Editor’s Letter: The CMO Revolution Will Be Co-Created

As the role morphs, collaboration is becoming key

Collaboration is the focus of this latest Digital Transformation Playbook. - Credit by iStock
Headshot of James Cooper

One of the unsung trends that I find fascinating about the digital transformation of brands is organization design. How are companies breaking with structural tradition, inertia and fear of change to make themselves viable in an environment increasingly hostile to clinging to the past—or sluggish status quo.

We hear a lot about breaking down silos and going up the funnel. Are we both data led and consumer centric? How do we become more nimble in process and culture?

At the heart of this game of pivots is the CMO, whose role is morphing just as fast as the industry around her or him. Are they in fact the chief experience officer, the chief growth officer, the chief customer officer, the chief facilitation officer? The answer of course is yes. But what all these nuevo handles ladder up to is collaboration in service of the brand and the consumer. These chief collaboration officers are the vital through line from the CEO to the consumer, and the best ones know how to partner, build teams and consensus and create successful cohabitation between creativity and science; between campaign and KPI.

Collaboration as the center skill set and philosophy for brand marketers of the future is the focus of this latest Digital Transformation Playbook in partnership with Accenture Interactive, and the stories that follow approach the topic from fascinating angles.

The sharpest of which comes from regular contributor Dan Tynan, who packs his feature with great examples of partnership and also data points on how the role of the CMO is expanding geometrically.

In her opinion piece, Jeannine Falcone, who leads the marketing offering for Accenture Interactive in North America, puts forth that in order to really deliver new forms of marketing for the digitally empowered customer, companies should employ CMOs who can work across all departments to find synergies and foster aggressive co-creations of all kinds. Falcone writes: “Reorienting an organization’s entire culture around the customer experience may require a radical shift for many of these companies, and the CMO collaborator is the leader of this turnaround effort.”

And in his Winners’ Playbook, Tynan offers up four advice hits for CMOs to consider as they transform their organizations and themselves: the most active of the four—which also include doubling down on data, seeking internal partners and sharpening business and digital skills—is take a digital safari. Jim Lyski, CMO of CarMax, Tynan writes, did just that with the company’s CIO and other senior execs who spent three days in Silicon Valley. In meetings with the tech giants based there they found collaborative voices at Adobe, Facebook, Google and others open to discussing what they are doing now and “what they’re going to concentrate on over the next year.” The safari enabled Lyski to find ways to collaborate with businesses that will have massive impacts on his company in the near term; he also found ways to share and evangelize that knowledge across departments back at CarMax headquarters.

It’s that kind of action in the face of change that will help to reorganize thinking and practice for the digital future. But it has to happen fast, cautions Lyski. “If you don’t put in the effort to stay abreast of everything, you’ll blink and be left behind,” he says.

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This story first appeared in the October 8, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@jcoopernyc james.cooper@adweek.com James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.