What do CMOs want? Innovation, integration and collaboration

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Naomi Davis is Brand Strategist at MobasCore

A new era for the role of the marketing professional is upon us, changing the way both client-side businesses and agencies think.

The marketing industry has always been in a state of constant evolution, but right now it’s changing at such a pace that evolution almost seems the wrong word. The experience of it is less a “process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change” and more a rollercoaster designed to test the nerve of the most gung-ho marketer.

But for every white-knuckle twist and turn there’s also a bounty of hot dogs, candyfloss and ice cream to be enjoyed: respect for the importance of the marketing function, long overdue, is building. Evidence and experience suggest that businesses are increasingly focusing on their customers and their brands as the centre of their operation, taking a more marketing-focused approach. As a result CMOs and their teams are becoming more cross-functional, building stronger relationships with other departments and taking on a more diverse remit in order to deliver integrated projects. As the accomplished agency leader Avi Dan commented in his trend predictions for this year, “CMOs will begin to put silo busting on top of their agenda…integrating messages and insights across business units, geographies, and functional groups.”

As marketers continue influencing businesses at a wider and deeper level than ever before, the challenge is to ride out the adrenaline-fuelled loops while not overdoing it on the candyfloss. Marketing models are changing, new strategic requirements emerging and channels multiplying. At the same time, the average CMO is managing additional requests, meeting increased accountability, contemplating new skillset requirements, spotting opportunities, leading their team, keeping abreast of trends, amending strategies… Oh, and the small task of overseeing the delivery increasingly successful agile marketing activity. It’s no mean feat.

The reality is that marketing teams of today require an ever-shifting array of skills and roles. I’m not going to list the hundreds of specialisms being called upon every day – we’d be here a while, and if you’re connecting with what I’ve said so far, you likely don’t have the time! Just as there are roles now that weren’t conceived of a few years ago, there will be roles needed in five years’ time that we haven’t even thought of. Agile is the buzzword of the moment, and for good reason; the brands that are tapping into opportunities are those that can respond rapidly. The impact is, that for companies looking to deliver real growth, agility and innovation, the general practitioner ‘jack-of-all-trades’ role is outdated.

As respected leadership author and Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill discussed in her recent TED Talk ‘How to Manage for Collective Creativity’, leadership to deliver innovation is becoming less about knowing all the answers and directing people in how to deliver them and more about creating platforms for collective innovation.

This necessitates calling on the skills and expertise of specialists in the required fields. As Linda comments, “Innovation is a journey. It's a type of collaborative problem solving, usually among people who have different expertise and different points of view… You have to unleash the talents and passions of many people and you have to harness them.”

And so marketing leaders are becoming the aggregators, the opportunity identifiers, setting the stage to lead collaboration between a host of specialist skills. For some, with larger teams and more resource, this can be managed in-house, through large team matrices covering multiple specialist teams. For others, working with external agencies is a great way to bring in just the right level of expert support, with enough flexibility to continually tailor the mix of skills required.

If client-side organisations must adapt to the changing landscape, the same goes for marketing agencies; we are, after all, two sides of the same coin. A recent report by integration specialists R3 examined the 40 most integrated brand campaigns from across the world, looking at the skillsets driving the campaigns and the models of agency relationships involved. The need for key specialisms was clear: 38% of businesses deploying the strongest campaigns opted to use multiple ‘best-in-class’ agencies and another 20% chose to use holding company agencies offering specialist sub-divisions.

Over recent months we’ve observed changing trends in the industry and have spent time analysing the requirements of existing, new and potential clients. The businesses we speak to are looking for the integrated collaboration that one point of contact brings, but they also need best-in-class expertise in very specific fields.

Clients need the right skills at hand the moment an opportunity or challenge arises. It’s something we’ve taken on board, remodelling to offer four distinct specialist divisions which are coordinated by a dedicated Mobas Group team. We know that to stay relevant to our clients, we will need to continually evolve and invest to ensure we’re at the top of our game. Mobas itself has Whether agency or client-side, evolving structure is rarely simple, but this approach enables us to continue to develop the divisions, and perhaps add to them as those yet-to-be –dreamt-of roles emerge.

For in-house marketing teams the immediate future is about assessing which skills are at hand and which are required, and how they will meet the challenges of updating skills in the future; the right solution will depend on each brand’s individual requirement. For some that may be growing their team, for others it will be using multiple agencies, and for many the ideal is the right level of support from experts in their field and less time spent managing agency relationships. After all, that leaves more time to focus on enjoying the candyfloss.

Naomi Davis is Brand Strategist for MobasCore

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