Creative CMOs

CMOs typically have one eye on the future while making sure their organizations are meeting near-term goals. Keeping it all organized and focused requires creativity.

According to writer Bob Isherwood and Alan Schulman, chief creative officer at Deloitte Digital “Fostering a creative culture means coming up with more ideas faster, becoming more agile,” says Schulman. “CMOs can create a more collaborative environment that allows people with many different skills sets to share and test new ideas. It means going beyond creative communications groups to other areas that can solve broader business problems.”

With pressure to show results and act as a translator within the C-suite, modern CMOs are under increasing amounts of strain, says the report. Not only do they have to work within the business to connect marketing to results in ever-detailed ways, they also have to keep pace with changing consumer purchasing and media habits. Keeping it all straight, in the words of Ben Gaddis, president of Austin, Tex., independent agency T3, requires “an irrational vision.”

“CMOs have to have a vision not only about what the customer experience should look like now, but how it should be three years out, or even ten years out,” Gaddis says. “Customer expectations are changing rapidly, and CMOs are required to not only understand those expectations, they have to meet them.”

Learning to live in those two worlds requires CMOs to not only be creative themselves, but to also have an ability to enable a process for creative thinking and innovation to serve the business both now and in the future, Gaddis says. As such, it is up to them to build a culture to deliver results today while working to achieve bigger future goals.

Inspirational leaders can create a calling for their people, then build an environment to help them reach it,” says advertising veteran Bob Isherwood.

Isherwood, Dean of the Young Creative Academy at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity goes on to say, in his report, that 

In the marketing world, creativity comes in many forms, a big idea for an ad campaign, an original product design, a groundbreaking mobile app, or a new business model. It can result from months, sometimes years, of careful strategizing, or it can materialize spontaneously during a brainstorming session.

And while creativity is often associated with art designers, copywriters, video producers, graphic illustrators, and other “creative” types, it can be a crucial element in every marketing function, from social media and user design to event planning and customer experience.

Isherwood discusses how CMOs can inspire creativity and design environments in which it can thrive:

  • What does it take to be an inspirational leader?Inspirational leaders are people others follow willingly, usually because they offer more than a job, they offer a calling. People are motivated by callings, an aspiration to achieve what is often unattainable.
  • How can CMOs create such a calling? A calling is a dream that is always just out of reach. It is a vision that everyone can get behind and provides a sense of purpose. Under that big dream, there needs to be a road map that describes how to get there and the part each person can play.
  • What gets in the way of creativity at companies?Fear is a big factor, fear of saying something silly, fear of standing out, and fear of failure. The paradox is, fear is also a driver for many creative people. 
  • What types of environments inspire creativity?CMOs can create a safe environment where fledging ideas are encouraged to grow, where there are “ideas angels” instead of “devil’s advocates,” says the report. From a leader’s point of view, it’s important to always be enthusiastic, especially in the face of setbacks. Effective leaders boost employees, remain enthusiastic, and are passionate about what they do. 
  • CMOs can also design employee awards programs to celebrate successes. Salary is not the only reason people strive to achieve, they need to feel satisfied and have meaning in their work. CMOs can give an awards program a formal name, get their teams together, break out the drinks, and give some token of recognition, such as a gift card or voucher to a retail store.
  • Which C-suite partnerships are most important for CMOs to inspire creativity?It’s most important for the CMO to be joined at the hip with the CEO to produce great marketing. 

Mr. Isherwood’s participation in this article is solely for educational purposes based on his knowledge of the subject, and the views expressed by him are solely his own.



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