Mario Cordon, Chief Marketing Officer at Open English


Mario CordonMario joined Open English after holding the position of Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Kaplan Virtual Education.  His TV campaigns at Kaplan were recognized by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) with the coveted Gold Hermes Award.  Previously, he held the position of Vice President of Marketing at Levenger, Senior Director of Marketing at Office Depot, and Strategy Consultant at Bain & Co.  Mario earned his Engineering degree at Lehigh University where he graduated Suma Cum Laude and his MBA at Duke University where he was awarded the Keller Scholarship.

Interview with Mario Cordon

Portada: Tell us a bit about your career so far?

Mario Cordon: I’ve been fortunate to have a diverse career.  I’ve worked in Latin America, Europe and the United States across a range of industries including Online Education, Ecommerce, Retail, Consulting, High Tech, Pharmaceuticals, and Newspapers.

Mypost-MBA career started when I joined Bain & Company, one of the top three firms in Strategy Consulting, where I advised Fortune 500 companies in matters related to growth and Mergers and Acquisitions.  As many consultants, I ended up transitioning back to the client side.For the past seven years or so, I have been able to work on a mix of Direct Marketing and Branding initiatives.  At Office Depot, for example, I spent several years in the Direct Marketing division with Revenues of $1.5+ Billion and very large scale marketing operations in a multi-channel environment. My biggest contribution was using Marketing Science to change the marketing mix at a business that was running flat for four years in a row so we could quickly engineer a turnaround and drive growth rates of 5% to 9% at the time. While at Kaplan Virtual Education, I worked extensively on successfully integrating branding and lead generation.  Our Kaplan Academy TV campaigns received the coveted Gold Hermes Award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals in the USA.

I then joined Open English in June of 2011with a high level of excitement about Andres Moreno’s vision to create the leading online English school in the world. At the time, Open English was in a true start-up phase and had recently raised its first round of funding from VCs. During the following 24 months, I found myself in the fortuitous position to help create one of the fastest growing and most exciting brands in Latin America today, fueling triple digit growth in revenuestwo years in a row and a building a massive fan base (we have over 1 million fans on facebook- and growing).  Our creative efforts paid off, resulting in one of the most viral TV campaigns in the region.  I love visiting Latin America and observing the multiple ways in which our audience engages with our TV creative concepts.  It’s so energizing to hear people shout “Eeeexito!”in true Open English style as I’m boarding an airplane in Miami or any city in the region, or joke about Repollo/Rechickenat restaurants, or sing “The books on the table, table.”   And the experience is even more rewarding knowing that all our TV ads were developed in-house.  And now we are actively writing our next chapter in the history of Open English.  Stay tuned – exciting things to come!

Portada: What makes an excellent CMO that targets U.S. Hispanic and Latin American audiences?

Mario Cordon: Becoming an excellent CMO that targets the US Hispanic and Latin American audiences is quite a challenge for two main reasons.

  • First, Marketing continues to evolve at a very rapid pace.  This is certainly not your  Father’s Marketing, so to speak.  The CMO has to be versed not only in traditional media but also in fast evolving online, mobile, and social media.
  • Second, the Latin American region is large and complex and continues to evolve along multiple dimensions (the same is true of the US Hispanic segment).

In light of these two reasons, my Top 10 list for an excellent CMO would include the following:

1.     Branding Guru and Profits Rain Maker – the CMO must go beyond being just a Branding Guru.  The has to be able to drive a profit center not just a cost center.  The CMO has to be able to focus on the business, not just on Marketing.This person should rise up to the challenge of driving a high ROI on Marketing activities.

2.     Left brain thinking and right brain thinking – must be creative but also quantitative.  Just one or the other is not enough.

3.     Have creative courage – mediocre creativity is not a trademark of a good CMO.  He or she must have the courage to explore new creative boundaries to break away from the pack.

4.     Community builder – an excellent CMO not only builds a community of customers but also builds win/win partnerships with internal customers (e.g., Sales), vendors, influencers and companies that can complement the go to market model.

5.     Situational awareness – there’s a lot of context to a brand.  Each brand has a history, a path dependence,  ameaning among multiple segments, and a place within a larger environment.  The CMO must have a very keen sense of the brand’s situation in order to make the best decisions to build brand equity.  One false move can have very detrimental consequences.

6.     A steward of customer engagement and experience – the CMO can’t stop at simply driving consumer engagement.  He or she has to be an advocate for a fantastic customer experience along all touch points with the brand, the product and the company.  There is no other way to drive a high Net Promoter Score and the rewards that come along with it.

7.     A wizard at marketing attribution – given the rise of digital media and multi-channel marketing, the art of attribution has become very complicated.  Understanding the ROI of each element of the marketing mix is a daunting task.  Unfortunately, it is also a mandatory task to achieve reasonable returns on marketing spend.  An excellent CMO understands how to arrive at the right attribution model.  He or she can smell mis-attribution a mile away.

8.     An orchestrator of the Marketing Value Chain – in today’s world just knowing advertising isn’t enough.  The CMO must have a solid grasp of the entire marketing value chain, including but not limited to:  PR, media planning, marketing analytics, market research, online reputation management, social media, creative development, financial modeling.  The CMO doesn’t have to be the expert in each part of the value chain, but he or she must understand how to build and orchestrate all parts of the value chain to deliver optimal results.

9.     Deep cultural and geographic understanding – Latin America is a region displaying mega trends.  The emerging middle class, the rate of broadband and mobile penetration, and the explosion in consumer credit are giving rise to unprecedented access to brands (whether local or global).  Does your CMO have a clear vision for how to tap into the confluence of these favorable trends?  However, the extent to which these forces are playing out differs by country.  Does your CMO have a good understanding of these differences or is he or she playing the wrong game in important markets?

10.  Be a true leader, not just another big shot.

Portada: Why are you qualified to talk about panregional and Latin American marketing/advertising?

Mario Cordon: Today Open English is one of the largest buyers of advertising on pan-regional cable in Latin America, one of the brands with the highest levels of social media engagement across Latin America, and possibly the fastest growing brand across the entire region.