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CMO

The Evolution of the Chief Marketing Officer

By Yogesh Shah, CEO of iResearch Services

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has changed dramatically in the last few years. What started as a role primarily based on market research, advertising and brand management, quickly evolved into a role focused on customer experience and data analytics, with key emphasis on supporting other members of the C-Suite to define the purpose of the business by providing insight into what the customer needs, rather than what the business assumes it should sell. Whilst many of these elements remain the same, the role of the CMO has now become far more complex.

Changes to content consumption, consumer and organisational behaviour, the rise of social media and worldwide disruptions such as Covid-19 have meant that many marketing strategies have been given a makeover, creating new priorities and responsibilities for CMOs as a result. 

As a valuable part of the C-Suite, the importance of the CMO role is not up for debate. Establishing a brand identity and a clear space in the market will always remain a priority, but where should CMOs now start as they navigate the new landscape?

Traditional vs digital media 

Change is all around us, but it isn’t just a result of this year’s events. One of the biggest drivers of this change is the shift in the use of media. The world has rapidly moved from the use of traditional media to have a heavy focus on digital; a change which has now become a permanent part of media and content consumption.

In the U.S. alone, digital ad spend has climbed up to $151 billion in 2020, significantly more than the combined $107 billion that traditional marketing has garnered. These figures are even more impressive when considering that in 1999, digital ads only had a $4.79 billion cap while the traditional market enjoyed as much as $94 billion at the time.

Bringing it back to the changes we’ve seen this year, CMOs are also now contending with audiences that have less, or no, commuting time and therefore have longer to consume content in different formats; will we see the rise of longer-form, data-driven content consumption? User-generated content has also become extremely prominent in many marketing and content strategies; turning to the end-user to show first hand the benefits or applications of the product or service in real-time.

With more changes undoubtedly on the horizon, traditional marketing should not be discarded. After all, many consumers claim that they have a longer-lasting impression of TV ads than they do with digital ads. The CMO therefore needs to be ready to adapt, with an open mind towards bringing back the methods of the past to meet consumer needs.

Data-driven campaigns 

The need for advanced research has also greatly changed the role of the CMO. In the past, CMOs have needed to rely purely on gut feeling, however the maturity of the market has shown that data is needed to back up these gut feelings for guaranteed success.

Furthermore, advances in technology such as big data and artificial intelligence have made their way onto the CMO’s evolving list of responsibilities. With a data-centric approach, CMOs can use the large volumes of analytics to their advantage and identify actionable patterns, trends and behaviours to use within their content and campaigns. By forecasting trends and building strategies based on concrete insights, CMOs are now able to create the next best campaign that not only resonates with the intended audience, but that creates a need the consumer might not have even been aware they had.

Taking this one step further, CMOs can integrate this data into their campaigns themselves. For a B2B audience, a CMO can create compelling, data-driven thought leadership content to demonstrate how much they understand their audience, building a relationship as a result. Acknowledging that decision-makers may still be working from home with no morning commute and therefore more time to read an industry-led report, could well be a winning strategy for CMOs to implement as businesses continue to navigate through these unprecedented times.

The future of the CMO

Research shows that 88% of organisations agree that the role of the CMO has changed in the past two years alone. These organisations also believe that the role of the CMO will continue to change.

No matter how you look at it, the CMO of today is not what you used to know. And, as the introduction of new technology continues to accelerate and ‘digital’ becomes the norm, the role of the CMO won’t stop evolving any time soon.

The CMO position is set to become even more varied than it is now, with different responsibilities and job role requirements that will make the position unique to each organisation, depending on what other roles they have within both their C-Suite and the rest of the marketing team. For example, if an organisation has a CDO, Chief Data Officer, then data analytics, reporting and strategy might not be part of the CMO’s role; but if there isn’t a CDO, then the CMO will likely be responsible for data as well as other aspects within the wider marketing strategy too.

Regardless of differing responsibilities, organisations will require CMOs to apply insight to their strategies to ensure they address wider business challenges. As a result, CMOs will no longer work in isolation but will be part of the organisation’s vision of growth and market leadership. Working in harmony with other members of the C-Suite and their own team, CMOs will be – and are – instrumental in bridging the gap between customer data and the strategy that needs to be executed as a result of that data. However, with so many responsibilities, the CMO will need a strong and structured team around them to provide support.

It’s time for CMOs to embrace the ‘new normal’, consider how they can use new – or traditional – methods to reach their new audience and to remember that data is key: both to reach their target audience and within the campaign itself.

Industry Spotlight: Direct mail is now stronger than ever…

Direct mail is widely-viewed as one of the original forms of marketing. For over sixty years, marketers have enjoyed huge success with this simple, yet effective form of communication. However, the rise of digital technology has heralded an array of new methods, leading some people to question how much longer direct mail will form part of the mix.

