CMO Lab project reveals how marketing leaders are adapting to the pace of change

CMO Lab
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It’s been a long journey, but CMOs have finally earned their seat at the table and an expanded mandate that includes data and insights, customer experience, culture, corporate reputation and new technologies. As a result, the Chief Marketing Officer has become one of the most influential roles in an organization.

However, new digital platforms have shifted customer behaviour and spending and B2B marketers are now facing a reality where conventional approaches are no longer delivering the audience, engagement or impact that their brands need.

So, how are CMOs keeping up with the pace of change? To answer this question, we surveyed more than 100 CMOs and senior marketers as part of our CMO Lab project, a joint initiative with APEX PR, ruckus Digital and Maru/Blue. The survey revealed that marketers were resisting change and that only one third had evolved their strategies in the last few years. This finding upended our hypothesis that marketers – particularly B2B marketers – would already be placing greater emphasis on integrated strategies across all channels and audiences.

As we dug further into the results, several themes emerged:

  • A (not so) integrated approach: When it comes to an organization’s marketing, less than half of CMOs include PR, corporate culture or HR in their communications plans. Many CMOs are ignoring employee and organizational communications entirely, leaving out some their brand’s most vocal and authentic advocates.
  • Reputation matters, but marketers are unprepared: A full 90 per cent of CMOsbelieve brand and organizational reputation has grown in importance in the last few years. However, just half say they could have been more proactive when managing a reputational risk that impacted their organization and 64 per cent reported that they are not fully prepared to pivot their strategy in response to an unexpected event.
  • Sources of innovation: Half of CMOs say marketing innovation comes from inside their organization and half partner with other organizations to acquire new skills.
  • Expanded audiences: Not surprisingly, CMOs focus most of their marketing efforts on reaching customers, but this may come at the expense of building or strengthening relationships with other important audiences including employees, stakeholders and the media, all of whom may have an interest in staying informed of an organization’s activities. In fact, 20 per cent of CMOs report that they seldom or never consider the media a target audience and 26 per cent do not consider stakeholders a target audience.

What’s Holding Marketers Back?

So, what is holding marketers back from an integrated approach? We’ve considered a few possibilities:

Operational silos: An organization’s structure may be a roadblock for integration, and the legacy operations of separate marketing, employee engagement, customer experience, social media and PR departments may be too large a hurdle to overcome. Marketers may also lack the experience, influence or reputational capital to lead an integrated project, particularly so with global B2B firms.

To overcome these challenges, marketers need to focus on promoting the business benefits of integration to demonstrate that it can be a catalyst for growth.

Risk aversion: Marketers are comfortable with what they know and are reluctant to change-up their trusted playbook.

While the tactics and strategies they’ve relied on to-date have enabled them to deliver results for the business, media fragmentation, technological disruption and a rapidly changing business environment will make them less effective over time. To move beyond incremental and modest growth, marketers need the courage to look beyond what they already know and embrace an integrated approach.

Narrow view: As relative newcomers to the executive suite, it may be that marketers haven’t yet developed a full enterprise view of their organizations and are unfamiliar with how functions outside traditional marketing, including operations, employee engagement, customer experience, PR and reputation, can integrate effectively and contribute to revenue generation and business performance. They may also worry about self preservation and that the risk-return proposition for spearheading something new and innovative is not in their favour.

Marketers need to seize their opportunity to expand their knowledge of and influence in these areas of the business.

The Road Ahead

It’s been a long road, but marketers are expanding their roles beyond brand communication to include data and insights, customer experience, workplace culture, corporate reputation and new technologies. But our CMO Lab research suggests that by not adapting to change, they could be holding themselves (and their brands) back from even greater success. It’s also clear that agencies and other marcom professionals must do a better job in demonstrating the value of an integrated approach across a diversity of channels and audiences to their clients.

Looking ahead, CMOs should expand and extend their use of integrated communications to optimize programs and budget and reach more audiences. In doing so, they will achieve greater consistency of brand messages, enhance customer, public and employee engagement while driving growth.

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Jeff Roman

Jeff Roman

Jeff Roman is Senior Vice President at APEX Public Relations in Toronto. The CMO Lab project is a joint initiative with APEX Public Relations, ruckus Digital and Maru/Blue.