Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Change is coming: Tomorrow’s CMO wants to shake up the way marketing teams work

By Jada Balster, head of International marketing, Adobe Workfront

The last 18 months have been some of the most challenging, if not the most challenging months in business history. As companies fought to navigate the overnight chaos the pandemic brought with it, understanding the customer zeitgeist and responding to it took on a whole new level of importance – and business leaders looked to marketing for the answers. 

The pressure mounted. Budgets were cut. All while digital transformation accelerated, along with customer expectations of a seamless digital experience. Customer retention and growth required a new marketing agility mindset that now looks set to become the norm – faster decision making, faster creative processes, faster campaign delivery and faster approvals. 

Doing more with less has focussed the mind of many senior marketers on the processes and tools that will help them drive growth, whatever the challenge, and they’re set to shake things up to create their ideal marketing future. 

According to the Tomorrow’s CMO report, aspiring CMOs are motivated to reach the senior position to change the way marketing works for the better. 

The research, which surveyed 1,100 marketers, explores how the pandemic has impacted their strategic, operational and creative approach to marketing leadership. The findings of the data build a picture of what these future CMOs will bring to the boardroom table across four key attributes of the future CMO as follows: 

Agents of change

Despite the challenges currently facing senior marketing leaders, almost every (99%) marketer aspires to be a CMO. Our research reveals that, for tomorrow’s CMO, the biggest motivator for career progression isn’t money, or notoriety, it’s the opportunity to innovate and change marketing for the better (27%). 

They see the opportunity to drive marketing transformation by investing in ways to:

  • Improve visibility into top business priorities and strategy (48%)
  • Reduce repetitive or mundane tasks (36%)
  • Reduce the distraction caused by using so many digital tools (43%)
  • Create a single place for managing all work (37%) 

Tomorrow’s CMO doesn’t believe in adding more tools to already complex martech stacks. Simplifying, streamlining and aligning strategy to outcome is the north star of this next generation of leaders.

Digital first

Tomorrow’s CMOs are technologists. They are fully bought into the power of the right technology to fuel success across every part of the marketing ecosystem, and data is the lifeblood of that ecosystem. 

The research reveals that 79% of marketers regularly use data to make informed marketing decisions. And more than three quarters rely on technology to:

  • Manage multi-faceted campaigns, programs, and creative assets (79%)
  • Streamline marketing workflows and resources (79%)
  • Customise the customer journey (78%)
  • Demonstrate marketing’s value to the rest of the business (77%)

The science of marketing—the data-driven, logical approach—will be fundamental to tomorrow’s CMO. 

Hybrid creatives

While marketing science is a priority, the art of marketing and the drive to maximise creativity is also important to the marketers surveyed. 

The majority (71%) agreed that creativity suffered during the pandemic. Over three-quarters (76%) plan to bring back face-to-face meetings to encourage creative thinking when workforces return to the office.

While bringing people together again will hopefully reignite the creative flame for companies, the next generation of CMOs also recognise that technology can help make room for creativity and innovation (30%) and more than two thirds (68%) want to see investment in technology that fosters a culture of creativity and delivers clear creative processes.

This will give rise to a new generation of hybrid creatives, capable of navigating the digital and in-person ways of working, to maximise creativity and innovation and deliver stand-out customer experiences.  

Dexterous business leaders

Beyond great leadership, strategic thinking, excellent communication, and an understanding of marketing techniques, it’s the ability to lead in a constantly evolving environment that will make or break the CMO. The skills needed to achieve this come from outside what many consider the ‘typical’ marketing skill set.  

Our research revealed that tomorrow’s CMO feels they need to develop a broad skillset in order to be the dexterous leaders that help drive innovation and growth for their organisations. Those expanded skills include:

  • Data analysis, financials, project management and coordinating workloads (31%)
  • Managing and motivating people (26%)
  • Business strategies and digital transformation (21%)

These future CMOs are also viewing work differently. They understand that marketing work must be managed strategically, with the same level of process and technological sophistication as all other business-critical tier one functions—like finance, sales, HR, and IT.  43% of them believe that managing the business of work—the orchestration, execution and measurement of strategic work—is the biggest challenge facing the CMO of today. And the next generation of CMOs is rising to the challenge. 

Seven in ten (70%) of these marketers are ready to adopt technologies including work management to help their teams work to the best of their ability, by connecting people, processes, data, and technology in a single system to accelerate and orchestrate work. 

Empowering tomorrow’s CMO

Experiencing life on the marketing front line during a global pandemic has given tomorrow’s CMO the impetus to innovate and drive positive change within the marketing industry. They are championing the marriage of art and science and want to upskill accordingly. They know that marketing work is critical to the success of their business and needs to be managed strategically. And they have a reduced tolerance for processes or tools that impede productivity, creativity and growth.  

For today’s CMO, the insights from the report should highlight the opportunities to help their teams instigate these changes now. To consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences, marketing teams need to be agile, creative, and fast. It’s time to create amazing experiences for teams by removing inefficiencies, headaches, and hurdles that stand between them and their best work—and you’re fostering extraordinary experiences for your customers by delivering great work.

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