The role of the CMO has been changing in response to increasingly sophisticated internal and external environments, whether it is the rise of digital, complex talent mixes, challenge of integrating multiple channels or capturing the attention of customers among the clutter of marketing messages.
Steve Tappin, host of BBC World News’ The CEO Guru, shares his insights into the definition of a good CMO, challenges facing CMOs and how they can become potential candidates for CEO.
Excelling as a CMO
Branding, in terms of employer branding, internal communications and presenting the brand to customers externally, is central to what counts as a good CMO.
Tappin said, “The great CMO understands the emotions of clients and their behaviours, as well as their employees and co-workers. They need the skills of the psychologist and sociologist, as brands have to adapt to becoming human brands.”
To build the human side of the brand, CMO need to set relationship-building, instead of sales, as the long-term goal.
“The focus overall is still on the ‘wrong end’ – consumers don’t purchase because you tell them but because they get emotionally connected. It should be on building trust, which takes a longer period of time but is more sustainable and rewarding in the end,” Tappin said.
“The CMO outperformers are committed to developing a clear ‘corporate character’. CMOs in such organisations recognise that what a business believes and how it subsequently behaves are as important as what it sells.”
These customer relations should revolve around individual customers and be driven by data.
“Brands that seek to lead need to recognise the human in the data, uncover genuine insights and create a truly personalised and curated experience,” Tappin said.
He takes Apple as an example of a global brand that has created an integrated network organised around individuals.
“By connecting businesses to consumers, consumers to each other, and even brands to other brands, Apple serves as an enabler of both business and personal value creation,” Tappin said.
Sources of data for getting closer to the customer include data mined from digital sources and more traditional sources of data such as marketing research and competitive benchmarking.
How CMOs can portray themselves as attractive candidates for CEO
For Tappin, CEOs need holistic understanding of the strategic business priorities of human capital, customer relationships, innovation, operational excellence, the corporate brand and reputation. They also need to embody and articulate those priorities for both employees and customers.
“When it comes to the role of the CMO and how they can assist in driving the way an organisation is going, it is definitely through their role as brand developer and manager, as the brand is a filter for business and internal decisions and empowers us to decide what is on or off brand,” Tappin said.
CEOs should also embrace a model of collaboration that brings different skill sets together albeit from different functional areas in the organisation.
That’s why diplomacy may be the most critical skill a CMO must have in their bid for the CEO seat.
“Silos still exist in companies. Politics and dysfunction are still some of the biggest barriers to overcome for CMOs. Sales wants control over revenue delivery, finance over budget and investment decisions, IT over digital,” Tappin said.
“It is challenging to create collaborative environments where everyone comes together for the greater good instead of their individual performance scorecards. CMOs must lead while being persuasive.”