How pioneering CMOs are changing the rules of marketing
Meet the new marketing leaders who are driving a profound shift in marketing and rewiring organisations to improve customer experience
As marketing undergoes a profound and enduring shift, 90 per ent of today's CEOs and chief marketing officers believe the CMO role will change fundamentally over the next three years. Photograph: Getty / iStock
According to a new report by Accenture, Way Beyond Marketing - The Rise of The Hyper-Relevant CMO, pioneering chief marketing officers (CMOs) are helping to transform their organisation to ensure a better experience at every stage in the customer journey, and beyond.
A major survey undertaken by the global professional services firm of almost 1000 CMOs and CEOs worldwide, found that 90 per cent of them believe the CMO role will change fundamentally over the next three years.
Three quarters of CMOs admitted their traditional toolkit is no longer fit for purpose, given the rise of a new generation of disruptors who are able to deliver more relevant customer experiences.
Video supplied by Accenture
Marketing is at an important tipping point, says Vicky Godolphin, head of Accenture Digital in Ireland. “The CMO role is going through change - and it has to,” she says.
The advent of digital technologies, and the data driven decision-making it allows, puts the CMO right at the heart of organisations like never before. It’s a new position of strength for a function that, traditionally, struggled to get a seat at board level.
It deserves to be there today, not least because the CMO is the primary customer champion in any organisation.
Whereas traditionally the CMO’s function was to be the brand steward, today he or she must balance that important function with also being the customer advocate across every aspect of the business, helping to shape the customer experience.
That matters because one of the biggest and fastest shifts impacting all organisations right now relates to customer expectations.
“Customers expect not just to get a great product or service. Whether it’s doing their daily banking, food shopping, or streaming content, they are not looking to simply have a transaction with an organisation, they expect an experience,” says Godolphin.
Not just any experience. “As a customer I’m expecting an experience that reflects how the organisation values me, knows me and understands me.”
It’s not just about sales either. Every point at which a consumer engages with the business must elicit this sense of almost hyper-personalisation.
The market has less tolerance of products and services delivered in a way that feels bland. “It’s not just how using the product or service makes me feel, it’s how the way it is delivered makes me feel too,” says Godolphin.
For organisations, that can feel daunting but it presents an opportunity too, she says. “It’s about figuring out how do we stay ahead and how do we get our brand personality out there.”
One way is by having a clear sense of purpose. Accenture’s Global Consumer Pulse Research indicates that almost two thirds of Irish consumers want to know the purpose of the brand, not just what the product is, she cautions.
It’s partly why corporate and social responsibility activities have grown in recent years, as one way of articulating purpose.
Such activities can help build long term relationships and better customer – and staff – engagement. “The CMO can really communicate and help embed that message around purpose,” Godolphin says, pointing to Unilever by way of example.
“We know that over half of its brands are really focused on sustainability, and they are its highest performing brands.”
It turns out that those brands grow 50 per cent faster than the company’s other brands and deliver more than 60 per cent of the company’s growth.
At home she points to AIB’s work with Rothco, a creative agency that is part of Accenture Interactive. It developed The Book That Grew in partnership with Teagasc, an initiative designed to support Irish agriculture. The book was made entirely from grass roots and contained practical advice to help farmers maximise sustainability and increase profitability.
“You cannot just design your customer experience around one type of customer. Organisations now need to think more broadly about the different types of customer they have, and ensuring that they serve them in a way that feels right,” says Godolphin.
This demand for relevance and authenticity can leave organisations feeling overwhelmed and paralysed, but in fact it offers an unprecedented opportunity for meaningful engagement. That goes for not just customers, but staff, suppliers and other stakeholders too. It applies not just to consumer facing businesses, but business to business ones also.
That’s why the CMO role, which traditionally had its closest ties to the commercial and sales and marketing representatives at the top table, is now deepening its relationship across all executive functions, from finance to human resources. Good firms put the CMO at the heart of all engagements.
Marketing has always been “a blend of art and science”, she points out. Today, creative talent is still to the fore but is driven and informed by data.
Organisations are investing in the technologies and tools to deliver that. Not doing so risks obsolescence.
“Organisations need to react so quickly now. All organisations are striving to get more agility and the CMO can take the role of the positive disruptor in achieving that,” she says.
The centrality of the CMO is such that, whereas in the last recession, marketing and training were among the first departments to see cuts, that’s unlikely to happen again.
“Now what are recognised as the most important characteristics of an organisation are its ability to design and deliver good customer experiences across every touch-point. To do that you have to be a learning organisation,” she says.
“Companies are therefore much more aware of the need to maintain investment in these areas. They are the foundations that position you to be successful in the future, with the CMO taking on the role of accelerator for the whole organisation.”
To find out more about the new brand of CMO, view Accenture’s report: Way Beyond Marketing - The Rise of The Hyper-Relevant CMO.
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