The stewards of the bottom line, Chief Marketing Officers (CMO), have had their plates full in recent times. An increasing number of sales and service touchpoints, the rise of new media, evolving distribution models with the internet, and the fragmentation of customer segments are transforming the marketing function like never before. In the era of disruption, the CMOs find their role disrupted too. As the winds of change approach, a mindful broadening of the CMO’s role is required.

A New Role in a New World

CMOs have traditionally overlooked strategies and execution around the positioning of a brand in the market. Today, the traditional way to compete is no longer feasible; customers now have an unprecedented choice of options, and social media is transforming how brands engage with customers. Thus, CMOs must learn to not just navigate but also anticipate these changes.

What lies behind the evolution of the CMO role? An undeniably powerful factor is the explosion of data that has caused a rethink of the marketing function. While brand building remains important, there is a growing expectation from CMOs to think about new sources of revenue, get deeper insights into consumer behaviour, and ultimately drive growth. From plain brand management, CMOs are now expected to drive enterprise-wide revenue by infiltrating the hearts and minds of customers.

Marketing is gaining importance due to it being directly linked to growth. However, this places a predominant focus on data, with creativity and ideas going on the back burner. The problem with this is as data becomes increasingly complex, measuring campaign ROIs becomes tricky as well. In the past, marketers only had a couple of channels to deal with.

Today, there is an abundance of digital platforms with their own metrics and currencies. This means a campaign’s impact on each of these platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – needs to be measured differently. While ample data is at the disposal of marketers, making sense of it and extracting crucial insights becomes a challenge in a dynamic environment.

The result – today’s CMO faces a tall order of identifying pockets of growth, thinking disruptively, and influencing growth by impacting the broader business.

Broadening the CMO’s role

As brands grapple with changing consumer behaviour and diverse target markets, they must broaden the CMO role. The focus must shift from simply building brands and making advertising effective to leading firm-wide changes to evolve with buying patterns, managing complexity, and building new marketing capabilities.

Here are some ways to reinvent the modern CMO’s role:

  • Changing with buying behaviour

As consumers adapt to various channels for research and buying, brands must take note. For instance, retailers need to start designing stores that combine the personalised experience of buying online with a brick-and-mortar shopping feel.

Naturally, the CMO will have a key role to play in leading the brand towards certain business changes that go arm-in-arm with evolving customer needs. Nokia developing low-cost mobile phones for India is a shining example of how brands can translate buyer insights into growth.

  • Shaping the brand’s public image

Today, third parties can also play a stakeholder role in the success of a brand – think social media, blogs, chat rooms, etc. The modern CMO must lead the effort in managing the brand’s public profile in coordination with the PR department. Imagine a brand getting negative press for employing below-minimum-wage labour in third-world countries. Soon, the issue spirals into the media, and consumers start questioning the integrity of the company and the quality of its products. Such a situation in the past may have been the sole department of a PR agency.

However, today, it demands an integrated response from the departments of marketing, PR, public affairs, et al. CMOs must lead coordination efforts to shape a brand’s public image since they understand customers and marketing techniques the best.

Concluding Thoughts

CMOs are responsible for what is perhaps a company’s most valuable asset – the brand. In a dynamic corporate environment, the CMO’s role must bring focus back to the long-term goal of building the brand. They must think critically about the kind of company they want to build and ensure they’re delivering instead of focusing on a short-term disruption loop. While disruption is undoubtedly part of the role, it is not the end of it. The bigger picture, however, should be kept in perspective – building legacy structures and marketing capabilities that stand the test of time.

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