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The Changing Role of the CMO

The Changing Role of the CMO

As the nature of marketing has evolved so radically in recent years and continues to do so at a rapid pace, the people at its helm must adapt too.

So what does that mean for those in charge? As digital marketing and social media forge their way forward, trampling over more traditional methods, it is time for the CMO to step up to the challenge or be downgraded by newly emerging roles, such as Chief Growth Officer or Customer Officer.

What was once focused on advertising, brand management and market research, has transformed into a role requiring a wider vision. Looking ahead to digital trends, grasping opportunities to tap into new, previously unavailable markets, to growing into a leader in business development, the CMO is now driving multiple vehicles.

As marketing transcends from a simple selling tool, to requiring a greater understanding of audience ‘feelings’, the need to build relationships and evolve the format of ‘selling’, the CMO now stands as the centre of this new relationship. Selling alone is no longer enough. The fancy campaigns stand weak unless each new opportunity to gather and understand data is managed in as much detail as possible. Data is king and never before has it been so accessible.

It is no longer enough to simply understand advertising, to orchestrate campaigns and activations, the CMO of today has to have a strong grasp of the technology driving tomorrow’s sales, even down to ethical technology and data protection. The CMO of today must understand finance, revenue, the need to invest savvily, in the platforms and tools which will have the most reach, with the most relevant, targeted audience. The CMO needs to understand what the audience cares about - potentially harnessing the likes of social causes and transforming them into meaningful human connections.

However, as this role diversifies, the need for clarity is urgent. As the array of content grows, from print media, to online, social and more, there is much more for the CMO to do, requiring a greater knowledge of whole new worlds from ‘influencer marketing’ to event activation. The CMO must stay relevant, or step aside.

Now seen as the connection between and across all sections of the organisational chart, from sales to product design and services, from events to financial strategy, the role is more crucial than ever before, but remains vague, and in some cases, perhaps undervalued. The chief commercial officer must align with the CMO, to ensure each campaign and every piece of marketing going out, is timely, relevant and ultimately, is driving the bottom line.

The shelf life is short for the CMO, perhaps due to this confusion, research finding that they last around half the tenure of their counterpart CEO (https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/the-evolution-of-the-cmo-whats-next).

Data and creativity are the CMO’s vital resources and to flourish, both need to be harnessed strongly. Customer experience and engagement and innovation are king in today’s CMO job description and finding the right team now depends on a tech-savvy, innovative, customer-centric team spirit.

According to a survey run by Deloitte (https://deloitte.wsj.com/cmo/2019/03/15/the-role-of-cmos-in-preparing-for-industry-4-0/), there is still leeway, but for how long? It found that 70 percent of CMOs feel they have license to fail, in the pursuit of innovation, as they forge their way forward and explore new ways to foster growth. But this will only last so long. Only by learning and excelling, with a strategy in place to overcome and grow, can this permission to fail, persist.

We will be organising a roundtable/panel discussion on this subject later this year in Dubai. If you are a CMO and would like to be on the panel and/or attend please reach out to me on nikkis@hansonsearch.com.

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Author: Nikki Samson

Nikki has over twenty years of experience in 360 integrated marcoms, having worked in the corporate world both in-house and in agencies for international groups in Paris and Dubai.

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