thought leadership

A key theme across our CMO Reports from 2020 and 2019 has been the emergence of the new CMO. In this article we focus on the challenges facing CMOs pre-COVID-19 and how the shifting landscape has forced a reimagined CMO to step out from the uncertainty and lead from the front.

Now is the time for CMOs to cement their seat at the executive table. The ongoing consumer demand for brand intimacy, the rise in technology and the available insights has created a perfect storm for a new breed of CMOs to drive their brands forward.

By coupling innovative thinking and data-driven business insights, customer loyalty can be cemented. But the perfect storm driving CMOs isn’t the only storm on the horizon. Or in fact, still raging. With uncertainty continuing in the wake of COVID-19, CMOs find themselves at a critical juncture.

So, stick or twist? Frontier or follower?

CMOs’ focus pre-COVID

Before coronavirus shook the world, the focus of CMOs was on pivoting towards a new era of innovation and transformation. Our 2020 CMO Report – Into the Unknown, identifies key objectives including uniting the C-suite to enhance creativity and consistency, to transform quicker with agility and longevity, to create trust in their brands, and maximise the value of their data.

There was, and still is, fundamental importance placed on the capability to use data to predict the consumer behaviour of tomorrow as well as aligning brand values for authentic social purpose.

But as has been the case with multiple bubbling and embryonic trends, we’ve seen rapid acceleration since March, truly impacting what it means to be a modern day CMO.

Ongoing uncertainty abounds

Currently, consumer behaviour is of course extremely difficult to predict. In fact, our 2020 report identifies that one of the biggest challenges facing CMOs now is deciphering which consumer behaviour will remain or will quickly fall away. Consumers have instant decisions to make about brands in the wake of a changing landscape. Unfortunately for the brands themselves, how they act now will leave a lasting impression – whether positive or negative.

Accordingly, the need to show authentic social purpose has been immediately thrust to the fore. It is now one of the most important factors in the brand/consumer relationship.

In these uncertain times, consumers have looked to the way that brands have communicated or may not have communicated, but also how they have navigated the unstable terrain. It isn’t enough to attempt to align your values with those of your consumer through 

your messaging. They want to see your actions in how you engage with them and how you treat your workforce (link to uncertainty whitepaper).

So, where do you base your strategy?

From 2020’s CMO Report, we’re seeing a worrying trend that half (49%) of CMOs are basing their strategies on those that were pursued during previous recessions. In fact just one in 10 are developing entirely new strategies.

Which brings us back to our original question. Stick or twist?

Twisting is essential. And simply following could be extremely detrimental.

The Frontier CMO

Amidst the uncertainty a group of Frontier CMOs are emerging, employing key strategies to help their brands navigate the current landscape and thrive in the short and long-term.

And one of the biggest shifts we’re seeing, is the role of CMO encompassing the total customer experience.

CMOs still remain focused on driving business growth as the primary role of marketing and are incentivised to deliver customer acquisition, but for the first time ever in our CMO reports, we’re seeing product development being viewed as a critical part of their remit.

This is the opportunity for CMOs to drive their brands forward amidst the uncertainty. To deeply understand existing and new customers with real-time data. To rapidly turn consumer insight into new messaging, products and services. To realign the entire business and to make sure that all elements of the brand stand up to the extreme scrutiny of the moment.

Strategies from previous recessions simply won’t suffice.

Stepping into and out of the uncertainty

The unprecedented disruption and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 might be inescapable. But we’re also living in unprecedented times in terms of data, technology and content. No other time of recession has ever quite felt like this.

So, while the consumer behaviour of tomorrow might be difficult to predict, the opportunities for the new CMO critically remain in the here and now.

Download the full CMO survey 2020 report here.