The growing popularity of interactive tools such as wikis, blogs and social networks is giving customers the ability to engage with firms as never before, and global marketers need to put customers at the center of their operations to respond to this new and challenging reality, according to an study of global CMOs conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Google.
The report, “Future Tense: The Global CMO” (pdf), finds marketers are increasingly able to reach out to consumers at all points along the value chain, not just at the moment a purchase decision is made. Because of this, global marketing of the future must engage all corporate stakeholders with consistent, constant and accurate messaging. At the same time, it must encourage and be able to respond quickly to customer feedback and involvement, pulling stakeholders closer to the corporate brand.
In terms of progress toward this goal, 56% of the 263 marketing executives surveyed agreed that their company is highly customer-centric and that marketing functions are interwoven throughout their operations.
The widespread dissemination of information is also causing marketers to adopt a broader role by engaging all corporate stakeholders beyond their traditional audience of customers and prospects, including investors, employees, government regulators and others. This often entails integrating marketing and communications into all aspects of the enterprise in order to gather, develop and use customer intelligence.
Regarding structure, the majority (55%) report that they do not see any change in their marketing organization in the next 12 months, while 28% see their organization becoming more centralized.
CMOs are also responding to the fact that consumers have many sources of information and are becoming more sophisticated in their purchasing decisions. “Now when you push a marketing message out there, something comes back. If it’s a great message, if it resonates and it’s real, the boomerang is going to be positive,” said Lauren Flaherty, CMO of Nortel Networks, an interviewee for the report. “But if it’s off message and it’s not genuine, or if it’s perceived as being disingenuous, you get slammed.”
Currently, CMOs view the most important media for meeting marketing objectives as conferences and events, consumer/business magazines, TV and trade magazines.
In contrast, a year from now, they anticipate that the top-four most important media will be conferences and events, TV, online content sites and consumer/business magazines. This reflects the growing influence of online media.
Global CMOs also continue to face difficulties in measuring effectiveness, ROI and relevance to the business, though they acknowledge that these areas cannot be ignored. Sales/revenue data, brand-awareness survey results and response and conversion rates are currently the most important measures of marketing effectiveness among CMOs.
The report provides the following recommendations based on findings:
Balance global brand awareness with local market relevance: Centralizing global marketing functions, such as advertising development and production, can create economies of scale and save money, but they must be guided by the needs of the local market. At the same time, marketing budgets must be decentralized so that regional directors can make appropriate decisions based on market demands.
Integrate marketing with other corporate communications: Both the interactive nature of Web 2.0 technologies and the transparency of corporate messages among different constituencies require the integration of various forms of marketing and communications. Businesses can no longer segment audiences and messages as if audiences don’t talk to each other.
Adopt new media: Organizations should consider setting aside a specific budget for experimenting with the newest Web 2.0 technologies. The CMO should have the foresight to anticipate how different constituencies will respond to different events, messages and channels, and should be able to deal with the proliferation of new-media tools and expanded audiences.
Develop new skills, capabilities-and partnerships: CMOs must understand the fundamental business model, brand, culture, policies and values of the organization. Equally important in terms of adapting to the evolution of new media are partnerships with vendors whose expertise can be used to take new initiatives to market faster-and more effectively-than a company would on its own.
Champion innovation: The need for greater accountability for marketing expenditure is pushing global companies towards digital marketing campaigns with higher returns than traditional media. The interactive nature of the latest digital-media vehicles provides the opportunity to develop deeper insights into customer dynamics and allows the CMO to become the corporate champion of customer insight.
“The CMO of the future must be the chief proponent of close engagement with customers,” says Nigel Holloway, Director, Americas, Industry and Management Research, at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Rather than merely pushing out the corporate message to consumers, marketers must draw them in so that they are regarded as helpful participants in the development of the brand.”
About the survey: The research is based on a global survey of 263 marketing executives conducted in February 2008. Among respondents, 30% held C-level titles. In terms of geographic distribution of respondents, 35% were based in Western Europe, 29% in Asia-Pacific and 20% in North America, with the remainder coming from Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Respondents hailed from nearly 20 industries and their organizations had annual revenue of $500 million or more