Modernizing Marketing Operations with Bret Sanford-Chung

Bret Sanford-Chung joins our CMO, Jim Williams,
for episode 3 of the Marketing Acceleration Series.

As part of Uptempo’s Marketing Acceleration series


Our CMO Jim Williams sat down with Bret Sanford-Chung, Managing Director, Marketing Consulting at KPMG. They discuss how we’re modernizing marketing operations with marketing business acceleration, the new operating model for enterprise marketers.



Jim Williams (00:07): Okay, welcome. I’m excited to be continuing the Uptempo Marketing Acceleration series, which is a conversation about all things marketing, marketing operations, and other big topics. And today I’m really happy to be talking with you Bret. Thank you for joining me today.

Bret Sanford-Chung (00:27): Thank you for having me. It’s so much fun. I’m very excited.

Jim Williams (00:30): It will be fun. I’ve been looking forward to this. We’ve been trying to get it scheduled and I’m glad it’s finally here. Right.

Bret Sanford-Chung (00:36): <laugh>, it’s been a rough go, but we’re all, we’re here. It’s all good.

Jim Williams (00:41): <laugh>. So much anticipation. But those of you on the line, I’ll provide a quick overview but then I’d love to jump right into your background and better understand your history, your expertise in marketing. But for those that are on the line Bret Sanford-Chung is the managing director of marketing consultant at KPMG. I think we’re all familiar with KPMG. I’m gonna talk to you a little bit about what that role entails, but as you’ve pointed out in prior conversations, and I’ve noticed by going to LinkedIn, you have an extensive background. You’ve done many roles when it comes to marketing, professor, practitioner, you’ve been at an agency, you’ve been, so I would love to dig into that journey.

Bret Sanford-Chung (01:25): Sure.

Jim Williams (01:26): So let’s start there. What is your role at KPMG? Let’s start off.

Bret Sanford-Chung (01:32): So currently, as you said, Jim, I’m managing director of marketing and marketing consulting. I lead market the marketing operations practice, which is pretty interesting. And I have been at KPMG since the end of September of last year. And so I am actually a management consultant for the first time in my life now at this advanced age which is pretty cool because it allows me to do a lot of what I have done in other roles, which I’ll talk about in a second. And bring all of that stuff to bear for clients. And then actually implementing on the recommendations that I’m making, which is pretty great. Pretty fun. Pretty fun and great stuff.

Jim Williams (02:15): Yeah. So it’s doing many of your prior roles, but now just from a different kind of angle, a different point of view if you will. Right.

Bret Sanford-Chung (02:21): Well because yeah, I’m working with clients in every possible vertical You can imagine financial services as well here in a minute. I have deep financial services background, but financial services, healthcare, commercial products, b2b, B2C, sort of all over the map and really helping them figure out how to maximize that investment in marketing and make marketing accountable to business results. Great. Which we’re gonna talk lots more

Jim Williams (02:52): About. I’m sure we’ll talk lots about it. It’s been like a recurring theme across my entire career. Accountability. Accountability. So tell us, how did you end up in the current role? Tell me a little bit about your work history. Cause it is fascinating.

Bret Sanford-Chung (03:06): Well, it didn’t always <laugh> feel that way, but yeah, I have literally touched brand. I come from a brand strategy background. I’ve touched brand and marketing from pretty much every angle you can touch it from. Most recently before joining KPMG was at Forrester Research as an executive partner where I helped CMOs CDO that a couple of CEOs in my roster by the end there move their initiatives forward really partner with them one on one to figure out how to make a single view of the customer a reality <affirmative>, how to actually implement the customer journeys that they spent so much money on that kind of work. And it was pretty terrific. And again, all over the gamut from brand strategy and brand architecture to organizational structure, team upskilling martech, everything you can imagine. But as you said I’ve sort of touched this thing called marketing from every angle.

(04:10): I was the chief marketing officer of Smith Barney for six years where I repositioned the brand in a much more dynamic way and at the time utilized some of the most brand new tools of that time <affirmative> and really bringing Smith Barney into the digital age and the social age, which was not the easiest thing to do at that moment. And spent many years at ad agencies. Actually started my career, believe or not as copywriter became a creative director and then moved over once I came back to agencies after my stint at Smith Barney I was running very large pieces of business. So ran Charles Schwab, ran the eight agency consortium that handled hs bbc across the globe and ran that for North America, that sort of thing. So been on even both sides of the agency spectrum. And as you mentioned do you teach business and brand strategy at the graduate level?

