott? You can contact him here.
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In our new series, Brand and Demand: The Interviews, Prophet experts sit down with CMOs and marketing leaders who are unlocking demand, driving uncommon growth and building relentlessly relevant brands to get their takes on the top trends, challenges and opportunities they face in today’s disruptive world.