The Changing Role of the Chief Marketing Officer – Part 1

Added Value recently undertook to understand the role of the CMO in today’s businesses and the challenges these executives face. In part 1 of this 2 part series senior brand consultant, Alison Tucker, takes a top line look at the changing role – and priorities – of the modern CMO.

The Marketing Science Institute has said that chief marketing officers (CMO) cite eight priority topics on their agenda for 2012 and the remainder of the decade.

Combining both strategic and operational responsibilities, these priorities are:

– Understanding consumer experience and behavior
– Using market information to identify opportunities for profitable growth
– Developing marketing capabilities for a customer-focused organization
– Identifying and realizing innovation opportunities
– Delivering value through enhanced media and channels
– Managing brands in a transformed marketplace
– Allocating resources to marketing activities
– Leveraging research tools and new sources of data

These priorities highlight the complex role CMOs play in the success of their organizations, and why one ex SABMiller CMO is quoted as saying: “Group marketing can be the end of a promising career. For it not to be, the issues that make the role so ambiguous need to be tackled.”

We recently analyzed MSI’s priorities, and found that it is clear that the CMO’s responsibilities are changing in light of the evolving marketplace.

This change is clearly evident in the shift in focus of CMOs from consumers to include a broader set of stakeholders. Today, most CMOs are responsible for:

Leading the corporate strategy – corporate strategy and vision development, strategic corporate branding and positioning, brand marketing strategies, strategic and go-to-market plans and brand architecture development.

Overseeing the marketing and sometimes the sales operations – corporate marketing, activity, advertising and branding and generating sales by building a communications framework and brand image that differentiates the brand, protects margins, and grows sales.

Innovation and research – market research and analysis and competitive market intelligence gathering, new product introduction management, development of product/service offer and value proposition, product portfolio management, and business growth and development facilitation.

Leading other aspects of corporate strategy – managing marketing cross-functionally, aligning the business units under the corporate brand, developing relevant rollout programs, demonstrating ROI including new ways to measure and act on basic metrics, reflecting the company’s core values in leading the marketing team and contributing as senior leadership, implementing programs to support cross-selling of services and products, and keeping an eye on marketing efficiency and best practice sharing

Communicating the marketing plan to internal constituencies – corporate vision communications (express the corporate vision to employees to ensure clear and accurate message transmission) and marketing communications (maintain responsibility for all marketing messages to employees; ensure that all employees remain updated on messaging campaigns)

Communicating the marketing plan to investors and customers – corporate/public relations with media and industry analysts, and responsibility for all marketing messages to customers; drive the creation and presentation of marketing campaign content to increase customer adoption and loyalty

As this shows, the CMO is intimately involved with most of the business units and functionality of the organization.

However, his or her most critical task is to create links across the business – that is, to align the brand strategy with the business strategy.

To create these links, the CMO requires a clear mandate and the support of the CEO. This can mean – it should mean – that the CMO and CEO establish the decision ‘rights’ needed to lead an effective organization.

Two men who did this very successfully are Sergio Zyman and David Wheldon.

Legendary former CMO of Coke, Zyman raised the stature of the marketing discipline. He did the job twice and the second time around he had the sense to negotiate a very clear and powerful board mandate. His word on any aspect of marketing, in any part of the world, was law.

Wheldon, ex-Vodafone CMO, turned a technology business into the largest customer facing cellular brand, and was instrumental in getting marketing executives in local operations moved onto the board at Vodafone.

McKinsey suggests a CEO can support the CMO on three fronts:

Take time to understand what’s really happening with customers (rather than just focusing on the brand image and financial results normally covered in review sessions)

Foster the right connection between the CMO’s efforts and those of the other parts of the organization (to ensure heads of business units view CMO initiatives as worthy of their involvement and support, rather than simply passing them down the line)

Be a ‘thought partner’ for the CMO as he or she transforms the marketing organization (lots of change required and even a CEO who lacks a marketing background typically has more experience with organizational development and can be a valuable counselor)

At the end of the day, however, despite changing roles, environments and consumers, to be successful, the CMO has to take risks, and come up with the big ideas. And that hasn’t changed since the job was first created.

By Alison Tucker, Senior Brand Consultant, Added Value South Africa.

Part 2 will cover how CMO’s themselves need to change with a rapidly changing marketing environment.

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