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Tomorrow’s CMO: Chief Magic or Logic Officer?

November 08, 2014


As a CMO, you well know the pressures of today’s conflict between data and creativity.  Have we swung too far in one direction?  Has the recent focus on all things data and analytics taken away the “magic” of creativity?

Spencer Stuart has been tackling this question, through both dedicated panel discussions and the attached “Chief Magic or Logic Officer” white paper. Highlights below, but download the pdf to see all the great insights.

Excerpts from Spencer Stuart’s 12th annual CMO Summit Panel and Report featuring

  • Jeff Jones, EVP and Global CMO of Target
  • Lisa Bacus, EVP and Global CMO of Cigna
  • Lauren P. Flaherty EVP and Global CMO of CA Technologies
  • Mark Addicks, SVP and CMO for General Mills
  • David Roman, SVP and CMO of Lenovo
  • Tony Palmer, President of Global Brands and Inovation for Kimberly-Clark Corporation
  • Matt Atkinson, CMO of multinational British grocery retailer Tesco

As the pendulum has swung toward the analytical, there is a danger that CMOs may be overlooking other vital skills, namely the powerful intangibles of creativity and innovation. Top Marketers discuss the duality of the CMO role and whether the marketing leaders of tomorrow will need to possess more logic or more magic.

Today, marketing teams struggle to strike the right balance between magic and logic.  Marketing teams need an “orchestration of talents,” with both extremes in the room. 
“It’s an ‘and’ world.” Data and analytical tools help create a richer customer understanding, but they are just the starting point for customer engagement. Creativity remains a crucial element to completing the journey.

“As we get more precise data that can tell us a lot more about the consumer than ever before, it is tempting for that to be the endpoint,” said Mark Addicks, CMO for General Mills. “For instance, a team will say, ‘We now know this is when the customer actually consumes the product versus what we used to think in terms of time of year, time of day, specific day, etc.’ In my mind, this information gives you a better starting point, a better way to assess where you can engage consumers, but it’s not the endpoint. You still need a creative idea that engages them.”

David Roman, SVP and CMO of Lenovo, cautioned that there is a risk of becoming too enamored with data: “The risk is that we get so caught up in data and the analysis of it that we lose sight of the ultimate objective.”

Lauren P. Flaherty, CMO of CA Technologies pointed out “A great idea will often trump the analytics. CMOs are constantly searching for people that have that crazy mix of knowing where we are driving the business, but possess that ‘instinctive, intuitive know-how’ for how to present a product, how to create an experience…if there is magic in this, that’s part of it.”

“I still haven’t had an algorithm make the hair on the back of my neck stand up”, said Jeff Jones, CMO, Target. While analytics can help marketers to pinpoint the perfect message or moment to deliver a message, this precision can be paralyzing and, sometimes, even counterproductive. Waiting for the ideal time or idea may mean losing out on an opportunity and, in these cases, action trumps perfection. “If you walk in Target’s HQ’s today, there are two statements on the wall everyone recites: 1) Speed is Life 2) Fast, Fun and Friendly. Technology has completely changed what fast means. We are on an agility mission right now because speed is different than agility. What we’re trying to build is the capability to go in new directions fast not just go straight ahead fast and that’s a really different muscle for us to build”

The key, according to Tony Palmer, president of global brands and innovation for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, is to use analytics to enable and enhance creativity. “We set up these false paradigms intellectually, with science being the enemy of creativity and creativity being the enemy of science,” he said. “My observation…the more structured you are, the more disciplined you are, the more scientific your work is and the more focused you are, the better the creativity you unleash,” he said. “I have a perspective that they are not in conflict, but on the contrary, can be perfectly correlated.”

Future CMOs will need to go beyond creativity and analytical ability.

For Matt Atkinson, CMO of multinational British grocery retailer Tesco, the very foundation of marketing endeavors needs to be revisited. “You have to re-imagine logic and creativity into a different tapestry — and that is the customer experience. Marketing leaders need to think about insights in a new way, especially given the real-time feedback we are now receiving from customers. But more importantly, you have to act on that feedback. Insights are nothing unless they lead to different action.”

The CMO is ultimately the chief growth officer. Regardless of industry, the main call to action for CMOs of today and tomorrow is to drive growth. “The Holy Grail question” for marketing leaders, according to one panelist, is, “What is the impact on the business?” CMOs need to demonstrate the value of the function’s actions throughout the organization, with the understanding that efforts are not equivalent to outcomes — and that it takes a combination of magic and logic to achieve these results.

Download the full “Chief Magic or Logic Officer”

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