The Canadian Marketing Association has a new leader. John Wiltshire, who has served on the board of directors for the past three years and who’s most recent role was senior vice president, marketing of Investors Group, took on the mantle of interim president and chief executive officer effective June 26th of this year.

“I’ve really only had two jobs—I was at Canada Trust in the core of Toronto for a number of years, and then in 1996 I took [what was initially intended to be] a three- to five-year stint in Winnipeg with Investors Group, started to like what I was doing and never looked back,” explains Wiltshire. “This is a great opportunity to come in and get back in connection with the broader marketing community in Canada.”

The CMA began looking for a new president and CEO at a time when Wiltshire had already decided to move on in his career. As a board member he was already well versed in the work of the CMA and excited about its missions.

“Coming off of what I would call a very satisfying, long career of providing marketing and product support for over 5,000 small business at Investor’s Group, it seemed to me like a natural next step to bring my previous experience and passion to a bigger stage and in particular at a juncture when the CMA is introducing formal accreditation to the marketing profession through the Chartered Marketer designation,” he says. “It was kind of an opportunity I couldn’t resist.”

Whiltshire grew up in London, Ontario and attended the University of Western Ontario, graduating from the Ivey Business School in 1985. After a decade working in Toronto for Canada Trust, he moved to Winnipeg and today commutes to Toronto for the work week.

Wiltshire is taking the place of Doug Brooks who served as president and CEO from July 2015 until June of this year, following the retirement of John Gustavson, who lead the association for over 25 years.

“I have huge respect for Doug and he was an excellent steward during his tenure,” said Wiltshire. “I would call him the father of the CMA’s transformation, along with the board of course. We have a very strong and engaged board. Doug is an operations and strategy guru for sure and he used his leadership experience at other associations and other companies to start us on the path to a formal accreditation program. The other thing he did internally that people don’t see is he boosted the CMA’s capabilities and sustainability in some pretty important ways as well.”

Wiltshire explains his mandate as follows: “In terms of the CMA’s strategic plan, obviously we see ourselves as the voice of marketers in Canada and I would say that we need to develop a stronger leadership voice in the CMA. How can we represent great Canadian companies and great Canadian marketers on issues that matter while at the same time keeping a strong focus on the Canadian consumer?

“I think that our objective here is really to have healthy industries that are able to actively develop markets for their products here in Canada and abroad. I think that whole leadership voice, representing our industry for sure is at the core of what we do. Being an association, allowing opportunities for education and association amongst marketers in Canada is absolutely critical, it’s who we are and so that continues on.

“More and more the key priority from a strategic perspective is to actually work on the marketing profession itself. We’ve announced our new Chartered Marketer designation and we’re now doing the hard to work to create a pathway to this achievement. The reality is that we need to convince as many marketers as possible that this is a worthy and noble cause and for them to get on board. We want to make this designation the name brand designation in Canada for marketers who want to raise the bar in terms of the profession.

“The final part of the mandate really is stewardship. What that means to me is taking care of this great association, and leaving it stronger and more valuable than it was when I began. That’s about culture, it’s about revenue, it’s about relationships, it’s about expansion, it’s about all of those things together. That’s my mandate in a nutshell.”

Wiltshire is committed to serving all Canadian marketers, from CMOs down to new graduates just entering the profession. “The thing about being a marketer is that at the very core of it you’re trying to find a market for your products and services,” he notes. “It really hasn’t changed since the beginning of time from that perspective. The means through which you do that, the empowerment of the consumer but also the ability for you to really understand your consumers… never before has there been a better opportunity of connecting good products and services to new consumers.

“There are huge implications coming from I would say three things: the consumer and consumerism, increased interest from governments in protecting consumers and finally the technology and the digital world we live in. I think those three things lead to a lot of change but the exciting thing as marketers is that we can get closer to our customers and we can give them more and more products and so many different ways to make their lives better. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a marketer than today.

“At the heart, I believe Canada is a great country and I believe there has never been a better time for it, as Canada, to thrive in the global economy. It’s got brand attributes of kindness, humility along with its service orientation, its diversity, opportunity for innovation, the size of Canada. That’s exactly what the world is really looking for. And so we need to take action now so that there are more and better jobs for marketers, more and better goods and services for Canadians consumers. As it relates to the opportunity personally, for me, I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit. I want to leave a legacy and I’m at an age where I think a little bit more about those things. If the CMA can play a role in that somehow under my leadership I think that would be personally gratifying for me. I would also say that this is the heart of our board members as well, and certainly as you talk to them to get the same sense of wanting to make Canada a better place in the world. That’s a pretty neat purpose to have so I’m looking forward to that.”

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Sarah O'Connor

Sarah O'Connor is the editor of Direct Marketing magazine.

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