So why, in this day and age of digitally-innovative forms of promotion, should direct mail still be taken seriously?

Carpet bombing and the Dot.com bubble

The use of direct mail for marketing purposes was groundbreaking, enabling companies to communicate with their customers beyond the confines of an office or store. However, the extremely high volume of direct mail marketing in the 90s earned it the negative terms ‘carpet bombing’ and ‘junk mail’. People would return from holiday and struggle to open their front doors due to the sheer volume of promotional collateral piled up in their hallways.

Whilst direct mail has learnt from its mistakes and grown to become a medium that is much more refined, the problem of excessive volume is now plaguing the digital marketing industry. Regardless of how sophisticated digital communication methods have become, content inevitably becomes ineffective if it is not targeted at the appropriate recipients. According to CMO.com, 75 per cent of consumers get frustrated when offers, ads and promotions have nothing to do with their interests. Given that people are increasingly setting up ad-blockers and ignoring promotional emails, it has never been more important to carefully personalise content and only target individuals most likely to be interested in your proposition. Direct mail certainly leads the way in terms of its ability to deliver relevant, timely, and highly personal content to consumers.

The capabilities of direct mail

The success of direct mail marketing has exceeded most people’s expectations. The latest Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report states that direct mail is still one of the largest ad channels in the UK and continues to bring in well above £1bn annually. Direct mail marketing is just as effective as it ever was, if not more so thanks to more sophisticated forms of customer data analysis, enabling brands to target customers more effectively.

Direct mail has stood the test of time because it engenders trust; it feels more thoughtful, personal, non-intrusive and authentic. For older generations, direct mail is a reassuringly tangible form of communication. On the other hand, direct mail for younger people is something of a novelty; they rarely receive post, making them more likely to pay attention to it. According to a Royal Mail MarketReach report, young people are 18 per cent more likely than the general population to welcome direct mail, and 32 per cent more likely to find it memorable.

Direct mail can also be used to bridge offline and online marketing methods in order to provide a diverse communications strategy and cater to a modern, digitally-savvy audience. For example, marketers can ensure that direct mail contains information such as QR codes that draw customers back to company websites.

Intelligent data

Data is key to the long-term success of a company’s marketing strategy. Neither online nor offline marketing methods would be nearly as successful if businesses did not analyse customer data and use it to understand those they are targeting. The shrewd use of data has revolutionised direct mail in the last two decades by enabling businesses to deliver content with the right message, at the right time, to the right individual. It is this that has made it one of the most enduringly successful forms of marketing to date. And with the increasing volumes of data available today, the capabilities of direct mail will only get stronger and more effective.

 

Mark Roy is founder and Chairman of REaD Group, the UK’s largest independent data group. Over the course of his career, Mark has transformed the marketing industry by pioneering data suppression and data cleanliness, as well as introducing industry-defining products including The Gone Away Suppression File (GAS), The Bereavement Register, Qinetic and The Oracle.

CMOs ‘first in firing line’ if company targets are not met…

The annual The C-level Disruptive Growth Opportunity’ online research report from Accenture Strategy analysing the attitudes of 535 CEOs and 847 CMOs from organisations around the world has determined that, although an estimated five ‘C-level executives’ are usually held responsible for driving disruptive business growth, the majority (37 per cent) will place CMOs first in the firing line if growth targets are not met.

The results found that CEOs depict CMOs to be the ‘primary driver’ of disruptive growth (50 per cent), closely followed by chief strategy officers (49 per cent), and chief sales officers (38 per cent). The majority of CMOs (96 per cent) also recognise the importance of disruptive growth to revenue potential, and an additional 75 per cent believe they have a great deal of control over the disruptive growth levers in their company.

Senior managing director leading Advanced Customer Strategy at Accenture, Robert Wollan commented: “Organisations that rely on ‘growth by committee’ struggle to achieve their targets. It breeds a C-suite culture where everyone is responsible, yet no one is accountable – and onus unduly falls onto someone, usually the CMO.

“CMOs can take a greater role by actively driving the disruptive growth agenda and generating new value for the business. Such initiatives include developing ecosystems with non-traditional players, launching platforms that elevate current products into expanded service models for customers, and increasing revenue through next generation connected data monetisation – all of which CMOs are well positioned to do.”

The report did, however, acknowledge that many CMOs are not currently in a position to drive disruptive growth due to time and mind-set. Only 30 per cent of believe they are cutting-edge marketing innovators, and 37 per cent of their time is spent on innovation. Furthermore, 60 per cent claim to spend the majority of their time on ‘traditional marketing initiatives’, such as improving customer experience and maintaining brand image.

While evidently important, 54 per cent state a large portion of their marketing budget is being wasted and not delivering the results the business expects.
Download the full report here