Even after more than 25 years of Chief Marketing Officer recruiting, each time I place one I learn a lot. I learn not just what skills and qualities companies are looking for in these captains of commerce, but I also glean valuable insight into why candidates fail to make the final cut. You’ll find plenty of books and research on what makes a successful Chief Marketing Officer. But you probably won’t find many on why CMO candidates get passed over. I could easily write 50 separate articles on the “elimination factors.” But here, I’m going to focus on the importance of one very key element in the future of the Chief Marketing Officer: Technology.
First, let’s go back 20 years to help put this into context. As we all know, broadcast and print media ruled the world when it came to advertising. Marketing back then was more of an art than a science. It was about dancing hot dogs and silly brand mascost (remember the Ipana Beaver?). Arguably, it was “easier” to do marketing. Today, the landscape is completely different. Marketers must juggle a dizzying number of platforms and channels, and the type of messages they send is very different. Also, with the growth of analytics they now have the ability to have different conversations with different audiences, and that changes everything as it relates to how you structure your marketing team, how you put together content, and how you track analytics. It requires an entirely new set of capabilities. Many of the marketers I place in lower to mid level roles are no longer coming out of the advertising world, but rather, the sciences. Instead of marketers coming out of the big brands and into other industries, in many respects it is working the other way around as consumer product businesses now seek out talent from other industries where marketers have seen the future.
Today, it’s really challenging as a marketer to communicate and connect with the individual economy. As consumers, we know what we want, where we want it, and when we want it. As marketers, we build websites that are optimized so visitors can buy quickly and seamlessly. But it doesn’t stop at the checkout. It moves into deliveries of products and services when new technologies for hyper-personalization and automation comes into their own. As a consumer, we expect notifications from the online merchants we purchase from. And they have to be personalized, because if they’re not, customers will take to social media and make a large noise. Companies that want to grow and prosper in the future will be the ones that embrace these new technologies. And at many companies, it will be the CMO leading the way.
Chief Marketing Officers are at a critical stage in their evolution. Everything in the CMO’s world is changing: Their customers are changing, their business is changing, and expectations of their role as a leader are also changing. CMO’s have evolved from marketing leader to business leader. CMO’s are the new digital disruptors who rethink the very foundation of their business. This is the age of the customer, where the most important source of competitive advantage is to be customer obsessed. To win, serve and retain these empowered customers, the future of the Chief Marketing Officer means that they must recognize that technology often represents the new opportunity to drive their business, and they must create new strategies that capture and capitalize on these opportunities.
The proliferation of technology is totally changing how marketers work and the skills they need to succeed. It has given them far more ways to reach their customers and much wider access to data. As technology continues to fuel the inner workings of most every marketing operation, my CMO candidates need to have a firm grasp of technology just to even be considered by my clients. To be clear, my clients are not expecting their CMO’s to manage programmers or engineers. Rather, they need strong ideation skills around the creative use of technology. Marketers must also be able to handle the sometimes complex technical aspects of dealing with external agencies and service providers.
Many Fortune 500 corporations have responded by creating a new role, Chief Marketing Technologist, also known under other related titles, to set the technology vision for marketing and create the organizational structure to support it. Most CMT’s report up to either the CMO or other executive marketing leader.
For the future of the Chief Marketing Officer, all of this has made the job of CMO a great deal more challenging. Not only do they need to keep up with technological advances, they must ensure that they surround themselves with the right people and the right processes to optimize their tech investments, and that means continual advancement in tech skills. This growing emphasis on technology is pushing some marketers square outside of their IT comfort zone. But fact is, technological know-how is a key differentiator because at the end of the day that’s how businesses engage with audiences in the digital age. Not sure where I saw this, but here’s an amazing prediction: In just ten years from now, 50% of all marketing is expected to be produced in real time. We may see that even sooner with head spinning advancements in Artificial Intelligence. Those who are behind the technology curve will find themselves spending more time and resources playing catch up with CMO’s who are ahead of the curve, and leading their organizations into market dominance.
Ever wonder what it’s like being a Global CMO. Here’s a fascinating interview with the CMO of Mastercard.