Carpe diem: A marketing renaissance in the making

Aldo Cundari looks at why change needs to come from the top.

By Aldo Cundari

In the not too distant past, the CMOs’ and senior marketing executives’ reputations were shaped by their success with traditional marketing and advertising practices. Real-time and actionable metrics were hard to come by, and as a consequence, marketers didn’t have the quantitative backing to establish credibility in the C-suite. To frame the issue in the words of John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

During this period, direct customer interaction and measurement was primarily the domain of other groups in the organization. The sales team handled product placement and owned sales results; the call centre provided customer service and owned satisfaction metrics; and front-line retail employees dealt directly with customers and were responsible for turn. In short, there were customer metrics, but they were out of your control and as a consequence, had limited effectiveness.

Over the last decade, and particularly the last five years, digital technologies and information accessibility has enabled the customer to control the brand relationship. They are now hyper-connected, vigilant, discriminating and reluctant to engage with the brand unless it’s on their terms. Part of their reluctance is driven by the bombardment of irrelevant information they endure every day. For marketers, as author James Gleick says: “When information is cheap; attention becomes expensive.”

The other part is that empowered customers are building their brand perceptions through the experiences of trusted friends, family and influencers from their on and offline communities. Not surprisingly, traditional marketing communications approaches have a hard time making the connection in this environment.

As brands compete against these new factors, customer or human centricity has solidified its position as the best strategic option, and that means businesses need to provide value at every stage of the customer purchase journey, from initial awareness to post-purchase.

As challenging as this sounds, the solution sits within the grasp of CMOs. Who else is better positioned to make sense of this new, empowered customer?  Who has the customer insights and ability to transform them into exceptional customer experiences? Today’s CMO has a unique vantage point from which to make sense of customer behaviour, capture and analyze new, multi-level data streams, and leverage new media and production options to create new and sustainable customer relationships. In addition, where these models converge, marketers can create improved transparency, greater accountability around KPIs and the ability to adjust to changing market conditions on the fly.

Think of it as a marketing renaissance, and success in this new customer age rides on the shoulders of the CMO.

Easy to say, but not easy to do. So where do you start? To keep it simple, I recommend three key areas to focus on:

Capture, own and manage customer insights

Research, whether it’s qualitative or quantitative, has always been a part of your domain, and today’s digital technologies have given CMOs access to many more research choices, many of which provide real-time feedback. By consolidating, managing and making customer insights available across the organization, you can create a new level of customer knowledge and empathy.

Build an organizational customer-centric mindset

Easy access to customer knowledge is a core building block in customer-centric organizations. It acts as a catalyst for better employee-customer relationships, and encourages employees to contribute customer insights as well. Marketing is well-positioned to take a leadership role in educating employees and building a collaborative workspace where the customer is everyone’s responsibility.

Add marketing science to your toolkit

If insights relate to customer behaviour, then marketing science captures interaction and transaction analytics. Analytics are the proving ground for your marketing initiatives, and must be applied to every interaction during the customer purchase journey. As a marketer, your biggest challenge will be interpreting the mass of data that now falls into your lap, but once you get your reporting established, a wealth of actionable customer knowledge is there for your taking.

These are difficult, dynamic times for all organizations, and I believe CMOs and marketers, with their hard-to-beat combination of creative thinking, marketing smarts, customer centricity and analytic rigor will be welcome at the C-suite.

AldoCundariAldo Cundari is chairman and CEO of Cundari. 

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