Why CMOs Flunk At Building Brand Empathy

by , Jan 16, 2014, 12:06 PM
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When it comes to creating meaningful customer experiences, many CMOs are tone deaf, and a new report from Forrester details the vast disconnect that typically exists between marketing and customer-experience strategy.

Only 18% of companies say that customer experience derives from the brand strategy, writes analyst Cory Munchbach, in “The Convergence Of Brand, Customer Experience, And Marketing.” But the lines between the two disciplines are increasingly blurry, with people gaining access to companies and products on their own terms. “This requires an explicit architecture for the way brand, customer experience, and marketing work together to express the company’s promise,” she writes. 

The report, based on research with such companies as Whole Foods Markets, Wells Fargo, the Cleveland Clinic and British Airways, found that the lack of a cohesive strategy leads to customer confusion, dissatisfaction, and ultimately, defection. And it predicts that CMOs who don’t take the lead on such blended strategies risk becoming irrelevant. To do so, she argues, they need to make sure all customer-facing decisions are firmly rooted in brand strategy, and vice versa.

While that might seem obvious, Forrester finds one of the main obstacles is that marketers already think they’re customer-focused. While most CMOs pay plenty of lip service to customer-obsession, most (some 63%, according to Forrester) still prize gaining new customers over satisfying existing ones. They focus on metrics for transactions, rather than conversations. And they are generally in the dark about who their customers really are. Only 8% of marketers Forrester surveyed, for example, can “define comprehensive consumer personas and identify their fundamental needs to guide marketing strategy.” And despite the compelling evidence that companies with strong customer-experience skills perform better financially, “marketing remains stuck in messaging mode.”

What helps, she writes, is when companies use brand strategy to build the blueprint for customer experience. “The brand strategy offers guidance on how to implement and abide by the vision set by the brand; the customer experience strategy dictates what the experience of the brand should be for customers and how to achieve it,” she writes.

And whether roles are clarified by putting the entire customer experience function under marketing, or with both the CMO and chief experience office reporting to the CEO, the point is achieving a single brand vision for customers and prospects.

“Customer experience delivers the brand to customers,” she writes. When companies present a coherent face to the market, “every channel or department benefits from the clear perimeters that a brand-based customer experience strategy provides.”

"Angry Customer with Food" photo from Shutterstock.

4 comments on "Why CMOs Flunk At Building Brand Empathy".

  1. Karen Ticktin from brandthis
    commented on: January 17, 2014 at 8:34 a.m.
    In today's 'socialized' world, marketing needs to be all about the customer experience.
  2. Gray Hammond from Quire
    commented on: January 17, 2014 at 10:11 a.m.
    Departmental silos don't help. Marketing, CSR, Sales often don't speak, and a "not my problem/department" culture is common. More CXO titles won't help.
  3. Elsie Maio from SoulBrandingSM Institute/Humanity, Inc
    commented on: January 17, 2014 at 5:11 p.m.
    It's so easy for CMOs to take the heat for fractured customer experiences, and so hard for them to knit a cohesive one. That silo-thing, including being isolated from corporate biz strategy. That's why we developed a cross-functional platform and inclusive process, so everybody's got skin in it, and the brand experience is enriched exponentially by the input of the different functions.
  4. Walter Sabo from SABO media
    commented on: January 20, 2014 at 11:49 a.m.
    That is correct. Silos are most rigorously enforced by clownish IT departments when they aRe allowed to be involved with content. The CMO job is in fact a new job in American industry and neither the CMO nor CEO knows exactly what to do with it. Eliminate the position. Make the CEO do her job.

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