B2B Beat: Technological Disruption Gives CMOs Avenue to Broader Role, Says IBM Report

February 28, 2016

In a recently released report, “Redefining Markets: Insights from the Global C-Suite Study: The CMO Perspective,” IBM examines how technology has transformed the marketing landscape. These disruptive changes wrought by technology give marketers deeper insights into customers; these changes also open big opportunities that promise to give CMOs a broader role.

But it’s up to the CMO to seize this power. As the CMO of a global brand management company told IBM, “The CMO has to become the custodian of the customer experience, not just the head of the ‘arts and crafts’ department.”

The “Redefining Markets” report is part of IBM’s continuing survey of C-suite executives around the globe. For this particular report, IBM interviewed 723 CMOs, with 188 of them from the United States.

The CMOs interviewed for the report painted a picture of rapid change, where CMOs are “in the midst of a storm.” The report makes the case that “technological advances are disrupting the status quo and bringing huge turmoil in their wake. Industries are converging, and new competitors emerging, with breakneck speed.”

CMOs identified three technologies in particular will lead these changes over the next five years: mobile solutions (64 percent); the Internet of Things (62 percent); and cloud computing (59 percent).

IBM found that 67 percent of CMOs identified convergence of industries as the single biggest overall trend transforming business. Similarly, 60 percent of CMOs expect more competition from companies outside their industry. “Industry convergence increases the number of predators and prey,” a financial services CMO in Italy said in the report.

How are CMOs adapting to this new world? IBM found that 6 percent of CMOs, which it calls “Torchbearers,” are leading the way in harnessing digital technologies. Another 33 percent are less successful in their adaptation; this group is the “Market Followers.”

The most effective CMOs are innovative, the report said. “I think the CMO’s role is to look ahead — and that includes looking at adjacent markets to identify new opportunities and business models,” the CMO of an Italian telecom company said in the report.

Two-thirds of Torchbearer CMOs are innovating by exploring new revenue models, while about half of Market Follower CMOs are doing the same. “We want to move to a recurring revenue model: selling subscriptions rather than capital goods,” said the CMO of an industrial products company.

More than 90 percent of Torchbearer CMOs are attempting to provide a “consistent, authentic face” to their customers. Meanwhile, just 72 percent of Market Followers are making the same attempt. The most effective CMOs are unifying marketing, sales, and customer to service to create a unified customer experience. “There won’t be CMOs in the future; there will be Chief Experience Officers who are responsible for the overall customer journey,” said Mohamed Al Tajer, Head of Marketing, Brand, and Corporate Communications, Commercial Bank International, PSC in the United Arab Emirates.

Adapting to technological change will require finding data-savvy talent. This talent can be leveraged by hiring new employees, by partnering with other enterprises, or by using agencies or consulting firms.

The report concludes by giving CMOs this ultimatum:: “Infuse digital DNA into your team.” 

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Photo by Christiaan Colen

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