CMO Interview Series: Brad Schlachter

Eliza Jaskolski
Talent Manager at HireCMO

For this episode, we decided to approach a legend who has made strides at several well-known companies and startups over the years - Brad Schlachter. Objectively speaking, I found his responses to be extremely detailed, eloquent and insightful. I hope you have a great time getting to know him, and if you want to work with him as your CMO, give us a ring at [email protected]! Or just put in your email on our homepage, and we'll reply in 30 seconds. Let's dive in!

Brad Schlachter: Fractional CMO at


Brad, it’s honestly so cool to finally have you on here! It’s not everyday that we get to talk to someone with 15+ years of experience in marketing leadership. Give our readers an intro about who you are and the kind of work you’ve done (so they’re just as excited as I am!)


I am a seasoned marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in senior marketing roles, specializing in the intersection of entertainment, media, and technology. As a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), I offer forward-thinking leadership and tailored strategies to guide companies towards growth and innovation. My areas of expertise encompass brand strategy, competitive analysis, product-market fit, roadmap planning, customer acquisition, and conversion rate optimization.

Some of my recent accomplishments include launching a new product for Fandom, a massive entertainment and gaming fan platform, significantly increasing subscribers and revenue for Motor Trend +, a prominent SVOD service for automotive enthusiasts, and crafting brand positioning and marketing strategies for Jukin Media, a viral video powerhouse with billions of monthly views.

Before my focus on web and OTT video services, I held senior-level positions for companies such as Major League Baseball, Disney, Microsoft, and Konami. I am passionate about assembling cross-functional teams that are data-driven, results-oriented, and dedicated to creating exceptional customer experiences.


You’ve held several senior-level positions in such large, well-known companies recently. But let’s go back to the early days of your career. When you first started in the field of marketing, what are some things that you did / learned which got you prepared for leadership roles down the road? And when did you know you were ready?


In the early days of my marketing career, I focused on building a strong foundation and gaining essential skills that would ultimately prepare me for leadership roles down the road. Here are some key things I focused on:

  1. Foundational Knowledge: I started by immersing myself in the fundamentals of marketing, including understanding market dynamics, consumer behavior, and the principles of effective marketing strategies. This knowledge formed the basis of my career.
  1. Hands-On Experience: I actively sought opportunities to gain practical experience in various facets of marketing, from market research and campaign execution to data analysis and customer segmentation. This hands-on experience allowed me to apply theoretical concepts to real-world situations.
  1. Continuous Learning: Marketing is a dynamic field, and I knew the importance of staying updated with industry trends and emerging technologies. I consistently engaged in self-directed learning and attended industry conferences and seminars to expand my knowledge.
  1. Networking: Building a strong professional network was crucial. I connected with colleagues, mentors, and industry peers who could provide guidance, share insights, and offer mentorship along the way. Networking opened doors to new opportunities and perspectives.
  1. Adaptability: Marketing is ever-evolving, and I learned the importance of being adaptable and open to change. I embraced new tools and platforms, learned from failures, and used setbacks as opportunities for growth.
  1. Data-Driven Approach: Early in my career, I recognized the significance of data in marketing decision-making. I honed my analytical skills and learned how to derive valuable insights from data to inform marketing strategies.

As for when I knew I was ready for leadership roles, it was a gradual process. I believe leadership readiness is not defined by a single moment but rather a culmination of experiences and personal growth. Over time, I felt increasingly confident in my abilities to make strategic decisions, lead teams, and drive results. 


Talk to us about the kind of marketing work you enjoy doing, Brad! You’ve so many areas of expertise but I’m sure there are some things you love doing more than others! :) 


Certainly! While I have expertise in various aspects of marketing, there are indeed specific areas of marketing work that I particularly enjoy and find most fulfilling:

  1. Brand Strategy: I have a deep passion for crafting and refining brand strategies. Building a brand that resonates with consumers, communicates a compelling story, and establishes a unique identity is both challenging and rewarding. It involves understanding market dynamics, consumer perceptions, and competitive landscapes.
  1. Customer Acquisition: I find the process of identifying and acquiring new customers to be incredibly exciting. This involves deploying a mix of marketing tactics, from digital advertising and content marketing to SEO and paid media, to attract and engage with potential customers.
  1. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): Optimizing conversion rates is like solving a puzzle. I enjoy the analytical aspect of CRO, dissecting user behavior, and experimenting with changes to websites or marketing campaigns to improve conversion rates. It's all about maximizing the effectiveness of marketing efforts.
  1. Emerging Trends: Staying at the forefront of emerging marketing trends and technologies is something I'm naturally drawn to. It's exhilarating to explore new tools, channels, and strategies that can give businesses a competitive edge.
  1. Content Marketing: Content marketing allows for creativity and storytelling. Crafting compelling content that educates, entertains, or inspires audiences is not only enjoyable but also a powerful way to engage with customers.

