With an average CMO tenure of 21 months – and growing shorter –incumbent congressmen have a better chance of keeping their jobs than the average CMO. CMOs in the past were typically lumped into one of two categories: creative or numbers people. This is an antiquated notion that is best left behind. Relevant CMOs needs to be equally at home and adept in both the creative and analytics arenas.
Here are four qualities that future CMOs need to have to remain relevant and effective in the increasingly complex marketing landscape:
Expertise, Not Mastery, of Analytics is Key: Effective CMOs need to devote as much time to understanding what goes into their return-on-investment (ROI) models as they do to what goes into their Super Bowl ads. Just to be clear, leading the marketing "symphony" does not require the conductor to know how to play each instrument; rather, he or she must know which levers drive success and quantify the impact that future spending will have on this success.
A PhD in statistics or applied economics isn’t necessary, but a meaningful devotion to understanding what is behind the analytics models they employ is. Relevant CMOs need to understand some key analytics concepts, such as the difference between correlations and causality. Or, the implication of a price elasticity curve that is nonlinear versus linear for a given time series. Simply put, marketing analytics is no longer something that can be glossed over by the CMO in the monthly web performance meeting.
Strategic Input into Analytics Models: It is important for the CMO to be involved in the details of how predictive analytics models are developed. Outputs need to pass the "smell test." The accuracy of the models is paramount, so CMOs need to be able to determine factors such as whether the outputs are reasonable based on the marketing executive’s experience. The CMO sets the annual marketing goals and determines future media budget allocations; thus, it is important that marketing executives are capable of overseeing the development and evaluation of predictive analytics models. If they are not ready to provide meaningful input into sophisticated ROI or economic models, the models can be vetted by an independent third-party who will help the marketing executive ensure their accuracy.
Be Ready to Stand By Your Data: We often employ tax accountants to prepare our taxes. It is their job to understand the "in the weeds" details of the tax code but it is ultimately our responsibility to sign the return and stand in front of the IRS should an audit ensue. Similarly, the CMO ultimately puts his or her approval stamp on all marketing functions, including the output of predictive models. The CMO is ultimately responsible to the CEO for these outputs and the decisions that they impact. You wouldn’t sign a tax return you don’t understand, nor should you endorse analytics models that you aren’t intimately familiar with.
Don’t Forget the Creative: With the CEO and CFO constantly asking for empirical information on success, it is easy for CMOs to forget the human element of the marketing equation. From a creative standpoint, CMOs need to be able to give clear direction to their internal teams and agency partners in order to develop compelling and high performing creative content. This includes the ability to judge a campaign based solely on a storyboard or to determine that a website redesign is off strategy based on a 10-minute review of wireframes. Understanding how creative ultimately impacts customers is no easy task and any CMO that can’t make this connection is not likely to retain their title.
There is great promise and power in the future of marketing analytics, but there is also great peril. It is ultimately the CMO who must decide how to guide and act on the information from the analytics department. The more comfortable the CMO is in this space, the more questions he or she can ask about the approach and methodology behind the numbers, the more likely that analytics will deliver their true promise to marketing. To remain relevant, CMOs need to balance creative and analytics more than ever before. Some may consider this an orchestration of opposites, but it is the future of marketing – and our future needs strong leaders who are equally comfortable in both worlds.
Steve Kerho is the SVP, Analytics, Media and Marketing Optimization at Organic (www.organic.com)