CMO Chats with Cath Brands, Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer of Flintfox

Ortus Chats

Cath Brands

CMO | Flintfox

Cath Brands, CMO of Flintfox, discusses how using AI can enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and cost-efficiency in marketing efforts, great marketing involves good storytelling that influences behaviour and shifts marketing from a cost centre to a value centre by highlighting its role in company identity.

 

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Understanding and adapting to ongoing trends in marketing is essential for success
  • Shifting marketing from a cost centre to a value centre by highlighting its role in company identity 
  • Innovative content formats like vlogs boost engagement
  • How great marketing involves good storytelling that influences behaviour

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Can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Cath Brands. I am from New Zealand originally, but I’m currently based in Australia. But I’ve lived all over the world, from Luxembourg to London to Seattle to Sydney. And now home in the tropical warm climate of Cairns. I’m the chief marketing and Innovation officer for a company called Flintfox. Flintfox is an intelligent pricing and rebates software company. We help organisations with really complex pricing and rebates to streamline the administrative burden so they can be more focused on high-end tasks and that the wonderful software runs the background so that they can maximise their margins and their profits on a daily basis.

Lovely, I wanted to ask two questions today. First, what sparked your interest in marketing as the CMO of the company, and what is your current main marketing focus?

By default, I’m sort of a creative person by trade. Although I’m not talented at drawing or singing or anything artistic, I really appreciate good storytelling. I think what brings together visual storytelling and the words of storytelling in a career is marketing. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’m really starting to show my age, but I’m passionate about marketing. Great marketing is all about great storytelling, whether it’s visual or those pithy little words at the bottom of a billboard that makes a person think, feel, and act in a particular way.

I’ve transitioned from a B2C marketer to a B2B marketer, and I can tell you that they are two completely different worlds. As a B2C marketer, I was very focused on brand vanity metrics for a better term, so brand love and brand health are all the things that make a person think, feel, and do in the moment to adopt or buy a brand. The B2B space is very different. The big focus as CMO of Flintfox is generating demand to get as many customers into the top of the funnel that then whittle themselves through a process to become lifelong customers. Another thing I feel very passionately about is turning marketing from what is perceived as a cost centre into a value centre. I believe that marketing is an instrumental part of every business because we touch so many parts of an organisation. Without us, you don’t really have an identity or know who you are, and therefore, you can’t go out to customers and tell them what you do, what you’re about, and how you’re going to help them solve their problems. Lastly, you don’t really have a song or a story, and that’s so important in marketing these days. Yes, it might cost money to go out and generate demand, but without us, you have no value as an organisation or a company. Turning marketing into a value centre is something I feel passionately about.

I love it. You said it all: storytelling and value-centering. Those are really nice words that ultimately define the scene we’re dealing with and working with every day. I wanted to dive deeper. Can you tell me about a particularly innovative or successful marketing campaign your team has recently executed?

Yeah, absolutely. I operate in what can only be described as a somewhat beige category. The people who operate in our space in terms of pricing are pretty technical, and pricing is the backbone of every company, but pricing is not content people really want to listen to or hear about. However, I know that 95% of decision-makers are watching videos to help them better understand and make decisions about what products or services they should bring into their businesses. Knowing that video is key and that pricing is important, we started a series about 18 months ago called ‘Power for the Pricing People.’ It’s a fortnightly vlog that I host, rounding up all the pricing news across the globe. It could be about the impact of Beyoncé on the Swedish economy when she increased hotel rates by 50-70% with her concert, or it could be about manufacturers facing issues with the cost of goods and supply chain disruptions since COVID hit in 2020. Power to the Pricing People is fun, quick, two-minute videos posted on social media, done with a fun beat and lots of imagery to democratize pricing and make it more accessible. Since launching this campaign 18 months ago, we’ve increased our LinkedIn followers by 50%. I’m the host of the series, we write wonderful scripts, and what you won’t know is when you see one of these videos, It’s actually an avatar of me, and we’ve gone from having to pay to produce these videos on a fortnightly basis to do all for free with the power of AI. It’s really, really exciting. It’s really interesting and it’s also extremely effective now, thanks to the help of AI.

