The WFA’s CMO Forum boasts marketing leaders from diverse categories and geographies, yet their priorities are often strikingly consistent. One of the clearest threads remains the ever-present need for transformation, says Rob Dreblow, WFA Global Head of Marketing Services.
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The word transformation conjures images of grand statements and huge restructures. But there is also transformation that occurs as a series of smaller steps or actions that can have a huge impact.
Our CMOs have shared some examples of transformations in key areas, often in response to specific challenges they’ve faced, that have had made a big difference in areas such as sustainability, eCommerce, creativity and agility.
Obstacles to transforming for sustainability
Some brand owners suffer from sustainability ‘under-share’; too little communication driven by a fear of the perceived risks. To address this, celebrate small victories with “sustainability and marketing awards”. Highlight the work of individuals and teams as part of your capabilities programme. Inspiring other colleagues can help scale success.
Other companies risk ‘over-share’ with sustainability communications; communicating too much when they don’t really have anything worthwhile saying. This can risk ostracising audiences and leading to a trust deficit. Some of our CMOs suggested the solution could be to “pull back from advertising and put an emphasis on labelling trials” to provide consumers with greater transparency in terms of a product’s environmental and social impact.
Many of the challenges to a more sustainable future come down to the need to evolve business models. This is no small task – and one that will require proof of concept. As one CMO observed: “Stop seeing yourselves as market takers (follow consumer demand) and be market makers (create the demand we want to see in the world)”. Test your new model(s) with one small brand in your portfolio or a single market to create success stories that can be shared with the leadership and build buy-in at greater scale.
Hurdles along the eCommerce journey
Every multinational suffers from issues with siloes. Looking through an eCommerce lens only serves to magnify this challenge. One potential response to this is to “adopt a relentless focus on the customer journey – bring it up at every meeting”. In addition to this (although this is not a small change) link your teams’ performance to a shared dashboard that tracks that journey. The transformation will be driven by shared goals based on business metrics rather than siloed dashboards.
eCommerce and analytics talent are expensive and prone to churn. Part of the challenge is that too much capability work focuses on foundations (“raising the floor”) or expertise (“raising the ceiling”) rather than on emphasizing career-path planning. Provide opportunities for this talent to work with, and learn from, other functions. As painful as it may be in the short term, allow for movement within your own organisation to retain that talent.
Despite the pandemic accelerating change, many global brand owners still suffer from “change at a snail’s pace”. One solution highlighted by our CMOs is to “focus on investment optimisation”. If you need to fill temporary eCommerce capability gaps, borrow what you need. If they prove to be more critical, such as automated solutions, look to buy or build over time.
Addressing a decline in creativity
Big matrixed organisations, often with complex brand portfolios, clearly keep marketers insanely busy. Less time means less creativity. If leaders reduce the number of projects for their teams, they enable more time for thinking and innovation. As one CMO put it: “The best thing you can do is just kill projects”.
Many stakeholders can result in too many opinions and perspectives. This waters down ideas and dampens enthusiasm. Reconsider your post-pandemic set-up by developing areas (physically and in terms of organisation) for smaller teams to expressly focus on creativity and innovation. This should help to “foster an environment of enthusiasm – a nurturing environment – because creative ideas are fragile”.
Killing creativity is not just a case of “too many chefs”, it’s also the fact that any chef (senior stakeholders) can also sound the death knell for creative ideas. “Focus on KPIs with senior colleagues in the business and avoid involving them in the creative process.” In short: keep the boss out of the brainstorm.
“The most misused word of 2020”: agility
Covid forced us to exercise agility. For many this meant “allocating money in a dynamic way and moving away from annual budgets”. The result was that changes that were anticipated to take 3-4 years happened in three months. This way of working need not end with the pandemic.
Agility is, in part, about empowering more junior members of the team to make fast decisions. The psychological mindset shift is not always easy: “senior leaders suffer from FOMO” when empowering their teams to make decisions. As uncomfortable as it may be, enable opportunities to challenge authority.
Making decisions quickly and changing course can be hard, especially for a consensus-driven company. “If you do it go all in”, accept there will be pros and cons. Small changes such as using Kanban boards (agile project management tools) can take time to setup but will help provide “radical transparency”.
These are not solutions for all, nor are they recommendations from WFA. They are experiences shared by some of the world’s top client-side marketers. Suggesting that for many (to somewhat misrepresent the butterfly effect) small changes can have big outcomes – even on the global stage.
The CMO Forum is an invitation-only members event. The next meeting takes place on November 16th