Putting the Magic in CMO

Rich Karlgaard, in his Innovation Rules column in Forbes, suggests that two C-suite roles that are sure to change are the chief information officer (CIO) and chief marketing officer (CMO). “The CMO will spend less time communicating to the outside world and more time shaping the inside story,” writes Karlgaard. “What else can hold a liquid organization together, but purpose, values and story?”

How right he is! I’ve long held the belief that traditional marketing is dead—and that the great companies of today and tomorrow are more about building movements than creating market share. In Lovemarks: the Future Beyond Brands I sought to show how deep emotional bonds between consumers and brands are what exists behind the great long-term business success stories. That, when it comes to the great legacy brands, we’re talking more about Cupid’s arrows than accountants’ calculators. That the only accurate word for this relationship is Love.

In Brand Loyalty Reloaded, a “red paper” published in September that explores how to navigate the emotional territory of brands, I suggest that “Big Data needs Big Love.” What does that mean in practice? And how might infusing Big Data with Big Love impact the changing role of CMO?

A study by Gartner reported that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs. Well, good luck to all those new “Chief Metric Officers,” because data will never replace an understanding of the fundamentals of human nature. True, we are living in an era of data mining, modeling, measuring, and monitoring that would have made Orwell’s Big Brother blush. But while many have presented Big Data as a dream scenario for brands to more precisely identify and target their audiences—a perfect marketing moment—numbers alone won’t do the trick. That’s because algorithms will never be able to read and respond to people the way people do. It’s because Big Data can read the lines, but not between them. It’s because Big Data can turn up at the perfect moment but not ignite it. It’s because Big Data cannot dream up stories, inspire us, and teach us about love.

Forbes is right to suggest that the role of CMO is due for a rethink. CMOs need to be psychologists, not just statisticians; observers of human behavior, not just practitioners of data analytics; master storytellers, not just good at math. Informed by but not led by Big Data, marketing must learn to speak a language of emotion, dream, mystery, and enchantment. It’s time for Chief Marketing Officers to sprinkle some magic into the mix.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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