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CMO Andy Cunningham's Mission: Make Avaya Cool

In May 2014, Avaya announced new senior executive appointments including a replacement for Chief Marketing Officer Mark Wilson, who left Avaya in December 2013 after 18 months on the job. The new CMO, Andy Cunningham, took the role while continuing on as CEO of her venture SeriesC, which provides a range of marketing services and support to startup companies.

I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Cunningham in Santa Clara during the last week of May and was genuinely impressed with her energy, engagement and willingness to listen to feedback. This week, with about 60 days on the job, Cunningham made her formal debut on an industry analyst call. While I was unable to attend the briefing due to travel several time zones away, I reviewed the call replay and believe the content worth sharing.

Andy opened with a brief biographical sketch, mentioning, "I've known Kevin Kennedy for a very long time and have worked with him in the past." It is clearly that personal connection that convinced Cunningham to step into the Avaya CMO role. She frankly discussed the fact that Avaya has had a number of CMOs over the past six years. "There are a lot of things that need to be picked up and a lot of things that need to be put in a new order for the 21st Century."

Cunningham went on to add that, "It's no secret that we (Avaya) haven't done a lot of marketing in the past." With that backdrop, she discussed her four main objectives for the Avaya brand:

• Use the new digital tools we have at our disposal these days.

• Create pride of association for Avaya. This includes employees, industry analysts as well as customers and investors.

• Help market, package and sell solutions for the enterprise and the mid-market. Cunningham expounded on this objective at some length. Not unlike competitors in the unified communications space, she said about Avaya, "We have been a product-oriented company, and we are moving from hardware to software. It's marketing's role to figure out how to package it, how to talk about it help the sales teams sell solutions into both markets."

• "Finally, perhaps the most exciting objective, to try to make Avaya cool." Again, Cunningham expanded on what she meant. She said, "part of making Avaya 'cool' is bringing in some people who are more "socially-adept." Cunningham has already added several headcount, and in her words, "planted these new marketing people right in the middle of the hall" on the Executive Floor of Avaya's Santa Clara building. Why? "To be the ball of energy down the hall. We're in the way of the executives as they walk up and down the hall – this way, they can stop in and talk to us, tell us their opinions of things, let us know new things that are happening – create a very new form of energy."

Cunningham went on to say that, "My charter is to continue the transformation that Kevin started several years ago with product and Pierre-Paul Allard took on to sales - now it's marketing's turn." She describes her charter this way: "To transform Avaya – the marketing group and the company - into a solutions-oriented, digitally-conscious team that is dedicated to elevating the Avaya brand with all of our constituents. In other words, to move Avaya marketing into the 21st century."

Instead of leaving it at that – which after just 60 days would have been more than acceptable – Cunningham went on to outline eight initiatives already under way to accomplish these goals.

1. Create a Fit-for-Purpose organization. Augment skills in the marketing automation, digital and content creation areas. Andy described this initiative as already underway. To assist her, she is bringing on a new head of communications next week from Symantec, Gia Goodman.

2. Project North Star. Also underway, Andy describes this as answering the questions, "What is Avaya's positioning statement, what are the key messages, what does the brand stand for, what is the naming architecture, and what is the picture, what is the visualization of Avaya's technology." In other words, "who are we, why do we matter and what does our stuff look like."

3. Develop a thought-leadership platform for Avaya executives. Something relevant for executives to talk about that goes beyond products.

4. Corporate alignment. Without any of the baggage of loyalty to one or another past organization or acquisition, Cunningham sees Avaya having, "Lots of moving pieces and silos, not necessarily connected to one another." She believes that marketing can play a role in creating a cohesive narrative and strategy for all of the pieces of Avaya.

5. Promote a digital mindset. Cunningham is clearly focused on upping Avaya's social game and doing a lot more digital marketing. Part of that, for example, is thinking about collateral as digital assets.

6. Facilitate the required cultural shift that Avaya needs to make it from a hardware to a software and services company.

7. Reconfiguring the product launch strategy. The goal is to ensure that there are not 100 different products that are confusing to customers and channel partners alike, to put order into how products are launched and talked about.

8. Go to Market Strategy. Making sure that distribution channels are educated, that field marketing understands how to sell products, and that they have the right tools to do that.

Moving a mountain the size of Avaya will be no easy task - but I look forward to watching and reporting on Andy Cunningham taking on this challenge.

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