3 Trends Re-Defining the Role of the Modern CMO

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By 2025, the role and responsibilities of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) will probably look very different from how they do today, thanks to a series of technological, cultural, and social trends already unfolding in today’s business climate.

The amplified voice of discerning consumers, the expectation of speed and urgency in communications and services, the impact of emerging technology, and the powerful advance of artificial intelligence (AI) will force CMOs to adopt new methods and strategies to keep pace with customer demands.

“Already, consumers are demanding that brands change from being primarily purveyors of products and services to becoming a combination of suppliers, trusted educators, enablers and experience-providers,” says Brett Zucker, CMO at Monotype.

For the next generation of CMOs this will mean leaving some of their traditional duties behind. Instead of strategically planning campaigns and managing brand identities, CMOs need to become sharply focused on orchestrating revenue-generating, highly-personalized customer experiences and persuading everyone from the boardroom downwards that the primary focus should be on fulfilling the customer’s purpose first, rather than the company’s.

To successfully adapt, tomorrow’s CMOs will need to confront three key challenges in the coming five years, using innovative thinking and novel strategies to turn these challenges into opportunities for growth by the mid-2020s.

Challenge 1: Harness AI Intelligently

With AI and data collection expected to be ubiquitous by the early 2020s, future CMOs will face a stark choice: become a high-level number-cruncher or become extinct. Nine out of 10 CMOs plan to increase spending on data analysis and targeting in the next three years, according to a 2017 study by Campaign. This choice will directly affect the skills and understanding needed to develop their role and improve audience targeting.

“We’re moving into a place now where the CMO role is heavily led by data, and the CMO and chief information officer (CIO) are increasingly working together to read data and apply it more effectively,” says Minna Philipson, senior vice-president and CMO at Pandora.

But concerns surround this next wave of data and automation. Could the efficiency and cost-effective nature of AI data systems threaten to subsume the role of the CMO and brands’ creative teams?

Ads with humans perform 50% better than still life shots according to Albert AI, used by Cosabella.

Challenge 2: Don’t Control, Create

In the decade ahead, co-creation and collaboration will be king. A new breed of hyper-connected, digitally-savvy consumers are eager to play a central role in creating a brand’s products and services, and to shape the way it talks to the world.

As Pandora’s Philipson says: “The time has gone when a big brand always knew best and never had to listen to anyone.” Instead, brands can establish a new degree of loyalty by sharing their values and being prepared to let customers use social media channels to spread their message far and wide. A recent experience at Lego demonstrates both the power and the disruption that these consumers will bring to the table in the 2020s. The toy brand created an online club – and then discovered that its fans had created their own, much better version.

“At first there was total panic at Lego,’ says Philipson. “Everyone was running around saying: ‘We’re the brand – we’re the experts. And we’re being beaten by our consumers. Our credibility is vanishing.’ But eventually someone who is smarter than they were scared said: ‘Let’s make them part of our thing.’ And Lego now has its global Lego Ideas network of officially sanctioned fan communities creating things and submitting new ideas.’”

Tomorrow’s CMOs will quickly learn how pointless and counterproductive it is to claim full control over brand messaging and product development in the face of the consumer revolution.

87% of people said they would buy a product because the company was an advocate for an issue they cared about, according to Cone Communications.

Challenge 3: Stop Thinking Like a Traditional Marketer

In a 2017 survey by Salesforce, 64% of consumers and 80% of business personnel said they expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real time – and 80% reported that immediate responses positively influence their loyalty to a brand or service. In the age of Amazon, where efficiency and digital intuition are highly prized, companies have to go further than ever to capture consumer loyalty. Whether through valuable experiences, hyper-personalized communications or products and services that deliver superior brand value, consumers are becoming expectant and demanding. Through social channels and messaging platforms, brands and their audiences are now in constant contact. Opening these channels means people expect businesses not only to hear them, but to assist immediately.

The challenge for tomorrow’s CMOs goes beyond simply providing products and services in a timely manner – they will also need to build relevance, value, and authenticity through communications and the channels their customers use.

This will be crucial as we move into the 2020s and reach a point of global attention saturation. US consumers are bombarded with up to 10,000 ads per day, according to Red Crow Marketing, which is rapidly approaching the limit of how much content people can mentally – and meaningfully – digest. Already, despite consumer expectations about efficiency and relevance – or perhaps because of them – customers are opting to mute brand messages.

More than a quarter (26%) of consumers actively ignore irrelevant marketing messages and a third (34%) feel constantly followed by brand communications, according to Kantar TNS.

Certainly, these are not the only challenges modern CMOs will face in the near future. Still, by leaning in to both technological and behavioral trends mentioned above, we believe CMOs will be far more equipped to succeed in building value for their brands and consumers at large.

This is an excerpt from our report, “Customer First, Company Second: Three Major Challenges Facing CMOs of the Future.” For more insight, including a strategic toolkit to help get your brand started in tackling these challenges, click here to download a complimentary copy of the full report. 

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