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Reinventing The CMO By Activating Brave

The new anatomy of growth in a brave new world. And possibly the redemption for the CMO

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Over the last century, brands have moved from The Age of Identity to The Age of Value to The Age of Experience and are finally in the Age of You.

The evolution interestingly is not a sequential rejection of the precursor, but an analogous qualification of the follower.

The implication on the conventional branding value chain is total. And its epicentre is the Experience.

Consumer Research, Marketing Strategy, Identity Design and Activations are thus terms for stragglers and should evolve into practices of Experience Audit, Strategy, Design and Governance. 

But when did Experience & Engagement take over the CenterStage?  We only have to consider the pivotal impact of technology on business to appreciate that. 

There was a time when we bought linearly. When the need grew  into a want, a sub set of Brands we were aware of became our consideration basket. We then found out more about them through ads, dealers, family or friends; grew more desirous and finally bought it. 

Contrast it to a new car buyer’s movement as mapped a few quarters ago. The person began with a set of 5 hatchback brands. The process of search and evaluation almost immediately intensified. Comparison sites, blogger reviews, WhatsApp queries, FB closed group posts for advice, test drives, showroom hopping, finance evaluations, online deal negotiations, customisation possibilities, kids’ views, spouse’s colour and furnishing choices, tech savvy friend’s advice on price-feature trade-offs, company website checks, you tube videos, crash test reports and much more. In effect, what would have been a linear purchase process of 4 to 6 touch points had grown into a complex journey of over 110 touch points! The so called basket of brands of 5 that the prospect began with got overhauled two times over and the final car bought wasn’t even a hatch! 

Yes, indeed the AIDA Model and Consideration Set concepts are no more than vestigial anachronisms today. Broadly put, the consumer jouney as the pivot of all business and brands, has undergone a complete change. That simply is the reason for the fundamental shifts that have changed the face of corporates around the world.  

This is also the biggest marketing challenge for the world. CMOs everywhere are struggling to stay relevant. The marketing function not only has newer competition and their footfall building discounts to contend with, it also has the confounding task of the new complex and multi touch point customer journeys as the new canvas. Unfortunately the unsuspecting CMO with a primary experience of co ordinating ad agencies knows little beyond churning out print and TV campaigns. With the consumer expecting a seamless experience across the product, the information, the packaging, the social, the reviews, the advocacy, the environments, the usage, the communities; and with disparate teams attempting to manage each of these as different functions; the CMO’s and the CEO’s biggest challenge today is arresting the inefficencies and the disjointedness of the efforts. The pressure is mounting under the weight of exemplariness of an Apple and Airbnb. A Nike and a Tesla. A Starbucks and a Mini.

There is a definite pattern in the exemplariness. It is the cohesion of Experience. The identity of the cohesion. The strategy behind the identity. The Purpose of the Strategy, and the Governance of its implementation.

This reaffirms the Experience centric transformation of the conventional marketing and branding value chain indeed. But how can this maze be cracked?

The prophetic Larry Ellison provided a clue at his AGM evocatively – “Its all about People. People on the inside and people on the outside. You keep your employees happy and they keep your customers happy. And you win!”.

Quite simple really, right? Yes, this truly embodies the microcosm of the solution of all branding and marketing of the future. Marketing needs to relinquish control over the Brand and let it assume a ‘centre of the organization’ role influencing all functions equally strongly. That’s the way for the harrowed marketing function to assume some importance in an organization and get CEO’s and Management Board’s attention.

Having done that, as a facilitator (not the primary owner and controller) of the Brand, marketing needs to propagate and structure the new brand management in two fundamental stages – Building Culture & Values on the inside, to deliver Experience on the outside.

The primacy of the two tasks lies in the former. Building culture, values, and behaviours internally. Only when that is done can the Experience outside have cohesion, efficiency and effectiveness.

That really is the new distillation of building brands and businesses. The new anatomy of growth in a brave new world. And possibly the redemption for the CMO. 

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.

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Ashish Mishra.

The author is MD, Interbrand India

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