Ask any marketer. The number one reason companies fail to stay relevant to consumers is that they fail to see changes in the road ahead soon enough to shift strategies. Obviously, the ability to see ahead, shift ahead, and seize opportunities before someone else does is hard to do under any market conditions. Given the marketing conditions that exist today – volatile, complex, and rapidly changing – it has become exponentially harder. That said, what skills are required to not just survive, but thrive, in today’s hyperactive marketplace?

Rather than ask just any marketer, I had the privilege of posing this question to the four industry icons who will be inducted into The Marketing Hall of Fame produced by the American Marketing Association of New York on June 7, 2023. These thought-leaders, lauded for their notable successes and outstanding contributions in the field of marketing, include Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, Chris Capossela, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Microsoft, Amy Fuller, former Accenture Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, and Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Mastercard.

While their career paths are as unique as their respective industries, the conversations I had with each of them reflected the challenges they all share. Each honoree emphasized that, given the constant state of flux, businesses of every size must be ready and able to adapt, to identify new ways to lead, to mobilize employees, to make decisions quickly and create solutions. In other words, they must have resiliency - the capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive in altered circumstances. Each expressed that resilient companies can move quickly from assessment to action, enabling them to see and seize growth opportunities, to strengthen competitive advantage and enjoy better outcomes.

That said, resiliency is one of the character traits responsible, in part, for each of these honoree’s personal success stories. Over the course of their careers, each has demonstrated an ability to cope with disruptive changes and adapt, to motivate peers and employees, and to successfully navigate through uncertainty and changing circumstances, only getting stronger as a result. They know what it takes for businesses – and marketers - to flourish in such a fast-shifting environment. Here is a bit of their advice.

“One thing I tell my students is don’t begin brainstorming with constraints. Take an idea to an extreme and balance your way back. Don’t start thinking practically. Go all in, and let the constraints come later.”

Dan Ariely

Known for his pioneering work in behavioral economics, Dan helps companies grow by looking at things from new angles. His interests span a wide range of behaviors and his, sometimes unusual, experiments often demonstrate profound ideas that fly in the face of common wisdom. Advising a range of entities from organizations to governments, many of his projects address social issues, from helping those in historically excluded populations stay in school, to how to address traffic congestion, to reducing government bureaucracy.

With a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and a Ph.D. in business administration, what Dan does lies between psychology and economics. He asks questions economists would ask but, instead of assuming straightaway that people behave rationally, he just observes how people behave. His bestselling books about behavioral economics, Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and most recently Misbelief, focus on the systemic irrationalities of human behavior. Put simply, they are about how people actually act in the marketplace, as opposed to how they should or would if they were rational beings. “Our irrational behaviors are neither random nor senseless,” Dan told me. “They are systemic and predictable. We make the same mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains.”

“When it comes to the marketing,” he said, “the tragic mistake is that marketers often participate too late in the process. Their role is to understand consumer preferences and demands and their unique skills allow them to see this better than the person in the room crunching numbers.” As for all the data available today, Dan remarked “While there is lots of data, and that is good, we still need to watch people, understand what is driving behavior. Big data is like teenagers and sex. Everyone talks about it, but no one really knows what to do.”

Known for his wide-ranging and incisive research, as well as his accessible communication style (and sense of humor), resiliency has played a critical part in Dan’s personal and professional success. His immersive introduction to irrationality took place many years ago when he was overcoming injuries sustained in an explosion. Over the course of his recovery, he was desperate for distraction. The one he chose was observation: he began to pay attention to the oddities of human behavior and what drives people to behave the way they do. He became engrossed with the idea that we repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives and that research could help change some of these patterns. As for the role resilience plays in a fast-changing marketplace, he remarked, “Because of the growth of uncertainty, resilience is one of the most important things that marketers need to strive for.”

“We are maniacally focused on business model bravery - reinventing the company’s business model to embrace whatever the new world needs to be.”

Chris Capossela

Early in his career, six years after joining Microsoft, Chris was given an interesting opportunity. One of his bosses recommended him for the job of being the speechwriter for then-CEO Bill Gates. He spent the years from 1997 to 1999 traveling the world with Gates, watching the dot-com revolution unfold alongside one of tech’s richest, most-powerful CEOs, editing speeches together with him at fast-food drive-thru restaurants, and assisting Gates with live Windows product demonstrations. There is no question that the experience required resiliency and quick-thinking.

Fast forward a bit, for the last nine years Chris continues to count on these skills, running Microsoft’s worldwide marketing across both the consumer and commercial businesses. He also runs digital direct sales, and retail partner sales, for all Microsoft products. As the company transformed from a campus of warring software and hardware producers to a cloud business, Chris played a key role in unifying the company around a strong brand purpose: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. He has shifted Microsoft’s brand image and voice to be more human, more relatable and more forward looking.

