Kate Cox, VP & CMO EMEA, GoDaddy

“I see it as a roulette wheel. Marketing used to place one big bet on an ad campaign on TV. It either won big or it didn't. The new digital landscape enables marketers to take 20 different bets, measure them all and scale the ones that really work."

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


Kate Cox - GoDaddy

Career to date:

2017, VP & CMO EMEA, GoDaddy
2013, Managing Partner Strategy, Havas UK
2012, Head of Strategy, Havas UK
2011, Head of Strategy, MPG Media Contacts
2008, Head of Creative Communications, MPG Media Contacts
2001, Strategy Director, MPG

Creativebrief: I wondered if you could just outline your career to date.

Kate Cox: I spent 20 years in marketing and advertising working agency side and saw the start of the digital revolution on the advertising and media industries. I remember Google being an innovative thing that we put on plans as a ‘test’! We were trying to figure out what the right marketing mix was with digital in the frame and to help understand that in 2011, I co-authored a report with the IPA using the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank called ‘From Integration to Orchestration’ about new models of marketing measurement.

The IPA connection introduced me to the Berlin School of Creative Leadership where I completed my MBA in 2015. The Berlin School’s aim is to get creative thinkers into management positions in creative companies and unlike traditional MBA’s it focuses on the different skills required to manage creativity in business. My specialism there was around risk management. How can we do stuff with new digital technologies that de-risks creative concepts? How can we put measurement frameworks in place that allow us to understand the risks we take so that we can still take a creative leap to get transformation performance? I see it as at roulette wheel. Marketing used to place one big bet on an ad campaign on TV. It either won big or didn’t. The new digital landscape enables marketers to take 20 different bets, measure them all and scale the ones that really work.

The opportunity came to move into a CMO role in the domain registration business which is a highly performance led marketing area. We had reached a stage whereby known performance channels were highly optimised, and the business couldn’t scale further just using these channels at the right unit economics. The challenge was figuring out which creative bets to take in which new channels to continue to drive performance. That’s the real challenge in marketing for digital brands. In a world where nearly everything is measured in real time, we need to find new ways of measuring the incremental benefits of the creative decisions we make to find ones that have the power to unlock further growth. Whilst always remembering that not everything that matters to a business’s performance can be measured.

I’ve got three children. I was particularly proud of writing the IPA book when I was on maternity leave with my youngest son. He was a very sleepy baby! Doing that and the MBA really opened my mind to the potential of parents in the workplace, and how new ways of working through digital technologies, such as video conferencing, can enable different work patterns. This can facilitate new ways of managing the work/ life balance and being able to bring your whole self to work.

Creativebrief: In your role at GoDaddy, what’s your primary focus?

Kate Cox: I run marketing across EMEA. That’s 110 markets from Norway, down to South Africa and from Ireland to Pakistan. GoDaddy launched in 1997 and the mature digital economies like the US and Western Europe are in a completely different stage of growth around websites and digital than the developing economies. We have a lot of diversity within our region especially around entrepreneurship and start up cultures.

Our brand is about ‘Making your own way’ with digital tools and services enabling people to start businesses or launch life fulling ventures online. Part of our proposition is to help early stage entrepreneurs who want to turn their ideas into reality. We do that through our care centre agents who are skilled in digital marketing techniques, our online educational materials and our easy to use and intuitive products and services. Listening to calls is the best way to understand our customers’ needs especially when we’re not talking to digital experts but early stage business customers who want quick, easy and great value solutions to get up and running.

“We're on the cusp of this massive trend about people wanting to take control of what they're doing, making their own way and digital tools are enabling that. Bedroom start-ups can sell globally within days of starting their websites. That's impressive and exciting." 

Creativebrief: What drew you to work at GoDaddy?

Kate Cox: GoDaddy’s brand purpose is to radically shift the global economy to life fulfilling ventures. I’ve spent 20 years in advertising and marketing and I’ve not heard a brand purpose that’s better than that! We’re on the cusp of this massive trend about people wanting to take control of what they’re doing, making their own way and digital tools are enabling that. Bedroom start-ups can sell globally within days of starting their websites. That’s impressive and exciting. Digital is allowing more people to have a business voice and that for me is probably the most exciting brand proposition out there because we’re doing this at scale, globally.

We serve over 17.5 m customers and we’re growing rapidly and investing in our products and services. Our brand lives in our products, and in our customer care with only a small proportion of our brand living in our external communications. We want to be the place where our customers get the best experience wherever they touch us, through our products and services, when they need help, payment, or our brand marketing.

Creativebrief: Something that we often ask CMOs when we interview them is what processes do you put in place to make sure you’re hiring diverse teams? You’re encouraging more women in tech. Is that something that you particularly started from inside the business?

Kate Cox: Absolutely. I’m very proud of the fact that GoDaddy has emerged as a vocal leader for diversity in tech. GoDaddy was one of the first companies in the world to disclose its gender pay and population. We pride ourselves on transparency and identifying where we’re making progress and areas that still need improvement and then sharing that with the public so other companies can learn.

We’re also making good progress in how we promote women in our organization. Last year, the population of women in GoDaddy’s senior leader category lagged so the company made a concerted effort to focus on the promotion process. GoDaddy partnered with the Clayman Institute to develop a new system that enabled the company to proactively identify qualified women, and other qualified candidates, who should be considered for promotion. As a result, women in senior leadership ranks at the company increased five percent to 31 percent overall. We’re making good incremental improvements, but more work needs to be done to make more substantial changes.

