If there’s one word we hear a lot right now, it’s transformation.
Overexposure to the word can make it sound hollow, but for those tasked with responding to the state of change, the concept of transformation is still incredibly meaningful, and is often overwhelming.
Almost all brands are somewhere on their transformation journey. Many are still in a post-pandemic tumble, trying to work out where they are going and what they need to prioritize to get there. At the same time, they’re trying not to lose sight of their most important asset, the customer, who must be placed squarely at the center of the organization.
Increasingly, we’re seeing CMOs taking charge of transformation and setting its direction. I’ve personally worked with a number of CMOs who’ve been tough enough to reshape underperforming businesses into strong brands that customers can believe in, so I know bravery when I see it.
Nelson Mandela famously said that “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it,” and there’s a lesson here for marketing leaders. Being scared of transformation is understandable. But that fear shouldn’t stop them pushing through and achieving success for their brands.
Here are three characteristics I see uniting brave CMOs in these transformative times…
They keep the metronome ticking
Many organizations are oscillating between two extremes. At times they’re noticeably product focused, making decisions based on what the product will do and how it will do it. At other times they’re more sales focused, with decisions made based on how much product they can sell, and how quickly.
The brave CMO maintains a regular tempo between the two, rather like a metronome. They tackle the uncomfortable conversations to ensure both sides have equal focus, with the customer placed at the center of this rhythm. They have true empathy with customer needs and continually funnel this information back to product, sales, and service, so they can respond to meet changing expectations.
They’re trailblazers as much as innovators
Innovation is of course vital, but often it leapfrogs too far ahead, meaning it takes time for the market to catch up. It may also take the wrong direction or fail to solve real problems. Innovating beyond what the market needs (or is ready for) is the cause of around 20% of start-up failures.
Trailblazing, on the other hand, is innovation on the pulse of the problems that are really out there. It helps to move people forward in a way that’s manageable and meets their needs today, as well as tomorrow.
The bravest CMOs are trailblazers that make space for people to come along behind them and join the brand journey. They strike the perfect balance between optimizing what the brand is right now and driving it onwards into the future.
Both innovation and trailblazing have their place. When they’re done together—that’s magic.
They ask for the help they need
Whether it’s defining business models, determining how to manage multiple partners and brands, deciding whether to expand, or simply finding the right technology platform, brave CMOs aren’t afraid to ask for the help they need. They have the awareness to understand the vulnerabilities of their organization and are always ready to speak the truth.
They look for trusted partners that can help them connect their goals and resources, taking into account investments they’ve already made, rather than expecting them to start from scratch. These partners can offer a mix of advice and reassurance while they guide the brand in a positive direction.
Smoothing the road ahead
You don’t need me to tell you that the role of the CMO is moving far beyond simply holding the budget for media.
In a world of transformation, where the customer must be at the center of everything, the CMO needs to be brave enough to overcome their fear, take the reins, and drive the brand forward. For those willing to put their hand up and ask for help from trusted partners when they need it, the transformation journey becomes an exciting way to guide the business in a new direction.