It's Time To Raise The CMO Bar

Steven Cook
January 25, 2012

Steven Cook

Former CMO Samsung North America, former VP WW Strategic Planning Coca Cola

I was recently invited to share my perspective on why and how the CMO role has changed and where it is headed at a CMO conference before a diverse range of B2C and B2B CMOs. This topic interested me because I have been living the rapid transformation of the CMO and brand marketer my whole professional life at P&G, Coca-Cola, and Samsung. I suspect you’ve also been adapting to the accelerating pace given the seismic changes that are transforming marketing’s roles, accountabilities, and expected delivered value.

While I had a point of view, I knew this question was much bigger than my experience could answer and was curious about how other CMOs would answer. So at the conference I asked the following two questions:

1. How and why has your CMO role changed to deliver increased value to the C-suite, the enterprise, and your customers?

2. What have you and your company learned from these changes?

I also posed these questions to my network of CMOs and senior brand marketers.Then, to understand how C-suite and organizational expectations are changing, I cast the net wider by asking several respected recruiters who are designing the next-generation CMO job specifications with their CEO clients. In addition, I looked for trends from other recently published CMO experts and related research.

My sources consistently mentioned that CMO roles have been adapting piecemeal over the past decade, but we are now at a tipping point where CMO roles need to be updated to deliver a more relevant 21st century value proposition. Think about it: The CMO role came into vogue in the early 1990s during a mass-market, mass-media, one-way push, predigital, pre-social-media, pre-smartphone world. While many classic marketing truths are still relevant, the dynamics, needs, and expectations of the CMO’s constituents (e.g., customers, CEO, internal and external partners, NGOs/third parties, etc.) have radically shifted. While I heard a range of situational-specific differences facing B2C and B2B CMOs across diverse verticals, when I stepped back I could see some universal truths.

It all boils down to this: The CMO role as we’ve known it does not capture where the role needs to go to remain relevant. We all know the CMO role today is immensely more complex than it was just a few years ago. For each unique CMO role, I believe there is an increasing need to focus on the highest level strategic value-creation opportunities given the faster pace of business and marketing ROI objectives. I also heard that CMO roles need to expand beyond the traditional marketing silo to include a more comprehensive commercial leadership role with a focus on how to accelerate growth. I propose that a "Commercial Growth Accelerator" role with five high-level strategic focus areas (the R5) would better communicate and guide a more relevant leadership value proposition.

Here’s what I mean by the R5 in the new CGAR5 role:

1. Relationships: This is about building high-trust relationships among the company/brands and customers, enterprise functions, and other stakeholders, and turning them all into advocates and affiliates. According to Andrew Hayes and Alan Cork, Russell Reynolds Partners in the CEO and CMO Practice: “While building relationships has always been key to the CMO role, we see it as being more important than ever before due to the importance of linking and integrating efforts with Sales and Operations. Further, while historically it has been critical to build relationships with the end consumers, this has been amplified exponentially today with inroads of digital and social media.”

IBM’s seminal 2011 Global CMO Study amplified this point, noting, “The most proactive CMOs are trying to understand individuals as well as markets. Customer intimacy is crucial. Ninety-five percent of business leaders heading the most successful organizations said getting closer to their customers, and creating lasting relationships was the top priority for realizing their strategy over the next five years.”

In a Harvard Business Review blog, Joe Tripodi, Coca-Cola's EVP, CMO, and chief commercial officer, shared what I believe is a transformational approach for elevating the number and quality of the relationships Coca-Cola brands have with customers and other constituents: “By definition, impressions are passive. They give us no real sense of engagement, and consumer engagement with our brands is ultimately what we're striving to achieve. Awareness is fine, but advocacy will take your business to the next level. In addition to ‘consumer impressions,’ we are increasingly tracking ‘consumer expressions.’ To us, an expression is any level of engagement with our brand content by a consumer or constituent.”

2. Reputation: Building an authentic, transparent, trusted reputation for a company/brand and ensuring that all messaging consistently reinforces it across all online and offline touch points is a critical marketing stewardship and communications role given the speed and transparency of our global, interconnected digital world. The 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer details the business implications of having a trusted reputation and, conversely, the devastating impact of a negative reputation: “In the last 12 months, 85% of respondents report they have bought the products or services of a company they trusted; conversely, 73% say they refused to buy products or services from one they did not trust.”

Weber Shandwick’s 2011 study, "The Company Behind The Brand More Important Than Ever" (PDF), comes to the same critical conclusions. Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist, noted: “Whereas it has long been known that a strong brand shines a light on a company’s reputation, it is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that a strong company reputation adds an undeniable brilliance to the brand.”

CGAR5 leaders have the responsibility to provide real-time orchestration, responsiveness, and insights on their customers, stakeholders, and the company/brand. This central reputation role should create and evolve an authentic high-order company/brand purpose that is important to the lives of those your brand serves. Jim Stengel, P&G’s former global marketing officer, calls this "brand ideal" and outlines a new framework that can be used to accelerate business growth in his new book "Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies."

3. Relevant reimagining: Leading and enabling the reimagining of what the company/brand can be to stay relevant in a fast-paced environment with evolving expectations is crucial. As a data point, Prophet’s "2011 State of Marketing Study: Brand-Building in the Complex New Ecosystem of Influence" highlighted that the top strategic marketing challenges management faces to meet their growth agenda are “establishing a differentiated brand position and Identifying new paths to growth.” While this has always been a core CMO component, the velocity of change, new business models, the opportunity to harness social media to have customers co-create, and global competition require us to elevate our game.

4. Revenues and results: Identifying, developing, measuring, and being accountable for delivering revenues and other key company/brand metrics is absolutely essential going forward to be a credible leader with the C-suite. In the article "What CEOs Want From Their CMOs," Russell Reynolds Partners' Hayes noted: “Gone are the CMO days of, ‘Trust me, this is going to work.’ CEOs want concrete, understandable marketing metrics and fact-based decision-making. In the area of analytics, CEOs are always looking for more than CMOs are able to provide.”

IBM’s CMO Study reinforced this point, noting that “Two-thirds of CMOs think ROMI will be the primary measure of their effectiveness by 2015. CMOs are focused on capturing and measuring Marketing’s contribution to the business in relevant, quantifiable terms, with the seven most important measures to track Marketing’s success being MROI, Customer Experience, Conversion Rate/New Customers, Overall Sales, Marketing-Influenced Sales, Revenue Per Customer, Social Media Metrics.”

5. Real-time: This refers to building CGAR5 team capabilities to energize the enterprise and lead all of the aforementioned areas collaboratively across the C-suite, all functions, and partners, and to dialogue with customers at the speed of business today. . .in real-time.

The transformation from CMO to CGAR5 obviously needs to be done in a relevant, customized way. Do the CGAR5 core value proposition components resonate with you? Do they align with the value delivery expectations of your constituents?

Steven Cook

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It's Time To Raise The CMO Bar
Steven Cook
Steven Cook
January 25, 2012
I was recently invited to share my perspective on why and how the CMO role has changed and where it is ...
It's Time To Raise The CMO Bar
I was recently invited to share my perspective on why and how the CMO role has changed and where it is headed at a CMO conference before a diverse range of B2C and B2B CMOs. This topic interested me because I have been living the rapid transformation of the CMO and brand marketer my whole professional life at P&G, Coca-Cola, and Samsung. I s...
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