Thursday, March 30, 2017

Yet Another Wake-Up Call: Marketing, Growth, and Customer Experience

Source: Unsplash, Daria Nepriakhina
My peer, Jake Sorofman, recently wrote a smart blog post about the latest wake-up call for CMOs. It seems chief marketing officers have needed a lot of these arousing calls in recent decades--digital was said to be a wake-up call, and so was the recession, sustainability, and social media. If you're weary of the constant wake-up calls, I wish to offer a solution: Put your focus where it belongs--on the customer--and you will never again have to fear a rude awakening.

The latest career-threatening forewarning was the announcement by Coke that it would no longer have a global CMO (hot on the heels of Unilever and Vodaphone axing their global CMO roles). In place of the CMO, the leader of Coca-Cola's marketing department will report alongside customer and commercial leadership strategy into a new position--the chief growth officer.

MarketingWeek notes Coke is not an outlier--brands such as "Colgate-Palmolive, Coty, Mondel─ôz or Tyson Foods have vocally installed chief growth officers to 'accelerate growth efforts' or to 'bring focus and growth to our platforms.'" Add to this that CMO tenure is again downtrending for the first time in a decade and CMO tenure is the shortest of any in the C-suite, and you have to wonder how anyone in marketing gets any sleep with all these wake-up calls demanding attention.

The question I have to ask is if this is really an issue of labels and titles. Does changing the letter between the "C" and the "O" from "M" to "G" address the problems brands are facing? Is it news to marketers that they were held responsible for growth? As Jake ends his blog post, "Call it whatever you’d like. To me, it’s just a CMO by another name."

Aside from the focus on titles and labels, there is a reason to worry about this fixation on growth: Because it is not a lever the company has to pull. No one can push the "growth" button. Growth is a dependent variable. A brand doesn't create growth--it creates changes that can lead to growth. As such, this obsession with "growth" in the C-suite could, I fear, lead brands further down the path of obsessing about short-term outcomes rather than long-term brand health.

Moreover, growth is not the job of one part of an organization. Naming a chief growth officer makes about as much sense as calling someone the chief profit officer. Both growth and profitability are not the accountability of one person or one part of the organization but is the outcome of collaborative efforts across the enterprise; in fact, I'd suggest companies already have a chief growth officer--the CEO. If the CEO isn't responsible for producing growth of the top and bottom lines, exactly what is he or she doing?

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