CMO Chats with Luca Destefanis, Head of Marketing APAC at Kyndryl

Ortus Chats
Luca Destefanis Marketing Kyndryl


Head of Marketing | Kyndryl

Luca Destefanis, the Head of Marketing at Kyndryl, talks to The Ortus Club’s Neil Pickford about client expectations, coping with the fast-paced industry changes, and coming up with a solution from a marketer’s perspective.

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Can you give us a one sentence company description about Kyndryl?

Kyndryl is a technology services company with nearly 90,000 professionals around the world, offering advisory, implementation, and managed services. In short, we help customers assess the full value of their digital transformation while minimizing risk.

Let me give you a sense of the scale and scope of the work that Kyndyl is doing. For a large financial institution, we developed a new platform that’s capable of processing trillions of dollars for daily transactions 20% to 30% faster, equipped with the highest level of security. 

We also helped one of the largest food companies in the world integrate and manage 2,000 cloud assets while reducing lead time verification costs by 85%. 

And last year, in the face of COVID,  we helped literally hundreds of companies to adapt and be resilient. We enabled staff to work remotely and implemented business continuity plans.

Can you describe the role of Head of Marketing in one word?

I think today, a CMO’s role is to be a designer. A designer of content that is compelling and differentiated. A designer of experiences that are unique and engaging. A designer of journeys that are valuable for the clients and deliver outcomes for the company. 

Keeping these two goals in mind, elevating the brand and deepening the relationship, it creates an impact on the bottom line.

What current challenges are Heads of Marketing facing right now?

I think, for every Head of Marketing and not just for myself, the biggest challenge is to cope with the pace and rate of change while staying true to your mission and your values. Change comes from anywhere —  industry disruption, competitive dynamics, client expectations, digital channels, and solutions.

This has a profound impact on how we organise ourselves as a marketing function and the skills we need to succeed. How do we choose what to prioritise?

So, CMOs always think of how to stay ahead of the game. Sometimes, they move from testing to full steam execution just because this is the latest trend. We have seen a lot of these circumstances. For me, other than asking myself how to stay ahead of the game as a CMO, I also focus on staying true to my north star.

Despite all the things that are changing, there are two things that remain the same. First, the clients need not only to be informed, but also inspired. And second, marketing’s mission is always to build meaningful connections with the clients. If everything we do is for creating meaningful connections with clients, then we are able to prioritise the relevant things, regardless of the latest trend.

Can you identify a solution?

There is no magic recipe for it. It’s all about putting clients first, understanding them, and engaging with them in a meaningful way. It’s also best to remember that you should not do anything on your own. Work with the sales team instead. Partnering with a sales leader is a critical component of marketing.

How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?

There are so many factors that contribute to my career’s direction, and a lot of these factors are outside of my control. For example, the opportunity to work with and learn from great leaders, or having the right mentors that support my journey are things that are outside my control. 

For the things that are in my control, there are three. The first one is setting the bar very high for yourself and for your team. Never compromise on quality and always stay focused. The second is to not try succeeding at everything. Always choose your battles and choose what you want to be known for. The last one is to set clear and bold outcomes that are relevant for the business.

The first one is setting the bar very high for yourself and for your team. Never compromise on quality and always stay focused.

Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?

Over time, I’ve been known to take a few mission impossibles in my job. But I’d like to highlight maybe one thing: moving to Asia nine years ago. 

I had to start new. I had to get out of my comfort zone. I also had to deal with many different Asian cultures, not just one. But Asia’s richness of diverse cultures was attractive to me, and I wanted to be part of it.

How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years? 

There are two elements which I think are critical, especially in the business-to-business space. The first one is that marketers need to work closely with salespeople. We should stop thinking about marketing as a handoff to sales. Instead, we should start enabling a system that drives strong collaboration between marketing and sales at each stage of the funnel. 

When it comes to buyer journeys, the company-provided content and information are not always linear with the information the buyer consumes. In fact, buyers are actively engaging with vendors, so we also need to factor in a fragmented ecosystem of influencers and stakeholders to influence the buyer’s decision. I think the marketers should stop using the term “marketing qualified lead”.

The second element is as marketers, we should look at business-to-business buyers as human beings and not a job title. Humans are rational decision-makers, and that thought creates a profound impact on the way marketers engage buyers. Business-to-business buyers are people looking for information and inspiration. 

The most effective way to engage them is by pursuing an emotional response and content which can be used not just to inform or educate, but also to entertain and inspire to build a lasting memory.

What career advice would you like to share with Heads of Marketing?

My first advice is to always be curious. Never stop learning, not just on professional matters. I strongly believe in the power of cross-pollination between different fields and disciplines. I think it’s very important to lead from the frontline with clients, influencers, and business leaders at any step in your journey. 

Also ask for help when needed. Asking for help is a sign of strength. It’s not a sign of weakness, so don’t shy away from it. 

And last but not the least which I think is the most important element is to choose your battles. Envision plans that drive ambitious outcomes and stick to them. Define what you want to be known for and success will come.

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