The panel (l-r above)
Martin Riley, chief marketing officer, Pernod Ricard
Elizabeth Chambers, chief marketing and business development officer, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Peter Markey, chief marketing officer, RSA Group
Philippa Snare, chief marketing officer, Microsoft UK
Javier Diez-Aguirre, director, corporate marketing, Ricoh Europe Plc
Dr Nick Baker, managing director, Quadrangle
MW: How relevant is the role of “CMO” in 2013? Should you be renamed chief customer officer (CCO) or chief experience officer (CXO) now?
Peter Markey (PM): The role of the CMO is definitely changing. I see marketing as the starting point of brand strategy, then within my team I have the customer experience section, which ensures that we deliver against the brand. The question is: should marketing own all the operational outputs too? I’m not sure. You need to provide focus and direction from the top down with the right leadership to deliver that. You’ve got to be careful not to disempower the organisation.
Martin Riley (MR): I think you’ve got to have a person who can stand back in that CMO role. You can have your teams doing everything that is required of them at a market level. The CMO’s key role is to look at longer term trends and inform the rest of the organisation. But the CMO also needs to work closely with colleagues and particularly the chief information officer (CIO). Being able to interpret what is going on and make things happen in a fast-changing world is very important.
Elizabeth Chambers (EC): I find the exercises we go through in changing our job titles around is a distraction. I wouldn’t want to find myself in a situation where there is a dialogue about my title in my team.
Talking about operational responsibility, it very much depends on the sector. In financial services, for example, customer experience is very much to do with day-to-day operations in the call centre or service delivery in branch. If you had to focus there [as a CCO or CXO] there would be a tendency not to cover brand building, marketing communications or developing new products, which is essential to creating the future of the business.
Nick Baker (NB): I think it depends on the structure of your organisation. If you view customer experience as an operational function, then you won’t have the CMO and the customer experience teams based together. But to define customer experience as purely operational is missing the point. You don’t remove the CMO role but the voice of the customer should be heard at that same senior level.
Javier Diez-Aguirre (JDA):
One of the things I spend time doing in the company is to convince people of opportunities, so if there is a new title to have, for me it would be ‘opportunity champion’. I also spend my time connecting different parts of the company so the CMO role is about making sure that social channels, distributors and head office are all talking to each other.
From a business-to-business point of view, the direct experience of the brand is something the CMO can own but when it comes to the service delivery, the sales team would argue that they own that.
NB: The reality is that the world is very messy. In an organisation where the departments are at war with each other, that fragmentation goes against everything you are trying to achieve as a marketer.
PM: Marketing is the meeting place of the organisation and the CMO role should bring all those parties together.
Philippa Snare (PS): Everyone in the company owns customer experience – from the receptionist and security guard to the chief executive. The customer needs only one poor experience of the brand [to be dismayed] and it may have nothing at all to do with the actual service delivery. Every leader should care about how the service is delivered right across the organisation.
Equally, it’s odd that in terms of trying to work with social media, the company still has the mindset that it controls the experience but I’m sure the customer thinks they own it. As CMOs, our role is to create every single opportunity for the brand to interact with the customer the best it can be and to show amazing responsiveness, rather than to try and predict what that experience might be.
MW: So what are the biggest challenges for CMOs in 2013?
PM: One of the challenges of my role is being a bit of a politician. It’s about delivering marketing and proving the value of it, along with telling people in the organisation what has been done particularly in a global market. It’s got to be credible. I’m also looking at the whole emergence of social media and where it sits, how it’s going to change our business and who owns it.
MR: The challenge for 2013 is that we’re drowning in data. It is essential for us to know what is the relevant data for our business. But it’s also about knowing that you have great customer insight, not just data. Marketers no longer seem to talk about customers as human beings.
PM: The CMO is uniquely placed in their role to find the insight that unlocks the relationship with the customer and how they use that to empower the marketing team.
NB: The ownership of data tends to sit in different places in the organisation. Not only do these departments not talk to each other, they actively work against each other. Connecting those data sources and understanding how they can deliver a real opportunity is something that few businesses try, let alone manage to do really well.
PS: My biggest focus next year is prioritisation. The economy has driven a lot of short-termism in every company. I now have to identify the two or three things that will make the biggest difference next year. You uncover hundreds of projects that you thought had stopped years ago but someone is still hanging on to them, even if there is no budget. It’s really hard to get the leadership to agree to stop doing something because someone has developed a clear passion for it. But if we don’t focus on doing just two or three things exceptionally well then we won’t be where we should be. That will deliver differentiation.
JDA: Next year will be exciting and filled with opportunity but my biggest issue is that I’m trying to recruit around change management and technology marketing but there aren’t the people with the skills out there. Departments today need to be hybrid – one person owns the cloud, another markets it.
