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The Role of the CMO: Now and in the Future

I wrote last week that the role of the CMO may be under threat, or is, at the very least, is on the brink of changing. With short tenures, high pressure to perform, and the increasing need to respond faster to customers, the CMO role is under scrutiny more than ever. Is there even a place for the CMO in the C-suite? Will it change into a revenue-generating role or a growth role? A lot of uncertainty lies ahead, that’s for sure, but it’s not all bad news.

I was able to speak to Teresa Barreira, global CMO of Publicis Sapient, which helps companies thrive in the digital age. Barreira she gave me her perspective on the development of the CMO role. She’s more optimistic about the future of the CMO. For example, she doesn’t seem to think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. But some significant changes are in order.

The Three Rs: Revenue, Reputation, Relationship: You Need All Three

“The role of the CMO today is all about growth,” said Barreira during our interview. “And it’s growth around what I call the three Rs. Is the growth around reputation? Is the growth around relationship, or is the growth around revenue, which is sales?” No matter what the individual’s role within the marketing apparatus is — be it analyst, designer, or copywriter – all must be single minded on the goal of growth. Barreira warns against creating something beautiful that won’t yield results. “Am I creating this beautiful campaign with this beautiful design because it’s going to win an award? Or is it going to have an impact on growth?” The bottom line is a marketing executive must have a growth mindset, or perish.

 Marketing is No Longer a Straight Line

Barreria pointed out that “in the 1980s and 1990s, marketing was a very linear function — a funnel…with data, marketing is more like a trading room floor, making decisions in real time. So it’s less of a linear approach, to a much more circular one.” Shoppers are constantly in the channel, no matter what the product is. They can look at a product on a phone, try it on in store, and then buy it at home. A customer’s life isn’t linear, and the customer journey cannot be, either. The data reflects the journey a customer is making, and it’s up to the marketer to react appropriately.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

AI is going to be a huge factor in personalization, and keeping the customer engaged in the channel, no matter where they are in the purchase cycle. “AI can customize [the marketer’s] message to the customer with much more insight, and be much more personalized.” Barreira compared AI’s role in marketing to expanding from a trading floor to a NASA command center, keeping tabs on the customer on every step of the journey, and making adjustments as necessary to keep things on an even keel. But that requires working across a lot of departments, and not being content to deal with the parts of the organization that affect a marketing campaign. “Today CMOs have to work across the entire organization. There’s never been a greater time to be a CMO if you have a growth mindset.”

The New CMO: Risk, Rewards, and More Revenue

The new CMO doesn’t execute great campaigns: they are collaborators, advocates for the customer, and advocates for change. They are enmeshed in a growth mindset, and focused on bringing other aspects of the business, particularly the C-suite, into alignment. With a clear focus on the customer, and on the desired outcome, the marketer can spend less time testing campaigns and more time brainstorming more innovating methods for revenue growth—and testing those. No one has a crystal ball, and experimenting often yields failure. But the ability to build a new type of marketing, one that is constantly adjusting to the feedback that the data provides it, and calibrating a response, is going to be the new way of conducting business. So while the CMO role may not be extinct yet, it’s time to start thinking of doing things in a data-centered, internally aligned way.        

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