For the next CMO, it’s time to level up

Marketing is quickly evolving, and so the CMO needs to hit the next level. The role of a marketeer has never changed faster.

The marketing game has reached a critical point. It’s about to hit the next level, and the CMO role needs to grow to match. The olden days of Don Draper are over, and have been for a while. Digital marketing is turning from a single discipline into a pleonasm; digital is deeply embedded in everything marketeers do. Marketing is post-digital now.

Performance marketing, only recently a hyped trend, has also been played out. It’s not going away, but the pendulum is swinging back to brand marketing. When everyone does performance marketing, it ceases to be an advantage. The brand is making a comeback as differentiating factor, but it’s not the brand of the Mad Men era.

Jakob Berndt, one of the 22 marketeers we interviewed for our new book Next Level CMO, puts it this way:

You can no longer do marketing today and build a brand without answering, at least in part, the question of why you exist and what your purpose in the world is.

By having – and articulating – a clear purpose, brands can charge customers a premium and attract talent to work for them. And in many cases, the purpose is connected to sustainability. This, in turn, is more than ecological – it’s also economical. Businesses need to be sustainable in both dimensions, but be aware that greenwashing – or purpose-washing – won’t do the trick. Consumers will inevitably find out, and the internet gives them the tools to debunk it.

Data Love

This has become part of the CMO’s business, as has data and the love of it. That’s yet another thing most people wouldn’t have considered to be part and parcel of marketing just a few years ago. Today, data is crucial to understanding your customers and their needs or desires. Marketeers demand a cross-channel view of all data and the global roll-out of marketing and commerce solutions.

Marketing decisions need to be informed by data, but this has to be balanced with gut instinct and creativity. Felix Jahnen, who leads digital transformation for Jägermeister, notes:

“If you can prove everything rationally and soberly, then the brand automatically also becomes a bit sober.”

In his view, marketeers have to understand that part of the job is learning all over again. And they need to observe and understand trends. The next-level CMO will already be running some experiments while others just watch from the sidelines. The sheer number of channels, platforms and tools can be overwhelming, but experimenting has never been easier and cheaper.

Customer-centricity – or, even better, life-centricity – is the holy grail. Data and trends are all about customer behaviour. The digital revolution has empowered the consumer, and consumer behaviour is changing faster than ever. CMOs are the ones who can discern relatively quickly when the company has to think deeper about its strategy.

A new breed of CMOs

Besides branding and performance marketing, commerce is the third pillar of today’s marketing. Remember place in the classic marketing mix? Every digital touchpoint is becoming a point of sale and businesses are transforming into direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. Even for FMCG brands, this becomes vital, because it’s the only area where marketeers can understand the entire customer journey. The quest for first-party data leads to D2C marketing, and vice versa.

Doing interviews for our book, we found a new breed of CMOs, raised on digital marketing, that is taking up this challenge. Marketing is a top priority again. And so, it’s no surprise that three of the marketeers we interviewed were appointed CEO or managing director during the time it took to get the book to market. Or, in the words of Laura Eschricht, Global Marketing Director of Zalando:

Personally, I think a role model is a CEO who drives the business forward with his marketing skills. Because for me, marketing is always at the heart of the business.

In a way, this is a return to a holistic understanding of marketing. According to Peter Drucker, marketing and innovation are the two basic functions of any company, “all the rest are costs.” From a systemic perspective, marketing’s role is essential. The next-level CMO takes a systemic approach and creates a consistent system from all these different building blocks.

Marketing is changing fast

But this isn’t a one-time task. Marketing is changing fast, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Systems change to ensure their continuity. And there’s no single model, neither for marketing nor the next-level CMO. Consumers, industries, companies, and brands are all diverse. Marketing’s role is to make sense of it, and to do that, narratives are still essential.

The CMO is the chief storyteller of a brand, and this applies to internal as well as external communication. Marketing needs to care about the product, and this can’t be separated out into distinct silos. The marketeer should be responsible for both product and marketing. Especially when the product itself is turning more and more into a communication interface.

The product used to be a separate entity, but now it’s becoming a marketing channel in itself. Thus, the CMO role evolves into a key position for digital transformation. Marketing gets strategic. Jenny Fleischer, who earlier this year became CEO of babymarkt, puts it this way:

The topic of innovation has to be translated: simply rethinking, starting from the mission and the higher business ambition – burning down the house once, making a new plan and building it up. And factoring in solutions for the next decades.

Sounds radical? That’s because it is.

Welcome to the next level.

You can order your copy today or read a sample chapter in English and German. If you want to help spread the word by writing a review on LinkedIn, Amazon, your blog, or elsewhere, we’re happy to send you a free digital or physical copy. Get in touch!