The New Role For CMOs And Marketers

We are entering a new era of leadership in companies. In the old world, companies sought leaders who “ran” the company’s business – optimized supply chains, led the organization and workforce, improved sales and customer service. Customers were at the receiving end of the company’s efforts in creating, innovating and bringing to market products and services!

Today, companies and boards seek leaders for entirely different challenges. Customers are no longer at the receiving end of the so-called “value chain,” they are in charge or in control. New technologies from digital, social and mobile and sensors have empowered consumers so enormously, they are the big disruptors of entire industries, and categories. But disruption does not primarily come from technology, it comes from the changing behaviors of customers. To be successful, CMOs and other executives need to understand and leverage this major shift in people’s behaviors. 



The changing customer is the true challenge that companies face. Disruption does not come from technology (regardless how many CEOs still mistakenly believe this wrong story!), disruption comes from the changing customer behavior.

This is why we have come to the end of the CMO as we know it. Companies no longer need a CMO that spends time buying advertising like in the "Mad Men" world, or that draws up strategic plans based on the faulty assumptions that there are a limited set of competitors to worry about, or that segments consumers while consumers change preferences by the day or even by the hour. Marketing today is not about being amazing, it is about being useful. This is very different than in the good old days of Marlboro cowboys on billboards, the times of “Mad Man.”

In our recent report on “The Changing Role of the CMO,” we talked with CMOs across the globe on a variety of challenges and opportunities they face. We found five areas of change, but also three things that the new CMO needs to worry about:

* Marketers need to find new ways to learn about customers. Out goes the traditional market research, surveys, ethnographies and focus groups. Consumers don’t want to be subject to questionnaires or any research methods. However, and on the positive side, consumers today draw up the maps to their doors. They carry the mobile phone everywhere for example. Marketers need to discover these maps and learn from them. 

* Marketers need to find new values or utilities for their products, services or brands. In the old days, marketers were asked to build a brand around a product or service, and market it. Today, marketers need to find new utilities, appreciably new value that deeply affects consumers’ daily life. For example, BMW does not just sell an electric car like the i3 or i8 with emotional benefits of saving the planet or another feel-good story of sustainability. BMW integrates entirely new services: Think Foursquare, Facebook, Airbnb and Zipcar all offered by BMW to deliver true mobility solutions to drivers, and not just a car. That’s an example of real tangible value or utility for customers.  

* Marketers must find ways to deliver ever faster tangible business results. The days of differentiating brands on relevant attributes or the days of communications engagement is over. As a marketer, you face what is known as an epic fail if you think that consumer engagement or brand perception lift is the end result of your efforts. Burberry, for example, makes video posted on their YouTube channel shoppable, and creates enormous sharing through various social efforts. That’s an example of co-creation, commerce and communications that delivers tangible business results and even represents a new business model in fashion retailing- weekly or monthly fashion shows and purchase made-to-order. 

Our study shows that leaders need to fully comprehend the entire relevant ecosystem of the industry – Steve Jobs did not just see computers or music devices, he saw way beyond the category and saw the entire ecosystem of the industry evolving – this is where companies will find the biggest opportunities for growth and driving real value for customers and consumers. This is where CMO of today also must put his or her efforts.

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