How CMOs Can Build for the Future: Mastercard, Accenture Interactive, and More Weigh in

With Samsung unveiling plans to turn the humble fridge into an “intelligent home assistant,” voice taking center stage, and brands exploring how to build connected experiences for consumers, all eyes were firmly on the future at CES 2019 — making it the perfect place to consider the future of marketing itself.

While on the ground in Las Vegas with more than 180,000 delegates, The Drum spoke with top marketers from Mastercard, Accenture Interactive, and more to hear their take on where marketing is headed. From how the chief marketing officer role might change over the next few years to how relationships with agencies will evolve, here are their observations.

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard

How do you see your role developing or changing over the next few years?

My role has already evolved quite a lot. And will continue to do so. Marketing leaders are no longer responsible just for campaigns. They should be an integral part of company leadership. Yes, they need to be a marketing expert. But, equally, they need to understand finance and business impact. They need to understand data and how to leverage it or they will get killed by the competition. And they need to understand PR, because marketing and PR should no longer be two separate functions. At Mastercard, they’re one organization.

That’s not all. Now that many chief marketing officers have larger technology budgets than their chief tech officer colleagues, they have to understand technology. If you don’t understand it, how are you going to determine how to best spend your martech funds?

It’s imperative for marketers to have a solid grounding in all this.

How do you see marketers’ relationship with agencies evolving?

Clients are under extreme financial pressure, so agencies will need to be more cost-effective. They’ll also need the capability to develop campaigns on the fly in real time.

Agencies should be close partners with their clients, and clients should integrate their agencies as they would their own team. We need deeper levels of partnerships than ever before.

What are you most excited about as you consider the future of marketing?

Competition is getting more and more intense every day. As a marketing leader you can be at the table to steer your company’s strategic direction, which is very exciting.

Marketing can be more exponentially powerful with technology and data behind it. Every new technology can help amplify marketing in a huge way if you know how you can use it.

And marketing is one function that can bring about social change like no other function can. It’s an opportunity and responsibility that marketing has. As marketers we need to bring issues important to us and our consumers to the forefront and fight for those causes.

Susan Vobejda, chief marketing officer, The Trade Desk

What should chief marketing officers expect to prioritize in the future?

They should be careful not to get wowed by the shiny object and go down a rabbit hole around it. For example, AI might be important to your organization if you have a strategy around it and it’s not just AI for AI’s sake. Instead, [the question] should be: ‘What are you trying to accomplish for your customer?’ Then let the strategies and technologies flow from there. Start from your customer strategy.

How do you see your role developing or changing over the next few years?

To support the company’s growth, my time will be disproportionately spent on building internal relationships across the organization. I want to ensure that as we grow and face challenges, we’re prepared to work through them as a team.

How do you see marketers’ relationship with agencies evolving?

From a media buying standpoint, agencies play a critical role — media buying is a skill and a craft. Most companies don’t have that core competency. It’s a huge investment in talent and ongoing skill development to bring it in-house.

But brands want to be closer to what’s going on, and the closer you are, the more strategic you are. So, many brands are adopting a hybrid model where they have one or a few programmatic experts in-house and work with their agency on strategy, and then the agency executes the buys. We’re seeing that more and more.

What are you most excited about as you consider the future of marketing?

For me, it’s fun for marketers to have the data they need to support the growth of the business. Also, creative overall will become a bigger and bigger deal. Emotional stories are what get attention. That’s the future.

Greg Johnson, chief innovation officer, Mcgarrybowen

What should CMOs expect to prioritize in the near future?

The pendulum swings back and forth between ‘data will solve all problems’ and ‘creative will solve them all.’ We need to find the balance.

Creative bravery is more important than ever. Marketers can buy the ticket to creative bravery through data. When you understand your audience you can say, ‘We stand for something and we’re not afraid to risk a few people being upset.’ Data helps manage the risk.

How do you see marketers’ relationship with agencies evolving?

Agencies have to evolve with all marketing changes. But they shouldn’t launch big consultancies in response to consultancies launching and buying agencies.

Consultancies buying agencies doesn’t make them competitive. Holding companies have been doing it for years and still struggle because of the different cultures and approaches. It doesn’t mean it’s working just because they can do it.

Agencies need to care about chief marketing officers and their challenges and struggles and be there for them. They need to see the modern chief marketing officers’ problems for what they are and help solve them.

That means becoming a deep, trusted partner — or risk not being relevant. As long as agencies retain that brand stewardship approach they can think above a tagline and execute an idea across customer journeys. It’s not that complicated.

What are you most excited about as you consider the future of marketing?

I’ve always been super excited when you do something and ignite passion in people. When you work hard on a campaign or project and people get excited about it, there’s a pride of creation in that.

The beauty of this business is that it’s constantly adding new things to do and new ways to excite people’s passion. That never gets old for me. It would be boring if we were just optimizing the same thing year after year.

Scott Tieman, global lead, programmatic services, Accenture Interactive

How do you see the chief marketer role developing or changing over the next few years?

The chief marketer role has become a highly strategic role. In addition to caring for the brand, the chief marketing officer is also the chief of customer relationships. Chief marketing officers can’t sit back and trust that their partners can manage customer relationships for them.

With data regulations, complexity in the data environment, and splintering of channels, as well as the erratic ways consumers switch between channels and the real-time nature of how they interact with brands, chief marketers have to stay on top of and be well-educated about all this.

They also need to take on a more dominant role in the organization and bring together IT, analytics, commerce, and data ownership with marketing. The need for this won’t go away anytime soon. It will only get more difficult.

How do you see marketers’ relationship with agencies evolving?

There’s a broad set of service partners that chief marketing officers work with to help them deliver what’s most relevant to be customer obsessed. It’s incumbent on the service providers to be current, develop their own capabilities and skill sets, and lead their marketing clients forward. It’s an evolve-or-die reality. That’s the broad lens.

When we take a more focused look, we’re seeing the convergence of a number of disciplines that in the past were more separate — like creative and tech converging to provide dynamic creative.

To enable that, you need, for example, creatives who understand not only what creative and content is relevant to customers, but also who are comfortable working with data streams and have enough data acumen to understand how the creative performs — all this has to happen in real time and that’s a massive change and undertaking.

What might the marketing team of the future look like?

The marketing team of the future needs to have an obsession with the customer, business acumen, an understanding of technology, an analytical approach, a spirit for experimentation to see what works and doesn’t, and a willingness to take risks — it takes all those things. What’ you’ll see is that marketing departments are going to have a much richer blend of all these capabilities.

We’re also going to see stronger collaboration [internally]. One way this is manifesting itself is through customer data architecture; there’s a problem of data silos without a way to bring all that data together and activate in real time. Ten years ago, chief marketing officers wouldn’t have to think about this problem. Now it’s a crisis they all have to solve.

That’s just one example of why chief marketing officers and their teams need to think about all the things that need to happen — within marketing and across the organization — to orchestrate today’s marketing programs.

This article originally appeared on The Drum