5 Hot Topics For Progressive CMOs

The agendas for CMOs continue to be full of topics that they have been managing for years. Being a steward for the brand in the face of a changing society. Generating demand to feed the sales pipeline. Demonstrating the value of marketing investments to the CFO and the board. But there are new hot topics that are working their way onto the agendas of progressive CMOs. Here are five emerging areas of focus that are adding stress to the workload of marketing leaders.

Brand & Demand – Being brand stewards and demand generators are nothing new for CMOs. But the tension on how to invest across the brand-to-demand continuum is heating up. Boards want to know how the investments in brand building are connecting to stimulating demand. Internal teams who myopically focus on brand or demand are creating integration and coherency issues. Measurement systems aren’t connecting the full-funnel to analyze how to optimize the brand-demand mix. Indeed’s CMO Jessica Jensen provided her perspective on this challenge, “Sadly so many marketing teams are still divided into brand and performance silos, and at Indeed we are beating the drum of ‘brandformance.’ Our marketing needs to move hearts and minds like brands can, and also drive accounts and revenue growth. We are focused on a full funnel view of marketing impact measurement that looks at multi-channel brand investment impacts on our core metrics like job seeker account creates, SMB & Enterprise B2B revenue and more.”

Customer Experience – A recent report from Forrester Research indicated that the top issue for CMOs to address is improving the customer experience. CX has a critical impact on loyalty and advocacy which in turn has an impact on customer acquisition. But customers experience a brand across a myriad of touch points which are often managed by non-marketing departments each using separate systems and customer data. The results are often fragmented and less than satisfying for the customer. So how can a CMO influence improvements in customer experience? LendingTree’s new chief marketing and customer experience officer Shiv Singh shared his perspective, “At LendingTree, we talk about the customer experience as every touchpoint that the consumer has with us. It can be an advertising experience, a form fill experience, an app experience. It can be through the lens of our email and CRM program. It can be through our call centers. It can be through what they read about us in the press because we share very important points of view on personal finance through our experts, who are quoted every week in The Wall Street Journal and on CNBC. And the trickiest one is unique to our business model. Without realizing it sometimes, we also carry responsibility for the customer experience that the consumer eventually has with the lender, because we’re that bridge to the lender or insurance company.”

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Singh continued, “I think that the word cross-functional understate how cross-functional customer experience truly is. It goes beyond that whole organization. It’s with my peer in the tech organization, the business folks. We’re all in it together. I can’t emphasize the importance of that enough.”

Personalization – Advertising that is directly relevant to a prospect will usually perform better than ads that aren’t. Experiences that are tailored to known information about that person will be better appreciated by them. But delivering personalized communications and experiences at scale requires the right technology and data infrastructure as well as organizational approaches to developing atomized content. Most marketing teams are still lagging in these areas.

“True personalization, the ability to provide relevant, timely offers and experiences to consumers is done well by very few brands,” admitted Barclays US Consumer Bank CMO Lili Tomovich. “The bifurcation of data, the ability to capture accurate consumer preference and the proliferation of communication platforms makes personalization complicated and challenging to achieve.” But Tomovich is making progress, “At Barclays US Consumer Bank we believe that the first step in personalization is to deliver the best customer experience across the customer’s channel of choice. Our customer experience transformation strategy is focused on making every engagement with our customer better than before. Simple but powerful.”

ESG – Consumers and business decision makers are increasing considering whether the brands they want to buy from share their values. Is the company committed to environmental sustainability or merely greenwashing? Are they taking a stand on social issues that matter to me? Do they behave in an ethical and responsible way with all the decisions they make? The growing concern over these topics is bringing CMOs into new collaborations as companies determine how they want to crawl, walk or run in the domains of ESG (environmental, social and governance). At Wiley, Shari Hofer, the CMO, is actually the lead for her company’s ESG initiatives. She elaborated, “The ESG function is part of my team, which is fantastic and we’re actively building that function out. When we were going through our branding exercise, we had to determine what our brand is. Is it an action brand? What does it do? And for us, we felt that Wiley is a brand that enables impact. So in order to live that and activate that mission, we are working heavily to figure out how we make an impact from the environmental, the social, and the governance standpoints. Do we actually act and do the things that we say we are? We’ve just hired somebody new to come in and help us with our ESG effort. We’re in build mode at the moment to make sure that everything aligns with our brand and our brand promise.”

Hofer expanded on Wiley’s focus, “We signed onto the UN Global Compact and we found that there were three of the Sustainable Development Goals that we could legitimately say that Wiley as a business can impact. We selected SDGs 4, 10, and 13 – Quality Education. Reduced Inequality and Climate Action.”

Talent – The battle for talent has heated up across most companies, not just within marketing. The Great Resignation is making talent retention strategies critical. Recruiting new talent is essential in a highly competitive environment. Many Chief People Officers are creating alliances with their CMO colleagues to bring brand and marketing principles to the domain of HR. Employer branding, employee value propositions, employee experience design and talent recruitment advertising are often being co-developed by CMOs and CPOs.

“Hiring and retaining the best employees has always been a challenge, which has now been exacerbated by macro-level challenges such as inflation and adapting to hybrid work environments. That’s why the partnership between the CMO and chief people officer has never been more important,” expressed Coupa CMO Chandar Pattabhiram. “At Coupa, we approach this with a ‘Hire to Inspire’ flywheel. This includes articulating our brand’s purpose and promise clearly to recruits; engaging employees on an ongoing basis with compelling storytelling on the vision, direction and core values of the company; and showcasing the spirit of passionate employee advocates via different channels to inspire new recruits.”

Most of these topics require a cross-organizational approach to addressing them and CMOs are perfectly situated to lead the needed collaboration across the C-suite. But is takes a different leadership style that depends more on influence than on control. Veteran CMO Denise Karkos of SiriusXM put it this way, “Given the broad scope of a CMO’s job today, you need to spend a lot of time building relationships and trust across the organization. But translating that to influence and impact requires more than just a strong EQ. That’s where your experience and a convincing fact base behind your idea will do the heavy lifting.”

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