Changing customer needs, shifting client expectations, rapidly evolving technology, unforeseen global circumstances and long overdue social awakenings… plain and simple, marketing is not what it “used to be.” The classic marketing mix of product, price, place and promotion - the 4 P’s seared into the memories of those of us who may have majored in marketing and communications back in the day - has become much more nuanced and a whole lot more complex.
So as marketing has changed, it makes sense that the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has evolved as well. Although it is still a foundational component of the job, the role is much more than successfully promoting a good or service or meeting quarterly KPIs. As the day-to-day becomes increasingly intertwined and tangled between the digital world and the “real world” for the average consumer, a successful CMO must adapt accordingly, all at once becoming:- Chief innovator;
- Chief brand strategist;
- Chief product development officer;
- Chief technologist;
- Chief data analyst;
- Chief cultural change maker; and
- Chief collaborator.
Sounds like a lot, right? And it is, especially when you factor in smaller budgets, more clients and a “new normal” in the years following the peak COVID-19 pandemic that is anything but normal for brands and consumers alike. But rebranding the role of CMO is necessary, and possible, with a few considerations to keep in mind:
Keep the customer front and center. A customer-centric focus is key to effectively marketing a product or service. Branding of the product or service is still important, but today’s CMO should be able to put the needs and priorities of the customer - as they are today - front and center, integrating them into the whole of the branding process itself. Marketing success will be less and less about how nicely a brand can talk about itself and more about how a brand can demonstrate it actually understands its customers and their unique needs and priorities at every stage of their customer journey. That might mean further embracing data as a way to inform customer-brand relationships or going beyond a traditional touchpoint of communication with a customer when it no longer serves an effective purpose and trying a new channel to reach them. A CMO that can integrate that kind of thinking into product or service growth and innovation strategies or go-to-market plans will find much more long-term success.
Focus on storytelling. In the past, we discussed the evolution of the customer journey - no longer is it linear, nor is it just a funnel that customers navigate through Point A to Point B. The customer journey is much more complex. Not only that - they expect a lot more from brands. In a world of noise, customers are less likely to respond or find authenticity in a one-off campaign for a product or service and are much more likely to relate to a brand with an ongoing story. Every content update, refreshed piece of creative, innovative new media placement, or campaign optimization plays a role in how that ongoing story for the whole brand - regardless of the individual product or service being focused on at the time - is told. The redefined CMO will help guide employees across teams to see campaigns for a product or service less as individual projects, and more as part of the brand’s overall story.
Be open and on the lookout for change. Flexibility and adaptability are key. In the expanded role of CMO, those in the role who not only embrace change but are on the lookout for it will best be able to lead their teams and stay competitive in an increasingly noisy and saturated world of products, services and experiences.
The ability to seek out and welcome change can apply to almost every aspect and angle of modern-day marketing, whether it’s testing out the latest technological innovation, an open mind for out-of-the-box thinking or the willingness to have internal conversations that could potentially shake up the status quo. A CMO that not only understands that both consumers and brands are navigating uncharted territory but also expresses a willingness to accept that uncertainty and still collaboratively seek out answers or ways to adapt will find the greatest amount of success.
*Updated February 2023