5 Fatal Mistakes CMOs Make

The old saw has it that the average tenure of a CMO is just 18 months. Today’s CMOs have to be more consumer- and community-centric than ever before. The CMO sets the tone and direction of a brand’s marketing, which in turn affects a brand’s ability to be agile and make quick shifts as market opportunities or crisis shift.

“When the CMO doesn’t get it, it permeates throughout the entire organization,” said Jeff Hayzlett, former CMO of Kodak. “You can only be as good as your slowest common denominator. And if the slowest is at the head of your organization, then you have lost before you began. I’ve got people telling me all the time, ‘Well, my boss doesn’t get it.’ I tell them to get out of the company. If you can’t convince the top, then you can’t be led. You’re grabbing the bull by the tail, and it won’t be pretty.”

Ignoring the changes going on around us
Top executives at brands need to understand and embrace the power of digital. The CMO needs to be the change agent and cheerleader for digital, making the case for change to those up higher in the organization.

“Adapt, change or die,” said Hayzlett. “A lot of times, executives or leaders think you get to a certain way and lock it in. But the process should be ever changing. CMOs need to be looking as leaders on how to make it better. And that is the way that great competitors look at things, and that’s the way CMOs need to be the growth agents for change for new business and new revenue opportunities.”

Dictating the company’s marketing strategy
CMOs need to be curious and network both inside and outside their organization. Networking with peers is a no-brainer. But CMOs should not be dictating the brand’s marketing strategy. CMOs need exceptional listening skills. They need to listen to their consumers, but they also need to listen to their staff. Collaboration is key for any organization.

“The CMO needs to be personable, human,” said Stephanie Kovner-Bryant, former senior manager of marketing at Unilever. “[Subordinates] have to feel like they can have a free flow of ideas and that the CMO is not dictating, but letting people grow and change and try new things. The CMO’s responsibility is to set a tone. The rest of the marketing personnel should feel inspired to come up with ideas, strategies and tactics on how to bring that tone to life.

Handling everything in-house
It’s important to have a really strong in-house team. But it’s just as important to know when to ask for help from tech and agency partners as well.

“You can’t do everything yourself,” said Steven Cook, former CMO of Samsung. “CMOs need to know when it’s OK to ask for help. They need to be able to lead a more dispersed team and coordinate and orchestrate all these different resources.”

Not making content, mobile and social media a top priority
Content, mobile and social media are the channels that are fueling change in our industry. They’re shifting strategies from spray and pray to engagement-based marketing, where consumers actually spend time with your brand and get to know it.

“A lot of CMOs make the mistake of trying to control the brand because they come from a background of controling the message,” Hayzlett said. “With social media, it becomes tough for these leaders. They need to let loose. A brand is a living, breathing organism, and the customers are in control. As it relates to mobile, probably 80 percent of CMOs think a mobile app is their mobile strategy. They need to go beyond that. The majority of those who are at a company that does have a real mobile strategy can’t even articulate it. That’s a problem.”

Ignoring data
Digital has changed the game. Marketing is no longer just an art. It’s a science. There’s data out there that tells a brand what consumers expect, how they want to engage with the brand and what they absolutely will not stand for. CMOs who aren’t taking data into consideration are missing out.

“Not using data is a miss,” said Jeff Dachis, founder of Razorfish and Dachis Group. “It’s a no-brainer. If you’re not using data to make informed decisions on how you market to your customers, then you’re not doing your job correctly.”

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