Q&A: Tracy Stokes, Principal analyst serving CMOs, Forrester Research

Tracy Stokes is an unapologetic brand-builder. A 10-year veteran of Johnson & Johnson who spent most of her career defining and shepherding brands, she now is an analyst who focuses on the cutting-edge issues marketers are dealing with today. We asked for her account of accountability.

Are new metrics putting marketers under a microscope?

There’s greater pressure to prove marketing value, given what’s going on in the economy. So marketers are holding themselves more accountable. They see that what they do has to add more value to the organization. In a survey we did, we still see that metrics are very top-line driven. In B2B it’s conversion and lead generation. In B2C it’s sales lift. There are definitely some new measures coming into play by more sophisticated marketers, but I think a lot of others aren’t quite there yet.

Do they need new skills?

Marketing is still a blend of art and science, though science is becoming critical to success. The average CMO today already has been exposed to the use of data and has

some analytical skills, so I think you’ll see that trickle down through the organization. How quickly that happens depends on the culture of the organization. If you look at

Clorox, it’s been a data-driven organization going back 20 years. It’s long applied metrics to sell-through data. This will now become increasingly necessary in more

organizations, but at the same time, you don’t want marketers to get too caught up in the data. You have to hire the right people to interpret it. You need to be able to sift through the data to see the potential.

Are they scared?

Not scared, overwhelmed. They see the potential of everything that’s out there and say, “Where do I focus my efforts?”

How much time do they have?

It’s not a sit back and wait situation. People have to move. They need to start playing in the game and understanding what can be done. One CPG I talked to recently is doing sentiment analysis, but at the same time is continuing its brand tracking studies. It’s a good idea to experiment and balance that out with what you’re already doing.

Are marketers as we’ve known them marked for extinction? Is the age of the data scientist and marketing engineer upon us?

There’s no question that the CMO is an animal that’s evolving. The old thing of a chief marketer being a communications-focused creative is giving way to more of an all-around business player, like the rest of the members of the C-suite. They’re now business drivers, and how they move the brand forward, how they get involved with all aspects of the brand and different pieces of the customer lifecycle is going to define their role. One of the biggest changes in brand building over the past few years is how it’s become influenced by the entire customer experience, by every single piece that touches [customers], like the call center or retail. All of a sudden, brand building becomes the responsibility of everyone in the organization. So the key for chief marketers, at least, is educating and inspiring everyone and getting them engaged.

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