Companies, both large and small, have always struggled to find great CMOs.
The challenge has been finding someone who understands ‘brand’.
Many marketers excel at tactical execution, whether digital, or print, or TV, or sales promotions, or BTL or anything else. They can design and manage amazing campaigns, with high ROI. Their ideas and ambitions are usually constrained only by budget.
‘Brand’ is a different beast. There needs to be a vision. Not of size or reach, but of the place you want to occupy in your customer’s mind. This vision requires a deep understanding of the customer and how their desires are shaped by the present and the past, by culture, politics, and technology, by global forces. Staying ‘on brand’ means saying no to exciting execution ideas, unless they add to the core brand story.
Great CMO’s can combine both brand and tactical skill sets. That is what makes them so difficult to find.
Increasingly, however, there is a third skill set that is essential.
While digital technology has exploded over the last few decades, significantly changing the possibility of marketing, much of the implementation is divided between the ‘digital marketing team’ and the tech/IT team. I see many companies where the CTO or CIO is increasingly pulled into the realm of marketing.
I also see companies where the CMO is content with not fully understanding what the digital team is doing. As long as it doesn’t eat up too much budget, and there is some measurable ROI for reports, the digital team often exists mentally somewhere between a checkbox and a lead source.
The problem is that technological innovation and adoption are both moving at a blistering pace. For many industries today, the internet via a smartphone is the customer’s preferred communication tool. We check our phones anywhere between 30 and 150 times a day. According to Apple, iPhone users access their phone on average every 11 minutes.
Yet a CMO who will agonize over every detail in a single newspaper advertisement, ensuring that it is ‘on brand’, might only be vaguely aware of their company’s mobile marketing strategy, let alone which font is being used.
The next generation of CMOs will need to combine technology AND branding AND tactical execution skill sets. This combination is going to be both rare and valuable.
Two parting thoughts:
Aspiring CMOs need to invest time into understanding digital platforms and emerging technology. You don’t need to know how to use Snapchat. But you probably should know why a particular group of people use Snapchat, and what that says about millennial attitudes in general. You definitely need to understand how data can be used in your specific industry to create better marketing.
Digital marketers should never be happy to be left alone to do ‘digital stuff’. Unless you are part of the conversation about your company’s brand, you are missing out. You constantly need to be searching for ways to tie digital to a wide range of real business objectives and to integrate online with offline campaigns.