What does customer obsession really mean for the CMO?

Last week, the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) and Vision Critical co-hosted two CMO Lunch Series events: The Customer-obsessed CMO and CX for the CMO, an executive lunch series for CMOs and CCOs to share peer-to-peer insights while networking over lunch.

Over 20 CMOs and marketing leaders from brands including The Star Entertainment, SocietyOne and Deloitte engaged in discussion and debate over what customer obsession really means for the Chief Marketing Officer. John Sintras, a global marketing leader and our special guest speaker at the Customer Obsessed CMO, engaged the room to share observations, trends and pain points.

Four key themes emerged:

Having a customer-obsessed CMO isn’t enough

With the role of the Chief Marketing Officer expanding, we know CMOs already have a lot on their plate. Today, CMOs are recognizing a need for a customer-centric culture, but setting a mandate is only the first step. They need to develop customer-led decision-making across the organization, with HBR’s Bryan Walker and Sarah Soule concurring that a top-down mandate won’t cut it. CMOs need to lead with example, take action and foster customer-obsession cross-functionally to ensure efforts are quantified, not diminished.

Focus on the human element

With marketing personalization and martech interrupting our digital lives, CMOs should ask whether tech and data are truly supporting their customer-led endeavors. As the proliferation of data increases, tech digs in its heels as the solution to customer understanding—leaving customer sentiment and emotion at the door. With the push toward Big Data, CMOs need to be conscious of the value of human interaction. One key discussion searched for brand purpose in a human context; creating with the customer, for the customer. What value does your brand bring to your customers’ lives? For customer-obsessed marketers, the key focus is to connect the customer to the business, while keeping a finger on the pulse of customer behavior as brand perception shifts and evolves.

Dynamism is outpacing innovation

The landscape for innovation is changing. It’s now no longer enough to be first to market, or to launch a revolutionary ad campaign. In an example raised by the group, customers today evaluate brands beyond their perception of innovation in the market. According to Wharton School’s Dynamism Study customers now expect innovation, but also demand agility, praise responsiveness and prioritize sociability. For CMOs, that means understanding customers as they change over time and working with agility to respond to customer needs as they arise.

CMOs place in the boardroom

Every CMO’s greatest priority should be tying marketing performance to the bottom line. Marketing leaders need to prove the value of their day-to-day by creating a closed-loop between marketing campaigns, acquisition and customer lifetime value. Interestingly, a question posed by Sintras shifted the focus from acquisition to lifetime value to understand how key customer segments change over time. In this context, the value for marketers lies not in expanding their customer base, but in understanding how to grow their current customers into advocates for their brand. In order to rise, CMOs need to develop a comprehensive role in the organization, aligning marketing as a key growth engine.

“Marketing leaders need to prove the value of their day-to-day by creating a closed-loop between marketing campaigns, acquisition and customer lifetime value.”

For me, the most interesting discussion focused on removing friction within organizations to allow marketing to execute plans across multiple stakeholder agendas. The consensus? Complexity is the death of action. Every CMO knows the struggle of aligning a team around a vision, but now is the time for marketers to move beyond the ‘what’. In order to align the c-suite and board, marketers must understand the ‘so what’ and communicate the ‘now what’ behind customer behavior and create easily digestible mandates to move forward.

From two insightful CMO lunch discussions, it’s clear that creating a customer-centric culture means consistently building and maintaining valuable authentic relationships with customers, and always being willing to listen and adapt accordingly.


The feedback from the event was overwhelming:

What a privilege I had yesterday, having lunch with some of Australia’s top marketers, courtesy of the Australian Marketing Institute  and the folks at Vision Critical. John Sintras shared his observation about the current and future states of Marketing, the ongoing confusion between AdTech and MarTech, the role of Data and meaningful insights for marketers, and other issues and topics marketers should take into consideration today. Lee Tonitto facilitated discussions around the shift in marketing position within the organisation, becoming a horizontal function across the business, and no longer a vertical, isolated silo. We discussed the numerous challenges and opportunities marketers face with the penetration of Amazon to Australia, how CMOs can bring themselves to the board table, and occupy more CEOs seats. Thank you for your insights, wisdom and contribution. 

Raz Chorev, Chief Marketing Officer | Board Director | Advisor | JP (NSW)

The AMI has been partnering with Vision Critical, our technology partner that helps us connect with marketers and our member base through our Connected Intelligence community. Together, we  are working to educate and keep the pulse on marketing organisations in Australia.

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