The CMO Files: Brian Kardon, Fuze
Human Resources

The CMO Files: Brian Kardon, Fuze



Name: Brian Kardon

Organization: Fuze

Job title:  Chief Marketing Officer

Location:  Boston, MA



  1. Where were you born and raised?
    Philadelphia––home of cheesesteaks, Rocky Balboa, and The Constitution.
  2. What was your first job?  
    Clarinet teacher. And I was terrible.
  3. What was the first product you got really excited about?  
    The Apple Macintosh computer––in 1984. It changed everything for me.
  4. Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
    My father. He taught me the lesson to “always be a student.” The idea of continuous learning and curiosity has always stuck with me. My father was a surgeon and he loved to read, well into the very late hours. He was reading medical journals. He told me that new surgical techniques and treatments were always being developed and it was essential for a surgeon to be current and familiar with these new techniques. The parallel with marketing is striking. As you know, the landscape of martech continues to evolve rapidly and new ideas are always bubbling around marketers––like intent data, AI, predictive analytics, ABM, personalization, and so many more. I am grateful that my father gave me the gift of curiosity and continuous learning.
  5. What has been your greatest achievement?
    I was the CMO of Eloqua from 2008-2012. When I joined, we were a very small venture-backed software company, like thousands of others. I was part of the team that created the marketing automation category and educated a new generation of marketers about things like lead scoring, nurturing, and campaign attribution. Eloqua went public in 2012 and was subsequently bought by Oracle for about a billion dollars. For me, the Eloqua journey was particularly satisfying as I had never worked in software before and I had to learn many new marketing strategies and tactics. I think I entered Eloqua an “analog marketer” and exited a “digital marketer.”
  6. What has been your biggest mistake?
    Earlier in my career, I have sometimes hired people too quickly. Building a highly productive, creative and collaborative marketing team is very difficult. You have to get every hire just right. It’s not just about skills. You need to think through how every person works and how they will collaborate. Do they seek the limelight? Do they naturally praise others? How responsive are they to requests? Are they clear communicators? Do they like to avoid risks or are they comfortable with experimentation? Are they data-driven?
  7. What is your greatest strength?
    I tend to ask a lot of questions. It certainly drives my wife crazy and sometimes my team at Fuze. But I think it makes me effective at what I do. If you come at me with a 30-page PowerPoint, you aren’t going to get very far. I learn by asking questions and listening.
  8. What is your biggest weakness?
    I tend to be an optimist. I can be unrealistic about accomplishing really hard things.
  9. What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers? 
    The “marketing of marketing” is always a challenge––communicating with the CEO, Board, and other teams at the company. Is marketing the “arts and crafts department,” or is marketing essential to company growth? Is marketing “strategic,” has a seat at the table, or perceived to be the people who throw great field events?
    From my experience, communicating the role of marketing is about three things:
    1) Having the data and knowing what to do with it;
    2) Building a strong relationship with the sales organization; and
    3) Understanding what is most important to the CEO and making sure you are aligned with his/her priorities.
  10. Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
    I often say, “this is a great time to be a marketer!” I truly believe that no function in the organization is changing more than marketing. With change comes the opportunity to grow and learn, and do cool new things.
    I really don’t like business jargon. Stuff like “take it offline,” “low hanging fruit,” and “think outside the box” are not phrases I enjoy hearing.
  11. What makes you stressed?
    Lack of preparation. I like to be prepared––for a meeting, for a presentation. And I don’t like to be late for anything. My kids call it “Kardon-time.” The Kardons are all habitually early.
  12. What do you do to relax?
    I love to play the piano. My mother was a singer, so the role of accompanist naturally fell to me. I play almost every day. I can feel the stress of the day melt away when I play. And I drink wine.
  13. What is your favorite song?
    I am currently obsessed with the music from Evan Hansen.
  14. Which book taught you most?
    “Inbound Marketing” (2009) by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. It completely opened my eyes to a whole new way to market and sell. At the same time, it shined a bright light on all the ineffective marketing I had been doing. I read it in one night and then promptly gave copies to every member of my marketing team. As it happened, the authors worked in the same building as I did and they generously gave us free copies.
  15. Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
    No. I have almost no interest in watching or following any sport. On Monday mornings at the office, I really have nothing to say about the weekend’s sports action. In Boston, that can be a problem.
    I do like to attend concerts. I am particularly fond of all things Mahler. But there is almost no one I can talk to about Mahler or the Boston Symphony. Except my son Elliot.
  16. Which country would you like to work in?
    Italy. I’m not so sure how much work I’d actually get done, but I never tire of the Italian people, their beautiful land, food, wine, hospitality, opera, art, and sense of style. They really have it all. If only “la dolce vita” ––the sweet life––meant drinking Barolo and doing marketing every day.
  17. Which company do you think has the best marketing?
    I think Adobe is an underrated marketer. We all live in the shadow of Apple and their amazing CMO Phil Schiller. But Adobe has created a suite of well-known products––like Acrobat, Photoshop, Flash, and Dreamweaver. And their advertising to the creative community is engaging, humorous, and effective. For B2B brands, especially tech brands, Adobe is a great role model.
  18. What do you love most about your job?
    Trying new things and seeing the results. Everything is a science project. Sometimes we know the outcome and sometimes we don’t. But we always learn and get better.
  19. What is your favorite book?
    My favorite author is Philip Roth. While I regret that he has stopped writing, he has left us with some of the greatest stories and writing of the past hundred years. “The Plot Against America,” “The Human Stain,” “American Pastoral,” and “Patrimony” are some of my favorites.
  20. What keeps you awake at night?
    Not much. I get to sleep very fast.


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