Jim Williams (05:11): So you’re now at KPMG, you understand what you’re doing there. But tell me about KPMG’s expertise in all things marketing. What kpmg is such a big brand presence of large organizations, solves many problems for many different types of companies and many different types of personas. But tell me a little about what they do in the area of marketing.

Bret Sanford-Chung (05:34): Absolutely. It’s funny you mentioned that we’re known for a lot of other things. I mean, I frequently will walk into a room and the client with KPMG, what well KPMG, marketing, I don’t understand and I get it. Obviously we are known as an accounting and audit firm, but we have a very large consulting organization and a very fast growing marketing consulting arm. Our marketing consulting, as I said, sort of spans the gamut from marketing operations, agency relations, content, martech, measurement. You get the idea that really the whole gamut of everything that marketing brings to the table. And we spend a lot of time given our background and fiscal responsibility and fiscal accountability in how to make marketing as effective in building the brand and making it accountable to business goals. So the reason I joined KPMG is I said I come from a brand strategy background.

(06:37): You don’t want me auditing anything, right? It would be ugly. But it’s interesting as one of the biggest shifts that I’ve seen in the role of the cmo <affirmative>, is that accountability to business goals. I was there, we were always accountable to goals, but tying those goals to business outcomes is, and of course now with the technology that we have becomes certainly not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it becomes more feasible and the scalability of it becomes more feasible. So the ability to do that and have the IM perimeter and the cred to be able to say, Yeah, we understand fiscal responsibility, you need to be able, What I find again with my background, you frequently will see that the CMO and the CIO are at odds. The CMO and the CFO will be at odds. Well the reason is not just cuz they are, but because they have differing motivations. The CIO’s motivation is to mitigate risk. The CMOs motivation is to, if not create risk, create new opportunity, which sometimes opens one up to risk,

Jim Williams (07:49): Create tension which could come create

Bret Sanford-Chung (07:52): Exactly. Create a conversation and which is interesting sort of coming from and where I come from and then coming into an audit firm and I say, Well we need to build a brand this way. And it’s just not in the muscle fiber. You know what I mean? But marketing and the CFO also, they don’t speak to number one, they don’t speak the same language. Number two, their motivations are different in that again, marketing is about test and learn. The she financial officer is not wanting to test and learn a heck of a lot, right? But you need to do that. You need to test and learn in order to be able to get that fiscal accountability. So being able to bridge that gap is incredibly important and that’s where we come in and we help

Jim Williams (08:42): Do you see in your work that the CMO, CFO is the new power relationship? That’s the new dynamic or around account?

Bret Sanford-Chung (08:50): Well, it’s actually, it’s the whole, I mean we actually have a, we’re in the middle of a research series. We call it the force multiplier series. That is literally what the CMOs relationship with the CIO is and what it should be and how do you build that? What are some of the things we saw we just a month ago launched our cmo, cpo, Chief Procurement Officer research, which was extremely interesting because we actually found out in our research and this is empirical data, this is not a self-reported data that have marketing, having a deeper relationship with procurement actually makes marketing more innovative. People who have a better relationship with procurement use more innovative methods in their marketing. Pretty fascinating. I would never have thought of innovation and procurement. Is that

Jim Williams (09:46): The same? Is that rooted in the MarTech dynamic, right? The ever going martech stack and the use of tools and technologies and applications.

Bret Sanford-Chung (09:55): Exactly. And it’s exactly it. A alliance share of it. Yes, it is. Also the fact of having that I’ll use a small team of across the CMO that under who understands I need to have a team across legal and compliance, <affirmative>, financial procurement, sales, you just mentioned sales. That’s actually the next one that’s coming out in September will be chief revenue officer and chief marketing officer. What does that relationship get? You are the entire C-suite is incredibly important. Back to that accountability to business goals. Where is marketing getting a place at the table? How are they getting that place at that table with the rest of the C-suite? What does that look like?

Jim Williams (10:40): Wow. So it’s about relationship CMO to every other major. Every other executive function is the cmo just a troublemaker? Why do we need so much relationships?

