The role of the CMO is under threat in an accelerating digital world.In his column for CMO Insider, Raja Rajamannar writes that it’s not too late for CMOs to prove their impact. Embracing AI, purpose, training, and increased ROI are key to business relevance.
Anyone familiar with the history of marketing — and its storied past as a discipline that can drive change through creativity and human insight — understands the industry has been in the throes of an existential crisis.
With digital technologies, the days of courting customers through traditional storytelling and quality products feel like a distant memory. Instead, marketers struggle to secure consumers’ limited attention while contending with skepticism regarding marketing’s contributions to business growth.
But I believe in the CMO’s future, if we make big changes – now.
Over the past few years, many Fortune 500 companies have eliminated their CMO roles. Johnson & Johnson did so in 2019, as it moved to streamline its business model. Two years later, Wells Fargo followed suit, decentralizing its marketing efforts.
More recently, UPS and Walgreens joined the growing list of companies opting to merge their marketing and digital teams or move the marketing discipline into new posts, like chief growth officer, chief commercial officer, or chief customer officer.
Yet CMOs’ core objectives remain more relevant than ever: to engage, inspire, and delight consumers, build brand trust and value, and drive quantifiable business results.
The good news: This paradigm shift also gives us new tools to connect with people, perform well, and prove our impact — if we embrace the challenge.
Keeping pace with emerging tech and embracing AI
A recent Boathouse study found that nearly three-quarters of CEOs view their CMOs as bold leaders propelling their organizations forward. I truly believe marketing can and should be at the leading edge of innovation for any organization.
In the mid-1990s, marketing pivoted from a creative field centered on psychology, design, and aesthetics to relying on technology and data analytics instead. Marketers today can use emerging tools to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Consider AI’s transformative impact: Rather than supplanting human input, AI can amplify our effectiveness in enhancing the customer journey or improving precision targeting. Mastercard’s AI-powered RFP engine is a prime example of these gains, turning a multi-week process into a four-hour task while improving accuracy.
This type of efficiency will allow us to refocus our time on creativity and human connection. When technology becomes ubiquitous, creativity is where true differentiation will lie in the future.
Find power in purpose
In the modern age of marketing – quantum marketing — purpose is no longer optional; it’s an essential differentiator. A striking 88% of people think businesses have the power to positively impact people’s lives, yet fewer than one in ten believe brands have been extremely effective in doing so.
Brands that choose to do good and tie it to their business bottom line drive significant results and build longer-lasting trust with consumers.
Quantify the impact of marketing
Marketing drives business, builds brands, creates competitive advantage and acts as a catalyst for societal good. Still, convincing the C-Suite of marketing’s expansive capabilities has proven a persistent challenge.
Providing that proof is critical. In January, headlines abounded of one company cutting its financial guidance due to a marketing campaign that didn’t deliver against its stated objectives. With today’s advanced capabilities to heighten precision and track results, we can clearly demonstrate our impact on the business, reclaim our seats at the table, and revitalize the marketing function.
That said, fundamental to success is actively nurturing your team’s skills and growth. Today’s talent should be equipped with creative and technical abilities to ensure we take advantage of the latest resources. Talent development can take many forms, including continuing education, mentorship programs, or job rotations outside marketing.
The future of marketing shines bright, but it requires dedicated effort to realize its full potential.
Raja Rajamannar is the chief marketing and communications officer and president of healthcare, at Mastercard