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October, 2023

Why boards must recognise the growth-driving potential of the chief marketing officer

By Bronwyn Powell, CEO of the Australian Marketing Institute

Published by The Australian | Click here to read the article

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has transformed from solely focusing on the tactical aspects of traditional marketing to playing a crucial role in the overall corporate strategy, in turn being the keystone to driving business growth.

Today, boards cite strategy and growth as the most critical issues they are facing, particularly in the current economic climate. Coupled with this is the need to establish a strong employer brand to attract and retain talent in today’s competitive market. The CMO has emerged as a powerhouse for growth, leveraging their expertise on consumer insights and market trends to steer companies through good times and tough times alike.

A marketer’s value in the boardroom is often underestimated, particularly in terms of their contribution as a catalyst for growth.

There is an ongoing opportunity for organisations and boards to evolve and recognise brand loyalty and brand recognition as tangible measures of financial growth.

However, the reality is CMO’s play an instrumental role in propelling revenue growth and forging a clear path forward for an organisation’s future. With insights garnered through data analytics and consumer insights, they live and breathe establishing deep consumer connections.

In an era where market success hinges on emotional connections, CMOs emerge as the architect of distinction, positioning, and differentiation. They craft resonant brand stories that transcend traditional and digital channels, fostering connections that pave the way for market dominance.

Therefore, in the grand scheme of an organisation’s success, marketing plays a vital role in acquiring customers, generating profits, and driving growth.

If competing in new markets and creating new revenue streams are important to a board, then they need a CMO to make it happen. Marketers drive strategy, while understanding how technology is driving changing consumer behaviour and how to capitalise on this and meet consumers through digital platforms. Embracing digital channels and technologies allows CMO’s to connect with customers more efficiently and cost-effectively. This might involve optimising online sales channels, leveraging social media for engagement, and integrating e-commerce solutions.

The businesses experiencing the most significant disruptions are the ones with limited understanding of their customers, while the ones that are succeeding are actively enhancing their customer knowledge, extracting insights from their markets and refining marketing strategies and audience engagement by harnessing an ongoing data feedback loop.

It is this understanding that shaped the development of ANZ’s internal Marketing Master’s program to educate its teams about the transformational power of keeping up with and anticipating change and customer needs.

ANZ’s ongoing transformation of its marketing division has been focused on driving marketing further up the value chain and ensuring capability is geared towards technological innovation.

At the heart of the CMO’s prowess is an innate ability to navigate in a time of ambiguity and rapid change. In times of crisis, the executive board turns to the CMO as a shield for reputation protection and effective communication. Skilled in storytelling, CMOs control narratives and maintain communication across diverse touchpoints from traditional to digital and experiential marketing. These skills are pivotal not only during crises but also in creating enduring customer relationships.

Given current economic challenges, the rising cost of living and businesses asking staff to do more with less, the role of a CMO is crucial for supporting the bottom line and driving growth.

Skilled CMOs can adapt and realign their marketing strategies and budget to help the organisation stay ahead of competitors and address shifting customer needs.

So how do CMOs embody this transformative role and cultivate a competitive edge that propels companies to thrive? At their core, CMOs are skilled stakeholder leaders and managers who know how to bring others on the journey. By fostering a consumer-centric culture and understanding their behavioural economics, marketing is the fuel that powers business strategy.

Marked by innovation, agile thinking, and collaboration, CMOs provide organisations with a significant competitive advantage, particularly through the lens of deriving value while operating under resource constraints.

A skilled CMO can adeptly allocate resources where they yield maximum impact, by identifying high-potential marketing initiatives and aligning them with the company‘s strategic goals.

Blackmores Group is an example of marketing taking a consumer-led, data-driven approach to focusing resources behind innovation to drive tangible and sustainable growth outcomes for the business. By transforming innovation strategy and execution Blackmores has successfully delivered significant growth (more than $100m) in innovation sales over the past two years.

Using a broad range of insight generation techniques from traditional idea generation through to artificial intelligence across its 13 markets, Blackmores has transformed its strategy and successfully launched a three-year pipeline of breakthrough innovations that fulfil emerging health needs. This work has had a profound impact on commercial results. Innovation has doubled its contribution to sales, with over 14 per cent of total net sales now coming from innovation at an accretive gross margin.

CMOs also embrace calculated risks and adapt with agility. While they chart innovative pathways, they also mitigate the potential downsides along the ride.

Continual learning is an integral aspect of the modern CMO’s toolkit, enabling them to always stay relevant and ahead of the curve, amid a constantly evolving marketing and technological landscape.

Now, more than ever, they are skilled at rallying resources through measuring return on investment and have mastered the use of data-driven insights to set quantifiable performance metrics to communicate the impact on the company’s top and bottom line.

This analytical aptitude, combined with creativity, allows CMOs to craft customer experiences that transcend transactional relationships, cementing the brand’s position as an enduring and unique force in the market.

In a world where businesses need to achieve more with less and navigate ever-shifting consumer attitudes, the value CMOs bring to the boardroom is more important than ever before. In this dynamic landscape of perpetual change, one constant remains: the irreplaceable role of creativity.

Creativity in marketing is the secret sauce to success. It fuels innovation but also humanises the consumer experience. CMOs have the ability to build emotional connections and rapport with their customers and the brand that other executives lack.

Creativity is a fundamental element of marketing that keeps the human element alive. While AI and automation handle routine tasks, the soul of marketing lies in the realm of creativity, where data is transformed into strategies and ideas that go on to forge unbreakable customer loyalty.

A marketer’s value in the boardroom is solidified by their ability to translate strategic insights, drive revenue growth, and contribute to long-term business success.

No other member in that boardroom has the ability to foster an emotional connection directly with the consumer, be the guiding light through uncertainty, and the driving force behind growth in both prosperous and challenging times.

Bronwyn Powell is chief executive of Australian Marketing Institute.