The New CMO: Innovative Growth Champion


In recent years, chief marketing officers at big consumer goods companies have achieved phenomenal success. The best of them have pioneered masterful brand building — and built titan reputations as they did so — by achieving the marketing Holy Grail of embedding their brands into the center of their consumers’ daily lives.

But could this legacy of success ultimately be their downfall? New Accenture research finds that CMOs are still excelling in their traditional marketing functions. But now, that’s happening at the expense of generating new growth for the business; many CMOs are spending less time driving disruptive growth than they were two years ago. 

In one sense, that’s understandable. It’s a demanding environment for marketers right now. Matching the industry’s rapidly accelerating pace of change requires exceptional ingenuity, innovation and insight. So it’s no wonder that CMOs are falling back on tried and tested marketing methods. In fact, three of every four CMOs say the top way they look to achieve strategic marketing objectives is by reapplying solutions that worked in the past.

Looking beyond the basics
But being brilliant at the basics won’t be enough in the long run. Pivoting to the new, and supporting an agile, responsive “living business” demands a different approach. And corporate leaders increasingly expect more from the marketing function. Accenture’s research shows that 52% of CEOs now hold their CMOs responsible for driving disruptive growth.

CMOs therefore must find a way to free themselves from their organizational shackles and devote more time to creating new relevance at scale to drive value and growth for the business. They have vital skill sets that will help ensure their organizations can continuously adapt to provide “hyper-relevant” experiences that deliver exactly what consumers need, just when they need it.

As the demand for personalized experience and tailored marketing becomes ever more pressing, those kinds of ecosystem relationships become much more than a nice idea — they become a core part of competitive advantage to drive digital content and experience and a key way to build consumer relationships for the long haul.

Look at how the craft brewing category is cleverly infusing “relevance” into its products. Intelligent Brewing Company is a great example. This innovative brand invites consumers to weigh in on beer flavors and carbonation levels on its website. This crowdsourced insight is then fed into an algorithm to continuously refine and personalize beer recipes at scale, with the resulting brews shipped monthly to the brand’s subscribers. That’s consumer relevance at a whole new level. 

Updating the marketing tool belt
To achieve this kind of responsiveness, CMOs need to bring new and enhanced strategies into play — platform-thinking, silo-busting, cutting-edge AI and analytics. These are the tools that leaders will use to build the titan reputations of tomorrow.

But many CMOs are still held back by legacy systems and processes. Six out of 10 told Accenture they aren’t able to develop the more agile, dynamic organizations and operating models required in today’s fast-changing environment. And two-thirds cite a lack of critical technology and tools as a top barrier to improving performance. (These figures were notably higher in consumer goods than in other industries.)

Moreover, when new technologies are explored, CMOs often get stuck in “pilot paralysis.” One in five CMOs say they struggle to pilot new technologies and processes and then scale up the solutions across the business.

Getting to growth
Transforming an entire marketing organization is no easy task. But by focusing on a few key areas, CMOs can prepare their teams — and their companies — to thrive in the new environment.

First, they need to help center the entire business on growth, ensuring the organization can adapt and respond — not to where consumers are today, but to where they’ll be tomorrow. That means working across organizational boundaries to upgrade operating models and shape a far more consumer-centric culture.

Second, they must be prepared to let go of traditional, familiar technologies and embrace the new wholesale. Modern, adaptable back-end systems will deliver the agility that smaller, newer competitors are already enjoying. And technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will open up new operating models and create different, more personalized product and service innovation to serve consumers across a variety of channels.

Third, CMOs must be ready to reimagine roles and ways of working. They should take inspiration from leaders who are moving away from static, vertical structures toward more flexible groups of multidisciplinary “pods”: small teams brought together to solve specific problems. And they need to plan for entirely different kinds of skill sets: “immersive experience designers,” “storytellers,” “growth hackers” and “futurologists” are just some of the new types of talent CMOs say they’ll need in the years to come.

The freedom to reinvent
The reality is, there’s no longer any part of the business that isn’t impacted by marketing in some way. And the expectations on consumer goods CMOs are growing significantly as a result. 

CMOs must therefore give themselves the freedom to take on this expanded role, balancing the need to deliver the marketing basics brilliantly and cost-effectively with the need to help the whole business drive real growth. It’s a complex challenge, for sure. But doing something different — something innovative, something better — always is.

About the Author
Laura Gurski is senior managing director, global lead, for consumer goods & services at Accenture.