Customer Engagement
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There is no “I” in Brand Purpose but there is a “Team”: How the Best CMOs Lead with Purpose

July 06, 2017

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Throughout the year – in hosting dinners and talking with hundreds of CMOs – I like to check the pulse of the marketing world and watch the emerging trends that will continue to shape CMOs, our brands and the future. And one thing I’ve continued to see this year is the renewed focus that top marketers and leaders have on creating real, sustainable, passionate, purpose-driven companies from the inside out.

From seeing the overwhelmingly positive responses after our CMO Club Cares workshops (matching CMOs to Charities that benefit from marketer insights), to the engaging discussions members are having around mentorship, internal brand champion programs and the customer-centric initiatives they are launching, it’s clear that this is not just a passing trend. Today’s consumers are demanding more authenticity than ever before, and today’s top marketers are responding with clear, real brand purposes and mission statements that get to the core of who they are and why they do what they do. The best are actually influencing their organizations to review, discuss and revise mission statements.

“We’re at a place where everything is driven by the customer and driven by data,” said Ryan Linders, VP of CRM, Loyalty and Marketing Analytics for Sally Beauty, in an Ad Age article on how his brand used data to put each customer’s unique buying habits at the center of their email campaigns.

The truth is, great marketing must come from great purpose within an organization, and CMOs are best positioned to plant that seed and cultivate it within their team members, their C-suite peers and, eventually, their customers.

It Starts and Ends with Meaningful Stories

People don’t just want another product to buy. They want a solution to their problem. Better yet, they want to hear the story about how that solution came to be, including who was there, what they were thinking and the challenges they may have encountered along the way. They want the nitty-gritty details so that they feel the struggles and triumphs as if they were their own. Then, they’ll think about going out and getting that product.

I’ve heard a lot of members lately talking about how to lead more purposeful brands through meaningful storytelling – and I know it’s a topic that is top-of-mind for many others. During a breakout session at our Spring Innovation and Inspiration Summit, Jennifer Dominiquini, CMO & Client Experience Officer of BBVA Compass, and Jennifer Welch, Head of Brand Strategy and Stewardship at Shell, led an amazing discussion about making an impact with brand stewardship and purpose. The over-arching takeaway they highlighted was the veritable power of having a clear organizational purpose.

Your Whole Team Needs to Believe it

The only way that I know how to create authentic, meaningful marketing, is by having your team 100% inspired by your mission and what you are trying to achieve.

You must start by clearly defining your purpose and bringing it to life internally before you can even think about expressing it externally. As a CMO, this means educating, inspiring and empowering your team members. This is not handled through quarterly employee update meetings with clever slogans and handouts, but brought to life internally every day at the office and beyond.

“Moving toward a corporate culture that values employees and capitalizes on brand champions has an enormous positive impact on the organization – not just because engaged employees perform better but because consumers identify more and more with brands that represent their values in and out of the company,” said Gabe Cohen, CMO, Monigle, during a Virtual Roundtable.

I’ve talked to CMOs who said they had success encouraging their employees to personalize the brand purpose by defining how it affects their lives and what that means for them as an individual. Then, they helped fit that into the larger picture to show their team members how each person contributes to the overarching brand purpose.

During the Summit breakout discussion, Jennifer talked about her own similar process at BBVA Compass with the Live Bright campaign – her team worked on it internally for over a year before making it public. It was that important that they got it right internally first. It’s not always an easy journey but, without your people on board, it’s going to be a long road trying to drive organizational change.

It’s Time to Remove the Gates

Everything we do as marketers comes back to making that connection to the people we are trying to serve. Quality engagement is becoming the success metric we hang our campaigns on.

To get there, I heard a lot of members talking about their content strategies and how they are removing the gates in order to make their brand message available to a wider audience. Initially, it may feel like you are giving away value for free, but CMOs are finding that their readership is increasing dramatically, as is the likelihood that quality prospects will engage with them.

If these conversations among CMOs tell me anything, it’s that we can’t be afraid to open up the dialogue – both internally and externally – about what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are changing people’s lives for the better.

So, for the rest of this year, let’s make it a mission to be more purposeful with our campaigns – really driving lasting change and impacting the world. Let’s find our True North and help make sure that everything we do within our teams and brands move us closer to that purpose. If your team has a purpose and lives it every day, the revenue and profits will come.

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