Bret Sanford-Chung (10:48): <laugh> <laugh>. Well, and I live this, so I understand it as, it’s just a very funny aside anecdote. I got went into Smith Barney and started talking about brand, brand, brand, brand a brand. You need a strong brand. Of course you understand you need a strong brand. Why do we have so many logos? We were 13 logos when I first got there. Why we need a strong brand. I was, alright, I’m gonna move. I’m not gonna lie, Jim, but I was eight, 10 months in <affirmative> when I figured out that to a bunch of financial consultants, brand means the logo, they don’t care and they don’t understand what it means. So I knew I found out or realized I needed to stop using my language and need to start using their language and realized that in their language, their brand was their reputation. So all I did, I’m not kidding you.

(11:43): I sat in my office and took all of my materials and switched out the word brand for the word reputation and all of a sudden doors started open. So it is speaking very, very simplistic. Sometimes you have to be simplistic <affirmative> a very simplistic but salient example of how you need to create those connections. You need to speak the language of the cfo, have to Now, do you ever wanna be the CFO as the heck no. But you need to be able to speak the language and be able to communicate the value brought by marketing and the relevance of marketing to that part of the business,

Jim Williams (12:25): Right? Obviously at uptempo we’re really, we’re focused on what we like to call the operational side of marketing, right? Or operational marketing. The, it’s so much focus today is on what’s what we think of as the activation side of marketing, the MarTech stack and your automation systems, your personalization engine, your content engine, all this stuff. And we’re very much focused on plans, performance, productivity, that type of thing. Which I think is the much deeper connection to the finance

Bret Sanford-Chung (12:56): Side of, Well it’s interesting you say that. I was just talking to someone this morning who was saying, we just implemented an entire stack of a company we will not discuss and we will not mention the name of, but I MarTech stack and we don’t know how to use it. We don’t use it. So you can have all the pretty toys you want. That is not going to help you. And you would be shocked how often I talk about operations, what you’re talking about. How is the team structured? Do you have the right people in the right seats? Are they upskilled in the right way? Particularly as MarTech becomes more and more sophisticated, are they skilled in the right way? Do you need to upskill them? Do you need to bring in different skills? Are they tracking to the right parts of the organization and oh wait, that big C word culture, do you have the culture to really metabolize these changes and metabolize the MarTech that you have and the data analytics and all of these other pretty fun tools that you have? Do you have the culture and the systems in place to be able to optimize them,

Jim Williams (14:00): Right?

Bret Sanford-Chung (14:01): That’s the issue.

Jim Williams (14:04): Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about how we tackle that problem, cuz it is a problem. We have been talking together, you and I, but not just you and I, k, BMG and oppo about a concept that we call marketing business acceleration, right? <affirmative> the world needs a new three letter acronym. Always.

Bret Sanford-Chung (14:24): Yeah, <laugh>. Well it’s not really new. I mean MBA is not new.

Jim Williams (14:28): <laugh> true. There was definitely a

Bret Sanford-Chung (14:30): News slash branding professional here, <laugh>.

Jim Williams (14:33): Well, cause the notion is that you’ve had long a career as marketer and I’ve had a long career as marketer and gosh, we can point to so many operating models and frameworks and best practices and maturity models, et cetera. On the execution and activation side. Marketers are all too familiar with these. But when it actually comes to how you run marketing, how do you connect business strategy to marketing strategy to plans, to goals, to work streams to outcomes. There isn’t a lot in the way of an operating model. That’s why there’s plans disconnected from performance and budgets are floating around and hundreds or even thousands of spreadsheets. So we see that there’s a desperate need in the marketplace to come up with some type of framework that markers should use, organize this part of the business.

Bret Sanford-Chung (15:30): Absolutely. I mean that’s how I spend actually a lot of my time is folks say, I have all of this stuff over here, but how do I organize to actually do the business of marketing? So I stop proving the value of marketing and start actually doing some marketing. How do I go about doing that?

Jim Williams (15:49): Any idea why? Give your perspective on the market and all the consulting you’ve done through your work at Forrester and kpmg. Why have we gotten to a state where you run the business of marketing on a spreadsheet, but the campaign execution is on a really sophisticated stack of 50 different tools?

