The Next Era of the CMO is Here: Are You Ready For It?
Late Night with Larry: Volume 8
In the face of change and disruption, many people become overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the moment. But for me, I feel excitement. Change means an opportunity to do things differently, be better, and innovate. The marketing industry is in one of those transformational moments right now. Those who understand how to adapt and aggressively pursue their vision have a unique window of time to sprint ahead.
There’s no arguing that the list of expectations placed on the CMO is growing. Customers demand consistent and exceptional experiences that take place across an expanding collection of devices and channels both on and offline. Advertising platforms are doubling down on their own automation and targeting—and putting up taller barriers to keep data and budgets within their own four walls. Brand values are under unprecedented scrutiny. In the digital world, marketers are scrambling to react to the end of third party cookies (my advice on where to re-focus that energy, later). And, on top of it all, CMOs face increasing pressure to demonstrate the ROI of every penny.
Couple these changes with post-pandemic business acceleration and it’s clear that marketers need to think bigger and differently to be successful. The talent, skills, and technology required to win will look different in the future.
This is true for Rise, too. Rise originally made its mark by being among the first in our industry to see the necessity of coupling analytics with creative for effective marketing. While our competitors hired traditional marketing talent, we brought on former financial analysts and data enthusiasts to help our clients take data-driven media management to a new level.
Today, I see the next era of marketing and Rise’s future just as clearly. Driving growth and connecting with customers will require a fundamentally new approach powered by another new set of faces essential for marketing success: technologists. These experts will infuse data engineering, systems architecture, and technical media skills across four core responsibilities that remain squarely within the CMO’s control:
- Fuel Your Brand Engine
- Future-Proof Your Audience Strategy
- Act on Real Time Opportunities
- Prove Your Impact
By focusing on these four areas and adding the right technologist talent to your strategy, you will use the magic of your brand to inspire people and turn them into customers in tomorrow’s ever-changing world. You will lead your company’s growth and shape important decisions at the C-suite table. Let’s look at this new approach and what you will need to win.
1. Fuel Your Brand Engine
Among all the CMO’s responsibilities in the evolution of marketing, the most enduring is the ownership of the brand. Machines simply cannot automate what makes your brand great, or the craft of translating your brand’s essence to an image, phrase, or ad. The CMO must continue to harness the uniqueness of their brand to differentiate and build long-lasting relationships with customers.
The CMO’s new challenge is conveying this brand story and connecting with customers at scale against a backdrop of channel fragmentation. The volume and diversity of creative needed to speak to audiences across all of the platforms—each with its own ad units and best practices—is untenable without the help of technology. Tomorrow’s winning CMO will assemble a team of experts with not only creative vision, but also operational and executional excellence in translating that vision to a scalable content generation strategy that uses a combination of CGI, a remote network of studios, and smart digital asset management to create more variety without ballooning budgets. As part of the Quad network, we’ve seen how brands benefit from agency partnerships that use technology and vertical integration to plan and produce content at scale.
2. Future-Proof Your Audience Strategy
What has been true for decades will continue to be true—there’s no “one way” to reach your target audience. Your best customers can be found in many places, and the smartest marketers focus their time and energy on continual testing to understand what makes their customers tick. That’s why I tell our clients not to lose sleep over third party cookies—we still have plenty of audience targeting options and we will use data to learn which are best.
Executing a sophisticated audience strategy at scale, however, does require a technology level-up. First, CMOs need to get serious about their first party audience data and invest in end-to-end strategies. This means allocating budget to both a technology stack that can collect, store, and sort customer data and a dedicated team of data analysts and engineers that can find commonalities among audience groups and segment them for testing. Brands that can feed this information to the ad platform algorithms the fastest will win.
Second, CMOs need technology that allows them to compare the performance of one audience vs. another across all of the platforms they are activating. With each walled garden platform claiming to have the best and most accurate audience data, marketers can decide for themselves how to maximize performance across the advertising ecosystem—provided they have the right data. With the help of Rise data engineers and Connex technology, we enable brands to be data source independent by using evergreen comparison models across audiences and platforms.
3. Act on Real Time Opportunities
Putting your growth strategy into action requires real time connectivity with your customers: meeting them where they are with a unique and meaningful message. This often starts with a brand promise and a media plan to amplify that promise. In simplest form, your media plan is a collection of hypotheses about which combinations of ads, audiences and channels will produce desired results at each stage of the purchase journey. It’s a data-informed jumping off point.
Then that media plan goes live in a world with dozens of competing marketing channels and platforms, increasing levels of automation, and unprecedented digital connectivity that can shift customer sentiment on a dime. Data that is even one or two days old could mean serious dollars left on the table from missed opportunities. Now, picture the volume of data combinations that occur when you multiply each of your unique audiences by each creative message across each platform or channel for each desired outcome from any given interaction. The amount of information generated every single moment—containing critical business insights—is overwhelming.
To compete in this new world, CMOs need an entirely new breed of media manager and/or agency partner that can use automation and technology to their advantage to act on real time changes to critical factors such as demand surges, ad message effectiveness, geographic events, and more. Your smartest and most analytical marketers have been able to do some of this work to-date, but it’s time to hire professionals specifically trained in engineering and architecting sustainable data solutions. Providing your marketing team with a technology that unifies media data from all platforms and provides real time notifications of where to take action is no longer just a nice-to-have. I firmly believe that brands and agencies that have not invested in building or borrowing this capability will fall behind, which is why data architects, analysts, and engineers are among Rise’s fastest growing new hires.
4. Prove Your Impact
When I consider the disconnect we sometimes see between CMOs and CFOs—speaking different languages and disagreeing on how marketing is improving the business’s bottom line—my first thoughts are: what is their measurement framework? Did they agree on it? Do they have the right data infrastructure in place to answer the questions they both want answered?
Often, the answer to these questions is no. Mostly that’s because connecting marketing investments to metrics like ROI or incremental new customers is challenging. CMOs of the future will aim for yes. They’ll invest in the data infrastructure and technologist talent needed to construct a strong measurement foundation with real time data flow.
This is how you unlock the ability to build marketing programs and make decisions based on marketing’s impact to the metrics that grow your business. If gross margin is a priority, the right data infrastructure allows you to set variable goals for your ad spend at the product or category level based on margin data, and adjust those goals up or down as appropriate. Or, CMOs and CFOs can partner to determine how much the business should be willing to spend to acquire a customer from a certain audience segment based on the expected lifetime revenue of that type of customer. Each of these use cases requires data engineers and technology to execute.
Remember that excitement I wrote about at the beginning? I feel it in a big way right now. We are at a moment in time where disruption in the marketing industry is creating openings for innovative and forward-thinking marketers to thrive. If you can make progress in these four areas you have an opportunity to take your brand to new heights—and isn’t that what we’re all here to do? If you’re ready to use this pivot point and go for it, let's connect. Send me a message.