Evolving stakeholder expectations of companies, accelerated digital transformation and radical shifts in how we work have changed companies dramatically, especially in the marketing function. Amid this uncertainty, it has become clear that all leaders require the ability to adapt and learn.

On December 1st, I chaired the CMO panel at this year’s Asia Matters Global Summit. Four global CMOs joined me to explore their learning with an emphasis on the global customer.

During the conversation, we explored the constant pursuit of improvement, the role of partnerships in brand building, the significance of understanding customers and colleagues, how the pandemic fast-tracked existing trends and why consumers place a premium on authentic, value-based brands.

Since learning was a central theme of the panel, in closing, I asked the panelists for their commitments to learning personally and to creating a learning culture on their marketing team and their advice for leaders who want to learn to stay ahead of the consumer. Here’s what they had to say.

Learning is constant, and I think of each day as a school day. I’m much more a snackable learner. I tend to watch a lot of video content, like TED Talks and follow people like Rishad Tobaccowala; he’s got some incredible Twitter lists. That for me is a constant source of learning every single day. I have a 90-minute commute into the office when I’m in the UK, and that’s the time that I carve out to do that.

I encourage a learning culture with the team by promoting curiosity and openness. Life is enriched by traveling and spending time with different people from different backgrounds and cultures. Even venturing into other industries and disciplines. Often that’s where new ideas will happen when you are least expecting it. Often, I encourage my team to stay on top of what’s happening outside of the sports world. And how can we take those learnings and apply that to what we want to do? Sharing another important aspect of learning. If you find something interesting, share that amongst your colleagues.

—Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing & Communications, Formula 1

Learning for me is a habit, a muscle to exercise, and I try to set goals for myself to help staying in that learning zone. For example, in 2021 I said I had to read a book a month, any type of book, without fail, to keep pushing that learning mindset. I often give books out at team meetings (Tipping Point and Freakonomics are two of my favorites for new marketers).

To stay ahead of the market or customers, I try to put on my ‘marketing hat’ whenever I am having personal customer experiences, especially if it is at either end of the good/bad spectrum, to understand why I am liking/not liking an ad, a purchase, a customer service moment and decipher how much of that is intentional on the part of the brand and how I can bring that into my own work.

—Peter DeBenedictis, MEA Director – Business & Sales Operations, Microsoft

My life, the way I meandered from marketing to tech, to building products, and now back to marketing, has been an amazing learning journey. I have to give a music reference; I read an inspiring interview of an artist who said, “When you’re making an album, you’re essentially going through a lot of frustration. And if you are not frustrated, you are unlikely to create a good album.” Learning is about being in a zone of discomfort, feeling uncomfortable, and going to areas you have not previously explored. If you don’t feel uncomfortable every day, that means you are not trying, and you’re not learning. For me, that’s the core to learning.

—Rajashree Ramakrishnan, Chief Marketing Officer, TCS

When I think about the moments in time when I’ve learned the most, it was when I was feeling uncomfortable, when I was trying to do something new and when I was empowered to make decisions. I believe we learn more when we get things wrong than when we get things right.

I try to create an environment where people are empowered and where people know that I will have their backs in case things don’t work. You learn by trying to do something new, by putting yourself out there. And I try to do that, to push the boundaries, especially when it comes to creativity. But I also try to make sure that I’m creating the right environment so that the team can learn.

—Fernando Machado, Chief Marketing Officer, Activision Blizzard