The Year of the Consumer CMO

When you think about the growing list of CMO responsibilities, a lot comes to mind.

Managing their company’s brand, collaborating more closely with the CIO, juggling a long list of external relationships with agencies and other partners and, of course, running ever-more-complex internal teams. What was always a big job keeps getting bigger.

But I’d argue that the most important job facing CMOs right now isn’t listed above. Their most important job is understanding and connecting with their customers and then organizing their business to support that connection.

As a recent report from Forrester’s CMO practice lead, Sheryl Pattek, put it: “The pressures on organizations to become customer- centric have never been greater, creating an unprecedented need to understand customers much better than ever before.”

I couldn’t agree more. Today, marketing leaders and their brands have a greater opportunity to develop platforms that focus on their customers’ needs and desires. And, thanks to technology, the raw data on customer behavior and preferences is richer than ever.

But this also presents a new challenge: Are all these touchpoints truly in sync? Does the advertising being created reflect the learnings coming from CRM or PR? Do the agencies charged with steering these often disparate functions understand how they relate to the pieces they aren’t running? Too often, the answer is no. And 2015 will probably be the year that gets exposed and exploited more than ever before.

In 2015, CMOs must build a deep understanding of these consumers to build innovative and differentiating platforms. They must focus intently on this issue, and surround themselves with partners (internally and externally) that can help them achieve this goal.

Successful CMOs in 2015 will need to point their organizations towards a sharper, well-informed focus on what will engage and motivate consumers. This sort of thing used to be a nice bonus, but now it’s a customer expectation, and failing to meet it has negative consequences.

Forrester’s Pattek argues that the consequences of this emerging dynamic will be that “CMOs will push agencies to serve them more strategically.” But it goes without saying that they’re most likely to value the partners that do this without being pushed at all.

We’ve heard a lot of noise from agencies in recent years regarding their bolstered data, insights and analytics capabilities, but the rhetoric about moving into consulting-firm territory has outpaced the actual progress. The time to show clients how those can help them do their most important job has arrived.

About the Author

As President, Margaret Murphy works internally and externally to integrate Olson’s capabilities, ensuring a uniquely holistic offering while maintaining deep vertical expertise in areas including loyalty, digital, CRM, brand, PR and mobile. Her role is to ensure that we deliver integrated solutions and best-in-class thinking to our clients. Prior to joining Olson, Margaret served as President of Denali Marketing, where she built a culture that was named a “Best Place to Work” by The Star Tribune. She was also responsible for the strategic oversight and 1to1 execution of an impressive roster, including Amtrak, Best Buy, Luxottica, UnitedHealthcare, Sun Country Airlines, Toys“R”Us and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.