The Insight

June 12, 2020

A Look into The Future CMO

By iresearch
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Future cmo

The Chief Marketing Officer has a seat in the C-suite department of any business, but they don’t get to keep that seat for longer on the average.

The numbers show that the CMO has an average tenure of 43 months in their role. This would not have been that disturbing if that were not about half the tenure of the average CEO. Even CFOs do better on the tenure scale.

This shows you how much the role of the CMO might not be understood, thus, leading to the occupiers being let go.

However, things are changing and brands are starting to see the importance of this role again.

Take Coca-Cola for example, reversing their decision from two years ago to not have a CMO anymore. For a massive global brand like Coca Cola to have made such a decision, best believe the place of a CMO is not one to be swept under the carpet.

That is why we take the time out today to understand the role of the CMO, and how it is undergoing a lot of changes for the nearest future.

What the CMO Used to Be

The name of the position as shown on the door was usually enough to tell anyone what the person behind that door was doing for the organization. When it comes to the CMO, though, knowing that they are just the chief marketing officer does not cut it.

Perhaps, that is why there is a lot of discord as to what they do for the business – and where their importance lies.

There was a time when the various arms of the company could be involved in marketing in one way or the other. It even got so bad that the sales department were trying their hands at pushing marketing for their companies too.

This is not saying that they cannot, but that is not what they have been trained for.

That gave birth to the need for a company-wide unifier of the marketing tactics and ideas. At the point where that need was conceived, the place of the CMO was also brought forth.

When a CMO assumes office, their basic portfolio is to focus on market research and advertising with a strong core on brand management. It is from these basics that many more duties and responsibilities stem, and that will keep defining them till the future.

However, it is sad that most companies don’t give their CMOs the time and room to establish a strategy before they are being asked for results.

A poll by Winmo shows that the best time to engage with a CMO is between 3 – 12 months of assuming office. The range of time is that large because different CMOs will have different strategies – and the brands which they are applying these strategies to are not the same either.

Likewise, we have seen in recent years that many CMOs have decided to go for building relationships rather than just garnering sales. Of course, that leads to sales at the end – even massive, recurrent ones – but a brand that won’t let their CMO work won’t see that.

Again, that defines why we might be seeing the least tenure rate in the C-suite among these marketing professionals.

Due to this lack of understating, the role of the CMO is usually deemed surplus to requirement. Fortunately, the majority of companies are starting to see where they have gone wrong and they are bringing these C-suite executives back.

Right now is a crucial time in the lives of CMOs too.

While their basic requirements have not changed, the times have changed. That means their deliverables have to be adjusted to the current standards if they are to make the needed impact at all.

Why the CMO Has to Evolve

Let us get this out of the way:

We are not asking the CMO to evolve. We are telling you that the CMO has to evolve if they are to function in their role.

Things are not what they used to be anymore, calling for the CMO to take a better stance if they are to deliver their tasks to full capacity.

One of the biggest drivers of this change is the shift in the use of media. The world is moving from the use of traditional media to having a heavy focus on digital media, and that is not going anywhere anytime soon.

In the US alone, digital ads spend climbed up to $151 billion in 2020 – and that is more than the combined $107 billion that traditional marketing has garnered. These figures are even more impressive when you learn that in 1999, digital ads only had a $4.79 billion cap while the traditional market enjoyed as much as $94 billion at the time.

Part of the reasons why CMOs have to evolve is not to discard traditional marketing, though. After all, many consumers claim that they have a long-lasting impression of TV ads than they do with digital ads. Thus, the CMO needs to know how to blend all for the best effect.

Furthermore, the need for advanced research has greatly changed the way of the CMO.

The CMOs of the past were superheroes. They had to rely on gut feeling and genius for what they did, and they still achieved what they were able to. The market has, however, matured to a stage where gut feeling alone won’t do it. There has to be an element of data to back up any gut feeling for guaranteed success.

Putting things in context, up to 76% of marketers are still not exploiting the use of behavioral data in targeting their market base with online ads. That would not seem like a loss until you remember the case of Nokia and chewing gum companies.

Nokia got into the Indian market and realized that the people could not afford to pay huge sums for a phone. They replied with a device that carried all the basic functions of a phone, and more, with a strong shell to match, and slapped a little price on it. We don’t need to tell you how that helped the brand shoot itself to global stardom in its era.

Another behavioral marketing win was for chewing gum ads which started showing the models in the ads chewing two pieces of gum every time. The sales of these companies doubled in that time since the buyers had been subconsciously reconfigured to want two pieces of gum instead of one.

That leads us to the point of understanding the buyer as a whole.

