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The growth market CMO: serving on the front lines of change

As growth markets increasingly shape the global economy, marketers are entering new worlds of change. And the chief marketing officer (CMO) role is being expanded amid an evolving economy driven by international business and new technology.

In particular, widespread geopolitical movements and digital transformation are shifting consumer behaviours, demographics, and global trade, defining the role that businesses play in a hyper-connected and competitive marketplace. These changes are placing marketing leaders directly on the front lines of change, challenging them to identify, understand and connect with unfamiliar and quickly evolving audience segments.

In today’s global economy, companies must always place the customer at the centre of every decision so they can build brand equity, resonate with key audiences and stand out in a crowded marketplace. Notably, CMOs in growth markets are rising to the occasion to prioritize the customer experience, promote cross-functionality, and lead companies into new territory.

Introducing the C-suite to new customers

Despite prolonged slowdowns in advanced economies, growth in emerging markets has become the linchpin of the global economy, boasting an average growth rate of over 4.5% annually according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, consumers in these growth markets are open to adopting new products, offering boundless opportunities for multinational companies. For example, consumers in APAC markets have the highest brand-switching propensity in the world according to data from Neilson, with 47% of consumers willing to switch brands or try new products compared to North America (36%) and Europe (33%).

The C-suite is shifting its gaze on growth opportunities within emerging markets, realizing that sustainable revenue growth requires investment in markets that are traditionally overlooked or seen as niche. But they must first identify audience demographics, navigate cultural nuances and understand what motivates these consumers’ purchasing decisions.

As experts in communication and messaging, the marketing department can readily provide multinational companies with an introduction to prospective audiences in growth markets. The CMO serves as an important link between company leadership and customers and ideally advocates for both the company and the customers. Enhancing the C-suite-to-customer dynamic helps to drive decisions that prioritize customers, boost touchpoints and eventually capture market share.

Harnessing data-driven touchpoints

Through new tools and technologies, consumers and businesses across growth economies enjoy unprecedented access to products, services and experiences. Customers are accustomed to digital experiences and increasingly expect personalized experiences that are tailored to their behaviours and needs. On the other side, digital technology enables a company to measure customer sentiments and behaviors so they can better deliver these experiences.

With growth markets undergoing economic and social changes, consumer behaviours are abruptly evolving. Therefore, CMOs in growth markets must become experts at data collection so they can respond with effective, responsive customer touchpoints. This enriches customer experiences and helps build brand equity in new markets.

Additionally, CMOs can leverage digital touchpoints to measure the pulse of growth economies and decide where to invest, whether it is in China’s surging consumer class or India’s artificial intelligence ventures. But, in the age of information, marketers are bombarded with a constant flow of information that can either inform smart decisions or exhaust valuable resources. Marketers must adapt and become proficient at deciphering value and interpreting the context of the data being turned out by digital touchpoints. Most importantly, they must be able to apply the data to effectively drive results.

The emphasis on data is expanding the function of today’s CMO, making them part Chief Customer Officer (CCO), part Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and also part sorcerer of modern business dynamics. Having these additional abilities empowers CMOs to deploy employees, tools and company resources to create integrated marketing initiatives that respond to customer needs—and align all parts of the business with the customer experience.  

Cross-functionality: moving from siloes to synergy

With effective communication at the heart of marketing, CMOs enjoy privileged access to both customers and the C-Suite. This is a demanding position to assume—but a powerful one. Ultimately, the CMO has the potential to synch up all departments of a company to create superior customer experiences that add market value and appeal to customers.

The CMO is a champion for cross-functionality. On a given day they find themselves daily leading international video conferences, interfacing with each member of the C-suite and meeting with product development teams, sales departments, accounting/budgeting professionals, IT directors and brand management experts. In many organizations, these teams are siloed and work independently. But in a fast-paced business landscape, the CMO can implement actionable marketing strategies that incorporate each of these functions into an integrated plan.

C-Suite executives have achieved success because they are motivated, intelligent and understand that qualified information drives quality decisions. The CMO can empower the entire leadership team with the insights and tools that shape a company’s values, reassess priorities and guide stronger customer relationships.

Every conversation and meeting the CMO participates in should be aimed at supporting the needs, concerns and experiences of customers. After all, knowing what the customer wants is the key to bringing the right products and services to market, in the right way, at the right time—across all functions of the business.

Facing the unknown

The potential of emerging, untapped markets is still largely unknown—and that only adds to the excitement and allure for multinational companies. Marketing leaders in growth markets must embrace a cross-functional view of both their department and the company at large, promoting syncopated marketed strategies that centre around the customer experience.

In a new global economy powered by international and digital technology, today’s growth market CMOs are guiding a company’s path toward becoming an intelligent enterprise—one that agilely delivers superior experiences to a rapidly evolving customer base. 


Amy Scissons serves as CMO (international) at global HR consultancy Mercer, which provides marketing leadership in more than 100 cities and 41 countries, outside of the United States and Canada. She has over 20 years of experience leading and developing go-to-market strategies for firms across the globe, primarily in business-to-business finance, technology and consulting industries. Her areas of expertise include marketing strategy, demand generation, customer-centric digital/data-driven marketing, and leading high-performance teams.