CMOs are facing challenging times. Their function has evolved to encompass two complementary and essential strands: innovation and growth. However, although it is vital for marketers to have a secure grasp of both, they are individual specialisms in themselves.
Historically, expertise in these disciplines has been the remits of the tech and new business teams, respectively. Today, these processes are so intertwined that a whole new model for the marketing function is needed. Coca-Cola’s recent restructure—which sees marketing responsibilities falling to the newly created Chief Growth Officer, with a separate senior spot for the Chief Innovation Officer—clearly recognises this. Furthermore, Mondelez’ statement following the departure of CMO Dana Anderson, outlining its focus on finding a digital-first, disruptive, and innovative leader to mobilise a marketing breakthrough, shows that change is afoot.
CMOs are becoming increasingly growth-oriented and analysis-led. It’s a necessity in an age when measurement of ROI is both a key indicator of success and data dependent. Reliance on technology reflects the acceleration of digital transformation. As well as huge databases, multiple channels—from traditional print and TV, to online, social media, AR, and VR—must be managed by the modern CMO. Simply keeping abreast of what is, or is just about to be, possible is a huge task. CMOs now sit at the summit of a technical, technological, and acronym-littered mountain.
Unlike the CMO of old, who relied on just two agency partners of advertising and media, today’s CMOs have an increasing number of specialists in their network to navigate the proliferating choice of channels. Whilst this means they have a broad range of expertise at their fingertips, the resulting management responsibilities can be dizzying.
Technology now influences even the age-old marketing problem of cultivating and retaining loyal customers. As the role of CMO becomes more complex, so too does the marketplace. Clients and customers have an ever-expanding range of options, meaning it is increasingly difficult to capture and keep their attention. Marketers try to overcome this by striving to produce great and memorable work, but this is only possible when each element is resolved with clarity and expertise, then brought together.
So CMOs of the future need to be great conversationalists. This is because collaboration is the best way to find and exploit the new tools and technologies that can deliver unique and relevant customer experiences.
They need to be able to reliably turn to agency partners for cutting-edge support in increasingly specialised areas of expertise. Complexity and innovation demand it. On-trend and on-budget analysis, combined with insight, will be necessary to navigate the best route to successful outcomes. This is exactly what agency leads can bring to the table—the bigger picture vision. Their expertise introduces data, tech, and channel-savvy confidence to the creative conversation.
The best agencies are already planning for this, mapping out the blueprint for a strategy-focused future. They know that they need to be at the cutting edge of innovation if they are to bring problem-solving strategies to clients. Agency leaders agree that new and productive top-to-top partnerships will need to move away from the idea of “bought-in” creativity and strategy. Instead, they must share proactive, innovative ideas, provide counsel, and have the confidence to challenge the brief.
Consumers are adapting to technological change at an exponential rate, meaning CMOs are under enormous pressure to keep pace in order to remain relevant and effective. As the role of CMOs evolves, so will the way they work with agencies. Agencies must provide well-informed, committed, and expert strategists to become indispensable. Those that help guide CMOs through the labyrinth of contemporary marketing challenges will ensure success for both parties.