Ultimately, what I love most about marketing is the blend of creativity and analytics or an art and a science. It's about finding innovative ways to connect with audiences, solve problems, and achieve business objectives while continuously learning and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Each marketing challenge is unique, and that diversity keeps the work both exciting and intellectually stimulating.


Well now I’m curious. Since you've worked with teams at bigger companies and smaller ones, what’re some key differences you’ve observed in the way they treat their growth and marketing initiatives? 


Great question. Having worked with teams at both larger and smaller companies, I've observed several key differences in the way they approach and execute their growth and marketing initiatives. These differences often stem from the distinct characteristics and resources of each type of organization:

1. Resource Allocation:

  • Larger Companies: Larger organizations more often than not have more extensive budgets and resources dedicated to marketing. They can afford to invest in sophisticated marketing tools, hire specialized talent, and run large-scale advertising campaigns.
  • Smaller Companies: Smaller companies typically have more limited budgets and may need to be more resourceful. They tend to rely on leaner teams, prioritize cost-effective marketing strategies, and emphasize creativity and innovation to compete effectively.

2. Decision-Making Speed:

  • Larger Companies: Decision-making processes in larger companies can be more complex and you should expect to encounter more red tape and internal politics.. Marketing initiatives may require approval from multiple departments and stakeholders, which can slow down the implementation of strategies. Driving consensus based decisions is key.
  • Smaller Companies: Smaller companies tend to have more agile decision-making processes. Marketing teams can often make and implement decisions quickly, allowing for rapid adaptation to market changes and emerging opportunities.

3. Flexibility and Adaptation:

  • Larger Companies: Larger organizations may be slower to adapt to market changes due to their size and established processes. However, they often have the resources to weather downturns and invest in long-term strategies.
  • Smaller Companies: Smaller companies are often more nimble and can pivot quickly in response to market shifts. They may be more open to experimentation and agile marketing approaches.

4. Innovation and Risk-Taking:

  • Larger Companies: Larger companies may be more risk-averse, as they have more to lose. They may be cautious about adopting emerging technologies or unconventional marketing strategies.
  • Smaller Companies: Smaller companies are often more willing to take calculated risks and embrace innovative approaches to marketing. They may experiment with new channels and technologies to gain a competitive edge.

In summary, while both larger and smaller companies aim for growth and success through marketing, their approaches can differ significantly due to factors such as resource allocation, decision-making processes, flexibility, and the level of risk tolerance. 


I’m aware that you love building out cross-functional teams that are well-aligned to their objectives and KPIs. Talk to us about how you’ve done that at larger companies (given the red tape and politics). I’m sure the readers would love to hear best practices to keep in mind, especially for bringing the marketing, product and sales teams on the same page!


It can be challenging but having teams that are well aligned to their objectives and KPIs is crucial for the success of any marketing initiative. As I previously stated, being able to drive consensus based decisions is key. In addition, following are some best practices I've found effective in bringing marketing, product, and sales teams on the same page in larger organizations:

1. Establish Clear Goals and Objectives:

  • Begin by defining clear and measurable goals for the cross-functional team. Ensure that everyone understands the objectives and KPIs they are working towards. Alignment starts with a shared understanding of what success looks like.

2. Foster Open Communication:

  • Encourage open and transparent communication among team members. Create channels for regular updates, feedback, and discussions. Cross-functional teams should feel comfortable sharing insights and concerns.

3. Define Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team member. This includes not only their specific tasks but also their contribution to the overall goal. Avoid overlapping roles and potential conflicts.

4.Regular Cross-Functional Meetings:

  • Schedule regular cross-functional meetings where teams can discuss progress, challenges, and opportunities. These meetings should be focused on problem-solving and alignment, not just reporting.

5. Conflict Resolution Mechanisms:

  • Establish a clear process for resolving conflicts or disagreements within the cross-functional team. Encourage constructive discussions and compromise when necessary.

In larger companies, the key is to create a culture of collaboration and alignment, where teams understand the value of working together to achieve shared objectives. While red tape and politics can present challenges, a commitment to these best practices can help break down silos and create more efficient and effective cross-functional teams.


Brad, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. I find that marketing departments of big brands often find themselves pulled in different directions (test short-form video content, hire that agency, build out the in-house email marketing expertise, etc.) Given your 15+ years of experience, what would you say can help such teams stay focused to their true objective and consistently deliver good results?


It is all about aligning marketing efforts with overarching business objectives and ensuring that resources are allocated wisely to achieve consistent, high-quality results. For every marketing initiative it should be clear how it fits into and supports the larger strategic business strategies. 


In 2023, I think every founder and marketer is fully overwhelmed with how Generative AI is changing the marketing landscape. There’s just so many tools to use, so many channels to test using these fancy new AI tools and of course, competitors flooding social media with chatGPT-generated content. How should smaller teams (startups with < $2M ARR) navigate this space today?


It is challenging, however, it's possible to leverage AI tools effectively to stay competitive without becoming overwhelmed. Following are some key strategies to follow:

1. Define Clear Objectives:

  • Start by defining clear marketing objectives and goals. What do you want to achieve with your AI-powered marketing efforts? Whether it's increasing brand awareness, lead generation, or customer engagement, having specific goals will guide your AI strategy.

