Mike Fromowitz
Jun 12, 2012

The new CMO and the end of business as usual.

We ask the question: What does it take to be a really good Chief Marketing Officer?We are seeing rapid social and technological shifts in marketing and advertising.  Social media spans the whole ...

The new CMO and the end of business as usual.

We ask the question: What does it take to be a really good Chief Marketing Officer?

We are seeing rapid social and technological shifts in marketing and advertising.  Social media spans the whole gamut from marketing, PR, support, product management and sales through the entire organization. The new CMO is gaining significantly more influence on the business as a whole – no longer just from a promotional perspective.

This has made the business decision-making landscape far more complex than in recent years. No job in the industry has been affected as much as it has for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).  The CMO’s job has to be one of the toughest around these days given the massive fragmentation going on in media and communications.

When you cut through all the layers of bureaucracy, it’s the CMO that must take on the responsibility, not just for the top-and bottom-line results of the company, but in setting the vision for the company through effective marketing.  What was once thought the CEO’s responsibility, I believe the CMO is now the key to both the short-and long-term value that can be created for the company.

Spurred by a number of social, demographic and political trends, the CMO is poised to assume unprecedented responsibility and impact within their organizations. The social media revolution is among the watershed developments of our age. It is transforming, before our eyes, the principles of brand building and customer loyalty.  These trends include the social media revolution, implementation of governmental legislation, the changing face of markets and others – all of which make the role of the CMO more complex. Today’s CMO is increasingly needed by their organizations as marketplace authorities; individuals who can interpret the market’s complexity as well as provide a pre-emptive strategy ahead of the curve.

For certain, not all corporations have re-positioned themselves in making the CMO’s role as vital—especially in Asian markets. Perhaps, as in any evolution, it’s only a matter of time. The CMO’s role has always focused on the simple design and execution of marketing plans. These plans were often dictated by the executive management. Now, companies looking to lead in the 21st Century are putting more responsibility on the shoulders of their CMOs, making them an integral part of the executive management team, and enabling them to play a vital role in shaping the organizations’ strategic vision and growth strategy.

The CMO in Asia

In Asia, as it is in other global markets,  the CMO must earn both a place at the table, and a voice.  CMOs must evolve to become a strategic advisor to the executive management team or risk marginalizing themselves back to the role of tactician. They have before them an exciting opportunity,  because most businesses are challenged today to keep their brands both relevant and vital in the face of rapidly shifting customer expectations and the social media revolution.

As a creative individual, (dare I say this, but I must)—for the CMO, creativity is not enough. He or she needs to justify all recommendations in terms of strategic impact and cost-benefit,  demonstrate the impact of marketing on their company’s performance, show where opportunities exist and how they might be captured, highlight risk, show where it exists and show how it can be mitigated.

This is the prerequisite for the CMO’s credibility with the CEO.

If there are lessons to be learned by today’s CMO who wish to sit at the executive table, it’s the lessons that Steve Jobs demonstrated so well at Apple: the higher purpose of marketing is to create demand; to build the perception among customers that they need what you are selling before they know it themselves. This, of course, is innovation – the hallmark of the world’s most admired companies.  Innovation, in this sense, is a marketing concept that rightly belongs in the CMO’s portfolio.

If the Holy Grail is to create market demand, then innovation is paramount to a corporations success. The CMO must lead through innovation, converting insight into new ideas, products and services that disrupt the norm and make way for creation of new demand.

More and more I think that their agencies are going to come to them with ideas not just for advertising and communication, but with other resources, whether it’s new product ideas, product management, revising product offerings,  helping to re-package products with new IP to maximise its value or leverage its full potential, — these are things that go beyond traditional  marketing and advertising,  beyond the digital offerings most every agency has become accustomed to. This will create a deeper and more valued partnership between the agency and the marketing company’s CMO.

CMO's must reinvent themselves

I’ve experienced CMO that are really brilliant and some that not so brilliant—yes, I’m being nice. The best of them think like renaissance people, and their organizations give them more control over their brands — including new products. Still, they will require creative people with wide experience who are on the cutting edge of what’s going on.

Smart marketers need a closer partnership with their ad agencies —more like a successful marriage—because for the CMO and his company, there is nothing more important you can do for the brand than help to create the product itself.

They will demand experienced creative people

Hopefully you agree with the premise that creativity is key, at all levels of business. If you don’t, you live on a different planet than I do. While business in the past was driven by efficiency, it’s creativity and innovation that will take companies to new heights now.

However, in my view, it will be the CMO who appreciates the past; is dedicated to the present, and who pushes the envelope of innovation with a vision for the future, that will achieve the greatest success.

In the past, CMO’s thought of creative people as right-brained “creatives” who see numbers as the province of left-brained “bean counters.”  To be successful, we’ll have to use both sides of our brains.  We’ll need to mine the data for the insight it gives into customer behavior, then use our new-found understanding to drive attitudes about the brands we shepherd.  We need to develop and implement whole brain capability to be successful.  Behavioral insights from data can provide the guidance needed.

The reasons are important to the CMO. He will look to creative people moving things forward--and pushing the boundaries of forms and technologies that haven’t been categorized as yet. It’s not about the things that comes out of ad agency “creative departments” or digital studios. It’s more about creative people making things better--processes, products, services—and in turn, making our lives a whole lot better.

In this over-commoditized and digital world, it’s never been easier for customers to switch brands. Creativity is one sure way to differentiate yourself from the competition. When products or services appear the same to the customer– the CMO will turn to creativity to define a unique approach and positioning that makes all the difference.

So creativity is not an accessory, it’s a hardcore business necessity. Forward thinking companies and their CMOs will make creativity and design their priority, not just a routine, and will work as Apple has, to integrate product, communications, service and consumer viewpoints.

What makes a Chief Marketing Officer great? Superior strategic thinking; creativity; deep understanding of the consumer market; the ability to sell a vision;  the courage to be counterintuitive, and a blend of lofty thinking and practical execution.

How to find a great CMO.

If you are looking for a great CMO, the best candidates are not always the most obvious.  To find one, you have to be a little creative and think out of the box. Your best candidate may be currently employed. He or she may be in a totally different industry than your company. The candidate may be at a company that is significantly larger or smaller than your own. You may even have to identify a good executive recruiter first to help you in your search—that is, if you don’t have an HR department.

The recruiter can help you access the broadest practical range of candidates capable of succeeding as your next CMO.  For certain, they will have to fine-tune their recruitment strategy to leverage your company’s unique strengths. It’s a bit like searching for Gold—its best to have a strategy first—before you start to dig.

It’s a new and harsh environment, but we think that the CMO's evolution will significantly benefit organizations, as this shift enables marketers to fully meet the duties of their role as the primary driver of the organization's growth.

Mike Fromowitz



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