Data is also a significant opportunity but it’s about understanding where the data is coming from, streamlining the process of gathering it and then setting out ways in which we can determine what is enough data for us to be able to make informed decisions. I think this will be part of the centralisation of the decision-making process. This is going to be quite nerve-wracking when you have 22 operating companies and upwards of 700 marketers but it’s necessary.
MW: Aside from social media and big data, what else needs to be on your agenda for 2013?
PM: You have to prioritise, and once you’ve done that, the speed at which you deliver it is very important. Do you have the right people and resources to get things moving at a speed that matches the market? Some things [like new social media channels] we are talking about now didn’t exist six months ago. That’s how fast the market moves. It’s all about agility. And from agility comes collaboration. How do we speed up knowledge sharing and action across the organisation, particularly a global one? It’s never as easy as simply picking up the phone.
The way companies communicate to achieve cut through has changed. If you’re still using newsletters to talk internally, I suggest you stop. Video clips are much more frequently shared with others and it’s much better for internal communications. No one has a video strategy that I know of. They haven’t sat down and thought, how am I going to use video with customers? It’s the same way that everyone is struggling to control social media.
EC: Because of the knowledge-led relationships we’re trying to build globally, we do have a nascent video strategy. Clients have told us that they don’t want to carry [written] reports, they want content they can access anywhere. Video is proving really effective.
PM: Video is coming of age. We used to send out video tapes to train call centres. It was very effective but also costly. The channel still has strength but now it is much more cost effective, relevant and accessible.
EC: Key is convincing people that it’s timeliness and not perfection that wins the day. Video doesn’t need to be cinema quality to be effective.
MW: Do you think content in general will be more important for your business in 2013?
PM: You’ve got to have a value exchange where people are following you and in return, you are giving content back that is relevant and enriching. It sounds easy on paper but the game has been raised. In the UK, there are many price comparison sites for insurance but to create your own direct relationship with the customer, a content strategy is invaluable. Why would people come to your website unless there is something really good to see?
PS: Looking at consumer content creation as an opportunity rather than a threat will be interesting. Customers are frequently taking companies’ above-the-line creative and making spoofs that are far more widely recognised than your actual ad was. You don’t own that content any more. That’s where the job will get interesting.
EC: Spoofing has the potential to keep the conversation going longer. When Barclaycard’s water slide ad was spoofed, it was even turned into a YouTube competition. But this was a lighthearted thing. If the customer reaction had been mean-spirited, the reaction would have been different. There was a brand decision point there. It showed a sense of humour. To respond to this kind of interaction, you need to have figured out what your brand values are.
PM: It’s about how you respond to those moments. You’ve got to react much quicker and to do that, you’ve got to know the brand really well to make judgement calls.
PS: As long as you know that you’re acting within brand values, then as marketers we are going to have to go slightly out of our comfort zone to be able to respond to those opportunities and make them relevant for consumers.
MR: It’s the fundamental link between the understanding of your brand and insight that tells you whether [getting behind a spoof or another piece of customer-created content] is right or wrong. Marketers have to be able to respond to that gut feeling because they know their brand better than anyone else. The focus we need for marketers is that they can stand back, join the dots and then feel how to make decisions quickly.
MW: In difficult economic conditions, are budget constraints an issue in 2013?
PS: It’s a basic element of a marketer’s job to do it in the most efficient way. I’m a bit tired of hearing that we can’t do such-and-such because the money isn’t there. So let’s do only a few things but make sure we do them beautifully. It’s also a great opportunity to clear out a whole lot of stuff we should have stopped doing ages ago. I’ve seen nothing but smaller budgets driving better creativity.
EC: The dividend from all this technology being available is really powerful in
that the cost of reaching large numbers of people has gone right down. However, I do feel pressed in getting the right people in place with the right skills to focus on more complex aspects of communication.
JDA: We always put strategy-based plans to the company and it’s a business-based decision. I don’t get bored asking for more money because it’s about whether the company wants to focus on the short or the long term.
MR: Innovation is important and you’ve got to create space to be able to do it. Innovation needs quick learning and it’s people-heavy.
If pursuing innovation means dropping other things, then you’ve got to find the resources. For us, the central tenet is building long-term brand advocacy. We will use technology to achieve this because we know it’s the most cost effective way.
MW: Is it ever alright for a CMO to fail?
NB: You aren’t going to get things right every time. That’s a guaranteed way to stifle innovation.
EC: There are different kinds of failure. It’s one thing to take a risk on a piece of creative. It’s another when a full product launch fails. It’s not OK where a lot of time, energy and investment has gone in and there is a large opportunity cost in terms of other projects or services that the organisation could have offered instead.
MR: It depends on the number of products and services you have, but the goal is to set out objectives clearly and not just “go big” as soon as possible. The days of putting all your resources into a single big launch have moved on.
PS: Consumers will forgive you if you’re really clear about what you were trying to do and if they’ve had great customer experiences with you before. If it’s their first experience of you, however, you might not get them back.