How fast can I get to market? It’s a question all CMOs must ask themselves as they navigate a highly competitive landscape.
Today, CMOs are the Cinderellas of the C-suite. They step into their roles with great promise and fanfare, knowing that the clock is always ticking. The luxury of having years to develop ROI is no longer relevant. They must create immediate business impact (within months)—or risk turning into a proverbial pumpkin.
According to a study by Spencer Stuart, the average tenure for a CMO in 2019 was 41 months—the shortest of the C-Suite. With pressure coming from all sides, CMOs simply can’t sit back and take months or longer to go through elaborate branding exercises, testing and research. Technology has changed the equation and accelerated the need to get to market and solutions quickly.
Modern CMOS must learn to prioritize, focusing on business impact first. After decades in this industry, I’ve discovered that there are essentially four qualities CMOs need to be effective today:
Be multilingual: Have fluency in all the languages of modern marketing, including analytics, CRM and technology.
Out-geek the CTO: Understand the digital landscape and lead digital media transformation across content creation, distribution and measurement.
Touch everywhere all the time: Ensure a seamless and delightful experience across multiple touchpoints, and become the bridge to multiple internal organizations (everyone owns the voice).
Be Ernest: I’m talking Hemingway. Have a well-crafted narrative or experience for every stakeholder, including consumers, clients, government, influencers, team members and recruits.
At one time, CMOs were situated at the top of the corporate hierarchy. But, today, their role has shifted downward, where they act as an internal driver, igniting the entire brand and business from within.
The shifting role, combined with the need for speed, makes for a real challenge: How can a CMO go to market at rapid pace while still creating strong brand values that extend to every department, decision, behavior and facet of the company?
The answer: Ignite the brand from the inside-out.
Previously, I was the CMO of two multibillion-dollar mortgage companies. In each case, I led a full rebrand in less than 100 days.
From the start, my goal was twofold: Listen and learn from the most important stakeholders—employees—and create the building blocks of the brand.
In the first two weeks, I personally interviewed 20 employees at all levels of the org chart to unearth the DNA of the brand and business. Those insights were key to creating a vision for the company, which we infused into new brand positioning, logo, campaign platform and tagline.
While the creative is important, CMOs should also focus on driving business by rallying the troops. We unveiled the brand via “listening sessions” with frontline employees—from call-center specialists to underwriters—whose ideas drove significant business growth and brand adoption. By shining a light on the brand’s north star, the teammates felt a powerful sense of purpose that resulted in new service, product, HR, tech, ops, business ideas and more.
From mortgage to technology, many industries are experiencing categorical shifts in business. Brands that lean in, provide a clear vision for its people, and go to market faster are poised to be disruptors—the Apples of their industries. And the CMO is rewarded with the glass slipper -- instead of turning into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight.