The Future CMO Report … new roles, new rules, in a world where people consume 9.83 hours of content a day

September 5, 2016

The role of the chief marketing officer (CMO), and indeed of marketing itself, has been under debate for years. Is it more art or more science? Does it warrant a seat at the top table or is it just a sales-support function? Is it a strategic role or is it ultimately just about advertising and communications, or colouring in, as many have put it? Marketing and its leaders have been suffering from a crisis of identity for years, but it seems that’s now coming to an end.

Consider the collision of forces hitting organisations over recent years. Rapid advancements in digital technology, fragmentation of channels and media, industry and category disruptions, an explosion of data, and growing political and economic turbulence. In the face of this perfect storm of uncertainty, the portfolio of capabilities and skillsets within a marketing function has had to expand significantly.

Jeff Dodds, TalkTalk’s managing director for mobile and former CMO of Virgin Media, says: “If you go back five to ten years, for most organisations marketing tended to mean advertising, branding and design, marketing leaders tended to come from a creative path, and marketing rarely sat on the main operating board. Marketing leadership of today is more akin to that of a chief operating officer of a few years ago. It’s a much broader remit, often sits on the main operating board and, with the range of accountabilities in it, is a much more commercially relevant role.”

Today’s CMO needs to be as comfortable with data science, technology, econometrics and analytics as they are with agencies and creatives. They’re as likely to be accountable for go-to-market campaigns as they are proposition development, product and pricing, customer experience and customer strategy, churn management and loyalty, digital transformation, and developing innovation pipelines.

Dodds adds: “It’s not that marketing has changed; if you go back to the original definition of marketing being about the seven Ps [product, price, place, promotion, people, process and physical evidence], that’s fundamentally what a CMO is grappling with today, it’s just taken a while for organisations to catch up and place all of those responsibilities under one leadership role, and that’s the CMO of today.”

Freddie Hospedales, global head of marketing at ERM, says: “I see the biggest challenge for a CMO as the demonstration of value to warrant appropriate investment. There’s still a perception that marketing is too difficult to quantify, hence it can be seen as less valuable than other functions. The priority not just next year, but continuously, is recognition of the strategic value marketing and brand management have on enterprise value.”

Mark Evans, CMO at Direct Line Group: “In a world of exponential change it is increasingly difficult to know ‘what’ will be required to win over a typical two to five-year planning horizon. As a result, there needs to be an increasing emphasis upon the ‘how’. By that I mean developing an agile innovation capability in order to respond to whatever the ‘what’ is.

“CMOs need to figure out how to bring agile principles into the DNA of a cross-functional business. It’s all very well deploying agile in carve-out innovation labs, but the greater challenge and arguably bigger prize is to break free from traditional waterfall ways of working in the core business, and I believe this is the emerging challenge for CMOs to champion.”

If a typical adult spends 9.83 hours a day consuming media … how can marketers engage them better?

Here is an example of the new world of marketing in practice, where everything is media, and advertising is everything. Forget the old world of television ad campaigns, designed by agencies, pushed at passive consumers. We live in a new world, and be it communication or pricing, strategy or channels, segmentation or performance metrics, we need to think differently …

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