Ewan Anderson, Vice Chair - Communications for CIM Scotland, gives his thoughts on the CMO role...
It is fair to say I am writing this with a healthy dose of self-interest. However, having read several articles over the last few months about the demise of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), I felt it only right that I reset the balance somewhat especially since senior marketers have been fighting for our rightful position on the board for so long.
The current global pandemic that restricted so many of us to the confines of our own four walls has heightened the importance of good digital communications and increased our reliance on effective online commerce.
Therefore, I would suggest that the strategic role a CMO performs is key to the survival of many companies, assuming they are doing their job correctly.
Many of those suggesting that the CMO is no longer of value seem to base their assertion purely on semantics. The suggestion that they could be a 'Chief Data Officer', while valid, forgoes the importance of creativity in attracting the right customers.
Other suggested titles include, 'Chief Growth Officer' or 'Chief Experience Officer'. While all these titles indicate essential functions within modern business, a good CMO will cover each of these areas and bring them together at board level clearly and coherently.
This was seen most recently by Coca-Cola, who – having ditched the CMO role in 2017 for ‘Chief Growth Officer’ - have now brought back the CMO role. Part of this new change will see marketing and operations falling under the same remit, with the goal to make the company more agile.
I listened to a podcast the other day where a communications expert rightly described the various 'marquee' branding options still offered by many in sponsorship packages as wallpaper and the real value being data.
There is absolutely no doubt that data is critical in achieving the competitive advantage that companies need to meet their challenging objectives. However, understanding this data and deriving meaningful value about the marketing you deliver is imperative, which is where a good CMO will add real value.
So while some global institutions are redefining their CMO's as 'Chief Data Officers', I would suggest that this belies the critical role of creativity in differentiating in a competitive marketplace. It is precisely the ability to use this data and align it with amazing creative that defines a CMO, and that will lead to success.
The 'Chief Experience Officer' is another title appearing at the expense of a CMO. However, customer experience and insight is another concept that is by no means new and is an area in which any CMO should be fully ensconced.
As we spend more time in front of screens of all shapes and sizes, we are exposed to more marketing messages than ever before.
Customers are far more discerning than they ever were and are rightly protective over their data. The last thing customers want is another unwanted email or a bonanza of adverts that slow that news site down to a slow crawl.
A strong CMO will have a good understanding of their customer base and will focus on finding the right martech tools from this $1.2b industry. They are focused on delivering a simple, seamless customer journey to a product they need and value. However, the CMO will also have an eye on the longer-term value of this experience.
This is where real value, both to the customer and the business, starts to materialise. A long-term successful brand strategy, which will help navigate challenging financial periods such as COVID-19, depends upon good customer experience.
Deriving real ROI is part of a CMO's DNA (can we get any more acronyms in one sentence). The notion that a CMO doesn't focus on growth every step of the way is folly.
The data produced and pored over to help understand where value is derived means the creative minds that drive marketing now have real, meaningful, almost instant feedback.
While accelerated growth in a startup business is essential in the early stages, it is vital to have a strategically-minded CMO who has an eye on future growth and how this will unfold. Many startups fail as retention drops off due to poor customer experience or when poorly executed retention strategies fail.
Marketing leads the way
So, while I feel there is a chance some of these new titles are down to semantics, it is the case that if you split the roles covered by a good CMO, it may result in a disjointed approach.
Data has opened up so many different options, but you can't get away from the fact that real creativity that targets the right people at the right time will produce results, and for this, you need an excellent CMO.