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The Top 5 Things CMOs Are Too Afraid To Tell You

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, October 20, 2015

Technology in many forms has shaken up the role of chief marketers. From cookie-less and incognito browsing to the overwhelming minefield of user data to the proliferation of programmatic software, today’s CMO is now part-data scientist, part-digital strategist, part-research specialist, part-technologist and more.

Ad blockers, lack of measurement standards and the death of creative are just a few of the topic areas which were addressed recently at Advertising Week in New York. However, it’s just as interesting to look at what CMOs aren’t talking about and aren’t eager to shout from the rooftops. 

1. Big data is a hot mess 

Forty percent of companies use customer information collected online for targeting purposes and 88.5% of CMOs expect this practice to increase over time. While big data on user behavior allows marketers to gather important information, what to do with it is a conundrum. Instead of using that data to harass users each step of the way of their web browsing process, what if marketers took a “small data” approach? Meaning, they cultivated and customized each individual user’s connected journey in such a way that marketing was no longer a nuisance but instead supported a desirable and enjoyable experience? What if ads were less creepy and interruptive and much more thoughtful and intuitive? The effectiveness of ads could be limitless. 

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2. My management team doesn’t know jack about Snapchat! 

There is a concerning gap between senior leadership’s understanding of the current social media landscape and its implementation within their own companies. This makes getting leadership on board with digital strategies and viral campaigns quite the bottleneck. Today’s leaders are not in tune with how to Snapchat or create Vines for personal use, let alone to take advantage of as a primary method of consumer engagement. In fact, it’s often not even on their radar or incorporated into their plans. A Stanford survey, found only 24% of senior managers and 8% of directors receive reports containing summary information and metrics from social media and approximately half of the companies do not collect this information at all. It’s difficult for marketing organizations to develop and implement an effective digital strategy or capitalize on an agency’s big idea when senior leadership is not up to speed on the latest trends in consumer behavior and consumption. 

3. We blew the millennial thing way out of proportion 

Millennials now represent one-quarter of the U.S. population. Over recent years, marketers have become infatuated with millennials. What marketers are afraid to admit is that they may have gone overboard on the studying and dissecting of this generation. Rarely are millennial studies approached in a holistic way focusing on their indicative behaviors versus stereotyping the demographics’ actions. Haygarth and Flamingo recently conducted a study to understand millennials’ motivations and attitudes — instead of focusing on what millennials do, this research was centered on why millennials do what they do. It’s a subtle difference, but a dramatically altered result. What they found is millennials’ decisions are powered by inspiration and many brands are failing to recognize the need to engage and connect with this generation. Take that or leave it. 

4. We’re not sure advertising even works anymore

With the advent of Netflix, HBO Go and ad-blockers, consumers are circumventing unwanted ads at every turn. The power of advertising has been weakened by the onslaught of “force-fed ads.” In 2013, eBay conducted a study in which they measured the effectiveness of paid search ads by analyzing sales after stopping purchases of search ads on Google and elsewhere. What they discovered is many paid ads resulted in virtually no increase in sales and for the ones that did, the cost of the ads outweighed the benefits. Maybe we’re not ready to cut ties with advertising all together, but needless to say that the way we think about creative, media and consumers has to evolve. 

5. We’re doing CRM all wrong 

The traditional customer relationship management strategies are antiquated. What once worked is now ill-equipped to meet the technology and consumer desires of today. Customers are now in control choosing when to opt-in to the marketing game. They have grown tired of having advertisements pushed upon them, as evidenced by mobile ad blocking apps skyrocketing to the top of the IOS app store chart after debut day. When companies focus their energies on personalizing their marketing strategies to consumers’ vast and unique needs — which we call CMR or customer managed relationships — is when they will truly be successful. 

The role of the CMO will only become harder and more complex. We are now on the cusp of a new shift – one in which CMO’s and their executives will be forced to adapt in an era of the consumer. The only way to do this is to give customers more autonomy. Instead of pushing ads they don’t want or need and fervently tracking their every move, we should stop and ask them, “What do you want?” Then we should deliver something even greater, smarter and unexpected.

1 comment about "The Top 5 Things CMOs Are Too Afraid To Tell You".
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  1. Kathryn Gorges from Essentials 3, October 20, 2015 at 12:46 p.m.

    Good article.  We may have blown the millennial studies out of proportion, but guaranteed that millennials are leading the way with problem #4.

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