The Age of the Entrepreneurial CMO

I was lucky to attend The Economist’s The Big Rethink 2015 (#BigRethink) in March—an amazing series of panel discussions and thought leadership topics delivered through The Economist and featuring senior marketing leaders and innovators. The NYC event theme was: The Age of the Entrepreneurial CMO.

Here are six of the conversations on the Entrepreneurial CMO that I most enjoyed having on that day:

The Data Hairball

We have way too much data, using only some 10% to 15% of what we collect.
So, why can’t we more readily identify the magical data points? The creep factor certainly comes into play. Imagine if the data kings really applied everything that they know about you to a series of personalized messages…creepy. Did you ever hear the term “cyber-azi?”

This still leaves us debating where the data functions should reside in the enterprise. As marketers, we see the data functions directly linked to our day to day abilities and deliverables. One panelist suggests that “When analytics sits in Operations  function, it takes on an inside-out view vs. a customer first view.” This resonates with me and, of course, this theory found consensus with the marketing leaders in the audience.

Corporate silos are preventing some of the massive changes required in the industry

Almost every panelist brought this subject up. Silos-for-the-Entrepreneurial-CMO-to-Fight.
Organizational design needs to transform to reflect today’s real time decision making from an audience demographic profile of one. Organizations such as Google, Amazon and Zappos were referenced as leaders in such an approach. However we were all reminded that even when change happens slowly, we each have a role in keeping it moving forward within our own spheres of influence.

Identity Crisis

If the marketing function was an individual undergoing as much change as the industry is experiencing, it would not be surprising to learn that the person was feeling somewhat overloaded. Definitely. Here are some of the key contributors to this “identity crisis:”
No two CMOs have the same naming convention for employee roles.
The brand is now the customer experience.
And the roles of service, sales, and customer service are indistinguishable in the eyes of the customer, yet the CMO function does not necessarily straddle direct responsibility for the customer service functions.

Somewhat similar to the management of the customer service function is data stewardship. If we are building digital layers around the customer experience, what function in the organizations should have ultimate control over the data?

Be With Me In This Moment


With so many real time, online tools, we need to move away from the mindset of a campaign and into the mindset of an ongoing conversation…especially with those who are already customers.
Apps exist for literally everything—being in the present is possible…if you consciously allow it to happen.

Talent trends within the marketing world
With new roles being defined daily, it is difficult to staff up for certain functions. Hence freelancers with specific skills will continue to be an important source of talent. Having an inquisitive nature and being “insanely curious” were traits that resonated across the audience. The ability to think horizontally and to demonstrate an on-going learning perspective personifies the 21st Century professional.

All of these conversations, of course, link back to the evolution of new business structures and the Entrepreneurial CMO.

Content—yes. Usable—not always

The closing conversation for the day featured Ogilvy & Mather’s worldwide chairman speaking about the future of advertising. We were reminded that for some time, communications could be neatly packaged into popular
formats (think: the 30 second spot vs. the 60 second spot, etc.).

Entrepreneurial-CMO-ExpansionThe digital revolution has created seamless boundaries—where information comes from everywhere in real time. A visual of this concept was referred to as “liquid and linked.” Hence we have vast information coming to us with only some 30% of the daily available content actually being read.

Hence, useful content takes on ever more importance. Readers will vote with their fingers and continue to seek sense and relevance in the broad spectrum of channels.

I walked away from the day thinking: Everything has changed. Everything is changing. Yet some things are exactly the same. How do we send the right message to the right person at the right time in the right format? These are very exciting times!

This post was originally posted through MENG, the Marketing Executives Networking Group.


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