There was a time when the CMO only aims to get the buyer to the door, hand them over to sales and get that purchase. Now, there is a need for a better understanding of the buyer.

What do they do? Where do they live? What do they need? How are you meeting them at the point of their needs? How are you ensuring your content and products resonate with the kind of person that they are?

In short, how are you making sure you can develop and deliver personalized services to them?  After all, 91% of consumers are clamoring for personalized services.

Finally, the CMO exists in a time when they could either be competing with the masses to make marketing happen or working with them.

Due to the blowout of social media networks and other platforms, user-generated content now has a lot of effect on brand management and advertising.

A user with enough following could cause the boycott of a product if they hold a strong opinion against it – and there is almost nothing the brand will be able to do about it. That is scary as it could undo all the good marketing and advertising work which you have been doing.

No matter how you look at it, the CMO of today is not what you used to know.

How the CMO is Matching the Evolution

Credit is to be given where it is due, and we have seen CMOs start embracing the growing roles of their offices in this time and age.

At iResearch Services, we have offered consultancy and brand management services to diverse companies, giving us the chance to work closely with their CMOs too. Of these, the standout traits for those CMOs who do not want to go the way of the dinosaurs are detailed below.

Strong focus on the customer

The product used to be what made the brand, but that is not very true anymore. These days, the brand is made by the customers that it has.

This is why the new-age CMO will spend more time on the customer experience than the brand image. The better news here is that the brand image will be boosted by a good customer experience anyways.

Taking this consumer-centric approach is fully backed by data.  It has been estimated by the Temkin Group that companies that used to make $1 billion in revenue can add $700 million to the scale if they would just invest in customer experience over just 3 years.  

This decision is also backed by the fact that a stunning 86% of consumers won’t mind paying more if that means they get a better experience.

Going for Storytelling

Branding and advertisement efforts used to be one-off. Take a concept that works, plan content around it, execute, review and move on. This will be done again and again for a long time. 

The new-age CMOs are not going to do this.

They have seen the power of continuous storytelling and how that helps them maintain the needed consistency. Instead of introducing hundreds of brand ad concepts, only one is introduced. Different stories are then told around this simple concept, over and over again.

That makes it possible for the brand to have an image in the hearts of the consumers. Better than having an image is keeping an authentic one, and best believe this is the right way to achieve authenticity.

Continuous storytelling also means that no one campaign is done after it is published. New tools now mean that they can be reviewed, updated and revised with regards to feedback, changes in the current trends and more.

Reliance on technology

This is an all-encompassing section.

When we mention the focus on technology, most marketers will start with how social media and other digital channels have changed the game for them. The challenge right now is evaluating these digital channels right so that the best ones can be chosen for marketing efforts.

Seeing as it seems like a new digital platform is emerging daily, not planning like this would result in fragmented marketing spends and poor integration of consumers gathered across different sites.

In addition to that, an advanced form of technology like big data and artificial intelligence have made their way onto the desk of evolving CMOs.

That is how they can attack the large volumes of data that comes their way to check for actionable patterns, trends to watch out for and behaviors to capitalize on. This is how they get to create the next best campaign that resonates with the audience even before these consumers know that they need something of the sort.

Unifying the Departments

A CMO is not just a chief marketing officer anymore. According to a Deloitte piece, CMOs are also now required to be:

  • Growth drivers in the organization
  • Champions for the consumers
  • Chief storyteller
  • A catalyst for innovation and
  • Capability builder

If you look closely at that list, you would observe that it requires the CMO to do more than work with the team members of the marketing department. They are now the ones being looked to for the creation of a bridge between marketing and other departments in the firm.

That is the only way they can drive massive growth inside out and create a single, uniform brand image that the entire company will reflect to the public.

This informs why we have also done extensive pieces on why the CMO needs to reach out to the CFO, bridge the gap between marketing and sales, and more.

Likewise, this supports the school of thought that sees CMOs as naturally in line to become the next CEOs of the company.

CMOs Will Keep Evolving

A Forrester/ Accenture report shows that 88% of organizations agree that the role of the CMO has changed in the past two years alone. These organizations also believe that the role of the CMO will keep changing.

That is not to be disputed.

If digital can drive the first wave of changes, and digital keeps changing itself, that is one reason to bet on the fact that the CMO will keep evolving too.

The only issue here would be for the organizations that hire these superheroes to allow them to do their work. Having to juggle brand growth and all the other tasks on their table with evolving constantly won’t come easy, but they will make it happen – only if given the time and space.

Any way you look at it, the future CMO is shaping up to become the proverbial castaway stone that has now become the cornerstone.

Do any of these trends jump out?
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