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Evolution Of The CMO Role In A Digitised World

Mere cosmetic changes would disrupt current business models. What is required is that CMOs help to create end to end linkages between the end consumer and the first person in the value chain

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It is difficult to exactly illustrate how digitalised world would look 10-20 years from now, even though the digitization process has already started. However, to get a glimpse of the digitized world of the future, imagine your life run on(or run by) a complex machinery that is a composite of you as human being, organizations, society, AI, algorithms, data(rather big data), data analytics, marketing, social media and so many other tools. 

It would be an amalgamation of data, emotions, cognitions, and intelligence (natural as well as artificial) all mixed into one. It would be difficult to separate the man from the machine, the natural intelligence from the artificial intelligence, or the real from the virtual. Organizational boundaries would blur, personal and professional lines too will get blurred.

If this sounds scary, on the flip side, the digitized world would also open several latent opportunities for organizations which have not yet been explored. Among others, the CXO roles would become one of high-end leadership, and CMOs would have a lot on their plate trying to achieve what they have never attempted before. Let me list out 3 key exciting opportunities that CMOs of any organization would have to deal with in next 3-5 years if not earlier:

  1. Managing Customer Experiences (CX): Managing customer experiences or CX would be vital role of CMOs since consumers would stop buying products or services and would have started consuming experiences. The dropping trends in car sales and falling craze for large cars in most markets in the world suggest that Uber or Ola model(or Airbnb model)  of shared consumptions would probably be more likely way of consuming experiences. 

Most customers would prefer convenience of experience rather than the hassle of product ownership. Mobility would also get enhances from less of ownership, and fluidity of consumptions, along with the notion of shared economy would make consumers go for C2C experiences where firms would become more of a facilitators, than sellers. 

Role of CMOs would be to create seamless experience channels (rather than distribution channels) so that consumers anywhere in the world can seamlessly move across real (physical) or virtual channels and create or co-create experiences for themselves as and when they want, without the permission or intrusion of the selling organizations. 

This also implies that CMOs would have to create top quality back end systems to create collaborative ecosystems in partnerships with hybrid partners to give the consumers the experiences that they are expecting. The bid data analytics, AI, 3D revolution, VR, AR and other technologies would become a part of the CX.

2. Extracting Value through Deep Consumer Insights: The second important role of CMOs in the organizations would be to derive deeper consumer insights that would create and extract the next level of value for consumers beyond what has already been created. Imagine an iceberg which is 10 per cent above water and 90 per cent below it. 

What marketers have done so far is to generate and extract value from 10 per cent visible or discernible part of the consumer’s mind-set. The 90 per cent is still hidden or waiting to be fully tapped. The digitized nature of selling and consumption would help CMOs to put together small data, big data, AI,  and other tools to create a composite understanding of the new age consumer to derive more value from him/her based on the 90 per cent hidden value. 

If AI is unable to create more value for consumers and also for firms, then its RoI would never be realised, and the iceberg of consumer mind-set can only remain 20 per cent or 30 per cent tapped. However, the caveat is that the new age consumer may not like to be sold, and s/he may not buy, but s/he will continue to consume. 

The traditional model of marketing would change, and the business models that rest on treating consumers as revenue generators would have to be re-designed. It is quite possible that the future consumer does not pay a single rupee, but continues to increase his consumption (think of the free consumption of social media today by consumers).

3. Managing Value Chains: The third most important role of CMOs would be to manage the value chains of their firms. This means that integration of suppliers, partners, channel members, institutions (such as banks etc). The role of society would increase as consumers would become more knowledgeable, and demand more accountability from the marketers. 

This implies that organizations have to create value chains that even integrated society into the value chains of the organizations. The concept of virtual factories, and distributed production systems such as that practiced by social enterprises such as Jaipur Rugs and others exhibit that value can be created in geographically dispersed areas also if they can be sequentialized. Such efforts leads to integration of society into the firm’s value chain, and helps to make the firms look more credible as well as trustable.

 It would also lead to creating more shared value, employment, and goodwill for the firms in the society. However, the firms must realise that integration of CSR in supply chain is not the same as managing value chains with society. Mere cosmetic changes would disrupt current business models. What is required is that CMOs help to create end to end linkages between the end consumer and the first person in the value chain. 

For example, in Jaipur Rugs, the organization is making new marketing efforts to integrate the consumers with the producers (poor weavers of rugs in the villages) by asking the consumers to give ideas for making rug designs, and then making the consumer talk to the producer and let them co-create the value that has to be created. 

More such efforts would be visible in the new digitized world, where consumers and producers would be inter-connected, and therefore become part of the same value chain, and thus the distinction between who is a consumer and who is a producer would blur even more, leading to co-creation of value in an integrated value chain. This too would be led by CMOs of the organizations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Prof Ramendra Singh

The professor is Associate Professor in the Marketing Group at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, India. He obtained his PhD from IIM Ahmedabad, India, and MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur, India. He has worked for several years in sales and marketing positions in organizations including, Indian Oil Corporation, Exxon Mobil, SRF Limited and ICICI Bank

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