As brands become more agile, cutting costs and restructuring departments, the chief marketing officer (CMO) role has evolved. In some cases, the position is being eliminated entirely, replaced with a combination of roles. McDonald’s made this switch last year, replacing its global CMO with two senior vice presidents. Other companies have seen departures as well, such as Taco Bell and Lyft.
While these are major moves, other companies are embracing the expertise CMOs bring to the table. And they’re doing so with an increasing amount of diversity; consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates reports that 48% of chief marketer appointments went to women in the first half of 2019. High-profile examples include Best Buy’s CMO Allison Peterson and Amazon Prime North America CMO Jennie Perry.
These are exciting developments, but the CMO role is still facing a pivotal precipice. As brands scramble to adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic, how marketing executives respond could largely shape the consumer landscape, not just for their own brand, but for the industry at large.
Adapting to the New Normal
Even before the coronavirus altered the way companies do business, CMOs were experiencing issues with “sameness,” their brand getting lost amid other similar messages. As technology becomes more pervasive and consumers strive for more control, CMOs need to work even harder to innovate and stand out from the rest of the pack.
Those principles hold even more water now. The current health crisis brings uncertainty to all of us, and brands are no exception. A recent Gartner study shows 65% of advertising professionals fear budget cuts and company layoffs as a result of the pandemic. Layoffs mean a smaller team, and CMOs need to be flexible and agile with fewer people onboard.
Too often in marketing, brands simply go with the flow. For example, how many emails did you get from other brands about how they’re responding to the coronavirus? Maybe you even wrote one yourself. While it’s important to show care for your customers, some companies seemed to jump into the conversation simply because it seemed like the right thing to do. Others positioned their messaging in more convoluted ways, when really, these words should have come from a place of education and offering resources.
Trying the same things because “that’s what everyone else is doing” or “that’s just the way it’s always been” won’t cut it anymore. We’re all experiencing a new normal. CMOs that can confidently and consistently navigate this new world are far more likely to help their organizations thrive.
E-commerce isn’t a new concept; it’s been steadily growing over the past few decades. It’s easy to see why—people love the convenience of purchasing something online. And with 81% of Americans now owning a smartphone, that convenience is becoming more pocket-sized.
However, there’s a disconnect between what customers are using and how brands are handling it. A new study from Kantar and Profitero shows just 17% of brand leaders believe their organizations are ahead of the curve when it comes to an e-commerce strategy. Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters say they’re merely keeping pace or playing catch up.
E-commerce strategy is even more important now, and will be for the foreseeable future. Even after shelter-in-place laws eventually get relaxed, some consumers will likely still be wary about going out. What can CMOs, particularly of consumer brands, do to prepare for this new wave of ecommerce growth?
- Integrate an e-commerce focus into all employees. E-commerce can’t be a focus of a select few employees. All employees need to be aware of and contribute to e-commerce KPIs. Sales teams have certain numbers to hit, content teams must produce high-quality web and newsletter copy, social teams must create engaging posts, and designers have to ensure everything looks great and is functioning smoothly.
- Step up your SEO. With people stockpiling certain items, consumers may turn to other brands. The best way to make sure you’re the brand they turn to? Show up. Everywhere. Audit your website to see where your visitors are coming from and if you’re missing any keywords. You can use tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs to help with this, but also take advantage of your current customers. Ask them for reviews and ratings on sites like Yelp or Facebook Pages, and encourage them to spread the word about your brand.
- Test, Test, Test. Think of e-commerce like a test kitchen. You can try out products, offers, and other services with a small group before launching for your wider audience. Try multiple subject lines in emails, different CTAs on offers, and alternate pictures for the same social copy. Most importantly, keep track of the results so you can see what’s working and adapt quickly.
Once you’ve established clear e-commerce goals, you can turn toward another part of our new normal: social listening.
Adjust Your Social Listening Strategy
Social listening has always been a vital part of marketing. Brands monitor what their customers are saying, analyze that data and those conversations, and then take action that makes sense. With more customers engaging online, CMOs and their teams have to keep an eye on social chatter.
There’s no shortage of great social listening examples out there. While some of these require a lot of money, agile brands still have the opportunity to make moves. No matter your budget, you can look at what other companies have done for inspiration—especially in more unique situations.
For instance, Ford introduced its Covid-19 support program for people leasing or financing cars through Ford Credit. It used imagery that already existed, repurposing content to great effect.
Or take a look at Trade, a direct-to-consumer subscription coffee service, who paid attention to the uptick in video conferencing as a result of more people working from home. They shot a personable virtual coffee conference call ad highlighting their business, as well as their donation of $2 from every order to support roasters and baristas impacted by coffee shop closures. The “Brew From Home, Together” video is running on YouTube and streaming services.
As the spot eloquently states: “At least we have coffee.”
Customer Experience is King
Customer experience (CX) should be a consistent part of any business, though CMOs may be starting to shift their CX approach. Forrester predicts an increase in CMO “storymakers,” putting customers front and center when it comes to company values, experiences, and processes. The research firm points to the Apple Watch. Customers offer up their data for health research, and Apple gets credit for helping save people’s lives. We’re in a new age of customer control, so how are you approaching CX?
If you don’t already have buyer personas in place, now’s the time to develop them. Think about who your ideal consumer is, using purchasing data, social followings, and surveys to help paint that picture. Really think about their lives. What kind of shopping do they do? How are they impacted by what’s going on in the world? What are their pain points, and what would make things easier for them? What are they most interested in?
CMOs can also use Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to do a competitive analysis. However, there are plenty of marketing leaders not using SEM to its full potential. Only 41% have ever kept track of how their company is performing against their competition.
Here’s an example in action: Volvo wanted to enter the hybrid/electric vehicle market, one of the more competitive spaces out there. Using competitive search tools from Adthena, Volvo (and its agency, Mindshare) identified 72 new search term opportunities from its potential customers. These terms helped provide a clearer view of consumer intent as they researched hybrid and electric cars. Knowing where their customers are in their buying journey—and what terms they would be looking for online—helped inform their SEM strategy.
This is a critical time for marketers. As the world around us evolves and adapts, so too must CMOs. If they don’t, their brands risk being left behind.