To be successful, CMOs need to stop striving to emulate and speaking the language of the top marketers. It’s crucial they have a strategy that’s unique to their business and to start listening to their CEOs and boards of directors. Marketing strategies are not one-size-fits-all; the tactics used by the biggest brands may not work for other businesses. The one-percenters will only break your heart.
Change the narrative
The CMO narrative needs to get smarter and less narcissistic. In the last year, there were roughly 10,200 articles in the United States on chief marketing officers. Approximately 22% of articles were on new job appointments (not a great sign), a large percent were about new campaigns, Super Bowl ads, loyalty programs and product launches and an astounding 4.6% of the articles were related to Facebook’s new CMO.
But media coverage for transformative marketing theories and models lags the other managerial professions significantly. Our lack of strategic innovation is driving a growing perception with CEOs and boards that chief marketing officers and marketing departments are not keeping pace with the changing business environment.
Think beyond the consumer
Brand management has long succeeded based on the science of the relationship between a company and the consumer. In today’s business environment—where impact, alpha and growth are driven by so many subtle variables—it is no longer sufficient for CMOs to focus on consumers alone.
The CEO must deal with an incredibly diverse number of stakeholders including the media, government regulators, elected officials, employees, supply chain partners, communities, investors, advocacy groups and consumers. Preaching that “it is all about the consumer” is a largely outdated CMO mindset. We need to make a science out of all stakeholders that define a company's success or failure and how all audiences collectively drive company impact. We need to leverage new AI and data science tools to monitor all players on the field. Brand management needs to adapt.
Advance the science of marketing
Marketing as a tactical science has grown while marketing as a strategic science has declined. Our collective tactical innovation across digital, social, mobile have been incredible. However, if you do a search for “great marketing thinkers,” the results should be a reason for strategic concern. They are old ... very old.
To fight the decline, we need new ideas that drive real business impact. We need strategies that can stand alongside the science the CPG firms created in the 1950’s. Our colleagues in the C-Suite are not waiting. Finance, technology, operations and manufacturing have reinvented their strategic fundamentals multiple times over. We need to get moving and find new strategic theories and cannot be simply a collection of outdated tactics. We should not rely on 75-year-old models. There are limitless possibilities in marketing and it’s time for CMOs to think bigger.
Embrace the P&L
Since the concept of shareholder value was introduced in 1976, companies have increasingly been focused on the bottom line. There are occasional glimpses that this might change—such as the Business Roundtable’s empty 2019 declaration that it would redefine corporate purpose—but then reality sets back in and it always comes back to bottom line and share price.
Recent CMO studies have reinforced the fact that marketers are getting the message and becoming performance- and ROI-obsessed. The challenge is that all performance is not the same. When CMOs shows digital marketing ROI or any hyper-narrow vertical measurement to a CEO when the company growth or share price are not doing well, they look like they do not get it.
We need to stop speaking the language of marketing and start speaking the language of business. We need to talk about share price, multiples, valuation, growth rates and exit strategies. Too many CEOs and CMOs are speaking different languages. Even if both the CEO and CMO are working to better the company overall, a lack of communication means they are not aligned. For CMOs to reposition themselves within the company, it’s crucial for us to start speaking the language of business and further align our strategies with the larger business overall.
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