At Cannes this year, CMOs aren't just marketers, we must be chief growth officers
A view from Diana O’Brien

At Cannes this year, CMOs aren't just marketers, we must be chief growth officers

Don't let technology distract you; put it to good use, says Deloitte's first CMO.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity starts this weekend, and you won’t find many people that are as excited as I am to attend this premier cultural gathering. As part of the privilege of serving as the first chief marketing officer for Deloitte LLP, I’m especially eager to dive into conversations with other CMOs. It’s a fast-moving environment out there and the CMO role is rapidly changing.

CEOs are now under increasing pressure to demonstrate that every area of the business is committed to growth, and this includes marketing. More and more, CMOs are being held accountable for revenue growth, with some companies replacing or renaming the CMO role with that of the Chief Growth Officer.

Even if an organization isn’t changing the CMO title, a large share of companies now place high expectations on their CMOs, particularly when it comes to conceiving and driving growth initiatives. A recent global survey by the CMO Council and Deloitte found that senior leaders are increasingly relying on CMOs to own business growth strategies, and ultimately, boost revenue.

This is far from being the complete story, however. Technology such as big data analytics is now making the marketing function even more measurable, data-driven, and accountable for growth if used correctly. Our study found that CMOs believe targeting, personalization and predictive analytics can have a tremendous amount of influence on companies’ ability to drive revenue and increase profits. Here’s my message to the CMOs I’ll be interacting with at Cannes: Don’t let technology distract you; put it to good use.

The convergence of this pressure on CMOs to demonstrate growth, alongside the availability of tools and technologies to help them do so is re-shaping not just internal marketing departments but the broader industry. It’s part of the reason why consultancies are stepping in to advise marketing executives on how to demonstrate business impact at the C-Suite level.

Many marketing executives, however, are still either not recognizing this need or are unable to demonstrate growth. The 2017 CMO Survey, by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, the American Marketing Association and Deloitte, found 42 percent of senior marketers surveyed were only able to make a qualitative sense of their investments, not quantitative. These marketing executives need to respond, and fast, or risk getting left behind.

Even with the best of intentions, marketers’ efforts are often being thwarted. One of the biggest challenges is competing priorities; respondents said CMOs are disproportionately burdened with operational and functional tasks. Their day-to-day focus on brand-centric strategies often robs them of the opportunity to commit to meaningful discussions with their C-suite counterparts. As a result, subjects like digital innovation, enhancing expectations for customers and improving the bottom line can fall by the wayside.

With a responsibility for growth and ownership of the customer experience, CMOs need to be strategic members of the C-Suite where they collaborate with and influence their executive counterparts overseeing enterprise risk, talent and culture, and strategy and finance. In many cases CMOs may have a seat at the table, but it may not be within earshot of the biggest decision makers.

To overcome these challenges and move the marketing function from cost center to growth driver, marketers must first quantify, benchmark and measure investment. Without data and numbers, it’s not possible to understand which investments are improving customer experience and generating revenue. Once CMOs have the tools and can understand which tactics are successful and quantify those successes, they can refine and evolve their marketing efforts.

It’s no use building these capabilities unless you’re communicating success to colleagues. The C-Suite understands numbers and data, and the quickest way to reposition the marketing function as a growth driver is to communicate these numbers and demonstrate ROI.

While many marketers still cannot quantify their marketing efforts, it seems many are taking this issue seriously. Survey participants expect spend on marketing analytics to rise 376 percent over the next three years. That’s encouraging, but it’s also a warning to marketing executives who have yet to put growth at the forefront of their strategic agenda.

I’m at Cannes this year to have conversations with CMOs and senior marketing leaders about how they are uncovering growth opportunities. Come find me at the Heat + Deloitte Digital Cabana. I’d love to hear what you’re doing and talk about the challenges you’re facing.

Diana O’Brien is Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte LLP and Advisory partner for several clients.