Among the many jaw-dropping moments in Ken Burns’ riveting documentary on the Vietnam War is the recording of Richard Nixon boasting to Henry Kissinger that he should “win an Academy Award” for the blatant lies he offered the American people during a primetime address about the war. Nixon’s now oxymoronic war tagline “Peace with Honor” is a classic case of telling people what they want to hear and exploiting our collective wishful thinking.
I bring all of this up not so much to make a political statement about dubious American leadership (let’s save that for Twitter!) but instead to identify the potential oxymorons in marketing and how they will come into the spotlight in 2018. To help with this task, I gathered the input of several top CMOs who also just happened to record podcast episodes with me this year.
Lee Applbaum, CMO at Patrón Spirits, sees the challenges ahead to be much like those in past years: “Balancing the long-term growth and equity of the brand(s) we shepherd with the short/mid-term needs of the business and shareholders.” At the root of this conflict is the need to correlate marketing investment with a financial ROI, when “the time horizon for that return may not align with the financial goals of the enterprise.” Accepting this reality, Applbaum challenges all CMOs to be “not just marketers but true leaders of the business,” and to embrace “the hard realities of shareholder returns.”
Manny Rodriquez, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at UC Health, is one of most effective brand storytellers I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. He believes CMOs and the brands they shepherd are in an epic fight for attention, explaining, “Eyeballs are easy to buy, but attentive eyeballs are few and far in between.” And even though UC Health’s “Your Life. Your Stories.” campaign broke “the healthcare mold,” Rodriguez still thinks “we are way too conservative in our marketing approach.” As such, he is resolved to “be more innovative and take more risks” in 2018.
Tom Libretto, CMO at Pegasystems, believes he and his peers need to embrace “their roles as Chief Change Agents for their organizations,” noting “organizations that do not evolve or change will be left behind.” Libretto lays out a huge role for CMOs: “As brand stewards, as customer champions, as storytellers within and beyond a company’s four walls, and as innovators, it’s paramount that CMOs are able to translate their company’s change agenda and make it real for all of the constituents their company serves.”
Lower Cost Revenue
Grant Johnson, CMO at Kofax, sees a more tactical challenge for B2B CMOs in 2018 that involves “delivering more measurable revenue contribution at a lower cost per lead.” This brass-tacks approach reflects Johnson’s confidence in marketing’s ability to drive prospects into the top end of the proverbial marketing funnel. “Generating interest is not the challenge in enterprise software. Converting pipeline potential to signed deals is the biggest hurdle,” he adds.
Big Data Insights
Paige Leidig, CMO of Netbase, foresees “the continued explosion of consumer data from social networks, consumer reviews, industry and interest forums” as the biggest challenge on the horizon. Exacerbating this problem is the proliferation of unstructured
data that “resides outside the control of the company,” which makes it harder to “aggregate, analyze and develop a comprehensive and cohesive strategy of consumer engagement.” Addressing this challenge will require “developing a single view of the consumer and harvesting data in a way that it can be acted on quickly and accurately to uncover new opportunities and reduce the likelihood of crises.”
Final Note: While none of the above quips will make the Oxymoron Hall of Fame among “jumbo shrimp,” “Microsoft Works,” “seriously funny,” or the one-word legal classic, “brief,” they are a worthy reminder of the ever-present dichotomies and trade-offs in the marketing profession. You may want it all, but ultimately, in my unbiased opinion, you’re going to need to make some tough choices not the least of which of these podcast episodes to download first! (Applbaum, Rodriguez, Libretto or Johnson. FYI, Leidig’s episode is coming soon.)