It is revolutionary how much time you can save and how much energy you can spend on other things by using tools the correct way. I love how you talked about bite-sized content because this is important in this generation. This content is very much needed, but having it in bite-sized portions makes it more accessible for everyone. Now, I know it doesn’t go to say that there are no challenges, which is why my next question for you is, what are your biggest marketing challenges at the moment?

It’s a great question, and I summarise it into three things: time, money, and measurability. Time is of the essence—everybody’s short on time! That’s not a new one. Money is something; marketing goes back to being a cost centre rather than a value centre. When companies get squeezed, the marketing budget is always the first to go. Finding tools to save time and money is my focus and my biggest challenge. The last one is measurability. Yes, you know the metrics for paid display, SEO, or SEM—who clicked, how much it cost, and what they did next. But that’s one dimension of the marketing mix. The marketing mix includes events, awareness, podcasts, and content like Power to the Pricing People, like the content you produce. The measurability and how that flows into the funnel are still challenging to determine, making it hard to determine the ROI and whether you should invest time and money in making marketing multifaceted and multi-dimensional.

For sure, a lot of the KPIs we set for our teams include these things that we want to make us better. You’ve been doing quite well in your role, showing progress with the campaign you mentioned. So, how does your company stay ahead of its competitors in terms of marketing?

Another great question. I always say I’m an ex-Amazonian. I was at Amazon for five years, growing up in the school of Jeff Bezos. Bezos always said to focus on the customer rather than the competitor, and I still believe this to be true. If you’re more focused on solving your customers’ pain points on a daily basis and showing how you are the antidote to their problems, that’s a better use of your time and effort. But at the same time, when it comes to competitors and in our space as well, we really are all fighting for the same customer at the end of the day. If you can find some secret sauce, something that makes you stand out from the crowd, and it could be customer-centricity, then I think it is the secret sauce to outdo the competitors.

That secret sauce. I can’t wait to find that too. You provided a good point that depends on what the future looks like. So, what does the future of marketing look like, in your opinion?

Marketing, I think the reason why I love it so much is that every day is a school day. Everything is always changing in marketing, and you have to be on top of that as a good CMO or even just as a good, passionate marketer, you need to understand the changes in the trends that are on an ongoing basis. I have a big goal for myself and my team at Flintfox: to have 60% of our marketing function, in some way, automated by the end of 2025, using AI and other tools. I don’t think AI is here to replace people because great storytelling needs to come from somewhere. You need a good driver at the AI steering wheel, but AI will play a core role in making us more efficient, effective, and cost-efficient as marketers in the future.

“I don’t think AI is here to replace people because great storytelling needs to come from somewhere. You need a good driver at the AI steering wheel, but AI will play a core role in making us more efficient, effective, and cost-efficient as marketers in the future.”

Yes, efficiency and adaptability are crucial for leaders. As a leader, what is the role of the head of marketing for you in one word, and why?

Polymath. In New Zealand, we call that a jack of all trades. Alongside the CEO, the CMO is the only person who has to touch, impact, and influence everybody across an organisation. From finance to the product team to the dependency that sales have on us, we need to have this really extensive knowledge about every part of our business, making us a polymath or a jack of all trades inside our organisation.

I definitely agree with that. You really have to have these different assets that would help you because you don’t only influence people inside your company, but it’s also outside, right? Lastly. I want to ask what career advice you would like to share with other marketing leaders.

As a marketer, I am probably more on the fluffy, creative side of the fence. But over the course of the 25 years of my career, I’ve had to get closer and closer and down and dirty in the data. But what I would say is that data gets you 80% of the way, but what gets you that other 20% and what sets marketers apart from others is that 20% gut. Going with your gut still plays such an instinctive role in making really great marketing. So 80% data and 20% gut, always.

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