It isn’t often that a young professional gets the chance to meet and engage in meaningful conversations with dozens of CEOs, CMOs, and senior executives, especially in a single afternoon. However, as a Booth student, myself and many of my classmates, had the opportunity to do just that, thanks to the Marketing Day Forum put on by the Kilts Center during Spring Quarter.
For the first 45 minutes of the event, I was part of a small-group conversation with Booth alum Bill McComb, ‘87. With his dual-concentration in finance and marketing, Bill is an example of the school’s longstanding openness to gaining diverse experiences and building a complete skillset. It is no surprise, then, that his post-MBA professional career was shaped by twists and turns across a number of industries. He spent his first three years at Leo Burnett, working on advertising for Proctor and Gamble, before transitioning to the healthcare industry.
At Johnson & Johnson, Bill quickly advanced through their marketing department, general management, and was eventually responsible for both the Consumer Healthcare and Medical Device divisions. From there, he then became the CEO of Liz Claiborne Inc. (later renamed Fifth and Pacific) in 2006. He oversaw the consolidation from 47 brands down to one, all while shifting to a direct-to-consumer strategy and returning the company to strong profitability. Needless to say, he had quite the illustrious and rewarding career.
Given my own transition from corporate finance to marketing, with aspirations of general management, I found Bill’s story and guidance to be particularly relevant. His first piece of advice was to, “focus on becoming the best leader possible.”
“Those who can influence without being in a managerial role and bring others along a journey with them typically rise fastest to the top,” he told us.
Other factors that shaped Bill’s success were consciously managing his own career, following his own passions, and working for companies that helped him become a ‘best athlete’ within the marketing discipline.
Bill also made a point to share his thoughts on recent developments in marketing, and where it may be heading in the future.
He noted that the core function of companies is increasingly centered around data. As a result, marketing is quickly shifting from being an art to becoming much more of a science. With actions becoming more measurable and our ability to collect more data faster than ever, marketers now have the tools to test and learn to see what works, better tailor solutions to consumers, and ultimately create unique experiences that provide value.