The evolving role of CMO: 4 predictions for a post-COVID-19 world

Published May 8, 2020 3:58 pm by admin
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In early 2019, we wrote about the evolving role of CMO. In the time of COVID-19, these predictions hold even truer; and marketing leaders everywhere are facing more pressure and potential change than ever before. We’ve updated our original post to reflect what CMOs and other marketing leadership can expect as we move toward our “new normal.”

As we move deeper into 2020 and deal with the ramifications of coronavirus, the role of CMO will become even more diverse and demanding. We’ve seen it evolve in recent years to encompass everything from driving organizational change, acting as the voice of the customer, innovating, harnessing and analyzing vast amounts of data, and taking a seat at the IT table—all while minimizing costs and maximizing customer retention. Oh, and yes, all while answering to the CEO.

Below, we’ll look at the four trends we outlined last year through the lens of our current reality.

  1. The CMO will be Chief Collaboration Officer in the C-Suite

Last year we talked about how the next level of automation and hyper-personalized marketing means that the CMO will need to collaborate with all of his/her C-suite peers to succeed. From operations to technology and beyond, the customer experience—and therefore, marketing—touches every silo in the organization. Aptly referred to as the symphonic C-suite by Deloitte University Press, the goal of today’s senior officers must be to act as experts playing in harmony to move the business forward—and perhaps CMOs most of all.

This is especially crucial in times of crisis—when businesses have to act fast to not only adapt their operations, but the communications they put out to their audiences. Discord within the C-Suite can be particularly detrimental when companies are being expected to step up and do the right thing.

  1. The CMO and CTO will become closer partners

In our first round of predictions, we talked about the tectonic social and technological shifts that have brought about a series of interconnected revolutions, including the Internet of Things, cloud storage, mobile and a customer journey that is no longer linear.

Because of this, CMOs will need to continue to collaborate with their tech-savvy C-suite peer—the CTO. In addition to artistry and deep understanding of people that go into the marketing functions, CMOs must be able to understand cloud computing, storage, transfer of information, technology infrastructure and network stability.

In the words of Eric Hadley of The Drum, “Now, chief marketing officers spend a greater percentage of their budget on tech than chief technology officers do, and are lauded for being data-driven.”

Through the lens of COVID-19, this trend still holds. CMOs will be expected to weigh in on enterprise tech decisions related to a more “socially distanced” (and therefore more online/remote) world.

  1. The CMO will be a champion of transparency

The customer is always right. And in these recent days, customers and employees alike are demanding more transparency from organizations. As Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte Global, put it recently:

“Resilient leaders seize the narrative at the outset, being transparent about current realities—including what they don’t know—while also painting a compelling picture of the future that inspires others to persevere. In a time of crisis, trust is paramount, and is a function of three elements. First, transparency in communicating the facts as you know them. Second, relationship with the audience: some level of ‘knowing’ each other among leaders, employees, customers, and the broader ecosystem. Last, it also depends on experience: Do you have a record of doing what you say?”

Indeed, the CMO will continue to become a powerful driving force in pushing for transparency at all levels of the organization as we move forward. As we’ve seen time and time again, it is a proven leadership trait in successful organizations.

  1. CMOs will push for more purpose

In 2019 we noted that companies like Patagonia were successfully embracing storytelling and branding connected to strong company missions/social stances. Other pre-pandemic examples include Nike’s Colin Kaepernick-style approaches to marketing and Gillette’s The Best a Man Can Be campaign.

Today, purpose and branding are more entwined than ever. Similar to the thinking around transparency, Renjen says focusing on purpose and mission is critical right now:

“Amid the crisis, a company’s purpose must remain steadfast: It’s never negotiable. Purpose is where the head and the heart meet. Purpose cultivates engaged employees, helps retain loyal customers, and helps companies transform in the right ways. Companies that are guided by their purpose when they face hard decisions have a keen sense for how they should evolve, and their myriad decisions remain internally consistent and coherent.”

As CMOs continue to navigate the ever-expanding duties of their evolving roles—combined with unprecedented new realities—there’s a big opportunity. In light of all the turbulence, we’re still optimistic—and excited to see the ways marketing leaders play a role in keeping their organizations and people safe, motivated and strong.