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The Next Act for CMOs

Neeraj Pratap 0

I have been reading with great interest about how the role of the CMO is changing and evolving. The base data used in all the headlines is alarmist. Sample some of the headlines I came across – ‘CMOs, You Have 23 Months to Live” (Ad Age), ‘The Most Dangerous Job in Business: The Chief Marketing Officer’ (Fast Company). Research studies show that the average tenure of a CMO is down to 40 months.

For me these are no indicators. The fact is that the business of marketing has changed forever. The customer has changed, his needs, wants and desires have evolved. The longevity of a brand will be defined by how quickly and consistently it is able to reinvent itself to stay relevant. Technology has had a telling impact on the business itself so how could marketing have stayed behind? Technology and data driven cultures will drive business transformation and marketers will have to be at the forefront of it.

Exit Brand, Enter Brand Experience – Focus on marketing over advertising

A lot of marketeers still don’t seem to have learnt their lessons if one goes by the number of false covers, jackets and sleeves the TOI, Mumbai edition carries. First, less and less people are reading the newspaper and on top of that print publishers are ensuring that the remaining ones run away. I am not saying that being top of mind is not important. I am saying there are better and effective ways to do it. But it will take some effort, both from marketeers and their partners. Marketers need to understand their business ecosystem and the prospect/customer much better to lead the brand experience charge. The future belongs to frictionless connected experiences.

Doing now what customers need next

Even though we need to accept that complexity is beyond prediction in today’s fast changing world. There is a lot of data, patterns, social and behavioural signals that the customer is leaving for us to predict with some amount of certainty for the near future -say three to six months. This will require a very good understand of the customer, his needs, and his thought process. Brands will have to make a choice and move from spray and pray to curated connections. There are enough data points to help predict with some amount of accuracy customer intent to drive this change

Every brand needs a story

Context and content will drive relevance and relevance will need to have a compelling narrative. It’s a common refrain with CXOs – ‘We need a new narrative’. What is the grand story?  Is it relatable? Does it touch a chord? Is it communicated in a lingo and channel that the target customer identifies and empathises with? Is there consistency in what you say and what do deliver?

Defining the change, you’re trying to accomplish

Marketers are struggling to establish the value of marketing campaigns. It is relatively easy to do high decibel ads on front pages and IPL but very difficult for it to resonate and shine through as a beacon of the brand values or customer experience on the ground where the rubber meets the road. Global brands are becoming more and more paranoid about the experience and want to control everything including the delivery of vehicle. Marketers are under tremendous pressure to deliver but there needs to be absolute clarity in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term outcomes expected. This calls for sharply defined KPIs and metrics. Marketers are now expected to build an everlasting brand, deliver growth quarter-on-quarter, give great customer experiences. All of this will require moving mountains and CXOs need to partner CMOs to make this happen.

The rise and rise of Gen Z

I hate to bracket people into generations, a better way to do it is by bracketing mindsets. So, when I talk of Gen Z, I am staying away from the classical definition of people born later than 1990. Staying relevant with Gen Z has been an eternal challenge for brands. The situation has been made worse by the fact that never before has such a large swathe of demographic cohort been so much in control of their own media. Never before have they had so much choice at the click of a button. I am convinced it requires a completely different marketing strategy because the experiences they are seeking are unique and very today. There is a newness and ‘nowness’ to their decision-making process. Data driven marketing and AI driven algos will certainly help marketeers navigate this generation much better and deliver personalization at scale. Marketers will have to get comfortable with numbers.

No need to be a nerd or a geek, but at least be tech savvy

Marketers will need to work with both left brain and right brain to devise successful marketing strategies. MarTech and Data Models can sound overwhelming but at their very core address business and customer needs. Marketers having the ability to connect the dots and evolve a structured, layered, and measurable approach using all the new technologies without getting overwhelmed or sucked into the shiny object syndrome will thrive. They will however need to learn and upgrade their skill set.

The next act for the CMO is the toughest one. But never have they had such powerful allies – a board that is convinced about the role of marketing and delivering great customer experiences, some of the latest MarTech tools, AI and ML driven data strategies and ore and more measurable metrics to prove the return on investments. The curtain has lifted, it’s time to perform.

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