Chief Marketing Officers – Leaders of Disruption, Drivers of Growth


Last month, IBM hosted a CMO Live Chat on their THINK Leaders site that focused on the challenges facing CMOs and marketing leaders who seek to excel in a rapidly changing business and marketing environment. I joined Liz Miller from CMO Council, Sandra Zoratti from the CMO Club and Carolyn Heller Baird, from the IBM Institute for Business Value to discuss a number of issues ranging from the role of the CMO to the areas that marketers are investing in to drive change in their organizations. If you are interested in reading the full chat, you can access it here.

Three major themes emerged:

1. Role of the CMO: Leaders of Disruption, Change and Growth
2. Technology Drivers: Mobile, Automation, Cognitive and Predictive
3. Ecosystems: External and Internal Partnerships

Role of the CMO: Leaders of Disruption, Change and Growth
Several participants in the THINK Leaders discussion posed questions about the CMO role and where the future may be. Panelists agreed that the path to becoming a CMO is no longer clear, and the future of the CMO role is not clear either. It is clear, however, that those CMOs who wish to lead, and have the capability to partner well with the rest of the C-Suite, will have an opportunity to take on more responsibility.

Several participants were interested to learn whether the panelists believe that the CMO is too single-focused on strategy and lack focus on business development. There wasn’t broad agreement on this perspective. Several panelists felt that while strategy is a key part of the CMO role, many who advance to the role of CMO have a broader set of experiences. Most, agreed that the role of the CMO is shifting – just as technology and businesses are changing, and those CMOs who can stay ahead of change will have the most success.

Technology Drivers: Mobile, Automation, Cognitive and Predictive
With technology as a core driver of change in marketing today, several participants had questions about the types of technology and the level of adoption of technology taking place in marketing organizations. Panelists mentioned cognitive computing as an interesting area for marketers to explore to learn more about the client relationships that are important to their businesses. Cognitive can help marketers know more about their customers and deliver the right, individualized experiences in the right moment.

Several other technology investment trends were well summarized here by Zeynep Tolon – Content, mobile and analytics are top of the marketing spend.

Ecosystems: External and Internal Partnerships
Finally, the group spent time discussing how partnering with others in the C-suite is helping to advance CMOs. While the CIO was deemed to be the CMOs closest ally, there was also agreement that the CFO is an important partner to the CMO and one that needs to be aligned on the digital investments required for businesses to really transform at the pace required. Procurement and finance systems – as one panelist pointed out – need to be supportive, not hurdles for these initiatives.

As the CMO and marketing organizations continue to grow in importance to the future of companies, the question left to explore is what are the skillsets and must- haves for CMOs and the marketing function within the next 3-5 years. Some of these skills can be acquired by partnering with other organizations and others are new areas of growth for the marketing organization. Data literacy jumped to the top of the list, but several are also looking for marketers who can show leadership and creativity to help their organizations transform in this difficult, high paced environment.

Keep the discussion and questions going by offering your perspective here.

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