The evolving role of the CMO

There have been many articles highlighting the trends that are impacting the future role of the CMO. Many of these talk about the impact of big data, the importance of analytics, the need for attribution/performance measurement and the increasing need for technology enablement.

Here is a great list from Ryan Somers at SAP where he identifies the most widely recognized and evident qualities required by a modern day CMO. However I think there are some less obvious but important areas that will be influencing CMOs in the near future and these are as follows:

1. Marketing to be assessed on share performance 
There is increasing hype that marketing will be held responsible for revenue performance. Clearly marketing will always have a responsibility to contribute to revenue achievement but other functions such as sales will also be major influencers to successful performance. The important aspect is that marketing need to have clear responsibility for share of market (rather than revenue per se). This requires marketing to take responsibility for strategic focus by applying models such as RWW (Is it Real? Is it Worthwhile? Is it Winnable?) and for aligning the organization to those areas where the company can compete successfully and win well.

2. Marketing to build brands based on behavior not just messaging
Successful brands of the future will be dependent on a strong, well-defined culture. A culture that ensures a brand’s core values and overriding proposition are brought to life by every employee every time a consumer interacts with an organisation. So very simply, marketing needs to take responsibility not only for how employees describe the company and its offerings but more importantly how they behave. This includes work environments, incentive plans, performance review programmes etc.

3. Marketing to work closer with HR
Marketing is becoming more and more a people function. It is becoming the glue that helps align every employee to act and behave in a way that supports the strategic direction, core values and culture of the company. Internal communications are now as important as external communications and it is imperative that marketing takes responsibility for building brand understanding, commitment and passion amongst all employees. This includes induction programmes, training, internal events etc.

4. Research to be centered on customer journey management 
Brands need to build long-term relationships with customers and to do this companies need to clearly understand in finite detail exactly how a customer engages with a brand / company from first touch all the way through to point of advocacy. This encapsulates and requires a very integrated approach with both sales and customer service. Understanding this journey is a must have and marketing need to lead this initiative.

5. Focus will be on user experience
The expectation of consumers has risen dramatically. There is also a very saturated media environment. It is estimated that the average American is exposed to approx. 3000 marketing messages every day. It is clear that for a brand to break through, be noticed and to influence it has to create a moment, a user experience that grabs the attention of the customer. Marketing needs to take an active role in ensuring that the experience at every touch point whether product, packaging, marketing communication, point of sale or customer service is consistent and inline with brand positioning and customer expectation.

I cannot end this piece without mentioning technology which as we all know is taking a more active role in all of our lives, both professionally as well as personally. This is not just about marketing; it is about every department or function within a company whether it be electronic-invoicing, recruitment, vendor management, logistics etc. Marketing needs to embrace technology as much as any other department. It is more than a trend; it is now a way of life and clearly every marketer needs to be comfortable, knowledgeable and willing to invest in technology to improve business performance.

 So how do you see the role of the CMO evolving?

The new connected society; what it means for brands?

I had the privilege this summer to take a weeks vacation in Bermuda, which is a glorious place. I wholeheartedly recommend it so if you ever have the opportunity to visit then you should not hesitate and go.

The reason for mentioning Bermuda is that when you are there you realize just how well connected everyone is. Everyone seems to know everyone else which is not so surprising when you consider that the country is 27 miles long and only 1 mile across at its widest part. But what is surprising is just how friendly and caring everyone is. My initial observation is that they live in this wonderful country so why wouldn’t they be?

bermuda-aerial

However having spent a few days there I started to realize that there is a sense of collective here. It is as though no one wants to let the other side down. It is more than peer pressure; there is an embedded and heartfelt belief in the value of contributing to a wider community and upholding values that are commonly shared. Everyone takes pride in contributing to a greater cause even when it requires the individual to go out of his or her own way.

There was a terrific post recently by Arianna Huffington related to this topic. It was titled “How to Immediately Improve Your Life (Hint: It Starts With Improving the Lives of Others)”. I will not try and distill this down, as everyone should read the entire article. However my take on this is that in a faster paced, complex, stressful and more unforgiving world people can cope better, be happier and healthier if you care and contribute to others.

Bermuda it seems is a great example of this and you feel that the physical boundaries of the country have created an environment where people are naturally better connected and this has resulted in a more caring society where compassionate empathy is normal.

So a key question is to ask if this is starting to happen in the virtual world? It is interesting to note that the fastest growing news site is Upworthy whose mantra is “Things that matter. Pass ‘em on.” Is this a sign?

