The newly-empowered customer is spurring much change across the marketing scene, not least a major burnishing of chief marketing officer's role.
Such is the conclusion of a whitepaper just out from Deliotte Consulting Services. "From Mad Man to Superwoman" provides a good back-of-the-envelope history of the marketing profession. But it goes on to make an interesting claim: CMOs have succeeded in strengthening and repositioning their perceived role within companies, in effect marketing the value of marketing itself. In the digital era of social media that gives the customer increasing influence, effective and efficient marketing is proving essential to business success.
Suketu Ghandi, principal at Deloitte and one of the paper's authors, said:
As consumers are more technically, socially and behaviorally engaged, the CMO needs to understand intimacy at scale. In the online economy, to grow share, you have to really understand customers... The tools that emerged in this period -- the graphical user interface (GUI), click-through advertising, display ads, e-commerce and search -- all derived their strength from providing a new experience for the customer. Well before the dawn of Web 2.0, we heard the mantra that the customer was in charge.
The authors note that the term "CMO" coincides with the rise of the Web as an important customer-facing channel.
Along with the new role, CMOs have had to acquire whole new skills, specifically in the areas of strategy, metrics, and analytics.
"In addition to the Web, we have mobility, analytics and social coming together in ways that didn't exist 10 years ago," Ghandi said. Marketers always have tried to read the tea leaves. The difference today is, "you now have 50 terabytes of tea leaves." Rather than making obsolete the kind of inspired intuition about customers that's often associated with Don Draper, "you'll now have facts associated with it," Ghandi added.
Happily, the Deliotte writers don't short-change the importance of the technology and the CMO's interactions with his or her IT counterparts.
The importance of technology in the execution of today's marketing has created a sense of urgency for this alliance. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of this point came recently in a Gartner report that stated that by 2017, "an organization's CMO may have a bigger 'IT' budget than the CIO."
Could all this account for the lengthening tenure of CMOs at their jobs in the last couple of years? The Deloitte authors note that in the firm's 2010 CMO survey, Spencer Stuart, a headhunting firm, reported that the average CMO tenure "rose by an astounding 14 months-to a new record of 42 months."
Wondering if this statistic could just be an artifact of the deep recession and continued economic sluggishness, Ghandi noted that in the same period, CEO tenure has gone down and CIO tenure has flattened out.
What comes next? According to the authors, it is the "network-driven empowerment of individuals," which includes the rise of social media but also refers to digital ties inside and between companies. This, they say, may be the disruption driving the current CMO era, which they call the "postdigital" era.
"If the CMO owns the disruption, great things can happen. If not, woe to the CMO," they write.
What characterizes this new generation of CMOs? For Ghandi, these men and women will be part marketer, part technologist, and part neuroscientist.