During our conversation, Chris highlighted the importance of reinventing oneself to keep up with the accelerating changes in business. “This has become a lot easier to do,” he said, “as the company has been forced to change with the times. Satya Nadella, our CEO, instilled in the leadership team the need to reinvent the way each of us does our jobs, to reinvent the entire company in order to stay in business. More than that, every one of the discipline leaders has been pushed to innovate beyond the actual engineering and the products we build.”

Among the lessons the leadership team has learned over the course of their reinvention is to focus less on their competitors’ customers and focus more on what they call their Microsoft fans. “Our fans can teach us far more about what’s wrong with our offerings than our competitors can,” he explained. “We’ve found that the people who can teach us the most about ourselves are the people who use our products, already. They are co-inventing with us – helping us build the future.”

Chris’s interest in technology began when, as a young boy, he wrote a reservation system for his family’s small Italian restaurant. Among the many things he learned from working in the restaurant business was what to look for when hiring employees. It’s a lesson that has made the transition to his current role. “We are moving at such an incredible rate of change,” he said, “that grit and resilience are absolutes. There are so many variables, and you’re likely going to have some tough days and have the wind taken out of your sails. There are 100 things that could go wrong in a restaurant. You never know what’s coming. You have to be up for a bit of crazy. Up for a bit of chaos. The same is true in our business, in any business, today. We look for people who’ve done great work, of course, but also those who can ride a roller coaster and triumph.”

“Business strategy writes marketing strategy, but it only tells you what to do, not how to do it. The “how” is the skill of marketers, and it requires knowing how to use creativity as the competitive driver.”

Amy Fuller

As a child, Amy spent many of her weekends and summers living off the grid on a primitive island in upstate New York on the Saint Lawrence River. Remarking on the experience as it related to her career path, she said, “It was highly educational in so many ways, especially how it relates to how you solve problems and how you approach innovation.” This is a lesson that has stayed with her and has motivated her in some of her most challenging business situations. As she put it, “There is no playbook, and even if there were, you’d still have to revise it continually. You might think you’re up to date, but that lasts for about a millisecond before there is much more to learn.”

Amy and her team at Accenture put this lesson to the test during the Covid pandemic which happened in the midst of several decisive strategic initiatives transforming the company. “I am convinced that the reason we were able to deliver the most influential marketing work during that period is that we created a culture that was not driven by fear and anxiety, but with genuine teamwork. The environment we created allowed us to work with incredible speed, even when we were all working remotely. My favorite saying for my team was ‘early, ugly, and often.’ The best thinking is rarely delivered the first time and in a vacuum. Let’s look at ideas together, gently, early in the project, and at frequent intervals. Getting it right was absolutely important, but the iterative process was essential to working through ideas to get it right.”

Amy, an experienced global marketer with a blend of agency and client-side executive roles, has helped build brands for some of the world’s best-known companies. While at Accenture, she was charged with transforming and modernizing its marketing, and the company experienced the largest-ever growth in business and in brand value. Prior to joining Accenture, she served as senior managing director of global brand at Deloitte, and at Mastercard Worldwide where, as head of global consumer marketing, she led the team that developed and deployed the iconic and award-winning “Priceless” campaign at a pivotal time for business – which contributed to one of the most successful IPOs in business.

Asked about advice she would give to marketing people and to people who want to get into marketing, she said, “Knowing what you don’t know and figuring out how to compensate for that is critical to success. It’s a field of continuous growth and continuous reeducation. You want to learn as much as you possibly can and understand that being uncomfortable is positive, as it motivates learning and action.” Relative to resiliency? “The ability to take on new things and to handle the ambiguous questions that come with being in a disruptive business are essential to success.”

“The top marketers are like Leonardo Da Vinci using the right side and the left sides of the brain and bringing them together.”

Raja Rajamannar

“If you are a marketer about to begin your career, you could not have joined the field at a better time,” Raja began our conversation. “You can do things without the traditional and historical constraints. The industry is not simply evolving, it is actually rapidly getting transformed. We are in the midst of a huge inflection point and the best marketers must be prepared to tap into this brave new future. Because there is so much changing, marketers have to educate themselves constantly.”

A Wall Street Journal-bestselling author, his book, Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers, has become a touchstone for marketing leaders and academics around the world. “At this stage of my career,” he remarked, “I still spend time educating myself because there is so much happening. You need to be able to connect the dots across various areas, various technologies, back to your business, back to the craft of marketing.”

