The CMO Files: Craig Dempster, CMO, Merkle

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'...

Name:  Craig Dempster

Organisation: Merkle

Job title: Executive VP, CMO & Customer Experience Group Leader

Location:  Columbia, Maryland


1. Where were you born and raised?

I'm a native New Yorker.  Born and raised on Long Island.

2.  What was your first job? 

Well, my very first job when I was in high school was as a painter - actually, I painted street signs on a nearby college campus.  After college, my first job was a Metromail, an Experian company.

3.  What was the first product you got really excited about? 

While at Experian, it was the first psychographically-based segmentation tool.  This was really the start of my career in marketing and helped to get me engaged in thinking about how to better target and personalize messages.

4. Who has been the biggest influence on your career?  

While at Metromail I worked for DeeDee Johnson, who played a major role in helping to shape my career path.  I worked with DeeDee for eight years and over that time she challenged me, presented me with some great opportunities and encouraged me to stretch and continuously learn.  More recently, David Williams, Chairman and CEO of Merkle, has served as an influencer and even mentor.  David is truly a visionary, both his entrepreneurial spirit and business philosophy that "there is no finish line" is a true inspiration to me.

5. What has been your greatest achievement?  

I had the opportunity to lead Merkle's evolution into digital - it has been an incredible journey.  We have had a fantastic growth trajectory - both organically and through acquisitions. It is great to look back and see how our digital strategy has evolved.

6.  What has been your biggest mistake?

Hindsight is always 20/20, but as I look back my biggest mistake was probably in overinvesting in a venture idea within an established company without having a strong go to market strategy and business model.

7.  What is your greatest strength?

I think I have good instincts and am business savvy, so one of my strengths would be the ability to see emerging trends and develop innovative value propositions that capitalize on those trends.

8.  What is your biggest weakness?

Three foot putts under pressure. But on more of a serious note, I probably move too quickly to the next big idea prior to completing the previous one.

9.  What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   

My role is really more than the traditional CMO; I have a strong strategic voice helping to map the direction of the overall company.

10.  Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?

My mantra would be, "second place is just the first loser" and the word that makes me squirm - probably bureaucracy.

11.  What makes you stressed?

It's simple - not delivering on commitments.

12.  What do you do to relax?

Golf, golf and then more golf!

13. What is your favourite song?

I'm probably dating myself but Stairway to Heaven by Led Zepplin

14.  Which book taught you most?

Good to Great by Jim Collins

15.  Do you have a team or sport that you follow?

I've been a NY Jets fan since I was a kid and keep hoping that someday it will pay off!

16.  Which country would you like to work in?

England, simply because they speak English!

17.  Which company do you think has the best marketing?

From a B2B side, Accenture and on the consumer side it would be GEICO.

18. What do you love most about your job? 

I really love what I do.  Marketing has evolved so much over the past couple of decades and the opportunity for marketers has never been better.  Our ability to use information, analytics and technology to develop integrated media and channel interactions that maximize the customer experience makes it incredibly exciting to be in marketing.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn't add that I work with great people and that makes it a whole lot more fun!

19.  What is your favourite book?

Miracle on the 17th Green by James Patterson

20.  What keeps you awake at night?

My inbox…and thinking about how many emails are waiting for a response.