The best of their guild

Once again, Switzerland is selecting a "CMO of the Year" - and once again, exciting personalities from the world of marketing have been nominated. We took a closer look at them.

(Illustrations: Silvan Borer)

The CMO of the Year award is still relatively new in Switzerland - unlike the "Werber:in des Jahres" award, for example - but already enjoys an enormous reputation. Launched by former Serviceplan CEO and VP Christian Baertschi and carried on by his successor Pam Hügli, On founder David Allemann, Victorinox CEO Karl Elsener and Planted CMO Sabrina Balestra have already received the award for their work. In 2023, the best marketing manager in the country will be chosen again. The expert jury, which based its analysis on the criteria of "personality," "success," "innovation," "customer-centricity," and "sustainability (including diversity and meaningfulness)," is now presenting its shortlist - which includes established personalities as well as newcomers who are achieving great things for their companies.

As media partner of the award m&k portrays the nominees and provides insight into their work, their successes and their principles. Online editor Beat Hürlimann is also a member of the jury. It is clear from the portraits that all the nominees certainly deserved the prize - but as always, only one person can win. Who that is will be revealed at a festive gala in Zurich at the beginning of June. Until then, here's to everyone: toi, toi, toi!

Lea Miggiano, founder and CMO of Carvolution.

With the founding of Carvolution, Lea Miggiano really shook up the car industry. The idea was actually born out of necessity: "I needed a car myself and quickly realized that neither leasing nor buying a car appealed to me. It was cumbersome and inflexible. In addition, the costs associated with a car are spread out over the whole year in a confusing way. So I wanted to find a solution that made it easy to drive my own car. It should be all inclusive, all costs should be visible at a glance. At the same time, I heard about the car subscription concept from the USA. It was exactly what I had in mind. I asked around and quickly realized the interest in a car subscription in Switzerland was there."

"Thanks to my drive and perseverance, as a young woman I managed to make a difference in the automotive industry - a said male domain."

The nomination for CMO of the Year makes her very proud. It shows her that the work of her marketing team is being noticed and that the whole thing is being received positively. Carvolution strikes a chord. "Otherwise, our work is evaluated primarily on the basis of figures, so a nomination like this makes us even more proud," says Lea Miggiano. The young entrepreneur makes no secret of the fact that she still has a lot to do. She loves fine-tuning the face of Carvolution every day. The idea of transforming Auto-Abo into stringent communication and advertising and thus anchoring the brand in the minds of consumers is very important to the entire marketing team.

There are still plenty of challenges. As the company grows, communications must also evolve. The key is to find the right balance between continuity and novelty. In other words, building on what already exists without resting on it. The team and they themselves also have to keep evolving. "In just a few years, we have grown from a small start-up to a team of almost 100 with a broad customer base. This also has an impact on the way we do marketing and will do so in the future. This challenge is very exciting, but also challenges us every day."

Martin Baumüller, Leitung Konzernbereich Marketing & Brands, Geberit-Gruppe
Martin Baumüller, Head of Group Division Marketing & Brands, Geberit Group.

The construction and sanitary industry is not normally known for particularly extraordinary marketing campaigns. This makes the paths taken by the Geberit Group, European market leader for sanitary products, all the more innovative and courageous: Whether it is a campaign for a shower toilet that uses "handbutts" (folded hands that look like a butt in close-up) to circumvent the strict censors on social networks and thus increase the engagement rate by 355 percent, or a design competition for customers who were allowed to equip particularly small bathrooms with Geberit products: Geberit is definitely taking unusual paths in its communication. Since 2016 - shortly after the integration of the ceramics business, the largest acquisition in the company's history - Martin Baumüller has been responsible for the Group Division Marketing & Brands as CMO. In the course of the integration, he and his team realigned the brand strategy - and received the 2021 Marketing Excellence Award for it. The jury's reasoning: "A professional brand for specialist tradesmen has become a broadly positioned B2B2C brand.

"In a traditional environment, persistence is required."

"Successful marketing," says Martin Baumüller, "is both targeted, impactful and therefore effective, but at the same time efficient in the sense of making the best possible use of the available resources and geared to the long term." In order to inspire customers and support them in their search for the right products and solutions, two things count above all for the 46-year-old: emotion and logic, i.e. heart and mind.

