Margaret's strengths as a connector, simplifier, and moderator have made her a highly influential CMO. She has hosted hundreds of leading CMOs, panelists, and thousands of guests from across the globe for Siegel+Gale's Future of Branding series. Margaret is a fierce advocate for DEIB, leading award-winning Women's Day, LGBTQ+ Pride, Gen Z, and Baby Boomer programs.
In 2023, Margaret's team was awarded a top-three spot in Campaign's Corporate Communications/Marketing Team of the Year. She was honored as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Marketing 2022, The Drum B2B Marketer of the Year, and is a Marketing Society fellow. A thought leader, she has been published in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, and more. She is a sought-after conference panel host and podcast guest.
A native of Ireland, Margaret is the founder of the acclaimed WearingIrish, a passion project to tell the untold story of Irish fashion design. She has been described by The Irish Times as an "Unofficial Ambassador" of Ireland. She has been honored by many Irish organizations, including Douglas Hyde's Foundation (support of the Irish language), Irish Voice Women of Influence, and Top 100 Irish Americans in Business in the United States.
She was SVP Marketing at GLG and led teams at Siebel Systems (Oracle), Telecom Ireland US (eir), and Enterprise Ireland. She is a board member of CIE Tours, the travel company.
Margaret has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the University of Ulster and La Universidad de Valladolid, Spain. Margaret lives in Manhattan with her husband and two teenage sons.
Since March 2020, I hosted 120+ leading CMOs, panelists, and thousands of guests from across the globe for Siegel+Gale's Future of Branding series (The recordings are available on the "How CMOs Commit" podcast.)
One of the most significant insights I've gleaned is the different types of tensions my guests continually manage. For example, there's the tension marketers must navigate between the short term, like hitting targets in quarterly earnings, and in the long term, such as building an agile brand fit for future growth. There's also the tension between relying on tried-and-true tactics and experimenting and embracing innovation. On a cultural level, there is significant tension around aligning the interests of customers, employees, investors, and the community.
For a decade, Siegel+Gale has ranked leading brands on simplicity, asking more than 15,000 people across nine countries which brands and industries provide the simplest experiences. We define simple experiences as having the following characteristics: easy to understand; transparent and honest; caring for and meeting people's needs; innovative and fresh; and useful.
Unfortunately, complexity is compounding in every sector. There's more content, more channels, more products. In short, more decisions for consumers, which means they are more cognitively challenged. But brands like Whole Foods, Amazon, and Google demonstrate that simplicity isn't destiny or a part of DNA; instead, simplicity is the product of a series of decisions. And, when brands decide to be simple, they are rewarded handsomely by consumers worldwide. According to our latest World's Simplest Brands study, 64% of people are willing to pay more for simpler brand experiences, and 78% are more likely to recommend a brand for its simpler experiences and communications.
Lastly, I firmly believe that simplicity is the ultimate act of creating accessibility. By using plain language and clarifying processes and how to engage with an organization, you're making an organization more accessible. Whether we're talking about healthcare, education, or financial services, access is the starting point for inclusion.
Wearing many hats is a secret in and of itself. Extracurricular activities and passion projects will only make you stronger at your core job. It's about being able to draw connections, build unexpected relationships, and unlock unexpected insights that will help you cross-pollinate—whether it's my involvement in my passion project #WearingIrish, being a mom to two teens, or my involvement with The Marketing Society.
I endeavor to create a psychologically safe environment for my team where they can be curious and encouraged to ask questions and contribute ideas. I think of this as creating a space where colleagues can speak in draft form and where learning systems are designed as part of the work routine, not confined to separate training activities. I believe environments with high psychological safety generate learning and increase the likelihood of effective execution of the decisions made because of the learning.
I also focus on an often-neglected aspect of learning—the process of unlearning. Unlearning does not mean forgetting. Instead, it's about the ability to choose the right-fit paradigm based on your context. From the challenging economy to the enthusiasm for AI, many upheavals have placed some established business and marketing truths on hold while rendering others obsolete. To adapt, we must unlearn the old mental models and make room for the new.
Another practice is taking inspiration from the classic apprenticeship model. I believe in hiring for attitude and training for aptitude because one learns by doing. By adhering to that structure, I facilitate the passing of craft between teammates.
The role of CMO is exceptionally complex today, and it's arguably the most challenging and varied C-suite role. Because of all its different flavors, it's the least homogenous role in the C-suite. And the role varies based on company culture and business model. Some CMO roles can be highly strategic; others can be more external-facing and aligned to sales. Then, there are the CMO roles that are more internal and tethered to the company's communications and promotions. CEOs need to understand what type of CMO their firm needs and hire accordingly.
Additionally, the role's shorter tenure should not be mistaken for a CMO's poor performance. Recent Spencer Stuart research indicates high turnover is often a sign of success and elevation to other roles.
There are a few admirable women who come to mind. I am forever grateful to the many excellent teachers I've had, particularly my kindergarten and first-grade teacher, Mrs. Sheehan. She developed in me the confidence that I could be anything—and anyone—I wanted to be.
Another woman who inspired me—but I never met—was my great-aunt, Bridget Henry. She boarded the Titanic in County Cork, Ireland, with the goal to work as a domestic servant in a grand house in America. While she never made it to America, she inspired me because she was a young woman with no formal education or resources but teeming with ambition. I was always intrigued by Aunt Bridget's fearlessness and ambition; in some small way, I feel obliged to fulfill her dreams.
Even though there's so much discussion surrounding AI, technology, and automation, I believe in 2024, we'll see a renewed enthusiasm for being with other human beings. In pop culture, we've seen massive spending on in-person experiences, like world tours from Taylor Swift and Beyonce.
In the commercial realm, this appetite for congregating will manifest in a brand's enthusiasm for events. In B2B business, there will be a desire for curated roundtables where brand leaders can authentically engage in intimate conversations and forge a community with both current and prospective clients.
The one thing I cannot live without is my sense of curiosity. That's a crucial part of my identity—my quest for knowledge, ability to ask intentional questions, and desire to be a good student.
I also have a desire to prioritize curiosity in my marketing programs because knowledge is so powerful. To lose one's sense of wonder is to lose a sense of betterment. For example, I was one of the first AI advocates in my company, encouraging my team to experiment with new technology long before ChatGPT broke the internet and became a household name.