Want to Succeed? Be Like Jay-Z

Chief Marketers Must Morph Into Chief Engagement Officers

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Most attempts to explain what is changing in the CMO's role sound like the fabled blind men describing the elephant: "Big Data!" "Social Media!" "Digitization!" "Analytics!" Each grasps only a part of what is changing, when what CMOs really need is a clear picture of the beast itself.

We believe the CMO is transforming into a chief engagement officer who will operate more like Jay-Z than J. Walter Thompson--seemingly everywhere at once. Boldly projecting brand. Knowing no boundaries. Constantly connecting.

The contrasts between what marketing leadership has long been and what it is rapidly becoming are stark. The traditional CMO role was forged in an age when marketing was almost stately, with distinct steps unfolding in predictable sequence. That's not to suggest, of course, that the field has been static. New ways of thinking and innovative tools of the trade have always emerged along the way. Twenty years ago, category management was a game changer. Ten years ago, we could retrospectively comb through mountains of data to pinpoint minute shifts in a key demographic's brand preference and purchase intent. (But let's be honest, we're still figuring out how to actually use all that data.)

Fast-forward to today, when behaviors and preferences of individual consumers can be known and predicted with remarkably nuanced precision, the number of consumer touch points is growing exponentially and making your brand an integral part of what customers do is the wave of the future. It's about engagement.

As Paul Chibe, Anheuser-Busch U.S. CMO, declares, "The days of simply throwing an ad on air and buying media tonnage are long gone. Marketers have to innovate and create multi-dimensional platforms to connect with their consumers."

Even the best of today's pioneering customer engagement efforts, like the best early radio and television ads, may one day seem primitive. But they are no less harbingers of a revolutionary change that could increase marketing's impact and cost efficiency--and that is something all companies need in this persistently lethargic economy.

"CMOs have never had as many ways to spend the company's marketing dollars," observes Eric Leininger, associate director of the Kellogg Markets and Customers Initiative at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "The marketing function is undergoing a fundamental transformation that is difficult to understand--let alone predict--is very fast moving and carries vast strategic weight. The implications of all of this on marketing talent have never been more critical. Being a senior marketer today is all about pushing the cutting edge, doing things that have never been done before and yet consistently making it work."

If constantly pushing the edge is what it now takes to be a great CMO, traditional CMOs may soon find themselves scrambling to work more like a chief engagement officer.

Leadership competencies all CMOs should now cultivate include:

Curiosity--reach out for new information and constantly refresh on an intellectual, experiential and personal level.

Strategic Orientation--think beyond one's own area, showing complex analytical and conceptual thinking abilities.

Collaboration and Influencing--work effectively with peers or partners not currently part of the marketing function but integral to the engagement function.

Commerciality--create new and better means to achieve enterprise and business success.

Integration and Synthesis--blend together diverse, previously separate talents and technologies to create entirely new capabilities.

If all that sounds like too much to remember, just go with the shorthand: Be like Jay-Z.

Rory Finlay and Dick Patton lead the Consumer Products and Marketing Officer practices globally at Egon Zehnder.

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