The changing role of the CMO: from brand builder to business disruptor

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Maneesh Sah, head of marketing Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Aon Hewitt, says marketing in the digital age is having a credibility crisis.

In the lead up to his keynote address at ClickZ Live Jakarta next week, Sah outlines the transformations marketers need to make to develop ‘digital-ready’ teams. These new marketers can then create and amplify content to drive sales generation and business revenue.

“The key objective of the chief marketing officer (CMO) is to really transform marketing with a conversation engine,” says Sah.

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No longer can the CMO focus solely on brand awareness or brand recognition but must build teams, set up processes and metrics and inspire employees to generate conversations with clients and prospectives using meaningful and targeted content, he says.

In the past the foundational knowledge for marketers was around brand positioning, segmentation and marketing communications. Add to that today:

1. Demand Generation – the art of content creation and social marketing (using digital media tools to amplify the content) to create conversations.

2. Social marketing skills – to attract visitors to new pieces of content and increase viewership.

3. Creating and writing content – specifically for social media. For example, the way copy is written for a brochure is very different from the way content is written for social media channels. The aim is to use media assets like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as broadcast channels.

Rather than posting an advertisement telling the user to take a look at a new product, clever content might ask the user a question around solving a problem. “Are you looking to drive engagement? Are you looking to drive innovation, if so, then check out this white paper for some ideas.”

Why the best CMOs are transforming their departments into media organizations

“In today’s disrupted environment, marketers need to not only be marketers, but think like publishers and act like journalists,” says Sah.

A great example of this is Red Bull and its investment in Red Bull Media House.

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Red Bull’s content site boasts digital media channels, video, a film studio and even print media including magazines. The aim is to build a community.

Content is especially tailored to appeal to consumers with a high-energy lifestyle. Much of the content, like this short YouTube video, never actually talks about the brand as an energy drink.

It is meaningful, high quality and targeted content created to inspire consumers to challenge the limits they have set for themselves, says Sah.

“You can have the best brand awareness or recognition, but if you are not driving conversations – you are irrelevant. Once you create conversations, that’s when people start engaging with you and connecting with your brand and start thinking about using the services your organization provides,” he says.

Other brands taking on a strong publishing role include GoPro, Uber and Airbnb.

Here’s an example of GoPro’s user-generated Instagram page, which encourages users to share their use of the brand’s technology. GoPro’s Instagram community has 8.6 million followers, and posts attract likes in the hundreds of thousands.

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The challenger versus the relationship builder

In The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, 54% of all winning representatives in a solution-selling environment were found to be “challengers” while the “relationship builders” represented only 4% of high-performing reps in complex environments.

“…What the data [tells] us is that it is the nature of the relationships that matter. Challengers win by pushing customers to think differently, using insight to create constructive tension in the sale,” say the book’s authors, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

In a business-to-business (B2B) content marketing context, it means marketers should be creating and sharing content which helps clients rethink their businesses and their business drivers, says Sah.

“The biggest winning deals are made by the challengers – people who really challenge clients with commercial insights to really think about their business,” he adds.

What makes a great CMO?

According to Sah, today’s CMO needs to be:

  1. Technically savvy – by keeping up to date on latest technologies
  2. A leader – with the leadership skills to inspire teams to adapt to these new technologies
  3. A transformer – who can change the mindset around marketing as a discipline of brand awareness and brand recognition to creating demand and new conversations to drive business growth and revenues.

“At a business level there’s still not a good understanding of what marketers can do or how they can help business growth,” says Sah.

In the Asia Pacific, many marketers have a foundational knowledge around marketing communications, brand positioning, segmentation and even event marketing, but a big gap remains around skills for creating content, he says.

This is why leading marketing organizations that have recognized the importance of becoming media organizations are hiring “writers”.

Tourism Australia is another example of this. In 2014 it announced it was adding a ‘newsroom’ to its marketing department and employed journalists to work there. Tourism Australia’s CMO Nick Baker told Mumbrella the decision was in line with the organization’s philosophy of shifting its marketing from paid media to owned and earned channels.

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“In the past, the same content would have been written by a marketer, but now it’s all about creating meaning, it’s all about good storytelling, and it’s all about creating commercial insights and inspiring people to think differently – about themselves or about their companies, and that’s where good writers come in,” says Sah.

The three elements of a high-octane marketing plan for the digital age

Here are Sah’s three foundations for a high-octane marketing plan:

1. Community Building: Whoever owns the community, owns the audience. In the example of Red Bull, that target audience is the adventure sport enthusiast or someone who believes in having a very active lifestyle.

2. Demand generation – the strategy for creating new inquiries and new leads

3. Account based marketing – this is more relevant to B2B marketing where businesses already know who their clients are. In this case, the marketing team gives the sales team very targeted messaging content aimed at these clients.

“Marketers need not only be just marketers but think like publishers and act like journalists – a big ask for sure, but only those marketers who can do that will strive,” says Sah.

*Featured image reproduced courtesy of GoPro / Instagram / Thomas Confortola

For more tips on the role the chief marketing officer can play in generating sales and revenue for businesses and brands, join Maneesh Sah at ClickZ Live Jakarta on April 28. Click here for more details.

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