In scanning the marketing headlines this past week, it is clear to me a theme is emerging about how CMOs are viewing their evolving role and the need to think business first, and marketing second.
So what does that mean exactly? For HP CMO Antonio Lucio, it means that, “if you want a seat at the top table you need to demonstrate that your efforts are not just about building your brand but about building your business, otherwise you don’t matter.” Lucio was answering a question about the changing role of the CMO at an event hosted by The Economist at the Cannes Lions Festival.
I love that quote; it is a nod to a more holistic view of how CMOs and marketers can strengthen and even expand its purview beyond marketing and advertising. In many ways the CMO must take a business-first rather than a brand-first approach to ensure a seat at the management table. For Lucio, his job as CMO has four separate roles: “chief brand officer, driving capability as chief personal officer of the marketing function, working with other departments “to get shit done” as chief alignment officer and chief storyteller “ensuring everything is aligned to the brand”. Lucio is making the point that the easy road for CMOs to take is the shortest one that builds the brand but fails to take into account how the broader business is impacted.
At the Cannes Lions Festival event, fellow speaker Syl Saller, CMO of Diageo, further supported this perspective by adding that CMOs are always tempted to pursue short term thinking at the expense of a longer-term perspective that includes a “strong vision of the future”.
In a separate article by CNBC.com writer Lucy Handley, Lucio’s comments at the event were once again highlighted: “”The CMO needs to be a business person and a marketer second. If you don’t have a seat at the business table, you really don’t matter. (You must) demonstrate that your efforts are not only building the brand but are building the business.”
CMOs have seen a number of factors disrupt their organizational roles and purviews in recent years, ranging from data analytics tools enabling more precise decision making to the increasingly digital customer journey. All of this does impact how CMOs communicate the brand to target audiences, but also offers an even greater opportunity to positively impact the long-term prospects of the business. In fact Forbes, which recently released its 2017 list of the world’s most influential chief marketing officers, noted that business impact was a key filter in ranking top CMOs this year.
As CMOs “increasingly assume responsibility for driving not just brand but business growth, they have an unprecedented opportunity to affect revenue and customer experience,” notes the Forbes summary. As a result, they’re not only gaining influence within their companies and with top management and boards; they’re “becoming more visible and accessible corporate leaders outside of their organizations,” in part through their “personal brands.”