In my work I see firsthand how the CMO’s role is evolving in today’s marketing ecosystem. (And when I say “CMO,” I really mean the entire marketing organization.) This topic often comes up, and mostly, it’s focused on the discomfort marketers are experiencing right now. Why discomfort? Because the old reliance solely on the insight and intelligence of individual CMOs is evolving to include reliance on the insight and intelligence that algorithms provide.
The CMO of Yesteryear
Traditionally, CMOs predicted how prospective customers might want to interact with their brand. Translating that interaction into a set of operations the organization uses, CMOs were able to build a great brand, convert prospects to customers, and maintain those customers for life. CMOs drove their organizations’ marketing cognition.
Today, organizations are finding that to be successful, they have to shift how their operations interact with highly evolved algorithmic and programmatic software. Organizations that are truly succeeding are outsourcing some of that marketing cognition, and finding that this allows them phenomenal awareness of consumer motivations and behaviors in milliseconds—only possible by taking advantage of what software and algorithms can achieve. A major change like this has many downstream implications for how marketing operations function, how planning works, and how content development and creative work can be supported and thrive.
The Human Interface
One of the more interesting implications is in figuring out how an organization can maintain its brand personality, humanity, and the emotional context of its consumer interactions in this changing ecosystem. Organizations that want to evolve and ensure their success need to understand what resonates with prospective and existing customers. Not just to drive conversion and loyalty, but to help consumers achieve what matters most to them.
The CMO’s evolving role is in large part to incorporate the integrity of the brand in communications, to bring humanity and compassion to customer interactions, and to bring human ingenuity—programmatic inputs that a machine can’t provide. This is the human interface: understanding the customers’ goals and motivation, what they’re aiming to achieve, and how to evolve the brand to better serve them.
Everything we market has an emotional context. Identifying that emotional context is easier in some areas than others. Take the work we’ve done with healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. When you’re describing something that has great urgency—an oncology medication, for instance—the emotional resonance is almost immediately present. Translating that into other marketplaces isn’t always simple, so it becomes doubly important to understand what drives customers, what is important to them, and where that emotional connection exists. When we marketers put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and approach the interface with compassion and humanity, we create a spark that can result in long-term relationships between organizations and our consumers.
Finding the Balance
Organizations that succeed are finding the balance between the brand’s personality—that only the CMO can define—and sophisticated algorithmic programming. They aren’t relying on just one or the other.
Here are some differentiators for success:
- Approach the application of software and algorithms as an augmentation of the CMO’s marketing abilities. This allows companies to extend their brand personality to the consumer’s goals. Not a replacement of your cognitive abilities, the technology helps organizations become faster and more responsive. When the machine is able to interact and learn what is important to the organization it will be an extension—not a replacement—of marketing capabilities.
- Humans have an incredible ability to take in visual input, with specialized cognitive functions around visualization. This is something machines, software, and algorithms don’t do as well. Successful organizations are adept at translating data into a visualization that has emotional resonance for their consumers, and that makes decision-making easier for staff. This could include visualizations used internally in a dashboard to make data-driven marketing decisions or consumer-facing experience.
- Rather than approaching marketing as trying to sell as much of a product or service as possible, organizations should be trying to understand consumers’ motivations to better serve them. Good marketers ensure that those goal ballasts drive them; their primary aim is to help the consumer achieve their goal. Once an organization decides that everything they do will have that as underlying ballast, it profoundly changes how one thinks about analytics, metrics, and the data inputs entered into engines. Companies need to operationalize the understanding of motivation in all their marketing automation.
The CMO’s evolution is about the customer-centric model. Rather than being about the CMO’s ability to predict what customers want, it is about bringing empathy to customer interactions. Rather than becoming soulless automatons, organizations that evolve to elegantly employ algorithms and emotional resonance are even more human. And, really, couldn’t we all use a bit more humanity?