Should CMOs Concentrate on Brand Building or Business Growth?

Brand building or business growth

Do you remember when Coca-Cola did away with their CMO in favour of a Chief Growth Officer? Then two years later they brought back the position. At the time, I asked if they were wise or foolhardy to make such a change, but they answered the question themselves!

In an interview with Marketing Week, their global vice-president of creative claimed that it had “broadened” the company’s approach to marketing. Obviously, this didn’t live up to their optimistic expectations. I think that other companies who followed suit, also realised that they need a CMO after all. However, their role has changed significantly. 

 

HOW MARKETING HAS CHANGED

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’re like me and are fascinated by how change happens, then I’m sure this complete history of marketing Infographic by Hubspot will be of interest.

With the arrival of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Their consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated their consumers with spammy emails, popups and “subtle” cookies for following their every move. No wonder the EU felt inclined to develop its GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

What has changed over the past five years is marketing’s deeper awareness of, if not complete adherence to, what customers like and dislike. The major trends that we have seen and their impact on marketing, include:

  1. Chatbots, especially through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to catch consumers on the go with highly personalised messaging.
  2. The use of voice. With the battle between Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the voice search and commands domain, customers can get answers just by asking. This is a huge challenge for businesses because being on the first page of search results is no longer enough; you have to be first!
  3. Video is taking over social media, with its rapid rise on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Influencer marketing is giving way to customer journey mapping with the increased detail that IoT can provide. Many organisations have moved their marketing plans to mirror their customers’ path to purchase. Or rather paths, as personalisation continues to trump mass engagement.
  5. Zero-party data. As social media platforms have seriously reduced the collection of their subscribers’ data, brands are increasing their direct engagements with their consumers. Through polls, quizzes and competitions, they openly ask for consumers’ details, bypassing the need for cookies.

Have you taken these megatrends on board and adapted your marketing accordingly? If not, why not? 

In order to survive many CMOs have adapted to such megatrends as chatbots, voice, video and zer-party data collection. Have you? #Brand #Marketing #Trends Click To Tweet

 

BRAND BUILDING

In the past decade or so, many large CPG companies such as P&G  and Nestle renamed their Marketing departments as Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. They failed, miserably.

I believe the reason they failed is that despite this name change, they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With very few exceptions, their communications are still all about them & their brands and very little to do with their consumers.

Luckily, some more progressive consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy today’s consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be precise, they started on their journey towards putting the consumer at the heart of their business.

You see, consumer centricity is a journey, not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. Therefore the aim for satisfaction and delight is continuous and never-ending.

Consumers are constantly changing & their satisfaction never lasts for long, so the aim for satisfaction & delight is continuous and never-ending. #brand #Marketing #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

 

WE HAVE TAUGHT OUR CUSTOMERS (TOO) WELL

People understand a lot more about “marketing” than we give them credit for. And certainly, a lot more than they did just a few years ago.

  • They know that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for the price offs.
  • They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may be different, but their performances are pretty comparable. So the competition manufacturers see is not reflected in consumer habits. Loyalty has become a rare commodity!
  • They are far more likely to have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. And they are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand.
  • They have come to expect constant innovation, quickly adopt and adapt to the once novel idea, and then start searching for the next improvement.

According to Accenture’s Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago.

Consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago. @Accenture #CEX #CRM #Consumers #Marketing Click To Tweet

 

COVID AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOURS

As brands were adapting to the new savvy consumer, along came covid and consumer habits and behaviours changed dramatically.

According to a McKinsey report on “Reimagining marketing in the next normal” they observed six potentially important changes in consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic. Some are just an acceleration of already existing trends, while others are new and only now emerging. Specifically, they mention:

1. Shopping: Catching up to the great digital migration to expand digital borders.

2. E-services: New “service platforms” to help consumers take care of business.

3. Home: Finding a spot in the new “command central” for all activities.

4. Community: Localizing the experiences.

5. Trust: Creating a space for health and affordability.

6. Purpose: Holding brands to higher standards.

To summarise, it appears that people have come to the realisation that they have more control of their lives than they ever did before. Customers now demand far more of companies than just the delivery of products and services.

They want clear proof that organisations can be trusted to deliver on their promises and that they care about their employees and the communities in which they operate, as well as their customers of course. Customer centricity becomes the only viable strategy to adopt and marketing needs to adapt to it.

 

Companies that place the customer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise.

  • Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games, and their contact pages provide the customer with all possible ways to communicate with them.
  • Their advertising is clearly customer centric and emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero.
  • They involve and seek advice from their customers in many aspects of their business. (see  “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” for more on this topic.)
  • Their packaging is user-friendly and their products and services are easy to find and buy.

In every aspect of a customer centric organisation, the customer is clearly what drives each and every decision.


If you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website, especially the contact page. Or why not complete the mini C3C Evaluator? It’s free!


MOVING TO A NEW MARKETING

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently take, to adopt a customer-first strategy:

#1. Customer visibility. Place pictures of your customers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, on the lift doors or anywhere employees spend time.

#2. Customer validation. Whenever a decision is taken, ask

“What would our customers think about the decision we have just taken?” 

This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the customers. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the customers will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want. For more examples of such bad practices to avoid read “How to cheat the customer – or not!”

What would our customers think about the decision we have just taken? If they wouldn't like it, it is wrong. #CEX #CRM #Customer #Business #Decision Click To Tweet

#3. Your website. Review the language of your website. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do.

And while you’re there, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.

Ensure that there is a customer reason for everything on your website; WIIFM (what’s in it for me) is the new customer mantra.

Should CMOs Concentrate on Brand Building or Business Growth? Click To Tweet

#4. Customer persona. Take a look at your target customer description or persona/avatar. When was it last updated? As previously mentioned, customers have changed dramatically in the last year, so your document needs to be upgraded with the addition of the major changes. In fact it should be a living document to which new information is added on a regular basis.

If you don’t even have a standard form that clearly describes them, then use C³Centricity’s 4W™ template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free here)

#5. Advertising. Examine your campaigns. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.

#6. Customer connection. Spend time with your front-line staff and customers. Make use of call centres, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. These people will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know.

#7. Employee focus. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with everyone in the company. Help each employee understand the role they play in satisfying your customers. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2 above.

These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to adopting a customer-first strategy.

So to answer the question I asked in the title, marketers should concentrate not only on brand building for business growth but most importantly of all, on their ever-changing customers. 

If you’d like more ideas and a clear roadmap for moving to a future-oriented marketing approach, then DOWNLOAD a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity”. 

This post is based upon and is a regularly updated version of an article first published on C3Centricity in 2016.

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