CMOs come in three flavours: IBM research

CMOs come in three flavours: IBM research

CMOs fit into three distinct buckets, according to global research conducted by IBM, and they are now second-only to the CFO in terms of having sway over an organisation’s CEO.

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‘Stepping up the challenge CMO insights from the Global C-Suite Study’, which included face-to-face interviews with 524 CMOs around the globe including 46 from the Asia-Pacific excluding Japan, was part of a broader executive investigation, involving 4183 top senior executives from more than 20 countries.

In the course of its research, IBM said that it found CMOs to belong to three distinct types: digital pacesetters, social strategists and traditionalists, with “very few of them falling into the digital pacesetting category".

Traditionalists is perhaps a euphemism for clueless. “They’re challenged by the data explosion, the growth in social media and the plethora of new channels and devices,” the report says.

CMOs in this category, which represented 37% of CMOs surveyed, have yet to integrate their physical and digital sales and service channels. They rarely engage with customers in social media, nor do they use analytics to extract insights from the customer data they collect.

The social strategists have started their digital journeys and realise the potential social media has as a vehicle for engaging with customers and they’re building infrastructure to operate in the social arena. Like traditionalists, however, they haven’t yet got their heads around data and analytics.

Digital pacesetters meanwhile are “actively putting the resources required to operate as a fully integrated physical-digital enterprise in place. And they regularly use advanced analytics to generate insights from customer data,” the study reports.

Importantly, the report found that there was a close link between digital acumen and financial performance, with 43% of digital pacesetters outperforming the average compared to only 25% of traditionalists.

Discussing the report at an event put on by IBM yesterday, ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster said that she was struck by three things from the report.

Firstly, the perceived importance of the customer had changed in the past 10 years from being the eighth most important concern in 2004 to being number one in 2014. “You’d have to ask what were they thinking in 2004,” she said.

She also said that she thought the CMO was now clearly the bridge between the customer and the business and that was why CMOs had become the CEO’s right-hand person.

And finally she said that CMOs appeared to be less prepared today than they were three years ago for the deluge of data. “So we’ve gone backwards in the past three years,” she said.

IBM found in 2011 that 71% of CMOs felt underprepared to deal with the data explosion. Today that percentage has climbed to 82%. Two-thirds of CMOs also reported that they were not ready for social media, which is only fractionally less than three years ago.

A copy of IBM's report can be downloaded here.