2. Prioritize High-Impact Use Cases:

  • Identify the AI use cases that can have the most significant impact on your objectives. For example, AI-driven personalization of content, chatbots for customer support, or predictive analytics for lead scoring can be valuable for smaller teams.

3. Start Small and Scale:

  • Don't try to implement AI across all marketing channels at once. Start with one or two key areas where AI can make the most difference. As you see results and gain confidence, scale your AI initiatives gradually.

4. Invest in Training:

  • Invest in training your team to use AI tools effectively. Many AI platforms offer training resources and support. Empowering your team with the skills to work with AI can lead to better results.

5. Competitive Analysis:

  • Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing with AI in their marketing efforts. This can provide insights into strategies and tactics that are effective in your industry.


I see folks on Google always ask for the ideal chief marketing officer salary. In your experience Brad, what salary ranges are you seeing the full-time or part-time CMO / part-time executive in 2023?


Obviously salary can vary widely based on factors such as industry, company size, experience and physical location.  However, based on my experience following are some general ranges:

Full-Time CMOs:

  • CMO (with 10+ years of experience): $200,000 - $350,000+ per year
  • CMO in Larger Companies or Industries with High Demand (e.g., tech, finance): $350,000 + (including bonuses and stock options)

Part-Time or Fractional CMOs:

  • Part-time or fractional CMOs are typically paid on an hourly, monthly, or project basis. Rates can vary significantly based on the scope of work, the CMO's expertise, and the specific industry. Here are some rough estimates:
  • Hourly Rate: $100 - $300+ per hour
  • Monthly Retainer: $3,000 - $15,000+ per month


Given that you’ve worked closely with the executive leadership team at larger and smaller companies, could you tell us how closely the CMO works with the CXOs and other leaders within an organization? And how does this change as the startup grows from a 10 people team to a 200 people company?


The level of collaboration and interaction between the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and other CXOs (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, etc.) and leaders within an organization can vary based on the company's size and stage of growth. Here's how it typically evolves:

Startups (10-Person Team):

  • In early-stage startups, the CMO often plays a hands-on role in executing marketing strategies. They may report directly to the CEO and work closely with the founding team. Collaboration with other CXOs tends to be informal and frequent. The small size of the team fosters direct communication and decision-making.

Small to Mid-sized Companies (50-200 People):

  • As the company grows, the CMO's role becomes more strategic. They focus on building and leading a marketing team and defining the company's long-term marketing strategy. The CMO typically interacts with other CXOs in more structured meetings, such as executive team meetings or strategy sessions. Collaboration becomes more formalized.

Large Companies (200+ People):

  • In larger organizations, the CMO's role is highly strategic, often involving oversight of multiple departments, budget management, and setting the marketing vision. Interaction with other CXOs tends to occur through regular executive leadership meetings. The CMO may also liaise with the Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Product Officer, and Chief Technology Officer to align marketing efforts with product development and sales.


Brad, tell us about your work in the professional sports industry! It’s rare (for me at least) to talk to someone who’s been in this field. And a fun fact for the readers, at Major League Baseball, Brad increased their royalty income by more than 200% – which is a crazy stat to me.


Certainly! My work in the professional sports industry was an exciting and rewarding part of my career. During my tenure at Major League Baseball (MLB), I had the opportunity to contribute to the growth and success of the organization's interactive entertainment and licensing efforts. 

Increasing royalty income from the interactive entertainment or video game space  resulted from developing a high level strategy to find the right balance of licensed products and platforms to support while avoiding over-licensing and cannibalizing sales.  This strategic approach included the following:

  • Platform Selection: Choosing platforms strategically based on their alignment with MLB’s revenue goals and balancing console or home based platform with mobile devices.
  • Exclusive and Non-Exclusive Deals: MLB provided some exclusive licensing deals to select platforms such as Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft to carve out exclusives opportunities  on each of their platforms 
  • Content Differentiation: MLB was able to grow the total pie by having pure simulation based games, arcade/action based games and general manager/fantasy based experiences.  These games catered to different audiences and helped to grow the overall brand while reducing cannibalization.


Let’s close off with the burning question. It’s 2023. And everyone and their mom wants to cut marketing costs. And for smaller brands, this is an even bigger challenge. Can you share some un-intuitive tips on how founders and marketers can stay lean, and still deliver defensible results in this climate?


I always advocate to focus on investing for long term growth. SEO is a great example. While it may take time to see results, a strong organic search presence can reduce the need for paid advertising over time.

I am also a fan of promoting viral/organic growth via Referral Programs: Finding effective ways to encourage your existing customers to refer new customers by offering referral incentives via word-of-mouth marketing does not have significant upfront costs.


Brad, this was so, so fun. I personally learned so much and I'm confident that the readers did too! Readers, if you want to work with Brad in the future, come say hi at [email protected], or just drop your email on our homepage! And check out other interviews on our blog page as well.

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