RIP CMO, viva CDO!

chief marketing officer vs chief digital officer

As the adoption of digital media and devices surges, digital is getting pushed towards the ‘most basic need’ in Maslow’s Pyramid.

Digital readiness is now looked upon as the key differentiator and also a success factor for any organisation’s future growth and competitiveness.

This elevates the importance of the chief marketing officer (CMO) as a strategist, a social innovator, and above all, a curator of advisory services and technology.

According to a C-level survey conducted by CMO.com, 76 per cent of CMOs believe that marketing has changed more in the last two years than it did in the last five decades.

Until now, the role of a CMO was leaning towards handling marketing communication and brand management. However, in the last few years, the digital industry’s growth has forced the organisational talent map to re-design the CMO’s role and tilt it more towards technology and data-driven marketing. So much so that companies are now even considering a dedicated Chief Digital Officer to drive this crucial mandate.

To get the maximum ROI from their digital efforts and also stay ahead on the innovation index, the CMO will have to become a ‘jack of all trades’ and wear multiple hats at the same time.

Due to the myriad digital devices, a consumer journey is no longer linear in any industry or type of business.

Technology is successfully delivering the end-user experience across multiple touch points in every purchase journey. As a CMO, keeping a hawk’s eye on the changing technology trends is indeed the new ‘marketing way of life’.

Modern-day data analytics has forced CMOs to stop making any hypothetical assumptions about the marketing process. In fact, CMOs will have to take data science as their biggest ally in marketing warfare. Focus on data insights would allow them to make scientific business decisions at every step of customer engagement.

As a CMO, digital transformation is the new mission critical which is a lot more complex than just running an integrated marketing campaign.

The real transformation journey never ends, and begins a lot earlier than campaign launch. It involves tying up all the loose ends in design, technology and data science, including cross device UI & UX, website SEO strategy for overall brand discoverability, defining audience targeting filters for laying down rules in the programmatic campaign, and so on.

For all this transformation to happen simultaneously, it is vital for any CMO to get their hands dirty with new emerging technologies, devices and marketing tools in order to understand the brand’s core target audience better and recommend any strategic changes from an organisation standpoint.

In the words of Leon C. Megginson:

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the role of a traditional Chief Marketing Officer in its current avatar may go several feet below to the dark soil. Only to be able to resurrect as a digital transformer.

And like brands have to now re-imagine their story and bond with the customer, the CMO too will have to morph quickly and surely into the CDO. And place the epitaph on their past with an RIP.

[The above article was first published in The Hindu Business Line]