As CMO of Mastercard, Raja has transformed the company into one of the fastest-growing brands in the world. On the cutting edge of experiential, multisensory marketing programs for consumers and customers around the world, he has extended Mastercard’s reach and impact by embracing artificial intelligence and Web3 technologies, pioneering new standards in inclusive design. In addition to serving as the company’s CMO, he is founding president of its healthcare business, driving value for the healthcare industry through innovations in data analytics, AI and cybersecurity solutions. “There are so many fundamental shifts happening in marketing now,” Raja said, “you have to be prepared to continually test the waters, always be ready and resilient enough to tap into this brave new future.”

Again, while their backstories may be varied, each of the four iconic marketers being honored by the American Marketing Association share the belief that, given a marketplace that will only continue to change in unpredictable ways, the value and importance of resilience as a factor in success cannot be emphasized enough. The ability to see opportunities, and have the wherewithal to seize them, is a skill that will only become more critical to marketers who want to not just survive, but thrive in whatever this “brave new future” holds.

How Chris Capossela and His Marketing Team Are Harnessing a Wave of AI Infused Offerings to Drive Growth

Chris Capossela has been leading worldwide marketing for Microsoft across both the consumer and commercial businesses since 2014. In that time, Capossela has been quietly transforming the Microsoft brand. Over the last nine years, coincident with Satya Nadella’s tenure as CEO, the financial value of the Microsoft brand has grown fourfold (to $278 B). The stronger brand gives the company expanded permission to move into the large and growing markets for cybersecurity, cloud software, and AI.

While Capossela and his team had a lot to do with that outcome, he gives most of the credit to the vision, processes, and team Nadella put in place when he took over as CEO. “Marketing has been part of building the brand, but this is a team sport,” says Capossela. “That’s the way we're structured. So the growth in brand value is always a reflection also on the performance of the overall leadership team - engineering, sales, finance, legal - and the financial performance that team has achieved since Satya became the CEO.”

The growing power of the brand affords Microsoft the credibility to expand into a much wider range of markets that extend well beyond their legacy in PC operating systems like cloud computing and cyber security. ”Our security business has become a real juggernaut for us,” says Capossela. “The same goes for the development community which has come to rely on our tool set. A decade ago, the notion that GitHub would be part of a thriving ecosystem of open source development within Microsoft might seem foreign.” Today over 100 million developers worldwide use the Microsoft owned open source platform to build, ship and maintain software.

I think one of the things we've really learned is the power of the Microsoft brand is stronger than the power of any individual product name - even with something as big or as important as Windows or Xbox,” says CaposselaThat ability to expand and extend the brand into new product areas is important given the size, breadth, and variety of growth markets the company has before it. In the last decade, a confluence of secular trends has dramatically expanded the market for Microsoft’s evolving portfolio of productivity, intelligent cloud and personal computing products. For example:

Microsoft is well positioned to become the dominant player in these markets. For example, the mainstream shift to cloud computing has fueled the growth of Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud Solutions – centered around the ascendence of the Azure Cloud Computing platform – to comprise over 40% of the company’s revenues and command a quarter of the global cloud infrastructure market.

AI is opening up an equally large market for the company. The recent excitement over OpenAI’s ChatGPT’s generative AI tool has demonstrated the art of the possible in a wide range of consumer, workplace and commercial applications. The ChatGPT’s generative AI tool has reached 1 million users 12 times faster than the iPhone, 60 times faster than Facebook, and 200 times faster than Netflix streaming video. Microsoft has invested heavily in OpenAI and is now investing to lead in the new AI wave across all of their solution areas to exploit the unprecedented speed at which generative AI applications are being adopted by businesses and consumers according to the CEO in their most recent earnings call. The company is expanding applications of generative AI across modalities - from audio (VALL-E) to video (GODIVA) and 3D (RODIN-Diffusion) - and use cases like DNA sequencing (MoLeR), code generation (GitHub Copilot) and data engineering (Copilot in Microsoft Fabric).

“AI is being infused to drive innovation across our entire infrastructure product portfolio,” says CaposselaFor example, the company is committed to turning Azure into an AI supercomputer for the entire world. Azure is the exclusive cloud provider for every tool OpenAI (the maker of the revolutionary ChatGPT tool) has in the works. “Our Build conference for the developer community is focused on AI from start to finish,” he continuesAt the conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced 50 AI Copilots available to developers with thousands more on the way.

From a productivity perspective, Microsoft has introduced a wave of solutions and partnerships that are leveraging AI to make work more productive and creative. These range from the core Microsoft 365 application suite, to the Power Platform BI tool, to using AI in Teams to make it faster to prepare forexecute, and follow up on meetings. According to Capossela, all of these solutions support the core mission of Microsoft because they aim to solve the twin challenges of the modern workforce – eliminating drudgery and unlocking creative and innovative potential. “When we saw the potential upsides and downsides of AI and we saw what we thought we could do with Word, with Teams, with Visual Studio, GitHub, and Azure, this notion of Copilot emerged,” he continued. “We're not going to automate people away from their work. We are going to be their Copilot. We're going to take the drudgery away from them, but they're still completely in control.” For example, the Dynamics 365 Copilot works across CRM and ERP systems to bring the next generation of AI to employees in sales and finance to automate burdensome tasks like manual data entry, content generation and notetaking.

