The CMO: Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Multitasking Officer or Chief Magician?

HR ReviewIt’s not often that people will tune in, or stayed tuned in, just to watch a series of 30 second adverts on television. But such was the hype surrounding the half-time break in the 49th Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, earlier this month that millions of people did just that.

The 2015 Super Bowl attracted more than 114 million viewers, with the half-time show alone attracting more than 118 million viewers. A CMO’s dream come true you might say. Over 100 million viewers potentially watching a 30 second advert that cost around $4.5 million for air time? That’s less than 5 cents per set of eye balls!

Add on the cost of production and it might be deemed a reasonable ROI. Until, that is, the fallout hits the social media networks. At least three advertisers faced significant negative reviews – Nationwide Insurance, T-Mobile and GoDaddy.

The role of technology

When adverts aired in front of millions of viewers go wrong, CMOs are challenged about the depth of their knowledge of their customers and the nature of the relationship between brand and consumer. Having a solid customer database with ample intelligence relating to customer behaviour can often lead marketing teams to believe they have all the bases covered with their customers. However, the data only tell part of the story.

Technology, coupled with design, data and analytics forms the basis of (and shapes) the entire customer relationship. Information technology is rapidly becoming the primary driver of market differentiation and business growth. Yet when marketing executives believe that there is little or no need to disrupt their existing customer relationships is where things start to go wrong. Too many marketing executives still fail to understand the vital role played by technology.

In the complex and dynamic world in which organisations operate today, having a disruptive innovation capability is mandatory, irrespective of whether the company is growing its business, protecting existing markets or both.

Whilst the digital era is providing enormous opportunities for growth, it is also creating significant solution complexity and integration difficulties for CMOs. Not insurmountable, but the learning curve is steep and ongoing. Once digital platforms are funded and built, organisations must also have the right mix of skills and resources to leverage these platforms successfully.

Creative hiring

As companies continue to research and develop disruptive business models their very leadership is being impacted. It’s become something of a balancing act: bringing on board the expertise required to keep the company moving forward whilst ensuring the existing talent pool is being developed in such a way that new skills will emerge.

In this era of big data and unprecedented access to information (within the organisation and externally by consumers), there is a risk that placing increasing emphasis only on analytical skills will result in marketing leaders losing sight of other vital skills.

Maintaining the ability to be creative and innovative are just as important as having the required analytical skills. Consumer intelligence is worth very little if it doesn’t lead to actions that are innovative and keep pace with consumer wants and needs. True creativity doesn’t come from a microprocessor.

Yet with the constant pressure to gain a deeper understanding of the organisation’s customers, many companies struggle to find the right balance.

The competition for marketing executives who have a firm grasp of the art (creativity and innovation) and the science (data analytics) is fierce, not helped by the fact that there is also a paucity of digital experts who are accomplished in both.

Within many industries a “go-to” source for marketing talent is almost non-existent, certainly not to the extent we may find with other executive search assignments. Sourcing key creative and analytical talent requires somewhat unconventional search strategies: often disruptive ones at that.

Outside your industry

It used to be that, in marketing terms, there were certain things about being in a specific industry – FMCG, petrochemicals or manufacturing for example – that shaped who got into the top jobs in those industries. The digital era as changed that way of thinking and companies are having to be more open to hiring people from outside their industry. Competitor companies can no longer be looked upon as the only source of talent. Complementary skills can be found in a myriad of different industries if companies are courageous enough to think creatively.

Technology giant Apple Inc is a good example of one company sourcing key executives from outside its industry. Recent hires Angela Ahrendts, Enrique Atlenza and Paul Deneve all came from the fashion industry.

In the search for key marketing executives, the principal starting points are digital, analytics, a creative and strategic mindset coupled with a strong background in consumer insight gained from a marketing, product or brand management experience.

The CMO doesn’t necessarily need to be a master of all, but they will certainly need to be game changers with an entrepreneurial mind-set, able to de-silo the marketing function, comfortable with quantitative data and social media platforms and, above all else, a strong team player who is capable of building and sustaining high-performing teams, melding a variety of different (and often opposing) talents.

Skills for the digital marketplace

This latter point is absolutely vital to ensuring the company has the skill requirements to meet the demands of a very dynamic marketplace. It will more than likely involve recruiting employees with non-conventional backgrounds – perhaps with strong IT experience or from the digital space but with a desire to get into marketing – who can be trained and mentored to achieve the future requirements of the organisation.

Successful businesses of the future will connect with consumers in a very different way than they are today. As already experienced through social media channels, people want to engage with brands more than ever, but they don’t want to be bombarded with advertising and corporate-centric messages. Additionally, they don’t just want to buy a product: they want to be involved, to buy into an idea and to co-create the brand experience.

We are already seeing this in the automotive industry. Advanced technology is creating new and exciting experiences for the companies’ target audiences. Yet even though technology is developing at a rapid pace, for all organisations the process of building the brand and driving consumer demand-led growth remains constant.

CMOs who can galvanise the entire organisation into getting closer with their customers and building deeper brand loyalty, will achieve significantly greater (and sustainable) success than those whose role remains siloed and where big data analytics remain the principal driver of their cause.

For business leaders, that galvanisation begins with ensuring the right mix of talent is recruited, trained and retained in order to achieve the organisation’s future objectives.

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