Top Problems CMOs Face

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on a listening tour. I’ve been meeting people all across the marketing and advertising community to understand what’s on their minds, and where the industry is headed.

The conversations have been a good reminder that we’re in a service industry whose goal is to create strong brands. Time and time again, I heard about three strategic opportunities where CMOs aren’t getting enough support. They’ve been described to me as follows:

  1. Customer Influence. Customers are telling my company more information than ever about themselves. How do I make sense of it? How do I use it responsibly? How do I let customers know they’ve been heard? In other words, how do I open my organization up to customer influence?
  2. Product Innovation. How does customer involvement change what my brand delivers? How does it affect our product offering? Should we be providing additional features and services? Should our brand bring together physical and digital touchpoints? In other words, how do we make it easier for customers to engage us? What’s the right course for product innovation?
  3. Brand Experience. How does innovation change our promise to new customers, and our relationships with current customers? How does it change company culture, and employee interactions? Clearly innovation will alter how we communicate and behave. If so, what is the new brand experience that changes how customers feel about us?
    These are fertile opportunities for an advisor, a strategist, or a consultancy to have an impact on a brand, to help a CMO transform his organization into marketing leaders.

They’re also a reminder that although there may be a lot of hype in the new media landscape, native advertising and programmatic buying are not really what keeps a CMO up at night. I’ve heard a lot about them recently, and while they’re interesting, they’re only going to command CMO attention if they related to one of these three opportunities.


Why Branding Is The Next Essential Startup Competency

Old writing, but still timely:

Why Branding Is the Next Essential Startup Competency

Love this quote:

In Silicon Valley, we tend to believe that better products win markets. It’s atypical to overhear a conversation at Blue Bottle Coffee or at YCombinator about brand building – brand attributes, values, positioning. Instead, our exchanges focus more on technology and more recently, design.

But over the next several years, marketing, branding and positioning, all under-appreciated disciplines in the valley will become markedly more important. As barriers to entry continue to fall driven by cloud technologies, competition among startups will increase and the startups that reach their target customer bases with the best messaging, building the most effective brands, will win.



Ken Burns On Streaming Video

Along with 9 million other people, I’ve been watching “The Roosevelts” on PBS. The insight into the motivations and experiences of two of great American leaders is fantastic. So is Ken Burns’ perspective on streaming video:

One of the ways we abolish the cacophony of noise and the information deluge is to binge watch, which is how streaming video is allowing us to control our content. When I met television critics this year, none of them complained that “The Roosevelts” is 14 hours. At every juncture of my professional life critics have said no one will watch long historical documentaries, but now they realize that people are starved for 14 hours of content, whether it’s “Orange is the New Black” or “House of Cards.” The same laws of storytelling apply—if it’s a good story, it’s a good story. Mine just have to be based on fact. I can’t make it up.

Millions of channels, loads of screens, lots of conversations, and we’re still starving for content that brings us together. Check out the rest of the interview:

Ken Burns on “The Roosevelts” and American Leadership

via Harvard Business Review



Too Many Marketing Teams Are Stuck In The Past

An important conversation taking place over at Harvard Business Review:

Digital marketing teams are centralized yet isolated from the broader organization. Marketing groups are splintered into communications, consumer marketing, brand marketing, and digital marketing units with no common thread in strategy and execution.

However, I’m not sure I this is the only solution:

To be a successful digital marketing organization, your team needs to be organized by functional expertise rather than by brand, project or platform in order to deliver coherent, integrated campaigns across all consumer touchpoints.

The above is true if you believe marketing’s purpose in an organization is operational. It’s not true if you believe marketing’s purpose in an organization is to discover new opportunities, enter new markets, inspire customers to change their behavior, and build emotional relationships to brands. That’s what traditional marketers think they are doing. It’s a set of skills in which digital marketers have to play catch up.

Still, it’s a great conversation. I do believe marketing is stuck in the past. But the failure to modernize itself isn’t about organizational development. It’s about failure to recognize that the audience, society, and the economy has moved on. Digital marketers needs to find a way to express that in ways that aren’t so functional and limiting.

Read more here: Too Many Marketing Teams Are Stuck in the Past

via @hbr @himeilee

The Software Gets In The Way

Readers of this blog will note my love for technology, and also my respect for the human mind, both its intellectual and emotional capabilities. I’m very happy to let machines take care of things that don’t need attention, but I find that sometimes software gets in the way of striking up conversations, exploring mutual interests, sharing new ideas, and making new connections. Software also can’t take a good picture, nor can it predict my taste in music, but that’s a subject for a whole other blog posting.

In this posting, I thought I’d share some interesting observations I’ve made over the past two weeks. With the summer behind us, I’ve decided to shift my focus to the next chapter of my career. After mastering the interview process of a so-called leader in the marketing technology space, I decided to take a more grassroots approach towards lead generation, or in plain speak, job searching. The hypothesis is that I’d find a better match for my skills and interests, as well as a better group of colleagues, if I simply put down the fancy tools and “went analog” for a little bit.

Using email, a phone, and a simple offer to buy coffee, I reached out to 50 people between September 3rd and September 12th. The response has astounded me:

48 introductory conversations
17 meetings scheduled
8 confirmed
5 already occurred
4 to be planned
3 new contacts created
1 new opportunity to explore

By most marketing measures, especially in digital channels, these numbers are great. Converting 48 calls into 17 meetings is better than a 33% response rate! You never get that with social media. I can interpret that a number of ways:

1. My timing was solid. Never contact someone on Monday seems to be working.
2. I wrote a good note. Short-form copy absent of buzzwords and self-promotion.
3. I made a compelling offer. Free coffee.

Actually, that wasn’t the offer, that was the incentive. The offer was for conversation about something that interests each and every one of us: how people are navigating the landscape in the advertising and marketing space. I’m genuinely interested. And others are genuinely interested in talking about it. But the mobile phones and social media we all love get in the way of constructive conversation. And the self-promotion on events and newsfeed doesn’t provide answers. Which may be why an offer to step out of the office and chat has worked so well: the software has gotten in the way.

So, what to do with this insight? A couple of things:

1. Broaden the campaign. More introductions. More conversations.

2. Simplify the ask. I don’t mean coffee. That’s easy. I mean how people can help me do what I want next.

3. Stay in touch. Not through broadcast messages on social feeds, but through personalized communication and informal conversations. In spite of all the buzz about career matchmaking and online job boards, that’s not where opportunities really lie. In other words, “go analog.”

One last piece of career advice: don’t leave yours to the machines. 🙂