Big Q CMOs: Is there any more room in the C-suite?
by MarkLives (@marklives) Is there a new C-suite executive on the horizon? Is it time to redefine the role of the CMO, possibly by agreeing that the roles of CMO and CTO are aligning and need some level of collaboration? And can this result in more-effective growth strategies for organisations? We asked a panel of key industry executives for their take. Next up are Wendy Bergsteedt of Coronation Fund Managers, Yegs Ramiah of Sanlam and Glenn Gillis of Sea Monster.
Once tasked with managing communications and brand, the modern CMO’s role has been expanding to include technology, data and impact (ie sales and the bottom line). Where this is not the case, anecdotal evidence suggests shorter tenures, and a loss of prominence and clout at board level.
Is there any more room in the C-suite? It’s predictable to expect new titles being thrown into the mix in an attempt to ensure business relevance in relation to the ever-changing consumer landscape. The constant add-ons create a crowded house and makes agility very difficult. chief technology officer, chief cloud officer, chief security officer, chief information officer, chief marketing officer, chief risk officer… too many chiefs, perhaps?
In the digital age, our biggest differentiator will be agility in decision-making and in our rapid responses to consumer behavioural changes. The latest role addition to the C-suite, the chief digital officer (CDO), is meant to map a clear path to business digitisation and is also referred to as the ‘transformation chief’ in many global organisations.
The typical approach to digital transformation kicks off with grandiose goals of becoming a digital businesses overnight, often forcing an unnatural evolution in organizations, postulating that everyone becomes a digital genius in record time. Ironically, the best evolutions take place when there are less people involved in decision-making, with a clear relation between digital tech and the organisation’s plans.
Technology should be seen as an enabler of strategy, rather than the strategy itself, so growing the C-suite may not be the answer for everyone. Instead of an obsessive focus on driving technological advancement, we should be setting our gaze on achieving our own unique strategic digital objectives. Our own unique focus will ultimately drive the evolution of marketing and C-suite roles, which may not resemble the status quo but can efficiently deliver to organic digital growth. Objectives that span across acquisition drives, entry into new markets, seamless customer journey development or driving business efficiency will each demand a different approach to structure.
Whether it’s the CMO or CIO spearheading the digital evolution, the focus should remain on the holistic technology ecosystem and how data, consumer insights, research and distribution feed the bigger business agenda. Our ultimate goal as marketers should be to drive a collaborative approach with existing stakeholders.
In my view, the shift in the role of the CMO is real. There is more consolidation and integration of roles within marketing and technology. Savvy organisations understand it’s not the business structure that counts but rather an evolving proposition to clients. Clients need to have a voice at ‘the exco table’ and it’s the responsibility of the CMO to ensure that they’re at the centre of all discussions and decisions.
I believe technology is essential but not a differentiator. Marketing will always be about connecting with people. Clients want the option to talk to someone when they chose to, as well as the option of using tech, so understanding clients and addressing their needs appropriately is what is key. Clients don’t differentiate, for instance, between a tech company and a financial company; they expect the same levels of service, irrespective of who they deal with.
Marketing has to lead the organisation to be responsible, to help change consumer behavior and help clients to make the right choices. We need to understand the role we need to play in their lives and do exactly that. Growth will come from us analysing big data, gaining real insights and being relevant in the client’s life by offering a better client experience. And this comes from understanding our evolving role.
Glenn Gillis is CEO of Sea Monster, which specialises in 2D animation and the development of engaging games for work or play. Glenn’s passion and experience lie in the creative industries; in serious gaming, and animation; and in the building of international knowledge-intensive businesses.
For me, marketing has always been about the total customer experience and the total value proposition that exists between communities, users, customers and the organisations themselves.
If marketing is under pressure, it’s because it too narrowly defined its own purpose in the world. If you go back to basics, it’s not about data, it’s not about any of these new-fangled terms; it’s still about the same thing and that is who your user is, how you are creating value for them, how they are finding ways to connect with the organisation.
So, yes, we were lucky as marketers because we could use advertising exclusively, and then did we get lazy? Did we forget that we properly need to measure returnable investment and that a lot of the models that underpin advertising and effectiveness are no longer valid?
So, if your CIO is eating your data for breakfast, then you only have yourself to blame because true strategy has always been driven by measurement, both quantitative and qualitative measures.
I don’t think there’s a new C-suite member; I think the answer is a marketer who’s gone back to their original purpose of what marketing is actually about, not simply communications and one-way communication. In many organisations, marketing departments have become marketing service departments; they misunderstand the nature of the word “strategy”, which is a long, clear process that ultimately drives values.
Go back to the four basic Ps: what are they doing about price, place and product? They’ve not run towards those holistic offerings but have just been focusing on the promotion element, and that is a marketing services business.
- Big Q CMOs: The new pressures faced by today’s CMOs — Luca Gallarelli
- Big Q CMOs: The changing role of the CMO — Bandile Ndzishe
- Big Q CMOs: Changing CMO role an opportunity for agencies — Johanna McDowell
- Big Q CMOs: The CMO’s role in today’s technically advanced world — Prakash Patel
Launched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the ad industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of potential panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.