February 02, 2023
No one can predict what the universe has in store for the economy this year. But whatever happens, chief marketing officers are more battle-ready, braced by several years of pandemic-driven upheaval and lessons on how to survive and thrive. The CMOs we are talking to are ready to sprint, keeping in step with competitors (old and new), an ever-evolving customer landscape, growing enterprise responsibility, and an unpredictable economy.
Many CMOs have moved beyond marketing leadership. They're emerging as growth-oriented drivers of "what's next?" And they have also become more thoughtful and less reactive, aiming to build deeper, more long-lasting bonds and levels of loyalty with their target audiences and influencers. They know that in downturns, relationships can be made or broken. If relevance and trust stay high, loyalty will come with it, even when consumers see lower-priced options.
In 2023, we expect CMOs to face a range of challenges and opportunities. Here are five insights that will significantly impact the CMO as a growth leader, helping them disproportionately drive impact for their businesses.
1. CMOs as Growth Integrators
The CMO role on organizational charts hasn't changed. But the CMOs' sphere of influence is expanding. Marketing is no longer just responsible for delivering value to the organization. Marketers must demonstrate howthey will provide that value while taking on specific growth targets. That means uncovering new pockets of growth and mapping out new opportunities.
Board-level expectations are rising, demanding marketing investments prove their value. That means CMOs must become cross-functional growth integrators. They must combine different functions, from sales to product to experience to ESG. They must move beyond traditional marketing KPIs, using commercial KPIs to telegraph and show their growth impact. They must get ahead of business planning with keen market and customer insight to drive strategic business decisions. The 2023 CMO has to speak a different language, which means leaving marketing buzzwords behind and translating everything they do into how they are influencing overall business value.
2. Enrich Customer Understanding
As marketers explore new ways to drive loyalty in leaner times, brands must build trust and stay top-of-mind. Customer experiences, especially those focused on the post-purchase journey, are one of the best ways to do this. We'll see CMOs champion increased investment in brand-led, differentiated, personalized customer experiences. All of this will call for deeper advanced analytics and customer understanding to develop more personalized value propositions, offerings, customer acquisition strategies and experiences. And this all needs to be done without compromising data privacy or increasing Big Brother issues.
3. Defend their Marketing Spend
Many companies are basing budgets on fear, tipping toward more demand marketing at the expense of brand initiatives. And it's always tempting to do so when the rest of the C-suite insists on quick results.
But it's a mistake. The most effective CMOs will adhere to the 60/40 rule or a more balanced approach with integrated brand and demand activities as they look for new ways to use brand as a growth engine. Even as they defend their budgets, CMOs will be looking for ways to proactively contribute to business strategy, adding growth insights and setting objectives.
That's likely to lead to increased efforts–and perhaps even more spending – in three critical areas:
4. Integrate ESG into Marketing
Companies know that environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies are under scrutiny. Governments, investors, employees and customers expect more accountability. Smart marketers know ESG efforts directly impact brand value. More CMOs are literally and figuratively putting sustainability commitments on the front of bottles and packaging to better communicate their promises, actions and impact.
CMOs understand that ESG has become a customer-facing demand, with as many as 75 percent of consumers thinking about their purchases' environmental impact. People want companies to behave responsibly and make products that are good for the planet, which goes way beyond Gen Z or specific activist subsets. ESG concerns are becoming universal. Companies that can prove they care about the environment, fair trade and humane labor practices have an advantage.
It's a commitment – a promise to employees and customers. And it must be translated into every facet of operations, with CMOs playing a driving and integrating role.
5. Define Your Purpose. Find the Joy, Again
CMOs have often combined art and science, magic and rigor, strategy and creative. That can't go away. But many tell us that the grind of the past three pandemic years has sucked much of the joy out of their work life.
It's been hard for CMOs to deliver the impact they'd like, held back by multiple headwinds. Those include a revolving door of talent, a tough 2023 operating planning season, tied to economic uncertainty, and the continuous questioning of the value of marketing. It's easy to feel more like a survivor than a visionary, and even easier to see why CMO time on the job is at its lowest point since the economic meltdown of 2008-2009.
It is time for CMOs to take a page out of their own playbook and create their own CMO Purpose Statement. What is their purpose in the organization? How can they uniquely add value? What can they promise their organization and teams? And what are the three critical enablers required to help them, and their companies, find success?
Expect to see CMOs take their purpose-branding lessons to heart and redefine career goals, digging deeper for motivation and joy. They'll find new ways to reignite their passion, transforming resilience from a corporate buzzword to a personal mantra.
The last three years have given CMOs a graduate-level degree in unpredictability. Crisis-tested, they are facing the year ahead with more skills and a considered balance of optimism and realism. While a global recession seems increasingly likely in 2023, they're ready. And the best CMOs will find new paths to uncommon growth.
Scott Davis is Chief Growth Officer at global consultancy, Prophet. He has over 20 years of working with top global brands to bring his cross-functional expertise across brand, marketing strategy and new product development. Scott is the author of several books, including ‘Brand Asset Management: Driving Profitable Growth Through Your Brands (2000)’, named one of the top 30 books of 2000. He is also an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and a frequent chair and speaker at leading industry conferences and marketing organizations.
David Novak is a Senior Partner and Co-Lead Of Marketing and Sales at global consultancy, Prophet. He is an expert in digital transformation strategy, with extensive experience in customer experience innovation, marketing/advertising technology rationalization, and performance marketing consulting. He’s guided Fortune 250 clients in finding powerful marketing technologies, including mobile, social, machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. He has worked with leading brands such as Apple, PepsiCo, Kohl’s, Ulta Beauty, United Airlines, Vanderbilt University and more.
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