Baumüller also attaches great importance to the topic of sustainability - just like digitalization. "New technologies enable innovative approaches to better support customers in their decisions. Innovation requires experimenting and testing, but at the same time not getting bogged down, but also implementing the ideas and concepts in a focused manner. Particularly in a traditional environment such as the construction industry, where innovations only become established in the longer term, patience and persistence are definitely required."

Baumüller, whom the CMO-of-the-Year jury describes as inspiring, design-savvy and courageous, also sees the nomination as recognition for the work he does together with his colleagues: "It's nice when the work you do is also noticed and recognized by experts in the field. The criteria for the nomination also reflect the demand for a comprehensive marketing approach that makes a direct contribution to the success of the company. It is important for me to emphasize that this is only possible with a strong and competent team."

André Hefti, Global CMO von Schweiz Tourismus
André Hefti, Global CMO of Switzerland Tourism

The mission is nothing less than to position Switzerland internationally as a travel destination. And that is what André Hefti and his team are doing. With resounding success. Today, Swiss tourism is almost back to the strong figures of before the pandemic and - what makes André Hefti particularly happy - the many new guest records after the pandemic seem to be established in the long term! With a lot of commitment and then international success, the team has sharpened the positioning of the destination brand Switzerland in the same period and established an advertising bracket that has a positive impact worldwide. If you need more than vacations, you need Switzerland. That is the claim. The global campaign with brand ambassador Roger Federer and his co-stars has repeatedly caused a sensation worldwide.

Sustainability is a matter close to Switzerland Tourism's heart. With "Swisstainable", this concern is gaining more and more momentum. "With a lot of heart and conviction, we are committed to Switzerland as a sustainable travel destination. Our goal is to become the most sustainable destination in the world," summarizes André Hefti.

"International competition, especially in tourism advertising, is merciless."

The challenges as CMO of Switzerland Tourism are manifold: Due to the pandemic, it has generally become more difficult to attract young talent to tourism. Then the industry would have to continuously develop and improve the offer in order to meet the increasing demands of guests at the quality level. Innovation is in demand. In addition, the balancing act between agility and focus is a tightrope act, he says. Digitalization also keeps André Hefti's team on its toes, he says. The mission and goal is to keep improving the guest experience. Because: International competition, especially in tourism advertising, is merciless. It is important to tackle these challenges proactively and to develop future-oriented strategies in order to be successful in Swiss tourism marketing.

The nomination for CMO of the Year 2023 is a wonderful appreciation for André Hefti and Switzerland Tourism. It means a great recognition and appreciation of the team's work and fills everyone with pride and joy. "Among all the other impressive names and great brands nominated for their strong performances, it's even nicer that our Swiss tourism industry is put in the spotlight here."

André Hefti was named Advertiser of the Year in March 2023 ( reported).

Franziska Gsell, CMO des Schaffhauser Uhrenherstellers IWC
Franziska Gsell, CMO of Schaffhausen-based watchmaker IWC.

It is my belief that creativity can answer any question. It can be a single thought that has the power to change everything. And I believe that anyone and everyone can have this thought. Therefore, for me, creativity should not be practically delegated to the creation department, but should be an aspiration for everyone in their field and according to their abilities. The prerequisite for this is free thinking, which is the only way to create space for creative solutions. For this kind of thinking, we need a climate in which thinking differently is not seen as a danger but as an opportunity, a working environment that offers the freedom to shape everyday working life as the task demands, and in which feeling good and trust are part of the culture. In order to create these conditions, I try to repeatedly break through familiar mechanisms in everyday life, to question customary processes and to remove boundaries in order to create space for something new again. And when new, unusual, perhaps unconventional ideas are on the table, my motivation is to open doors and remove barriers to make them possible. My inspiration? Practically everything and everyone:r in this world that approaches things differently and finds new ways. Nature is basically our best role model in terms of creativity. It shows us every day how to find new ways.

"We can honor the past while shaping the future."

