The role of the Chief Marketing Officer has drastically changed in the last half century. For starters, the position itself was called ‘VP of Marketing’ until the Internet infiltrated our lives, and top marketers promoted themselves into the title of ‘Chief Marketing Officer.’ The title change was arguably deserved, but adopting the prefix ‘Chief’ in front of any moniker is bound to come with a new set of strings.

Today, the typical CMO is expected to deliver a comprehensive collection of core competencies. In conjunction with creative thinking and understanding the pulse of its consumer base, CMO’s must be adept at strategy, metrics and analytics. According to marketing specialist Jon Miller, “CMO’s gain credibility not by touting tag lines but by crunching numbers.”

Today, the typical CMO is expected to deliver a comprehensive collection of core competencies. In conjunction with creative thinking and understanding the pulse of its consumer base, CMO’s must be adept at strategy, metrics and analytics.

A jack of all trades, if you will. Yet when any person, no less a CMO, is expected to excel at everything, how can he or she reasonably excel at anything?

Is today’s CMO suffering from an identity crisis?

Today’s CMO

business fightBattle of the Officers: A serious discrepancy exists between what a CMO believes their role should entail and what other C-suite executives believe. A survey done by the Economist Intelligence unit shed some light on some of these discrepancies. Most notably, the majority of CMO’s think their greatest contribution is to product development, while other C-suite execs say it should be driving sales. Furthermore, marketing leaders cite their top barrier as hiring and retaining skilled marketing talent, yet C-suite colleagues stated the marketing department’s limited ability to demonstrate ROI as the top barrier.

CMOs want to deliver something meaningful to the customer, but it’s not always that easy.

Today’s CMO is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The CMO wants to deliver something meaningful to the customer and if they knew what we did, they should also be trying to cultivate a productive and inspiring internal culture. The issue is, CMO’s are also ensnared in the nitty gritty of everyday business, thus making it difficult for them to properly serve consumers and effectively lead.

Customers and Employees both Matter: So what is our protagonist to do? Perhaps the CMO should dial back on their job description and focus on what matters most; fostering an amicable organization that customers and employees alike can relate to. A task easier said than done when the bar has been set so high to deliver on a multitude of measurements.

CMO’s ‘Postmodern’ Period

Breaking Free: They say it’s lonely at the top. But it’s even lonelier for a small handful of progressive CMO’s who are brave enough to break free from the conventional CMO ‘chains,’ and lead with their guts – not their spreadsheets – while occasionally dealing with the scorn of their stakeholders.

It takes a lot of guts to break away from the pack and truly tackle the root issues, rather than consistently relying on spreadsheets to lead the way.

This group of postmodern CMO’s can inspire so much enthusiasm in its customers, that their innovative companies have not only increased bottom lines, but have garnered cult followings that no amount of ROI metrics could ever foster, or allocated budget could ever purchase.

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Guided by Passion and Principle: What’s more, fearless leaders have a true passion for what they are doing; it can’t be faked. Chipotle Mexican Grill’s CMO, Mark Crumpacker, is one of the brave and bold leaders out there today. Bloomberg Television recently produced a documentary on the rise of Chipotle. In it, Crumpacker acknowledges that customers themselves made Chipotle into a lifestyle brand. Loyal Chipotle fans created branded t-shirts and paraphernalia long before anything comparable was available on the company website. That’s some serious brand devotion! Devotion that is rooted in who Chipotle is at its core and the multiple cause it stands for, such as: the notion that employees are a vital driver behind its success, advocating of the ethical treatment of animals, and supporting of sustainable agriculture.

The Anatomy of a Cult Brand & the CMO

Powerful Purpose: One of the key factors when looking at The Anatomy of a Cult Brand is to, “Have Purpose.” That is, to be driven by a powerful ethos, one that permeates every fiber of an organization. Chipotle is a prime example of an organization that is motivated by a higher calling than simply selling quick meals to hungry people.

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It’s What’s Inside that Counts:  The postmodern CMO, while making great strides still needs to know that cult brands must spark inspiration among others, and more often than not this motivation is “built from the inside out.” That same connection a brand wants to make with its customers must begin with its employees. Look at companies like WestJet, who have “owners” instead of employees, or Wholefoods, who empowers its employees to meet local needs on a case by case basis. How could these initiatives not translate and spill over into positive customer experiences?

This new CMO must adapt and is hopefully already privy to the emerging field of employer branding and understands that it is far easier, and cheaper, to create raving employee fans through internal marketing than it is to create customer fans by utilizing pricey external marketing. Cult’s own Chris Kneeland writes, “We can’t let the production of marketing collateral trump the critical importance of creating an amazing [internal] culture…”

The production of marketing collateral can’t trump the critical importance of creating an amazing internal culture.

Identity Crisis Solved

A recent article in the ‘The Guardian’ stated, “[The] traditional CMO role is dead… instead, a new role is emerging that is organized around the customer.” Customers do not care which department is serving them. They expect the same experience across the company, from the showroom floor to the returns and complaints call center. How can a CMO achieve such a feat in overall customer experience and satisfaction if they are kept busy building forecasting simulators?

The postmodern CMO bases market strategy around something more authentic and noble than pure statistics. This CMO’s ‘raison d’être’ is to truly engage with their customers essentially becoming their advocate. Today’s fearless CMO understands that their company’s reputation is not built on any single product’s success or failure. Reputation is comprised of what an organization stands for and is supported by its band of fanatical employees. The integrity of the company that has been built from the inside out, under the close stewardship of the newly defined CMO, will be sure to stand out the ever-crowded business sphere.

Today’s fearless CMO understands that their company’s reputation is not built on any single product’s success or failure. Reputation is comprised of what an organization stands for and is supported by its band of fanatical employees.

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