Commentary

The Gen X CMO, Smarter Search And Smarter Content

Four years ago I wrote a blog post on the new GenX CMO. While pundits and publishers were spilling pixels about the disparity between the time spent online versus the money spent online, few were getting to the root cause of that disparity.

My argument then, which is now being played out, is that the media spend did not shift because the person spending the money did not change. Now, however -- with the Baby Boomer CMOs starting to retire and Gen X CMOs coming into office as we speak -- this equation is changing rapidly and radically.

While the Baby Boomers grew up with TV and the original Mad Men, the Gen X CMO now taking office grew up with computers in junior high school, with the Internet exploding early in their careers, and with a greater focus on automation, analytics, self-sufficiency and financial accountability. The Gen X CMO is younger, more aggressive and more digitally oriented than her predecessors, and she is shifting her spend to digital marketing and doing it with her own teams in-house.

The Gen X CMO is also more likely to integrate targeted search (both paid-search and SEO), in addition to content and discovery marketing components as key strategies, as opposed to splashy broadcast TV campaigns and other forms of paid media like display advertising.  As a digital immigrant or digital native, the new-era CMO knows that only search, share and serendipity are the ways that her consumers will find and engage with her brands. And that these consumers are more valuable, more measurable, and also more expensive -- in that order.  

Search -- particularly SEO -- is the highest-ROI, lowest cost-per-impression, and conversion form of content or discovery marketing available today. Search marketing (both SEM and SEO) is also often viewed as “lean forward” marketing because it is one of the few times when a consumer is leaning forward, actively engaged, and searching for something specific -- the "zero moment of truth," as Google puts it.

Social sharing (more than social listening, paid social and social community management) is also highly measurable and valuable. Social sharing can be thought of as “lean sideways” marketing (a new term we have coined). The consumer is leaning sideways to listen to a friend or relative's recommendation on a product or service, or may be leaning sideways to tell someone else. Lean-sideways marketing is partially active, partially passive -- but it is certainly engaging as it is the voice of one consumer to another, and can scale through networks of influencers, advocates, and their social graphs far more than individuals searching one search at a time.

Finally, “serendipity marketing” is my lighthearted moniker for interrupt-driven, lean-back, paid advertising on TV, print, radio or online. The marketer is attempting to do the best job possible to pay to place the right message in front of the right consumer at the right time, but ultimately must interrupt consumers with whatever they are doing in an unasked-for diversion. The marketer is basically hoping in some form of serendipity that consumers will discover their brand. At this moment, the consumer is the most passive and the least engaged with what the advertiser has to say, thus yielding the lowest ROI forms of marketing.

Agencies and ad-tech software creators need to be able to service the Gen X CMO’s requirements in all of these categories of search, share and serendipity marketing -- whether you call it content marketing, discovery marketing, or even inbound marketing. The CMO’s brands, content, conversations and ads all must be found, friended, followed and forwarded.

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