How Technology Is Transforming The Role Of CMO

Mirella Vitale, SVP Marketing, Communications & Public Affairs at ROCKWOOL Group, has 20+ years as an influential global B2B branding leader

Marketing is having a new dawn. The global pandemic forced most brands and businesses to shift their customer communication strategies, and CMOs and their marketing organizations were put to the test. Successful businesses were able to pivot quickly, and update delivery models, communication strategies and brand experiences to navigate the new normal.

The marketing landscape was already changing, but the pandemic accelerated this transformation. In order to stay relevant, CMOs and their teams need to be in a constant learning mode, today more than ever. Digitalization moves fast, and the shift to data-driven marketing is happening quickly and in real-time.

These new demands on the CMO means their function is as much a data and analytics function as it is creativity and promotion. These disciplines are not mutually exclusive, indeed they need to be complementary. This is a stark shift from decades of marketing based on the traditional playbooks where marketers focused on the three Ps or the 4Cs. Those strategies no longer work on their own. It’s now about new technologies, communication channels, trends and new to the list, influencers.

Moving forward, there will be two types of CMO: The ones that grasp the importance of data, and the ones that stick to traditional methods. In Forrester’s 2022 marketing predictions, they capture the difference well: “Some with the CMO title will continue to be sidelined by the likes of another chief “something” officer — relegated only to the subset of marketing involving brand and promotion — while elite CMOs (those with data, martech, customer experience, and product chops) will capitalize on this moment in time to duly expand their remit across the marketing mix.”

In order to be a game changer in an organization, the CMO must become the owner of customer insights. It’s not only about data availability, but also how the data is used to ensure a personalized customer experience. Customer experience is the shared responsibility of all functions within a company, but the CMO and the marketing organization should be the guardians of this experience.

It’s a fascinating shift: marketing teams now consist of creatives who design and execute campaigns sitting side by side with data scientists who interpret and manage data-driven targeted marketing. Executives would have scoffed at the idea of data scientists working in marketing 10 or 20 years ago. And now, they’re critical to the success of brand awareness and marketing campaigns. The digital transformation means there is more data to interpret than ever before. And those that can mine and make smart decisions based on it, are the ones who will find success.

However, as with all transformations, there is the risk of shifting too far and too data driven and at the expense of creativity. Companies—and CMOs— need to find the right balance.

The Inevitable Intersection of Marketing And Sales In 2022

In the current landscape the sales funnel is shorter, with marketing carrying the customer almost all the way to the final sale. This requires a much closer collaboration between sales and marketing, and is something that many organizations have not fully embraced. Given this, it makes sense that e-shops and e-commerce platforms sit with the CMO as they are a continuation of the online channel.

This shift—from perceiving marketing as a service providing brochures and presentations to it being much more centered on capturing, translating and acting upon customer needs—helps empower other parts of the organization. In practice, marketing’s influence and value potential comes from better insight generation, and ensuring the awareness-purchase cycle and online experience is seamless.

Marketing has also become more measurable. For instance, lead creation can now be clearly tied to revenue generation.

CMOs Are Becoming Organizational Change Leaders

In addition to customer insights the CMO, through the overall brand positioning, plays a huge role when it comes to hiring and retention. Given this, today´s CMO needs to own and oversee the brand’s employer value proposition (EVP). Employer branding company Universum states, “The EVP is the core of your employer brand that defines its positioning and strategic direction. An effective EVP should reflect the external demands, your competition, the internal reality and the strategic context of your company.”

It’s this brand positioning that will attract the best talent, and retain the most effective employees. But this broader organizational shift—with the CMO overseeing more than just the marketing funnel—often takes the CMO away from a focus on traditional marketing delivery, and into broad engagement like brand activism, sustainability, diversity, etc.. Essentially, taking the purpose of the company outside in and vice versa. But to be truly effective in the new role, there needs to be CEO and peer buy-in around what marketing can and should deliver across the organization.

The role of CMO is changing, and the companies that understand the shift and help support the new function will be the ones to find success.

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