Former Farmers Insurance CMO Starts New Role As CRO For Ancestry


Mike Linton just left his long-time post as CMO at Farmers Insurance to join as its chief revenue officer. His mandate is to grow the company and he will be responsible for marketing and product as the company expands from its genealogy roots into its genetic DNA offerings.

“I'm really excited about what the company is doing and where it's going,” said Linton. “I think it's on the forefront of a lot of things. Surely, it’s the world leader in genealogy as well as DNA. I like the principles the company has. I like the technology. I think both the database and the way the company is committed to its customers are exciting. And it's on the forefront of a bunch of innovations that are going to matter today and tomorrow.”

What struck me most about the change is the assumption of revenue responsibilities. As an Internet-based company where purchases are transacted on line, Linton can impact the demand chain from product innovation through demand generation and customer experience. With the ongoing debate about the future role of CMOs, could this be a prototype for the future? I posed that question to Linton.

“What has evolved immensely from a marketing and an industry standpoint is that all the functions have blurred. From service, to sales, to marketing, the customer is now interfacing with your brand in many ways. It’s a two-way street where they are coming to you, they are exploring you, and they have a high demand for customer experience,” answered Linton. “I think all companies are struggling with how to get the functions to collaborate and coordinate around the customer. All companies want to be customer-centric and they should be customer-centric. How you do that is a big challenge for almost everyone. The Ancestry role as CRO is acknowledging that those functions are blurring and the customer doesn't really see a distinction between, ‘I'm being marketed to. Oh, now I should buy this product. Oh, now I'm going to customer service.’ I think they are interfacing completely with the brand on all those levels and every touch point is impacting the brand and the customer’s relationship with the brand.”

As marketing leaders are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their impact on growth and profitability, the debate is raging on about how best to do that. Progressive CMOs are realizing that the old methods must evolve and their perspectives may need to expand in order to fulfill their mandates. If brands are being impacted by customers’ experiences, how do they begin to think like chief experience officers? If experiences are increasing delivered in the digital world, how do they have competencies of chief digital officers? If growth moves require exploring new markets and new offering, can they fill the shows of a chief growth officer? If staying ahead of the competition requires break-through ideas, how can they serve as chief innovation officers? If at the end of the day, the major issue is revenue contribution, how do they begin showing up talking about financial results?

“Marketing is not a function that stands alone. It has to be one of the most collaborative functions in the company because it has to deliver what the company is offering the customers in the way the customers can hear it [or experience it],” shared Linton. “In the long run, the company wants the marketing to be good, but it wants that marketing to translate into what it wants. So, thriving and connecting marketing to the financials of the company, both short and long term, are really important. It is marketing's job to deliver today's results by protecting tomorrow's position so those results can get better. It is a question of balancing your short-term effort with your long-term positioning in a way that maximizes the benefit to the customer and connects that benefit correctly with the company.”

Article written by John Ellett, Forbes.

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