Bret Sanford-Chung (16:13): Because it’s funny when it comes right down to it. First of all, marketing has changed so dramatically in the, I’m not even gonna go 15 years, I’m gonna go seven, eight, I’m gonna go 10. It’s changed. So fundamentally that you’ve got a lot of folks in seat who know what they’re doing. They’re darn good marketers. They know exactly what they’re doing. But the way that you actually get things done and the capability to do that doesn’t necessarily exist. It’s not necessarily a skillset that exists. And guess what? It’s a skillset that doesn’t exist in a lot of places cuz it didn’t exist seven years ago. So we’re kind of all making it up as you go and there’s things, new solutions present themselves. But that’s why I think so many folks are looking for the help that we provide because they have the pieces. But putting those pieces together during a huge storm of disruption. There’s been huge disruption in marketing in the last eight years. I don’t care what this issue, I don’t care what you, I don’t care what you’re selling, what you’re marketing, right? There’s been huge disruption. Disruption in the business of marketing and how it gets done. And that has no, through no fault of anyone’s, but that has led folks to just be running and doing my thing and not worrying about, wait, how am I gonna actually upskill get to where I need to get so that I’m not on my back feet all the time, right?

Jim Williams (17:49): It’s a great setup for this notion of marketing, business acceleration, what the operating model is, cuz you just described it. And three vignettes or stories. We think about a baseline as visibility. Number one, just being able to get access to the data, whether that’s plan data or the relationship, the plan to cascading programs or is it the financial data? Do you have a real time view of your budget? Do you even know what your reconciled budget looks like at any given time? I mean the process of reconciliation is so slow at many, many organizations. Exactly. So is that visibility and then from there and

Bret Sanford-Chung (18:24): Hasn’t changed. I mean that’s interesting is that the budget reconciliation process in a lot of places has not changed dramatically in the past 15 years. But meanwhile what you’re spending your budget on has changed fundamentally,

Jim Williams (18:36): Right? Yes. A significant problem. And so we think about visibility as just being a base level in this model. Visibility, just connecting the systems, you have the visibility and then from there we think about as moving towards velocity, right? Okay, good. You have the visibility now you can point the ship in the direction and go go at speed to capture market opportunities. That’s part of the challenge too, is execution done And then finally well,

Bret Sanford-Chung (19:04): Because then when you do that, yeah, that’s when marketing the function of marketing, not your advertising, although that should be too, but not your advertising or your messaging, but the function of marketing becomes a competitive differentiator because you can move at speed and change and pivot to an opportunity that your competition, you just can’t pivot that fast.

Jim Williams (19:31): That notion of agility. <affirmative> know, and I don’t, I’m not talking about caps, agile marketing cap A, I’m just talking about marketing agility, meaning change direction as knows you. There are a million reasons why you need to right consumer change, customer preferences change, supply chain gets disrupted, who knows?

Bret Sanford-Chung (19:52): Well in all that, how do you do all of that without constantly chasing the next big thing, right? Because it also becomes how I have nine, I’m making stuff up now, but I have nine different opportunities in front of me, changing consumer preferences changing marketplace, new competitor in the marketplace, all of these different functions and stressors. Which one do I focus on? How do I determine which one to focus on? How do I prioritize that notion of prioritization is key also, which you end up going to the Excel spreadsheet and figuring out whatever’s gonna make you the most money, which may or may not be the right answer.

Jim Williams (20:32): What do you think is the role of marketing operations and solving some of these challenge is marketing operations, the function up to the task of talking about these strategic problems versus configuring a martech stack or even more commonly just marketing automation systems.

Bret Sanford-Chung (20:55): <laugh>. Yeah. No, it’s market. I mean I run marketing operations here at KPMG and talking every day about, certainly about how do I get more out of the tech stack? How do I attach the tech stack to what I do every day? Of course. But it is so much more than that because operations, marketing, operations in a truly well functioning marketing organization becomes the engine by which marketing becomes successful

(21:27): With that. It’s kind of like if we think about design ops, it’s kind of like the research function in design ops. You can’t do it without that. You’d be going nowhere. It’s the same thing with marketing and marketing ops. You can’t, without a properly functioning marketing operations function, you have no visibility. You’re absolutely flying blind and you’re not going to be as efficient as you could be. And by efficiency, I don’t just mean get the most for your dollar, I also mean time. I mean exposure in the marketplace. I also mean brand exposure. Maybe you shouldn’t have done that Instagram campaign. I don’t know, making stuff up. But you know what I’m saying. And if you have a fully functioning marketing operations function that gives you visibility into the entire organization, you can make smarter decisions that are probably gonna keep you at a more trouble

