GET TO KNOW...
VP Marketing at GfK
Frankie Lee heads up marketing and communications for Asia Pacific and the Middle East region at GfK, a global leader in research, data and analytics on consumer and market insights. In this role, Frankie leads a diverse team of marketers, and has successfully transformed the function from a communications-led to a revenue and demand generation engine. With a career spanning over 20 years, Frankie acquired a broad spectrum of B2B technology marketing skills and knowledge across global, regional, country marketing, product, and communication roles with companies like Sophos, Red Hat, Dell and Symantec. Of all, being in a field marketing position remains his greatest passion, partnering sales team in driving brand preference and sales funnel with measurable ROI. Frankie is based in Singapore and is an avid follower of developments in content marketing innovation and practices.
CMO Council: Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are now.
Frankie: Thank you CMO Council for this interview and the opportunity for me to be a part of the APAC Advisory Council.
I have always loved marketing and started my career in events with a global exhibition and experience design company which included a year overseas work stint in China. At that time, I worked with many clients from marketing departments of varied technology companies and that exposure sparked my curiosity and keen interest about information technology and how it enables businesses and societies. This led to my mid-career change to be a technology marketer. In hindsight, one of the game-changing career decisions for me was starting as a technology sales representative to learn, experience and understand what it is like to sell technology products and services on the front lines in order to market it.
Fast foward to today, I am truly grateful to build my career across the B2B marketing spectrum, from global to country marketing roles, including product, communications, brand and field marketing with companies like Dell, Red Hat, Symantec and Fuji Xerox. I would say having a long term vision of your career is important while being flexible and agile at every step, and at times jumping right in when the opportunity presents itself to learn and challenge yourself. I also had great mentors who made me reflect on my leadership and thought process through their invaluable advice and feedback about my work decisions and mistakes. Joining GfK was a breakthrough career chapter and best of both the worlds for me, where I can drive marketing innovation to engage with marketers and brand leaders while harnessing my knowledge and affinity for technology to advance the company’s vision to be the unparalleled, always-on, AI-powered intelligence platform and consulting service for the consumer products industry, globally.
CMO Council: What is your personal philosophy on marketing?
Frankie: Marketing is about creating a need and communicating it to the market about WHAT and HOW your organization can solve a problem or pain and WHY you can do it better than the competition. Marketing should be always-on, with flights of strategic programs and campaigns designed around the offering (product, solution, service), audience or amplifying the brand of the company. Over time, all these contributes to stengthening brand equity sustainably.
CMO Council: What marketing skills will be needed in the future and why?
Frankie: Marketing will continue to evolve to stay relevant with technology advancement, changing consumer lifestyles and demographics. Digital proficiency is a must-have skill for marketers, whether it is to innovate new digital channels to engage with customers or simply operate and collaborate on next generation cloud marketing tools and systems. With the Internet of Things connectivity and the data-driven age of marketing, segmentation, persona definition, analytical and hypothesis formulation skills will become even more critical for marketers to efficiently declutter and make sense from volumes of data and information about customers and prospects.
Having clear segmentation and target personas can fuel product planning tasks, develop accurate use cases, designing winning content strategies with highly engaging customer journeys. With AI and predictive modeling automating some of the data analytical tasks, marketers can devote more time and energy at the onset towards formulating and testing varied hypotheses and scenarios for actionable insights that will drive measurable marketing impact for the business. An example would be understanding and building hypotheses on different levers (content type and formats) and their casual relationships when setting up customer journeys to achieve desired campaign performance goals.
CMO Council: What are your priorities when it comes to organizational change, operational lift and staff development?
Frankie: I had the opportunity to participate at the start of GfK’s digital transformation and the progress we have made in the last few years is nothing short of amazing. On the marketing front, we renewed our role globally, turning from a PR and communications led function to become a focused demand and revenue generating engine. When it comes to organizational change, having the right and timely communications is so critical and that includes being present with your teams to relentlessly inform, motivate and help them understand the bigger picture and how their daily work contributes to it.
I am also a firm believer of doing same things differently or doing different things to improve and progress, and a key ingredient is about having a growth mindset and dare to fail. Together with my teams, we review and reflect regularly on where we can optimize our programs and execution to drive incremental success. At the same time, constantly pushing boundaries and being bold to try new ideas while learning and refining performance measurements as we go.
In terms of staff development, I believe a win-win situation can be achieved when we align individual career aspirations with organization‘s requirements. Assigning stretch tasks is one way for me to assess the readiness and motivation of my team members to grow and undertake more responsiblities beyond their primary roles. In my opinion, staff development goes beyond enhancing one’s marketing knowledge, which can be acquired through training courses and learning on the job but experience, proficiency and mastery is gained through actually doing it and this includes sharpening soft skills like leading with influence, stakeholder management and building internal networks. Giving timely feedback throughout the year is another effective way to shape attitudes, behaviours and thought processes for staff development.
CMO Council: How do you describe your leadership style?
Frankie: I would describe my leadership style as 3 E’s: Energizing my teams and others on the reasons for the work we do and how it contributes to the bigger picture for GfK; exercising Empathy and leading by example, and being curious to embrace and respect ideas and perspectives from others; driving Excellence from daily incremental improvements to the next big idea. For example at the start of each year, I will pose this question to my team: What are 3 things you wish to be remembered for this year? For a repeat program and campaign, I would ask my team: What are the 1 to 2 new things we are adding or doing differently this year?
CMO Council: What career advice would you give to developing marketing leaders?
Frankie: It has never been more exciting in marketing, be it B2B or B2C. Today, marketers have a myriad of channels, methods and tools to engage with customers and communicate the value of their company’s offerings. These will evolve over time and before we know it, we welcome the next big thing. Seemed yesterday when we first heard about Google and Search Engine Marketing and now enter the Metaverse. For developing marketing leaders, know that regardless of these changes, they ultimately contribute to few key strategic performance indicators (brand health, top of funnel, pipeline and revenue impact) that will make a difference to your business. Be curious, bold and strive for quick wins when experimenting new ideas and methods progressivey to more marketing implementations. Have a vision for your marketing role and team and chart a roadmap to inspire others to your cause. Be prepared for surprises and failures as success only happens when you look back to reflect on what you and your team did well and how to improve and be better in the future.