What concerns tomorrow’s CMO?

by Paul D'Alessandro on November 22, 2009

Evanta_HeaderRecently I had the opportunity to participate in the CMO Executive Summit in New York.  This is a forum that prides itself in being by CMOs and for CMOs.  It is an opportunity for interchange and proposal of new ideas that shape how marketers face and overcome their challenges.  While there were many speakers at the event, three stood out and really framed the event.

The day was kicked off by Donny Deutsch, chairman of Deutsch Inc. and host of CNBC’s “The Big Idea”.  Donny prides himself in being a visionary.  Probably his most important message of the day was that the CMO needs to be more aggressive in making a statement about what will happen tomorrow.  His concern is that we have spent the past 10 years operating in a reactionary state.  Think about it.  Was the CMO ahead of the trend of interactive media?  How about the demise of scheduled programming?  Regardless of the dimension you consider the CMO has been behind.  Donny’s challenge to tomorrow’s CMO was to sit down and develop a list, put a stake in the ground.  Be proactive about what you think as a CMO will shape tomorrow.

Possibly the highlight of the day was a speech by Kevin Krone, CMO of Southwest Airlines on the power of communities.  He explained that up until lately Southwest has had a vibrant offline community but for the most part ceded their online community to others in the travel space (flyertalk.com, tripadvisor.com, etc.).  Today’s Southwest has embraced the power of social media to give their customers, or what he more appropriately calls their community, a place for their voice to be heard not only by SWA but also by other community members.  Furthermore, giving them something to not only talk about but to evangelize like “bags fly free” has indirectly resulted in market share growth and more brand loyalty.

The final speaker of the day was Jim Lecinski, Managing Director of US Sales for Google.  Jim talked about Four Strategies for CMOs to Get Ahead of the Recovery:

  • Be Useful, Helpful & Relevant Not Interruptive, Shocking or Annoying
  • Be Fast – Speed Beats Perfection
  • Use Data – It Helps You Win & Retain Customers
  • Create Opportunities to Unleash the Crowd for You, Don’t Simply Push Ads to Them

Throughout the presentation Jim reinforced the obvious fact that we all need to stay in touch with the emerging products and services out of Google Labs.  If you have not spent time there as of late do yourself a favor and at least try out some of their new things (insights for search, ad planner, squared, etc.).  While the first three points are definitely in Google’s sweet spot the fourth provided us some insight as to how Google intends to pursue the next 5 years.  They clearly see the opportunity for what was push, today is interactive and what will be a market in the future that is tilted towards the consumer.  We need to think as marketers less about explicit interactive platforms and more about “planting seeds” or “creating platforms” for consumers to take their natural course.  By doing this we will create early stage observation opportunities that take us back to Donny’s point about becoming more insightful around the future.

Madison Avenue is clearly fighting for relevance in forums like the CMO Executive Summit.  It was a day that focused on the opportunity of social media, interactive and customer data.  If one message is to be taken away from the day it is that tomorrow’s CMO is concerned about fast cycle times, emergent technologies and how to use customer data.  If it was not evident to you before, it should be now.  The CMO-CIO-CTO relationship will be critical in addressing tomorrow’s marketing challenges.

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