7 Questions Every Head Of Marketing Better Be Able To Answer

Brands are promises that get delivered every day. What did you promise today?

7 Questions Every Head Of Marketing Better Be Able To Answer

CMOs have it tough. Not only do they have to account for every single dollar invested in marketing but they have to be part engineer, part marketer, and part financial guru.


Although most industries have been disintermediated by technology, the marketing industry worked backwards. More and more intermediaries now stand between the brand the publisher. It used to be only an agency. Now it’s many agencies and a plethora of tech vendors.

To complicate matters more, the marketing mix is expanding daily and now includes more buzzwords and acronyms so that you don’t pay any attention to the people behind the curtain. The savvy CMO is going to have to learn what questions to ask. Working with Proximic and its special way of helping brands deal with their own data to plan media has taught me to ask the right questions. The answers will be different for each of you.

Does this algorithm work for me? An algorithm is a set of rules for problem solving. If you don’t understand how the rules are written and the order of the calculations, how confident are you that it’ll meet your brand messaging needs? Make sure you understand the rules.

Do I need RTB (real-time bidding) or RTM (real-time marketing)? RTB is a means to an end, and can simplify workflow. Real-time marketing is an approach that keeps your brand message fresh and top of mind. They’re different. Either can be helpful, if you’re able to tell whether they help your campaign.

What’s more important, targeting the right person or delivering the right message? And do I need a cookie to know? I am not sure anyone really knows if they are reaching the right person, with or without cookies. In advertising, the only thing that matters is the message and whether or not the message resonates with your target audience. Whichever you choose, you should be able to prove that you reached your target audience.

Do I know that where I’m appearing is brand safe? This phrase should mean more than avoiding porn and NSFW. Ad environments are dynamic, so pitch your whitelist out the window. People don’t consume or share sites, just pages. What’s paramount for real brand protection is what’s happening on specific pages where your advertising appears. The Internet is global, and it doesn’t show up on Sunday mornings nor occur in drive time or prime time in a single market. It’s always on and always changing. You should be able to control the environment in which your ad appears, even if you use RTB or programmatic.


What’s premium now? Premium is no longer tied to a property but to its appropriateness for your brand’s message. All advertising starts with a problem. If Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage is eating into Cheerios’ share of breakfast, that’s a problem. To solve it, create an emotional connection by finding a baby, putting Cheerios in front of her, rolling the camera, and putting the ad anywhere adults age 25 and up are likely to be. If that’s a coach’s blog or a doctor’s site and those environments are uncluttered, that’s premium for you.

Where does digital fit in my overall media mix? True return on investment is much broader and more holistic than CTRs. All that matters is did you reach your target audience? Did your message resonate with them? Did it change their buying habits…did ya move product? And most important, what media mix moved the most product? Digital is important, but still complementary to overall messaging efforts.

What do I do with “Social-Mobile-Local”? Do something nice for your customers and let them tell everyone about it. If I fly an airline for 10 years and a get a really bad flight attendant, it’ll skew my decision to ever fly them again. Brands are promises that get delivered every day. Screw up your brand promise and nothing in Social will help you except an apology. Mobile is where your customers are going, so if you don’t have a mobile strategy, get one. As for local, wherever I interact with your brand, it had better be a consistent experience or you are out of my consideration.

Remember: All advertising starts with a problem (e.g., one of your brands needs to gain share versus a competitor or need to protect share from a competitor). The only ROI that really matters is Did you “move the needle”? Did you move product or move minds? To do either, that message has to break through the clutter. That’s all. No other metric matters.

[Image: Flickr user Tony L. Wong]

About the author

Francine Hardaway, Ph.D is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned communications strategist. She co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998.