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045: Being a Legendary CMO: One Woman’s Silicon Valley Journey

July 6, 2017

The ultimate goal for many businesses in any sector is to be the category king – the one and only player in this particular niche. Is this an achievable goal? How can a good knowledge of category design help you stand out and develop your brand in full? And can you read someone’s work habits by their shoes? Join Tenable CMO Jennifer “JJ” Johnson for her top insights on how knowing category design can put your business one step forward from your greatest competitors.

We all have moments where we’re in a position to be our greatest self and we have hesitations around these moments. – Chris Lochhead

Takeaways

  1. Good knowledge of category design and category marketing is essential for a successful CMO career.
  2. Harnessing and understanding data is important, however it’s essential for companies to know how to connect to people as well and bring about the personal touch.
  3. The values of the company matter – if your values don’t match up with those of the company, you’ll never be able to quite get it right.

We started off with JJ explaining how important it is for CMOs to focus on category design and how controlling your category can mean everything in business. We then talked more generally for company values – with mentions of Mercury, Uber, etc. – and how working for a company with contradicting values wouldn’t result into anything productive. JJ also talked about how upbringing can influence your business mindset later in time and gave an example with her own upbringing. Then JJ also talked about her experience with Andreessen Horowtiz, one of the Silicon Valley market leaders, and how she moved on to a portfolio company afterwards. Finally, we talked about JJ’s plans for the future and how she feels about what’s coming up for her company in the next few years. We also mentioned the problems of the headstrong outlook of CEOs in the security technology space and how a fear of innovation can lead to companies losing their market lead to new competitors that were brave enough to take ownership of a new category.

We also discussed;

  •   Our favorite books about brand and category success
  •   The rise in popularity of category design
  •   Bringing stagnant categories back to life
  •   The importance of sincere and straightforward company values

Knowing how to best your competition is one of the toughest parts of running any business. Category design can help with that; at its core is the creativity and innovation to define your own niche in the market that you can dominate. But dominating a category also requires courage. Some big companies are too set in the values and ideas of their business’ past that they risk being outperformed by newcomers with a lot more drive to try new things. Trendsetters belong in the present and future – that’s why every CMO needs to be aware of the specifics of category design so that they can guide the business’ brand in the right direction. Once the self-doubt is eliminated, it’s a lot easier to think in a new direction and look to define your own category.

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Guest Bio

Jennifer Johnson (JJ) is the first ever CMO for Tenable. JJ has experience in bringing innovation and creativity to company branding and stands behind the philosophy that category design is an essential skill for any CMO out there. Before Tenable, JJ was Tanium’s first ever CMO, building one of the most influential brands in the cyber security and enterprise IT markets. JJ is also an advisor at Play Bigger, where she coaches and spreads the message about the importance of category design. She also worked for market leaders and category designers Andreessen Horowitz as a partner. Follow JJ on Twitter: Twitter.com/jj_cmo

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