The role of the CMO

Experts have opined for some time that for CMOs to be taken seriously they are going to have to understand data. A recent article in Advertising Age, “When CMOs Learn to Love Data, They’ll Be VIPs in the C-Suite,” discusses this as well. Among its key findings, “With economics and innovation, things that weren’t possible years ago are now possible, and that’s causing brands to stop and rethink the role of data and how it powers the enterprise.”

And, “”The challenge for CMOs, said Dave Frankland, an analyst with Forrester, is to integrate that data and mine insights to “distinguish signal from noise.” The payoff for marketers who accept that challenge will be data and insights that give them “credibility and validity to go alongside their hunch and expertise,” he said. “The best CMOs inherently understand customers at a macro level. This allows them to get in the customer’s head at a micro level.””

This last statement is most telling for me. The key skill for a great marketer is the ability to think like a customer, as opposed to hoping the customer thinks like you. While data has always played a key role in helping marketers understand the “details,” it has often substituted for getting out in the marketplace.

While I agree that the amount of data now available to the CMO is beyond vast, and the ability to manipulate that data into information is well within the budget (if not the experience) of most companies, the data is only part of the issue. The other part is gaining true consumer insights. Those insights are rarely gained solely by sitting behind your desk looking at data, no matter how well correlated and inter-related. The best marketers will remember they need to be out in the marketplace if they really want to gain those insights.

As John Le Carre put it so well, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.”


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