CLIC ’22 Takeaways: Who do you think you are?

Who do you want to be in 2023?

Our 6th CLIC cohort (a shy bunch!). Photo courtesy Doug Media Productions.
Our 6th CLIC cohort (a shy bunch!). Photo courtesy Doug Media Productions.

I am still reflecting on the incredible cohort from our 6th CMOs Leading Innovation Conference (CLIC ’22) in Charleston, SC. Cultivating deep peer connections in a safe space is our specialty–and this conference did not disappoint.

I’ll be sharing our key takeaways  in subsequent weeks.

First, here’s how I define marketing innovation–We define innovation as applying creativity to significantly improve or transform the stakeholder condition. As our recent cohort has proven, 2023 presents an opportunity to transform much more than the bottom line.

The pandemic forced us to evaluate our values, our marketing strategies, and our identities. Building resilience in the new customer-driven era shaped some challenging discussions at our CLIC ’22.  Our C-level cohort discovered fresh ideas from peers in other industries, reinvigorated their careers, and accelerated their organization’s growth agenda in an intimate setting. CLIC ’22 welcomed leaders from cybersecurity, commercial real estate, hospitality, software, manufacturing, CPG, and nonprofit sectors.

Unlike prior years, nearly every participant owned a piece of the revenue equation. This was in stark contrast to 2018 and 2019, when most focused on corporate communications, branding, and social media innovations.

Finding that delicate balance of paid, earned, and owned media to fuel that growth requires a unique combination of skills: data driven decision making, cross-functional collaboration, intuition, and a culture of experimentation. During our fireside chat with Sandboxx CMO Shane McCarthy, we explored how changing customer behaviors and cookies have also triggered some difficult existential conversations. This happened at Sandboxx, a popular platform that helps service members and their supporters throughout their military journey via content and products.

Shane knew that the days of cookies (products that auto-magically follow us when we browse) are numbered, and paid advertising was losing its luster. He and the Sandboxx executive team anticipated Apple’s simple iOS update in 2021, allowing users to turn ad tracking on or off. The user privacy floodgates officially opened during the pandemic.

During our CLIC breakouts, as well as my CMO and CEO coaching sessions, we have been exploring the ramifications of blocking third party (3P) cookies on growth planning. In addition to Apple’s moves, Google announced plans to phase out third-party (3P) cookies on Chrome browsers by the second half of 2024.

Anthony Kennada, CEO of B2B media agency AudiencePlus, reported that “Chrome represents over 66% of all web traffic across the globe…this creates a massive disruption for B2B marketers who have leveraged 3P cookies for content distribution, retargeting, and other digital demand initiatives.” As these tech behemoths continue their customer-driven privacy quest, we need to be willing to ask which growth models are worth replacing.

Shane McCarthy began challenging Sandboxx’s brand and demand generation strategies well before Apple started blocking third-party cookies.

In 2021, McCarthy and his team also noticed the primary Letters product was reaching maturity. The Sandboxx team began experimenting with a blog, then a video series containing paid ads from the military ecosystem. The video series offers a unique channel where brands can tell their honest stories to service members.

The experiments paid off. Sandboxx attracted Fortune 100 advertisers, 150,000 YouTube subscribers and 5 million monthly impressions.

According to McCarthy, “Our conscious shift from a one-product Sandboxx Letters company to a media platform was instrumental in Sandboxx’s 500% growth in valuation over the past four years. It is also fueling several new product ideas.” Building direct connections with their growing audience required a strong dose of curiosity, a more diversified demand gen strategy, and a passion to fulfill unmet military community needs.

For that reason, we salute Shane, winner of our prestigious CLIC ’22 Beacon Award (pictured below). Shane embodies the Marketing Growth Leaders™ values: promoting shared knowledge, being open, grateful and honest, and maintaining agility amid ambiguity. We publish and read our values during every peer gathering.

Shane knows who he is, yet he is willing to question underlying assumptions and familiar ways of operating as tectonic plates shift.

Who do you want to be in 2023? 

P.S. If you missed this gathering, join us November 2-3, 2023 in Nashville.

copyright 2022, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

Shane McCarthy received the CLIC ’22 Beacon Award for exemplary marketing leadership. Congratulations from Marketing Growth Leaders Founder, Lisa Nirell. Our host: Catherine LaCour, CMO of Blackbaud. For more information about our private community, visit

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