Jim Williams (22:24): <laugh>. So much more marketing operations at a strategic level, being kind of the eyes and ears for the office of CMO versus the configuration of a tech stack dealing

Bret Sanford-Chung (22:37): With versus the little hamster on the hamster reel. Absolutely. So Jim, I’m gonna turn the tables on you for a second cause you’ve got a little brand story to tell too. You books just changed your name and of a new brand in the marketplace. I wanna hear all about it,

Jim Williams (22:55): The company, what’s

Bret Sanford-Chung (22:56): Going on, what was the reasoning behind it

Jim Williams (22:58): So we’re clear, we’re talking about business here. I’m still Jim Williams and if I had to rebrand me, it would not be Jim Williams <laugh>. Right? It very exciting. I gotta tell you’re the brand expert. I’m not the brand expert. But yes, we have just gone through pretty significant change. The companies are

Bret Sanford-Chung (23:18): Congratulations.

Jim Williams (23:19): Yeah, thank you. Thank you very, It’s very exciting. So of course optempo is the new name for merger of three companies that are in marketing operations space or marketing performance management space, brand maker, Acadian Hive, nine, three companies that came together last year. And it just makes sense to unite them under a common brand, which is uptempo. Very

Bret Sanford-Chung (23:41): Cool. Yeah, well I could tell you that at KPMG we’re very excited by the coming together and the creation of uptempo because it’s just terrific for us. I mean, we partner together and it’s, we’re excited about new partnerships and that bringing those three things together is actually pretty great. And we see huge opportunity there.

Jim Williams (24:04): We believe there’s big opportunity too. And honestly the whole name and the branding and all that is really exciting. But for me, trying to unite the company behind this singular vision <affirmative> of helping marketing teams out there and plan better, spend smarter, move quicker, et cetera, to get this whole operational side of marketing under control or as we like to say, run marketing like a business <laugh>.

Bret Sanford-Chung (24:33): Exactly. Exactly. Which is what that is companies are coming to us help them with is how do I get more out of this business that I’m running? And it’s not only about efficiency, it’s all also about how you utilize, like I said before, how do you utilize marketing and marketing operations as a competitive differentiator to allow you to differentiate in marketplace.

Jim Williams (24:58): Very good. Listen, this has been a wonderful conversation. Any final thoughts from you on the office of the CMO and the role of marketing operations and how you solve these critical problems?

Bret Sanford-Chung (25:14): Folks like you and I are solving ’em every day. The CMO role has changed dramatically. We know this to be true, but it has also in a, I view it as it is taken on far more importance than it ever has before. I think there’s huge opportunity here for the cmo, for the office of the CMO and folks in marketing because organizations realize that there is more to marketing than just the communications and the advertising, so to speak. So I think the opportun, they’re huge opportunities as we move into the next few

Jim Williams (25:53): Years. Yeah, I completely agree. Huge opportunities. How lucky. I think lucky I was to stumble into this profession at some point in my career. Literally what role has changed more in the last 30 years than marketing completely

Bret Sanford-Chung (26:08): Reference I can. It’s kind of insane how much it’s changed, quite honestly. And like I said, I think that that spells real opportunity, I’ll be honest, real opportunity for organizations that who can understand the importance of marketing as a business driver and real opportunity for the people who run those organizations, who are the CMOs, the VPs of marketing, the folks in charge of doing that, being able to take the reins of a sort newly invigorated function.

Jim Williams (26:41): I suppose your students get that right when you’re teaching these classes

Bret Sanford-Chung (26:44): <laugh>. Yes, exactly. Exactly. They do.

Jim Williams (26:48): That’s great. Well thank you Brett. I really appreciate the conversation. It’s really enjoyable. It’s always cover a lot of ground and when we talk and I really appreciate you joining us on the Marketing Acceleration series. It’s a great conversation.

Bret Sanford-Chung (27:03): Well, thank you for having me. It was tons of fun.

Jim Williams (27:06): Awesome.

Bret Sanford-Chung (27:07): Take care.

Jim Williams (27:08): Bye-bye.

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