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?

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Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer

Many companies are facing significant challenges due to the rise of the connected consumer. As the needs and aspirations of the consumer have increased so has the need for organizations to respond to these increased demands and to transform themselves.

There are numerous articles and books on this topic and I have consolidated the leading thinking in this area into my top 10 list. This list reflects the key pillars that I believe are fundamental for how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

Here are the first five. I will share the remaining five in a follow-up post.

1.) LEADERSHIP
Leadership is about defining the long-term direction of the company and providing a working environment that enables and empowers the organization to successfully achieve their goals. Key qualities include; a very clear definition of the long-term goals of the organization and the journey it will take to get there, consistency in how this is expressed and a very transparent and pragmatic approach to how company progress is shared both internally as well as externally.
Marketing considerations; employ a journalist who can help craft the story, position your vision as a journey and share progress through employee and client stories that bring it to life.

2.) SOCIAL PURPOSE
An organization’s social purpose is becoming increasingly influential and needs to be part of the overall brand promise. This is important both internally as well as externally and will become a growing part of a customer’s decision process in the future.
Marketing considerations; ensure brand / company values reflect a social purpose, develop a specific social program by which all employees can participate and implement initiatives that enable the social purpose to be embedded in day to day working,

3.) CULTURE
A brand promise is no longer enough to convince an audience of the values and merits of an organization’s product or service offering. Consumers are now relying very heavily on the experience of other users to determine the viability of a brand. A wealth of information is available as individuals share their experiences through social and e-commerce channels. Brand reputation is now the cornerstone for future commercial success and every organization needs to recognize that how it acts is now more important than what it says.
Marketing considerations: start with employees and build a culture that can successfully deliver the brand proposition by focusing on the 4 S’s of play to people strengths, keep it simple, give people space to express themselves and provide a support system.

4.) INSIGHT
Consumer understanding is imperative for an organization to be able to deliver an experience that meets the needs and expectations of each and every customer at every touch point. This is now the basis for securing customer satisfaction and for building long-term customer loyalty.
Marketing considerations: always start with data, establish a marketing sciences team, ensure that every decision is informed by insights and make reporting very easy to consume and act on at all levels in an organization.

5.) EXPERIENCE DESIGN
It is all about the customer and the experiences that they take away after every interaction or touch point with your company or brand. This is where the rubber hits the road. Think customer, think experience and then work backwards from there.
Marketing considerations; employ UX designers in marketing, map-out the customer journeys, put yourself in the shoes of the customer and experience what they experience and always focus on delivering the right outcome rather than on the activity or process that underpins it.

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These five pillars are focusing on the business transformation strategy, which are all about defining the destination. Next week we will focus on the actual journey.

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?

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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.

CMO leadership: how to succeed in the modern era

I am deeply honored and delighted to be nominated by the CMO Club for its annual CMO President’s Circle Award.  This award recognizes CMOs who have demonstrated success in leading teams, leadership in marketing innovation, and leading beyond just the marketing department.

Usually I am embarrassed by recognition such as this but it sparked me into thinking about what are the key leadership characteristics that would help make a CMO successful in today’s world.

When I think about leadership I always refer back to Jim Collins and his excellent book “Good to Great”.

In this book he talks about Level 5 leadership. Jim defines a Level 5 leader as “Building enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”. In effect it is the ability to create and establish absolute clarity of purpose whilst ensuring that success is only seen through the action of others. To achieve this it means your primary focus can only be on two areas; the people you work with and the ability to build market understanding.

So here are some proposals as to how you can be an effective leader in these two areas. It is just a selection but hopefully it will be useful:

People and teamwork

  • Start with culture and establish a function that is built on respect, transparency, collaboration, shared success and fun.
  • Great culture will attract great people. Jim Collins once said; “if I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could”.
  • Get to know the skills and competencies of your team members and focus their efforts on areas where they excel.
  • Always recognize, support and motivate your team members by focusing on the positives, whether it is success or opportunities to improve. This will ensure your team contributes more so imagine everyone gives a further 10%, you have just increased your FTEs by 5 people for a team of 50.
  • Allow people to be personally accountable and give everyone the chance to show what they can deliver.
  • Set goals on outcomes and not activities, this way you allow freedom to experiment and innovate.

Data, knowledge, wisdom and foresight

  • Always start with data.
  • Try and ensure that every decision made has considered all available insights.
  • Establish a marketing sciences team and empower them to always provide recommendations with any analysis.
  • Create a structured, uniformed segmented view of the market so everyone is looking at the market in the same way.
  • Set targets based on market / customer segments so you can better gauge progress at a micro level.
  • Make sure objectives are based on business outcomes and not just on specific activities as these end up being proxies.
  • Apply the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) so you report performance across all stages of the customer lifecycle in a joined up fashion. There is no benefit in doing 4 out of 5 things well if that one element that you don’t do well breaks the chain.

To best summarize this it brings me to the magic of Arthur C. Clarke who once said; “The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.”

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So, in signing off, if you get the right people onboard, establish a culture in which they can express themselves and then empower them with the best possible insights, you will have gone a long way to becoming a successful marketing leader.