Ovo’s Nicole McInnes: The digital age has killed the ‘colouring-in rockstar’ CMO

The digital age has brought responsibility to marketers and killed the days of the ‘colouring-in rockstar’, Ovo’s marketing boss Nicole McInnes has said.

McInnes, who spoke on a panel at Mumbrella360, suggested the luxury of the CMO role doesn’t “fly anymore” in Australia, and encouraged senior marketers to go and work in digital native companies or start ups to build skills.

The panel (L-R): Ovo’s Nicole McInnes, Facebook’s Naomi Shepherd, AANA’s John Broome and Brand Traction’s Jon Bradshaw

“This digital age has killed the colouring-in rockstar CMO,” McInnes said.

“They are dead, or dying, and that’s probably where we see some of the shorter tenure CMO positions happening – not that I can talk. They’re not cutting through anymore. The luxury of having that sort of rockstar who appoints an American ad agency and makes a name for themselves. It’s just not going to fly anymore in this market.

“The digital age has brought about some responsibility to marketing and I’m excited about that. I’m excited that marketers will be held to account and will have to step up and be smarter –  not just win awards and be glamorous.”

The former WooliesX and eHarmony marketer’s comments followed a discussion on the role of digital and the issue of short termism, where co-panellist Naomi Shepherd, Facebook’s group industry director, said marketers had to balance the principles of brand building and advertising with doing it in a way that follows consumer behaviour.

“The natural of digital, mobile and social whether you think its a fad or not, looking at it as a real cultural shift – which I think we already agree it is – is that although its come about in the last few years, you still have to look at these things with a long term lens. In fact it’s critical that you look at these things with a long term lens,” Shepherd said.

But McInnes said the short term metrics, which stem from digital and social, make it difficult to balance long term strategy.

“I don’t think people want short-termism but because the data is coming out of the software program, it seems accurate, it seems right – and it’s not, it’s directional. If we can see it as an indicator and a leading indicator for mid term and long term and also do the work that you know will bring your brand into the future – which is all that creative and emotional stuff – that’s the sort of balancing act that you are playing everyday day.

“In marketing, if you don’t understand line by line some of your metrics, you can’t have those conversations the way a CFO can have a conversation because he knows the PNL line by line. YOu have to understand your marketing spend line by line and unfortunately you do have to start to love data. You do have to start to love your dashboards. The trick is that you have to force yourself off them sometimes – which is hard for marketing teams – and pull away to look at that mid and long term strategy overall.”

AANA CEO John Broome added it was marketers responsibility to educate themselves and become a figure for marketing within an organisation.

“If you are abdicating some of your responsibility around measures or whatever to your agency partners, partners are good, but the accountability and responsibility sits with you. If as a marketer, you don’t understand that and what’s going on, educate yourselves. We are living in a very, very different world three, four, five years ago, and it’s not going to go back to that,” he said.

Earlier on in the discussion, McInnes, who also sat on a panel with former Diageo marketer and founder of Brand Traction, Jon Bradshaw, said another reason why marketers were struggling was due to the fact “CMOs often don’t speak the language of CEOs”.

McInnes: You have to be a little bit of a unicorn

Her comments echoed Broome, who said there are some marketers – particularly those in large corporates – in “real crisis”.

“There’s a dichotomy out there and I get the opportunity to speak to a lot of CMOs in my current role and I would broadly say that in small businesses, you are actually seeing some CMOs that are definitely clover, they are having a great time. What makes them different to those who are not is that they do have that bond with the leadership team, particularly with the CEO and the CFO,” Broome explained.

“The other end of the spectrum, I have to be very frank, there are some guys in real crisis. These tend to be the larger companies. Generally we are in a low growth economy. These guys are really struggling with how to break through with a growth strategy and when that struggle is going on, that’s where the discontent and disquiet happens within the leadership room and the CEO looks to the CMO as that panacea – show me the way forward out of this problem.”

Broome added marketers should not be “myopically focused on the bottom end of the tunnel”, but be able to demonstrate to the CEO and CFO, return on investment for both short term and long term projects.

McInnes added: “The CMOs that are going to be successful going forward have to have both strong commercial and understanding of data also with brand and creativity.

“You have to be a little bit of a unicorn.”

However she said the evolution of the chief customer officer, or customer experience roles, is a “shame” as it creates “disunity” between customer experience and marketing.

“It is interesting to see that understanding [the 4Ps] of marketing kind of disappear from structures and they’ve started to put in people that are experts in customer experience but not in the marketing team.

“It’s a real shame because it does create this disunity between the customer experience of the brand and you need that all to umbrella and ladder up to one key thought that should come from a leader of the marketing team,” she said.

“The CMOs that are going to be successful going forward have to have both strong commercial and understanding of data also with brand and creativity.”

Brand Traction’s Bateman said it was time to “professionalise” what marketers do and educate others about how marketing has progressed.

“If you think about the CMO in a much more holistic way – there’s no reason while the CMO role in the C suite – driver of innovation and growth. We do have to change,” Bateman said.

“All that shit has to stop, and we have to start to take this thing that we do very seriously, seriously from a data perspective, serious from a behavioural science perspective.

“I don’t see enough of that, I don’t see enough of the application of these amazing new tools we’ve got, but they are all there.”

For AANA’s Broome, seeing challenges through the eyes of a CEO, will help establish a marketer as a leader.

“See the challenge through the eyes of your CEO, develop empathy with what he or she is having to deliver and then provide solutions that solve for that. That means being commercial broad and drive your own credibility in that leadership room.

“Secondly, and this is a competitive advantage amongst all the other C-levels in the leadership room – understand the fundamentals over marketing, and that means up and down the funnel. Nobody else in that leadership room should have your insight capabilities that a great marketer has.

“Make sure you bring that to bear and therefore give the business and the CEO options and opportunities which can translate into outcomes that keep everyone happy.”


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