The creation of a chief customer officer role at Tesco signals a quiet revolution in marketing thinking

There is no longer a chief marketer at the UK’s biggest retailer. Matt Atkinson, until this week the Tesco CMO, has been moved to an innovation role at the supermarket and has been reborn as chief creative officer.

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Jill Easterbrook, who has held several senior roles since joining Tesco in 2001, including director of its clothing business, corporate affairs and group strategy, is taking responsibility for marketing. You won’t find that referenced in her job title though – she’s now chief customer officer.

It’s not just Tesco which has decided to have a CCO rather than a CMO. Asda’s top marketer Stephen Smith also has a job title that reflects a customer rather than a marketing focus. The ‘customer chief’ job title first became fashionable within technology companies and the trend is spreading across food and drink and utilities brands, according to the Chief Customer Officer Council. Seventy-seven per cent of brands answering a recent Gartner survey on marketing budgets say they now have a CCO or equivalent. While the study reflects the US market more than the UK, it’s fair to say that the trend is likely to grow within British brands too.

Job title changes might seem subtle but there is a quiet revolution of thinking going on. The chief creative officer role at Tesco is all about innovations and new concepts, while the marketing division has been tied even more firmly to the wider business performance. I think we will see more companies anchoring marketing even more firmly to the bottom line in this way throughout this year.

It is also a reflection of the growing role of data. Tesco is of course one of the most data-rich organisations with its wealth of Clubcard customer data. Customer data is the lifeblood of a CCO because it’s the currency that provides them with the majority of their insight.

With this type of organisational shift in mind, I am pleased to announce a major new partnership for Marketing Week. We are working on a research project, in association with Weber Shandwick, which aims to understand the challenges of senior marketers in depth. We will be looking at their most pressing business concerns, gaps in knowledge and their all-important agency relationships. With so much change afoot in the marketing industry, it’s vital for us (and you) to gain a deep understanding of our audience. The invite-only research will poll a handpicked selection of senior marketers and the results will be revealed later this year. If you are interested in participating, do drop me a line directly.

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