Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Why the "CMO extinction" theme is a tired climate change cliché:
This Fast Company published blog is once again the same old song: that one being taunted by all sorts of new age marketing experts, trying so hard to look & sound oh so avant-garde by displaying a breakthrough headline to sell their next episode: as for those who invented the Internet or decided to dress cool by blaming global warming on modern industrialization for the past 50 years rather than considering the bigger picture, the data & the documented global temperature cycles that existed well before human CO2 contribution, the CMO’s extinction is an easy-sell theme, a popular urban legend in tabloid marketing circles…
I find that not only the reasons given in this paper for the theory of extinction of the CMO are distorted, redundant & incomplete but that, on the contrary, we are indeed living a defining time of evolutionary stage for marketers that should eventually see us regain more leadership in the C suite of more & more corporations; here’s why:
1) If it is true that "....budgets are shifting..." marketers have however been from the start at the forefront of the development of new analytics , budget allocation tools & metrics of success beyond overall corporate performance & top line results; from marketing & media statistical modeling, new digital engagement metrics or web analytics, CRM data mining and customer segmentation or Customer Dialogue Management platforms are all tools & know how that marketers have created & mastered in adapting to a more complex landscape of consumers & channels; that means that the evaluation, dashboards & resource allocation process are more & more strategically driven by a more informed & analytics savy marketer rather than I.T transformation implementers or sales forces: marketers are the architects & designers of demand generation or systems that power the customer strategy that other functional teams help implement.
2) If "...Social media exacerbates one thing..." it is the call for the real customer centricity order. The cacophony is an old (pre-digital) challenge that marketers already learned to address through real multichannel, integrated marketing strategies .If the consumer is now more empowered and an active co-writer of the brand story, the CMO always had, by sitting at the intersection of all Medium, to inspire, channel & harness that constant dialogue/relationship between the brand & its audience segments: has anyone seen customer feed-back, consumer research /opinions, ad testing or CRM data being gathered & interpreted by other talents than those who are supposed to engage, respond & adapt to the markets every day…? Even call centers or Retail employees get their cue from marketing when it comes to the script & directions behind customer dialogue management or revenue optimization…
3) "...The democratized web spawns confusion and trust issues…" and it’s precisely because everybody claims to be an expert in marketing that a C-suite relies on the CMO to sort out business intelligence , make determinations or present informed arbitrations; the P.R. crisis doesn’t dictate marketing, the sales people are way to entrenched into field management & too partial to analysis of success or failure and web analytics still tend to give a bias section view of the full customer base & patterns…Hundreds of TJMax "Maxinistas" or American idol contestants don’t replace a few dozens prominent rocks stars or gifted fashion designers who actually know how to abosrb market trends whilst also monetizing them so effectively. It’s funny how the ultimate democracy or twit doesn’t automatically make everybody the best natural born communicator , buzz expert or leader !
4) "...Pressure to demonstrate a return on investment with marketing has reached a fever pitch..." But it is hardly a new phenomenon. I have worked with most top CMOs in past 10 years who in the mid-90’s started , under the pressure to demonstrate their accountability in the C-suite, to hire an array of powerful vendors & experts to help them make the case for their marketing MROI, budget sizing & allocation: from the management consulting or I.T. strategists , the top digital agencies to media marketing mix modeling divisions, CRM software Business Intelligence modules or Central Decisoning, they all cater their expertise to the CMO and feed his own decision making & dashboards: if there certainly is pressure and stronger accountability , there is no cluelessness nor shortage of new science available; find me a single sales officer or CIO who can speak to MROI analytics & interpret the results of market research in front of a board !
5) "...Lines of responsibility across marketing and sales are disintegrating..": again nothing new here: BtB or Btc marketers have long worked with sales force, customer services , call centers or customer facing agents…Marketing has always been all about top line revenue growth and extracting more value from every customer. I would argue that there is a danger in the GE solutions example as far as the artificial dichotomy between upstream and downstream: as any good marketer knows, product development is a key element of demand generation & can be informed & refined by downstream practices & experience. This is where integration stemming from a sharp understanding of consumer’s evolving needs & expectations can drive the product development or inspire go-to-market strategies: that what marketing genius Steve Jobs so beautifully embodied as the ultimate integrated marketer from corporate vision to technical execution, brand building or Retail strategy; I say the new generation of CMO is the Stve Jobs type, the best customer reader & advocate, the one who understand all pieces of the complex puzzle , dynamics & dimensions of what a brand is at heart and can nurture through a in-tune relationship with consumers & markets.
Now, of course, they are some of us who are not as talented as others or simply unable to adapt, wherever they sit, in marketing or somewhere else in the organization. Old media types , tired sales man or new digital wunderkinds are not necessarily cut for the greatest job of marketing leadership…I laugh at that underlying accepted cliche that puts any social media blogger or web designer at the pinnacle of marketing instinct & vision.
All in all, it is well known that the CMO role has been constantly reshaped & had to re-invent itself for the past 15 years with an incredible acceleration since digital reached a critical mass,radically changing the center of gravity of the relationship between consumers, channels & brands.The good marketers is te the one who understands & embodyies best the essence of the brand , both from the corporate and consumer’s perspective.He is the only one who possesses the necessary subtle balance between art & science, creative, analytics & optimum mix across all available touchpoints, both strategically & operationally. They have their feet in the market, incredible sense of smell & hearing for the “air du temps” , have developed wings & acute long term vision to foresee future markets shift... and the memory of an elephant when it comes to the roots of the brand.
The CMO role might be redefined or rebranded Chief Brand Officer, Chief Experience Officer or Chief Customer Officers etc… but the fact of the matter is that while the contours & areas of responsibility evolve constantly under more & more pressure or scrutiny from the board, they are the most multi-skilled & adaptable of species and the customer centricity agenda that they naturally lead has become more than ever before a central strategy to full scale corporate transformation that many CEO’s are now embracing.