The soul of marketing has changed.
Marketing used to be the most creative function in business. But today, when every investment can be measured, decisions can be automated, and marketers are held accountable for business results, the function has lost its creative soul.
But 2017 poses an opportunity: For marketers who can apply creativity to new problems and in new ways, this can be the start of a golden era.
First, CMOs need to acknowledge three shifts that have transformed the function:
The CMO is the undisputed growth leader.
CMOs are no longer merely stewards of messaging. Two-thirds of CMOs are responsible for customer experience, and 70% of marketers believe their function is expected to be the primary revenue driver. The CMO is now the accountable growth leader—a role previously belonging to sales—and can exert far more influence across the business.
The CMO is a business designer.
There used to be a template for the roles and capabilities required in marketing and how to organize them. Designing the operations was not a requirement. But in the digital era, the CMO must find, develop, and orchestrate a new set of diverse disciplines—from movement builders to data scientists to experience designers.
The CMO is a technology visionary.
The typical CMO is now estimatedto influence more technology spend than any other function. Marketing has been growing more data-driven for decades, but now it’s possible to track and personalize every customer interaction if you have the right technology. CMOs today must envision how to use mobile, social, AI, and AR/VR technologies to create new value.
The CMO Agenda for 2017
This year, CMOs should get creative in five domains:
1. Creativity in Casting
Reinventing brands for the digital era will require diverse skills and perspectives. It was easy to source marketing talent when blue-chip, brand-led organizations provided foundational training and career paths. Now, CMOs need to apply their creativity to finding brilliant people with a wide range of specializations and looking outside conventional talent pools.
2. Creativity in Orchestrating
As marketing leaders cast more multi-disciplinary teams, they must also reimagine new ways of getting things done. Brands are no longer managed through long-range plans by brand managers; instead, they are activated daily by agile teams unified by a shared goal and with autonomy to execute, learn, and redirect.
3. Creativity in Experimenting
Awash in data, it’s easy to see marketing science as a curse afflicted on a creative profession. But it’s important to recognize that there is art in science. As leading physicist Savas Dimopoulos described, “The thing that differentiates scientists is purely an artistic ability to discern what is a good idea, what is a beautiful idea, what is worth spending time on.” Marketing needn’t be a slog of A/B testing (important though it is)—it can be a journey of creative inquiry, generating bolder experiments to put in market.
4. Creativity in Engagement
Between social media, sentiment analysis, and location-based technologies, there are so many ways to connect with and learn about customers today. But the purpose of social listening isn’t to react to every conversation. The most creative marketers find the signal in the noise—uncovering their customers’ underlying needs.
5. Creativity in Belief Building
With diverse teams, brilliantly orchestrated, bolder questions, and a deep understanding of customers, CMOs can focus on building belief in their brand. At a time when trust in paid media lags compared to earned recommendations, CMOs should be creative in how they transform customers into advocates and reward the most passionate.
Marketing isn’t what it used to be—and that’s a good thing. If CMOs apply their creativity in these new ways, they can shape a function in which creativity and accountability work magically together. And that would make 2017 a great year.