One of the most obvious outcomes of our love affair with social media is that we are becoming more and more connected with the broader world about us and not just the community in which we live and work. Will this influence our brand choice? Certainly this is the viewpoint of Simon Mainwaring in his article “Purpose-Driven Social Brands Will Win Marketing 3.0″. Another good read is from Edelman.

So in summary today’s consumer is better educated, informed and connected than ever before and is now more conscious of the world around them. This enlightenment is starting to influence consumer priorities and decisions. Are consumers really that selfish that only their needs and expectations matter? I don’t think so, and increasing connectivity may well change this forever.

Image a Starbucks where you can see a live feed from the coffee growers or in a Burberry store you can hear about some of the community initiatives taking place to support the factory workers. Would we pay more, wait longer or take a less packaged product if we knew that our actions would make a positive difference to the people we impact.

It is an interesting world we live in and I believe global connectivity will influence consumers to support companies that “make a difference” rather than just satisfy their needs. It is already not just about the customer. So how should we respond as CMOs:

  • Understand the impact your company has on the environment and society in general.
  • Identify and establish a social purpose for the company.
  • Embed this social purpose into the brand values that you wish the company to portray and live by.
  • Identify how you can develop a culture that reflects and supports this social purpose.
  • Help employees bring the social purpose to life and to be able to demonstrate the commitment and passion of the organization through acts not just words.
  • Be transparent and honest in everything you do.

The future of brand marketing is almost upon us.

If brands are reflections of people then who are the characters?

In Brain Solis’s new book, What’s the Future, he quotes “We live in a time where brands are people and people are brands.” So, if this is the case then which people do you believe would best exemplify the successful characteristics of a brand?

Here are my choices:

Nelson Mandela. He has many great qualities but the one that stands out for me is his unwavering commitment to a single cause. A vision that was so compelling and so important that nothing would distract him. Brands also need to take the long road and to have a purpose greater than just commercial achievement.

Andy Ripley. This is very much a personal choice as very few people reading this blog will know him but there was no one more authentic than Andy. An English rugby player, a character larger than life who wore his heart on his sleeve, always approached everything with passion and gave it his all. Brands need to follow in the footsteps of this colorful character and be honest and authentic at all times.

Steven Spielberg. If every brand were a reflection of people stories then Steven would have to be on this list as one of the greatest storytellers of all time. He has that uncanny knack of being able to help an audience experience the feelings, thoughts and attitudes of other people and to build emotional bonds and connections. He has that remarkable ability to create empathy.

Diana, Princess of Wales. A brand needs to be able to engage and there is no one who could do this like the Princess of Wales could. Everyone was important, nothing was too much trouble and everyone who met her went away with a smile on their face and a spring in their step. Every engagement lifted the soul.

Susan Boyle. Every brand needs that wow factor, that ability to do the unexpected. Brands are all about the experience, not what you say or what the potential promise is, they are all about the delivery. I have a dream, we should all dream shouldn’t we? Has anyone ever done this better?

Robert Downey Jr. Well, there is only one word: swagger. Everyone wants it, that confidence, that joy for life and the ability to never take anything too seriously. Successful brands are always those that find the “cool” factor.

People talking

This is my list; who would you choose?

How journalism informs today’s brand building

My father was a city journalist back in the days when Fleet Street in London was the center of the UK newspaper industry. He once said to me that great writing was based on a combination of clarity and authenticity. It is a simple notion; your audience needs to quickly and clearly understand the purpose whilst at the same time believing what you are conveying.

This is something that has stayed with me throughout my entire career and I think it has as much relevance now for brand marketing as it does for newspaper journalism.

Every brand comprises a brand promise which is the all enveloping commitment that an organization makes to its audience and it identifies what that audience should expect through the sum of all interactions they have with the people, products, services and company they are engaging.

With the fragmentation of media and proliferation of different communication channels, where there is more noise than ever before, brands have to find a way to break through and differentiate. They need to convey a clarity of purpose that is distinct, appealing and empathetic in terms of shared values. This purpose I believe needs to be more than just a good product or service at a good price, consumers now expect some form of loftier goal. They want brands that care, care about communities, environment, human rights, fair trade and humanity.

In addition, brands need to be believable. We have gone from a society where we would blindly buy into a brand promise to one where brand reputation is far more important. Brands are now defined on how they act rather than what they say. Consumers now heavily influence brand perception by conveying and communicating the experiences they have had through word of mouth, social, communities etc. and this sheer weight of voice is more authentic and influential than what a brand can possibly communicate.

I heard a great quote the other day that reinforces this: “Don’t let your marketing get ahead of your customer experience delivery”. I believe this is one of the greatest challenges we face.

ImageSo clarity of purpose and credibility through action, these are the foundations for successful brand building in today’s digital world.