I'm also inspired by all the people who put aside the usual and the conventional in order to come up with completely new ideas and create new solutions. All those who believe in their ideas and don't let "can't be done" or "doesn't exist" slow them down. At the moment, I am impressed by new approaches that are emerging in the field of sustainability, innovative solutions that give a little bit of hope. I would like to see much greater boundaries being torn down here to enable new solutions and to solve the biggest problem of our time. And last but not least, it is children who inspire me again and again. They don't yet have all the scissors in their heads that keep blocking us. They help me to question things, to see new solutions and to always think everything is possible.

Christoph Timm, Head of Marketing Communications, Swisscom
Christoph Timm, Head of Marketing Communications, Swisscom.

White slopes, blue markings and red gates - do you remember when Swisscom managed to retrospectively "reveal" the nature of all Swiss ski arenas as a marketing coup with a "mockumentary"? Then you also remember the work of Christoph Timm, Head of Marketing Communications at said company.

Only switched from competitor Sunrise to the communications giant in 2020, Timm quickly succeeded in putting his own stamp on Swisscom; realizing his ideas - and strengthening the perceived individuality of the brand. In a country where only a few providers share the market, all operate at a similar price level and are particularly conspicuous for their promotion of new customers, this alone is a masterstroke. It's hardly surprising that Swisscom was voted "Switzerland's strongest brand" in 2022, is it?

"We've invested a lot in the brand over the last few years - we seem to have succeeded."

Asked about the special challenges of his job, Christoph Timm says: "Spontaneously, the main thing that comes to mind is the breadth of the target group we address as Swisscom. We have a relationship with virtually the entire population, so we always have to find the right balance between different demands: whether young or old, customer or non-customer, city or country, etc." But the experienced CMO is not intimidated by this challenge: "I see it more as a huge opportunity," says Timm, "to play to each target group at the right time, in the right place, with the right message."

And indeed, Swisscom reaches out to customers under its aegis; it gives the impression of being honestly interested in community building. Because many people like to go to concerts and festivals in their free time, the company is present there - sponsoring, offering discounted tickets, or simply hosting (and streaming) the shows itself. Swisscom is also close to its users in social media, for example with the "Blue Space" campaign, which brought 30 creative artists on board for brainstorming. Products tailored specifically to the needs of the digitally savvy generation do the rest.

What should not be forgotten in all this is that Christoph Timm and his team are also driving Swisscom's sustainability course. The purpose of offering customers the best experience at all times is combined with climate-neutral subscriptions - and the company's footprint is being continuously reduced. The CMO draws a positive interim balance: "We have invested a lot in recent years to make the Swisscom brand and communications younger, more dynamic, more consistent and more sustainable. We seem to have succeeded in this."

Luca Michas, Co-Gründer und CMO Yamo
Luca Michas, Co-Founder and CMO of Yamo.

W hy does baby food have a longer shelf life than the child who eats it? - This question started the success story of the start-up Yamo. Three founders set out to find the answer - and developed fresh, healthy, plant-based foods for children that are cold-pressed using a special process. Today, almost seven years later, the brand is active in five European countries, launched a broad awareness campaign in Germany last year ("We promote fruit pulp consumption") and is even challenging the big boys. Instead of beetroot or carrot porridge, "Beetney Spears" or "Carrot Kid" is served on the plate, and instead of vegan vanilla yogurt, "Prince Vanilliam" is spooned up.

"I see myself as an enabler for my teams."

The development of Yamo shows that Luca Michas is mastering these issues. In addition to the strategic development as well as the introduction of products for older children and the accompanying revision of the brand identity, which has enabled the company to more than quadruple its POS listings in supermarkets, Michas is proud to be nominated as CMO of the Year 2023: "The nomination makes me hugely happy! It shows that our efforts are also perceived positively beyond the boundaries of our company and outside our customer environment."

The CMO, who is regarded as reflective and creative, plays a major role in this - together with his growing team: "I see myself as an enabler for my teams to be able to do excellent work. I try to look to the future to identify challenges as well as opportunities early on." At the same time, he says, analyses of past periods are also important in order to make the right strategic decisions. He knows what is important to him in day-to-day team work: "It is important to me to give maximum freedom to make decisions. At the same time, however, I demand the perception of responsibility in return; for me, the two things belong inseparably together." Just like vitamins and children's snacks, like healthy and delicious - or like few bad ingredients but lots of heart and soul.

More articles on the topic