“Great companies position themselves for secular trend changes,” he continues. “We've been quite fortunate that Satya has been able to do that first with the cloud. Now I would say AI infused technology will be the second most important shift that hopefully will power the next 10 years for the global economy. And that's what we’re busy doing.” Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates believes the impact of a future AI -enabled personal assistant - or “copilot” - will be so profound that the first company to develop it will transform the way work gets done and the future of the search, commerce, and internet industries as we know them today.

“As a marketing team, we still have to position ourselves with the right products in those segments to capitalize on those secular shifts,” warns CaposselaThat is no small task given the breadth of market opportunity AI opens up for Microsoft. Microsoft operates in a marketplace cluttered with hundreds of rapidly converging software categories, over 30,000 SaaS software companies, and hundreds of thousands of apps, products, and solutions for sale. More are on the way. So Capossela and his team have had to find smart ways to simplify and focus their messaging and positioning despite the wide array of AI infused innovation Microsoft’s product teams are introducing into this crowded marketplace in 2023.

One way has been to lean more on the company brand rather than proliferate product brands. “More and more of our teams have learned and want to lean into more of a companywide approach on something like naming or branding,” he continues. “That's been a huge change that I've gotten to witness. It used to be everyone wanted their own thing with their own everything, your own icon, their own message.”

Another way to communicate the wide range of innovation that AI has spawned across its product line (from productivity solutions to search and cloud computing) is by focusing on a handful of solution areas rather than hundreds of new product launches. Each of these individual solution areas represents an enormous expansion market for Microsoft - propelled by secular trends and market tailwinds. “We focus on what we call ten customer solution areas,” says Capossela. “These are the ten core businesses we're in. Gaming is one of them. Security is another. The others include cloud infrastructure, data and AI, modern work and digital and app innovation. We have a different way to go to market in each of these ten solution areas.”

One of the gifts Satya gives me as the CMO is an organization structure that allows us to look left to right so we can manage packaging and pricing across all of our products as it relates to AI and move with more speed,” says CaposselaHis span of control as CMO includes: product marketing, business planning, brand, advertising, events, media buying, communications and market research as well as all digital direct and retail sales for all Microsoft products and services. “By having a centralized marketing organization, you can do those naming decisions and business model design in a far more comprehensive end to end way than if you have seven or ten different presidents of ten different businesses, all who have their own marketing, pricing, licensing and finance teams,” he continues. “That allows us to say, this huge wave is coming – how do we think about naming this stuff? How do we think about packaging and pricing this stuff?”

For example, in terms of naming, rather than introduce dedicated AI products, or product variants, the company has introduced the notion of an AI Copilot that can be applied to many of the solutions in the portfolio to improve individual productivity and unlock human creativity. “We decided that the word Copilot was an important word for us to latch on to, because despite all of our products, almost everything we do is to empower somebody else to do what they want to do,” says CaposselaAI “copilots” are being infused into a wide range of solutions and tools in the Microsoft portfolio – Microsoft 365, Dynamics CRM, Bing search, Edge browser, the Power Platform BI tool, and the biggest canvas of all – the flagship Windows product.

Another way that Chris’s marketing team has become more effective is by actually using Microsoft tools and analytics to leverage the mountains of customer engagement data generated by the modern commercial model. Capossela views the ability to harness the first party customer interaction data their organizations generate as a key to succeeding in their jobs going forward. “Great data with great analytics with machine learning is a really, really transformative recipe for marketers,” he emphasizes. “Most marketers I know have access to lots and lots of data. We're lucky that we do too. And a lot of it is first party customer data. But it's the tools and the analytics that have gotten much, much better. In our case, we've been able to make very fast project progress in just a handful of years because of the power of the technology we have at our disposal across our product and partner ecosystem. Whether that's things like Azure Machine Learning which we now use extensively, or the power of these Copilots that we’re building into our products, or social listening that we can do with our own technology and also partners. As marketers, we are using these tools to become very smart about the audiences we focus on. who those people are, the language that they use on social, what their perceptions are towards Microsoft, the stories that resonate with them, the ways we can target them – all of which we can do analytically without even having to do research necessarily.”

In recognition of his contributions to the marketing craft, Chris is being inducted into the AMA Marketing Hall of Fame this June 7th in New York City. The Hall Of Fame award celebrates the world’s best marketers, recognizing brilliance in marketing and innovation across the marketing profession.