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The new CMO – the growth champion?

The big consumer brands that have long defined the industry are no longer untouchable. A combination of rapidly changing consumer needs and expectations and a levelling competitive playing field is creating a highly uncertain, disruptive environment – one full of challenges, but ripe with new possibility too.

Today’s consumers expect brands to know them inside out – and use that knowledge to deliver authentic products, services and experiences that are entirely relevant when it really matters.

So, where does the chief marketing officer (CMO) fit into all this? Recent years have seen CMOs of the big consumer brands, achieve phenomenal success. The best pioneered masterful brand building – and built titan reputations as they did so – achieving the marketing holy grail of embedding their brands at the centre of their consumers’ everyday lives.

But these CMOs face a constant challenge to find the right balance between exceling in their traditional marketing functions and contributing to overall business growth.

On the one hand, the accelerated pace of change today is forcing them to focus on being brilliant at the basics just to keep up with their customers. On the other hand, Accenture’s research shows 52% of consumer goods CEOs now hold their CMOs responsible for driving disruptive growth.

So how can CMOs best manage these competing requirements? The temptation is to fall back on what’s worked before. Three in every four CMOs say the top way they look to achieve strategic marketing objectives is by reapplying solutions that worked in the past.

But this isn’t sustainable in the long run. An agile, responsive “living” business set on capturing future sources of growth needs its CMO to help create new value, supporting “hyper-relevant” experiences that deliver just what the customer needs, just when they need it.

The growth agenda

CMOs should therefore be helping the whole organisation orient itself around customer needs and growth. The goal is to deliver relevance at scale by creating an organisation that can adapt and respond, not just to where customers are today, but also to where they’ll be tomorrow. That means working across the organisation to upgrade operating models and shape a far more customer-centric culture.

Just look at how the Intelligent Brewing Company is cleverly crowdsourcing consumer views about its beers via its website, then using artificial intelligence to update its recipes. By pinpointing its marketing and operating model around customer needs, it’s identified a new growth opportunity and is delivering consumer relevance on a whole new scale.

New toolkits required

Today many CMOs of consumer brands are still being held back by legacy systems and processes – significantly more so than in other industries. Six out of 10 claimed they weren’t able to develop the more agile, dynamic organisations and operating models required in today’s fast-changing environment.

Modern, adaptable backend systems will deliver the marketing agility that smaller, newer competitors are already enjoying. And technologies like AI, analytics, and IoT will open up new operating models and create different and much more personalised outcomes for customers.

Maximising future talent

CMOs must also be ready to reimagine skillsets and ways of working. Many are abandoning static hierarchies to create more flexible organisational structures (such as multidisciplinary “pods” of employees formed to solve specific problems).

They should also be planning for a very different kind of workforce, including entirely new roles like “immersive experience designers”, “growth hackers”, and “futurologists” who can unlock growth through experimentation and technology-led creativity.

Beyond brilliant basics

As the expectations on marketers continue to grow, CMOs must find the freedom to take on an expanded role, balancing the need to deliver the marketing basics brilliantly and cost-effectively with the need to help the whole business pivot to future sources of revenue. It means growth is now a central part of every CMO’s agenda.

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