A few weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with Todd Wasserman of BRANDWEEK about the evolving role of the CMO. Todd’s insightful article appeared this week in both ADWEEK and BRANDWEEK and included a few quotes from yours truly which he interpreted as complaints. Since my thoughts were more observations than laments, I figured I’d post my notes from our conversation:
The CMO has evolved from Chief Miracle Officer to Chief Minutia Officer. The CMO used to be charged with creating a marketing miracle, finding that magical ad campaign that would have a multiplier effect on awareness, excite the trades and ultimately drive sales. If the CMO couldn’t deliver such a campaign either he/she or the agency lost their jobs and replacements were found. Just about every CMO wanted a mass media brand-building campaign like the Aflac Duck or the Geico Gecko.
Then along came Google complete with truly measurable results and tectonic plates of marketing started to shift. Suddenly CMO’s were emboldened to say “I only want to do what produces measurable results” and the super savvy ones had a dashboard with real time information from search clicks to web traffic to online buzz to 800# calls to retail sales. Jim Garrity, the former CMO of Wachovia was on the forefront of this trend, studying all the data points with unrelenting passion. Business Week profiled Garrity back in 2006 and noted he “sounds like a man who never met a data point he didn’t like” and “Garrity and those like him are quietly reworking the advertising mix of the American corporation.”
This new kind of CMO is less interested in the monumental and more in the incremental, seeking a steady diet of singles and doubles over the infrequent but more showy grand slam. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. The more metrics that a client has in place the more likely that an agency can prove that what it does for the client actually works. It also means that the CMO has a better chance of keeping his/her job for more than 24 months. CFO’s are far more likely to increase the budget if the business case is there to justify such an increase. This methodical approach also dovetails nicely with the current “make more out of less” economy.
For the record, I applaud this new kind of CMO since they make sure marketing aligns with sales and the metrics for success are clear from the beginning. Without these two factors in place, it will take more than a miracle for even the best of agencies to build a successful partnership.