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How To Be An Advocate for Your Customers with Jennifer Mathissen, CMO Santander US.

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The role of a marketer really is as simple as Jennifer Mathissen says it is.

“My job, and really most CMOs’ job, is to be the primary advocate for the customer.”

Jennifer is the CMO of Santander Bank in the US, and while her assessment of a marketer’s job sounds simple, there’s more to it than meets the eye. A marketer has to provide a story behind the compelling products and services that make up a brand, and a marketer has to create the space that makes it possible for a consumer to build a meaningful relationship with your company. On this episode of Marketing Trends, Jennifer goes deeper on the intricacies of the role of marketers and CMOs, and she explains how to properly build a marketing culture that cultivates passion and creativity. Plus, Jennifer discusses why your marketing efforts should never feel transactional.

Main Takeaways

  • Become an Advocate: The role of every marketer is to be an advocate for the customer. In order to become that voice for your consumers, you have to make sure that you have a pulse on every aspect of your marketing department and understand where any issues are coming from. Once you have a clear picture of the obstacles in play, you can begin the process of creating a frictionless customer experience ecosystem.
  • More Than a Transaction: Marketing should never feel transactional, but instead your marketing practices should always feel as if they have in mind the best interest of the consumer and not the company. Make sure your marketing materials are never self-serving but are designed in a way that builds a true relationship between the brand and the customer.
  • Refocus Processes to Build Creativity: Every marketing department needs to be cognizant of the process in place that could stunt your team’s creativity. If your marketing team is not passionate and creative, it’s a missed opportunity on all fronts. Make sure you are continuously opening the door for your team to be more creative while finding unique ways to keep them energized.

Key Quotes:

“My job, and really most CMOs’ job, is to be the primary advocate for the customer.”

“At the end of the day, what we’re here to do is to have something that’s really compelling for our customers, and we have to work very carefully with our colleagues and very intentionally to make sure that we’ve got something special for them.”

“You can’t advocate for the customer properly unless you understand what you’ve got. You can’t rally the organization to change [your issues] unless you really understand and can quantify the business value of fixing your experience. What’s going to reduce calls to the call center? What are you going to fix that’s going to improve customer retention? What are you going to fix that’s going to reduce your cost per acquisition? It’s all one ecosystem and I need to be able to work with my team to optimize across all the different leavers.”

“Digitalization is where a lot of customers want to not only transact, but grow, engage, and learn.” 

“Culturally one of my concerns is as a marketing team, some of our emphasis on process has sometimes muted our passion and creativity. If your marketing team isn’t passionate and creative, it’s a real missed opportunity. We need to open the door for more of that creativity and figure out how we really energize not only the creative folks on the team, but everyone on the team to be more creative.”

“As we build and grow the team, increasingly what we’re looking for is data-driven marketers — people with great digital experience and people who take a human-centered approach to designing experiences.”

“Technology and personalization is going to open up a lot of avenues for digital-first ways to help people reach their financial goals. It’s just a question of what is their preference and how does it become something that feels comfortable and additive to the consumer or to the business owner.”

“Marketing shouldn’t feel transactional. It should feel like it’s something that is in the best interest of the recipient, and not necessarily the best interest of the bank. You don’t want [your marketing] to feel self-serving — that’s true of your relationship with a banker and those conversations. It’s also true for any kind of A.I.-driven recommendations. It needs to be served up in a way that feels like it’s helpful to you.”

“There’s confusion about what it means to run a customer experience capability. What I used to think was that if you run the customer experience capability, then you are responsible for every aspect of the customer experience and it’s within your power to fix and change it. But that’s not really how it turns out. What they do is they collect really robust data and insights about the current experience and they benchmark against competitors and best practices. They do customer journey work to figure out what are the bumps in the road and then they do analytics and prioritization exercises to figure out what we need to go out and improve at that point.”


Jennifer Mathissen accepted the role of CMO at Santander in Nov. of 2020. Prior to Santander, she spent the last two years at CVS Health leading its Enterprise Insights. She has more than 20 years of experience in acquisition marketing, building brands, launching products, and developing digital customer experiences honed during her time at Epsilon Agency (formerly Catapult) and McKinsey & Co. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College.

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Episode 213