Creativebrief: How do you encourage that from the agencies you work alongside? What do you think makes a successful client agency relationship?

Kate Cox: With agency partners, they are an extension of the team and we own decisions together. A lot of this is about face to face, working collaboratively. It’s not pages of briefs and emails. We launched our first local UK TV ad back in January working with M&C Saatchi Accelerator starring Freddie Flintoff. I chose the agency because they were incredibly up for it and collaborative. Super easy to work with. They weren’t precious about their creative process or teams and were open to discussions about the brief and the final details of the script. It was a real partnership.

What I’m trying to do with my agencies is bring skillsets in that I don’t have in-house. GoDaddy do run a lot of activity in house so it’s important to bring in expertise and fresh ideas. Agencies have got those different critical skills that you don’t need every single day of the week. But you do need people outside the business to help move the business on and come up with new ideas. It’s about team work and collaboration, being very clear about what you want and rewarding people if they deliver.

“I see it as a roulette wheel. Marketing used to place one big bet on an ad campaign on TV. It either won big or it didn't. The new digital landscape enables marketers to take 20 different bets, measure them all and scale the ones that really work."

Creativebrief: What would you say are the biggest challenges facing GoDaddy but also facing entrepreneurs?

Kate Cox: For the GoDaddy marketing team just like our entrepreneurial customers it’s, how do you keep up with the pace of change in digital marketing tech? In my marketing team, I employ a lot of people who have run their own businesses or have current side hustles, so they get the mind set of trying to find new ways to grow the business and make each pound spent get a return. What we’re always trying to figure out is what emerging digital technologies should we be using first and then which ones should we be asking our customers to use.

The challenges for entrepreneurs are the same as they’ve always been which is, they’re one-man bands at the start. They’re doing everything. They’ve got little time, lack of skills, lack of confidence. How can we help our customers really figure out what’s important, what’s really going to drive their business? You can’t do everything as a small business. You’ve got to pick and choose where you’re going to play and then how you’re going to play.

Crowdfunding is a really interesting new marketing channel for small businesses not just a way for them to get funding. GoDaddy UK launched a competition with this year asking people to submit their new business ideas in 100 words on Facebook. We rewarded the winners with money to start crowdfunding. It’s a really good way of marketing a small business because you’re asking your friends and families to support you and doing this via digital techniques to help amplify your business idea beyond the immediate circle. That’s what small businesses need, some really committed early fans who will buy stuff from them. It worked for GoDaddy as it enabled us to put our money where our mouth in a way that amplified our social media buzz and generated huge reach for the brand.

Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for GoDaddy going forwards?

Kate Cox: The ambitions for the region are to massively and rapidly scale our customer base. This is a massive market with different levels of growth. Africa, the Middle East are hugely accelerating economies. Our ambition is to help as many people as we can and to scale as quickly as we possibly can. Within the more mature markets, it’s to develop our product portfolio moving beyond domains. It’s figuring out where the next place we can help our customers grow their business.

“Early stage entrepreneurs are great people to be around. It's high energy, it's exciting. I love talking to our customers because the energy of starting a business is infectious."

Creativebrief: You must get to meet some fascinating people. What’s the craziest business idea that you’ve come across?

Kate Cox: We did a Crowdfunding competition around Royal Wedding ideas as we wanted to demonstrate that, from November 2017 when the engagement was announced to May 2018 when the wedding happened, many crazy entrepreneurs had launched and scaled businesses by building their website and getting their ideas out there quickly. We met Tommo and Austin who has just launched Hot Tug. They hire out floating hot tubs from their base in London on the Regents Canal. They’ve had a lot of business around hen and stag parties and wanted to do a Royal Wedding Stag Party stunt.

They’re a small business and had enough money to hire Harry and Will look a-likes and we helped them by hiring Prince Charles and the Queen and getting a lot of journalists down there to film it. We were like OK, let’s do this together. It’s a great way for us to help out a GoDaddy customer. We got eight international film crews down. It was a tiny amount of investment, which got global reach on a silly idea. We’re quite an irreverent brand, we’re not that serious. We want this to be fun.

Creativebrief: That’s at GoDaddy’s core isn’t it, really championing small businesses. What would be your piece of advice for people wanting to convert side hustle into main hustle?

Kate Cox: First off is start it as a side hustle so you can test and see if there is a market for your business idea. Many businesses start as side hustles and grow into successful multi-million-pound ventures. Think really hard about your goals and what you want your business or idea to deliver. Do you want a business that’s going to supplement your current income with holiday cash? Or do you just want to see if there’s a market for your hobby? Alternatively, do you want to launch the next Uber or Airbnb? That allows you to really think about how much do you need for this to happen and how hard do you want to work? Different discussion and different set of advice for where you’d go.

Then remember the grind of it. Every day you’re at the coal face, doing everything. You’re networking, you’re running ops, you’re delivering the service and you’re on your own. That’s a scary place to be. Look at your numbers and join the networking groups and figure out where you want your business to play.

Creativebrief: Personally, who or what are you inspired by outside of the industry?

Kate Cox: I am actually really inspired by what I’m doing now. Early stage entrepreneurs are great people to be around. It’s high energy, it’s exciting. I love talking to our customers because the energy of starting a business is infectious. How could you not be inspired by trying to shift the global economy to life fulfilling ventures? We’re not the biggest digital company but our sense of purpose is rock solid.