The evolution of data and technology will help revert the role of the marketer to its historic best – and even enhance it, rather than fundamentally change it.
That is the view of panellists addressing the challenges of the modern CMO in a Cannes Lions event from The Drum in partnership with Datorama.
Nats Sijanta, Mercedes-Benz Cars director of marketing communications; Andrew Geoghegan, Diageo’s global consumer planning director; Zaid Al-Qassab, outgoing chief marketing officer of BT and the new Channel 4 CMO: and Leah Pope, Datorama's chief marketing officer were in conversation with The Drum’s associate editor Sonoo Singh at a fringe Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity event, in partnership with Datorama.
What is the role of the marketer of the future?
All agreed that the fundamentals of modern marketing remained unchanged. In recent years it had been easy for marketers to get side-tracked by the increasing complexity of data and technology to the detriment of a marketer’s core role.
As Geoghegan said: “When I hear people talking a lot about data and technology and all of those things, they are just things that we need to make sense of at the moment. They are not what marketers’ jobs are.”
“First and foremost” marketers are business leaders. “What should be keeping us up at night is delivering for the business and making sense of the future for the business.”
Yet, as Pope said: “The evolution of technology and data is allowing us marketers to come back to what we’re good at and double-down on what we’re supposed to be doing – caring about our customer, caring about how we engage with our customer and how our customers engage with our brand and technology is allowing us to do that so we don’t get caught up in the data.”
For Al-Qassab, his duties as a marketer remained unchanged from the day he joined the industry but he said it was incumbent on marketers to understand the consequences of constant change: “You have to constantly change your understanding of the last piece of the puzzle, which is how to reach consumers in ways that are effective.”
Sijanta expanded on marketing’s role as a business driver, suggesting that the good marketer of the future would be in charge of 50% of the success. “It’s not all about talking about and representing the brand,” he said. “It’s also about coming up with new solutions of how to bring people into the brand and how to take leads from the funnel and make sure they buy something.” Territory previously led by a brand’s sales team, he added.
Is the term CMO even fit for the future?
Singh, moderating, asked the panel if there was a need to change the narrative around the role and functions of the CMO. In an era where marketing is tightly entwined with every aspect of a company’s operations, was even the term CMO still fit for purpose?
Perhaps, said Sijanta, the CMO should be considered ‘chief change officer’ “because that’s what we’re doing”. “The customers are changing so fast that we definitely need to think about how we adapt as fast as possible and we have to somehow spearhead the company into this new future.”
However, Geoghegan believed it fickle to change names and titles, arguing instead to better define the role and capabilities in order to reflect its true business value in an organisation. “There is always this desire to create disruption and changing the name is one way to do that, but I think it does marketing a disservice in the long term to do so,” he said.
Extra roles, such as marketing technologists, were being added to address these extra responsibilities within the marketing remit, said Pope whilst Al-Qassab argued for a more reflective balance between analytics and creative.
Data vs creativity
“Digitalisation has brought a need for a breadth that didn’t use to exist,” Al-Qassab said, whilst cautioning against marketers as “pure technicians”. “They will wake up one day with their brilliance in click-harvesting and realise they have nothing to sell.”
Yet for all panellists, data was not the enemy of, or in conflict with, creativity. Instead, used rightly it could infuse marketers with the sorts of insights that led to more sophisticated and successful creative ideas.
In short, the modern marketer is informed by – but no longer led by – bigger, smarter data with tech advances offering the tools to do so in an increasingly sophisticated way. Today’s marketer is, as ever, more than the sum of his parts, though those parts are growing in both scape and scope.