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8 new rules for today's CMO

Today, organizations need a new nerve center: a strategic nucleus that guides -- and connects -- all organizational activities with a light but deft touch. That is what the modern CMO is perfectly positioned to do. Marketing, when it's done right, shapes brand futures by driving both product and sales, and everything in between.


Successful marketing used to be about Kotler's 4Ps (product, price, place, and promotion). But with the increasing commoditization of product features, the ubiquity of product availability, the transparency of pricing, and the overuse of promotion, their power has been blunted.


There are new rules for today's CMO:


Be laser focused on customer experience from start to finish.
The new CMO needs to be responsible for every touchpoint of the brand and customer interface, from messaging, to sales, to billing, to customer satisfaction.


Be passionately articulate about the customer's voice within her/his organization.
Most organizations are too internally focused -- it is critical for at least one senior leader to have wide external orientation and to amplify the customer's (and the potential customer's) voice within every corner of the company. Power has shifted from brands to consumers. Today's empowered consumers are informed, fickle, and outspoken; it's no easy task to please them. And they are constantly evolving; it's no easy task to keep up with them. With the barrage of content that's hurled at them, they are no longer captive audiences that are easy to reach. A successful leader is keenly aware of these realities and hones the organizational approach on how/when to connect and engage with relevance. Not just via the marketing department, but via every team in the company.


Harmonize the cacophony of content.
Like the conductor of a symphony, the CMO needs to be able to let individual notes ring loud and true, yet string them together in a clear melody -- a single, overarching brand narrative that's clear, distinct, and compelling. Without this, every marketing message, every sales call, every CSR imperative just adds to -- and gets lost in -- the white noise of content overload.


Build a team that has strong competencies in data science and behavioral science, as well as the art and science of messaging.
Data is just data unless made actionable by insights into the human psyche. And new media has created a host of opportunities to make messaging far more meaningful, contextual, and actionable than ever before. These three competencies need to mesh closely together -- there is no time for silos in today's turbo-paced world. One danger in the data driven world is that art becomes muted by science. A savvy CMO will not allow that to happen. She will create havens for creativity, for serendipity, for the muse to strike -- not just within her marketing team, but across all teams that interface with consumers.


Understand technology.
No, CMOs do not need to know how to code. But they do need to understand technology's fundamentally transformative effects on consumer habits and choices. It used to be that CTOs and CMOs sat in very different wings of organizations. Their paths rarely crossed and neither did their words and functions. Today, they need to be the strongest of allies and collaborators. This is an alliance that helps improve both marketing development and product development -- marketing and technology now go hand in hand like never before. Issues like data access, privacy, and security are often top of mind for consumers. Therefore, they need to be front and center for marketing teams as well.


Have courage and humor.
CMOs must be comfortable with risk and ambiguity. Yesterday's CMOs were expected to be perfectionists -- control freaks who would release only perfectly polished messaging in controlled media spaces. Those days are over. Today's CMOs need to act fast, often before they are fully ready. They need to be agile learners, ready to roll with the punches and learn from failure as well as success. Courage and humor are critical to survival.


Understand that speed is of the essence.
The internet has caused the world to move at the speed of light. CMOs need to foster agility both within their teams and their organizations to "move fast!" A game-changing idea today, if not deftly and quickly deployed, will become tomorrow's old news. The real world moves in real time and so should today's CMOs.


Have compound vision.
Competition today can come from anywhere. Consumer habits that change in an unrelated field can have unexpected consequences for all products. Great CMOs are savvy soothsayers who are keenly aware of -- and always prepared for -- what could be coming around the corner.


Today's CMOs must live and work not just in today, but on the cusp of tomorrow.


Shafi Saxena is chief brand officer at News Republic


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Shafi Saxena is the Chief Brand Officer at News Republic. She is convinced that purpose driven brands with mission driven market strategies build a strong competitive advantage. She also believes that consumers are not just customers but partners in...

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