Two out of three CEOs distrust their CMOs, and only 17% of marketing leaders are ‘pioneering’, says Accenture

Distrust about the capabilities of chief marketing officers from their chief executive officers means marketing leaders have to “reinvent” the way they do business and adapt to a more disruptive landscape, a Marketing Society event in Singapore has been told. 

The gathering of 50 high-level marketing leaders at the Singapore Economic Development Board headquarters featured an analysis of the Accenture report Way Beyond Marketing: The rise of the hyper-relevant CMO. The attendees heard that while CEOs wanted marketing leaders to drive revenue growth, the majority doubted that they had the capacity to deliver on that goal. This perhaps explained why the CMO had the shortest average tenure of any C-suite executive, at just 18 months, and why marketing departments were often seen as a cost centre rather than a profit centre.

“Incumbent CEOs, for their part, aren’t particularly optimistic,” the research stated. “Two in three don’t believe that their current marketing leads have the leadership skills or business acumen required for the role. And, CEOs are equally unconvinced that the next generation of marketeers will be any more capable when they eventually take the reins.

“This, in fact, represents a tremendous opportunity for CMOs right now; the potential to reinvent their roles and secure future growth for their companies in this challenging environment.”

Meanwhile, it was also revealed in the research – based on a survey of 935 CMOs and 564 CEOs in 12 countries, across 17 industries – that a “broken marketing culture” was being rejected by only 17% of marketing leaders, who were “pulling away from the pack”. Those “pioneers” were delivering “highly relevant customer experiences” because they were ignoring the status quo and industry norms, the audience heard.

“They’re taking on the role of organisational architect, ensuring their brand delivers on evolving customer expectations,” the report stated. “They’re challenging business as usual and inspiring lasting change through new actions and new behaviours, building a customer-obsessed organisation that’s fit for the new – with new technologies, new customer expectations and a new and accelerating pace of change.”

It was said that the elite cohort of 17% which taken a transformational and holistic approach had done so by simply stopping doing certain things due to budget pressures and engaging in test and learn processes, instead of “simply throwing more money at the problem”. This meant a renewed focus on areas like automation, insourcing and thought leadership was paying dividends for the leading CMOs – it was said at the meeting, which was under Chatham House rules but was attended by Mumbrella.

“The pioneers understand that their organisations must remain in a permanent state of change, if they’re to successfully deliver on the ever-evolving needs of customers,” the report claimed.

“They are constantly seeking alternative sources of growth, be it through reinvention of the customer experience, breakthrough innovation or entirely new revenue streams. For example, they’re much more likely than peers to be tapping into data monetisation initiatives or new ventures.

“Take, for example, PepsiCo’s purchase of SodaStream and its launch of Spire vending machines. Both ventures empower customers to personalise their drinks to their own tastes, whether in or out of home. Both are examples of new revenue streams that accrue from asking how the customer experience can be continually improved. They question what it means to be hyper-relevant as a product or service in customers’ lives.”

The meeting heard that the more progressive CMOs were more focused on building new networks including unexpected partners like venture capitalists, smaller agencies and freelancers – rather than historic big-agency relationships.

“From high-level strategy down to the nuts-and-bolts of their operations, the pioneering CMOs are breaking decisively away from conventional wisdom,” added the report. “For our pioneers, this starts by turning the mirror on themselves and their own marketing organisation.

“They’re looking inwards in recognition that to enable their organisation to flow around the customer, they must challenge business as usual and inspire change. When it comes to accounting for changing customer attitudes, for example, their attitudes are very different from their peers.

“They’re far more likely to actively study a number of factors and pivot their marketing agendas in response to shifting outlooks on multi-channel experience, trust, transparency and personalisation. Consider that, of the top 40 brands at Unilever, nearly half focus on sustainability. It turns out that those brands grow 50% faster than the company’s other brands and deliver more than 60% of the company’s growth.

“Spanish telecoms company Telefónica, for example, found that their customers make most of their buying decisions online. That’s why they invested in the ability to deliver customised content to customers browsing their website and digital materials, to suit their individual needs and desires. The transformation has not only improved the experience for millions of customers across five countries, but also accelerated the company’s sales.”

At the meeting, the future roles that might exist in the marketing sector were also discussed. Among the job titles of tomorrow might be ‘immersive experience designers’, ‘marketing monitors’, ‘customer experience curators’, ‘reality checkers’ and ‘trust leaders’ – the audience heard.

The importance of a strong connection with other C-suite executives was also promoted as a way to solidify the role of marketing; meaning CMOs should build alliances with human resources, sales, finance and the chief information officer more effectively – it was claimed.

“Pioneering CMOs value their connections to other C-suite executives more highly,” the report concluded.


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