What poses the greatest threat to brands today? The future. The future is un-knowable. We can look at trends and imagine what the future will hold, but we cannot see the future. This is a scary proposition for brands that try and manage risk while innovating – at a time when their survival depends on it. How can companies better plan for relevancy tomorrow, and what is the CMO’s role?
If you thought your CMO needed to be a sociologist in the past, in the future your CMO needs to be the Sherlock Holmes of the c-suite – an intuitive customer behavior genius. Lose sight of your customers for even one second and you’re in trouble. Sociographics is the area that helps you truly know your customers and their behavior. Sociographics are the characteristics that influence the way people receive and perceive your brand’s messages – they ultimately define how your market behaves socially. Sociology, the study of human behavior, and sociographics, knowing your customer’s attitudes, values, influences, hobbies, passions will both be important to the future CMO. Is the CMO of the future a CMO at all? Or do they need to be more of a futurist? The CMO has a role in preparing the company for different scenarios that the future may bring.
Customer experience, often owned by the CMO, will gain mounting importance in a world where little differentiates products other than the experiences and services wrapped around them. Customer experience is the perception your customers have of your brand, and there is no other officer that plays a greater role in shaping that customer’s perception than the CMO. In the past we’ve seen brands, during times of uncertainty, make cuts to marketing, or take away some of the CMO’s power and influence. Your CMO should be just as important as your other c-level officers.
The CMO needs to understand they can no longer operate with a VP Marketing mentality. The CMO needs to see themselves a true captain of the ship, responsible for steering the direction of the company from a high level. In the modern business world lines blur faster and faster. A telecom provider is now an entertainment company (AT&T). A retailer is now a digital fitness brand (Under Armour). A movie rental company is now a content production company (Netflix). Overnight you’re seeing mergers and acquisitions that shift entire industries. Markets are moving faster than at any point in history.
So as the market shifts so do our corporate leaders, in fact that CMO needs to be the most savvy of the c-level officers. Able to watch trends in media, content and overall branding more so than other officers that have their head down in the company’s products and services. Identifying major trends, and looking at the landscape and pointing out opportunities for growth now fall into the purview of the CMO.
Below I’ve identified eight skills of the CMO of the future. You will also find an image illustrating these traits above.
Eight Skills Of The Future CMO
1. CMO Steers Company Strategy
We can see that customers are not loyal, they quickly flock to offerings that make their lives easier and better. For example when Uber surfaced you didn’t see die-hard taxi customers holding on to the taxi industry, caring deeply that it continue to thrive. Customers dumped the taxi industry overnight for the no-fuss experience of Uber. That said, the CMO’s role is unique because the CMO knows the customer in a way no other officer does. And the person who knows the customer needs to ultimately shift the company strategy, because profits follow companies that obsess over customer behavior. If you want to recognize opportunities you could be missing, just ask your customers, or ask your CMO whose job it is to know.
2. CMO Presents A Future Vision To The Board
The CMO was historically not involved with the corporate board, but in the future the CMO will have more of a role in persuading the board. After all the CMO has their finger on the pulse of the customer. The mercurial customer of the future will have a great influence on the future direction of the company. If a company leaves the CMO out of board level conversations, the company doesn’t understand the importance of the marketing category. Marketing in the age of customer experience has catapulted to new levels of importance. It is important for the board to hear from the c-level executive that is most connected to the customer.
Today the CMO is largely responsible for generating awareness for the company’s products and services. Marketing has been in a service role toward sales. However in the future the board needs the CMO to be the eyes and ears of the customer. The CMO role will have less focus on purely being in service to sales – and more focus on strategy and overall customer engagement, from company strategy across awareness, education, customer engagement and service. That said, the future of marketing is more about engagement than strictly the advertising and messaging of marketing’s yesteryear.
3. CMO Is A Data And Design Genius
Coca-Cola recently got rid of its CMO role, now promoting a Chief Growth Officer that combines global marketing, customer and commercial leadership strategy. Clearly companies are trying to make something that is seen as sometimes unquantifiable, more definitive, more precise. As we increasingly look to our data to give us this information, CMO’s will be held to different standards – the pressure is on to be a data aficionado.
When you ask a CMO what they do, today many of them still talk about traditional advertising, such as television spots, advertising, branding, social media, email and marketing automation, but in the future the CMO needs to have a more strategic role within the executive suite and the board. In the future the seemingly intangible metric of customer engagement will balloon in importance and it will be up to the CMO to define what that looks like.
4. CMO Leads Innovation And Transformation
The CMO is in charge of steering digital transformations, as more and more customer experiences are assisted by technology, building that experience holds increasing importance. A company’s ability to transform digitally will determine its success.
Not only that but marketing is a different beast than it was 30 years ago. Today the strongest brands are curating the brand – and its content – alongside its customers. The CMO is the most involved in customer strategy, and increasingly owns all customer programs. That said it’s the CMO’s responsibility to know how and when to use new technologies.
5. CMO, A Master Of Personalization
It’s hard for us to look at what personalization means today and even imagine personalization of tomorrow. Today’s personalization basically accounts to ads you get from products you search for online. In fact customer service generally doesn’t even remember what you told them last tine you contacted them. It’s a rare day when they do. But tomorrow personalization will be a staple of every competitive customer experience, and the CMO will be in charge of making that happen.
6. The CMO Leverages Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning
It’s important for the CMO to understand emerging technologies such as chatbots and the opportunities and challenges they pose. The chatbot is an exciting new prospect for companies. But the jury is still out on how much customers will like and use these technologies since it’s still early days. The CMO can play a role in figuring out how chatbots will supplement other customer engagement efforts. While we’ve been using the technology for years, the potential to actually build amazing customer experiences as a result of chatbots is here. Through machine learning chatbots can better understand what customers are looking for whether that’s for education, service or sales. The CMO needs to understand these technologies more than anyone, so if you’re a CMO that needs a 101 course in machine learning and engineering, the CMO will need to keep those experts close by. The CMO will need to pick their brain.
7. CMO Curates Content Alongside Its Customers
Today’s most cutting edge brands understand that communication is no longer a one way street for customers. Customers are talking to companies and they want to be heard. The challenge for brands is their ability to scale the listening process. The technologies we’ve mentioned above, namely machine learning, will help companies be better listeners. We already know social media is powerful and soon we’ll just call it media. Customers want to see themselves reflected in your brand. CMO’s today need to take the process of co-created content with customers seriously. This could assist the CMO in curating content alongside its customers. Not only that but marketing is a different beast than it was 30 years ago. In the future brands will be actually be publishers, not as we know it today with a blog or social media, but full on content monsters.
8. CMO Thinks Like A CTO
Understanding how technology can accelerate growth and foster better innovation is important for any leader today, especially the CMO. The CMO must identify opportunities to enable teams to work faster with technology, not just in marketing but across the organization. Your CMO has now become your go-to person when it comes to transformation. Why? They hold the keys to the customer’s heart and mind. Today markets are moving faster than at any point in history. Leaders must not only be able to see what’s coming around the corner, but anticipate customer needs. Personalization and tailored interactions are the future of customer experience, so CMO’s that know how to think like a CTO and build and drive these experiences will thrive.
These are the traits of the future CMO. Do you see a familiar role or a different role than the CMO you know today?