Four critical characteristics of the modern CMO

What is a chief marketer in 2014? I’ve been busy hosting sessions and taking part in panels at this year’s Advertising Week Europe in London – see our cover feature for details – and I’ve come up with four things you need to know about the chief marketing job right now.

1. Sitting on the board? Don’t get obsessed by it

Marketing wields more power in the boardroom than ever before, according to a recent study by IBM. But even the Chartered Institute of Marketing believes that each role must be judged on its own merit and this should not be the ultimate ambition for marketers. CIM chief executive Anne Godfrey warns: “There may be occasions when sitting at an executive table could distract from delivering real value.”

2. No two CMO jobs are alike

They may share a job title but CMOs often have very varied challenges. Britvic CMO Matthew Barwell is concerned about assembling a team with talent and capability in new marketing channels, while Kristof Fahy, CMO at William Hill, says he is entirely focused on delivering “future cash flow” to his business.

3. The CMO’s internal job is as important as their external one

The top five internal priorities for CMOs are: data acquisition; testing and optimisation; flexible/agile marketing processes; campaign attribution and organisational optimisation, according to a Deloitte and Salesforce report, out this week. The top external priorities are customer acquisition; personalised experience, customer engagement; loyalty; and marketing channel expansion. The two lists are clearly different but ultimately, without fixing the internal issues, it will be impossible to achieve the external aims. Try writing a list of your own top five internal and external aims and see how easy it is to achieve your external list without tackling the internal problems first.

4. If you can’t be a digital native, be digitally fluent

Chief marketers are unlikely to be digital natives (unless very youthful). But they do need to be absolutely on top of latest digital developments. Feeling overwhelmed by technology is the “new normal” for marketers, according to an Adobe study that saw less than half of marketers express a high degree of digital proficiency.

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, says native content and programmatic buying are the two biggest growth areas for his business. Yet he warns that too many still rely on traditional 30-second ads as that is where agencies – and clients – are most comfortable.

This rings true – at an event last week, I was talking to a group of senior marketers about the roll-out of location technology iBeacons. Few had heard of the technology. This isn’t about being able to competently code or even understanding the intricate detail of real-time bidding. This is just about being fluent enough to spot the opportunities.