How Marketing Technology Is Forever Recasting the CMO Role

Brand leaders must quickly embrace the revolution

CMOs who adopt new technologies will push their brand ahead. Getty Images

For years, the CMO was someone who rose through the ranks of a brand, gaining familiarity with the company’s story while building relationships with agencies and media partners to develop and execute what they felt was a successful strategy.

Alas, those days are almost gone. In a position with a continually shrinking average tenure—now down to 42 monthsit’s no longer in the CMO’s best interest to make decisions based on “feel” alone. The rise of marketing technology and it’s ongoing potential has changed the industry so that media is bought and sold in fractions of a second, based on careful analysis of thousands of data points that are more and more attributed directly to business outcomes.

David Yovanno

As new technologies advance, such as artificial intelligence used in media planning, CMOs will have an easier time connecting the dots between marketing, sales and revenue. This ability has revolutionized the role of the chief marketer and forever altered the qualifications for the job.

The CMO is no longer the executive with the big vision to develop flashy ad campaigns, but a leader who must be conversant across big data, creative and technology. To succeed, they must now be as much a quant as they are a creative thinker.

When the CMO’s job was once predominantly putting trust into relationships with agencies and media partners, marketing technology has changed that dynamic.

Media buying execution is becoming more automated and, more importantly, decoupled from the managed services component, injecting much needed transparency that provides a clear view of how every dollar is spent and how each partner performs. That transparency arms the CMO with the ability to assess the ROI of every partner on the media plan with greater accuracy than ever before. CMOs have a vested interest in these insights and the power that marketing technology provides because, after all, it’s the CMO who holds the ultimate responsibility for a brand’s success, not a partner or agency.

The CMO is no longer the executive with the big vision to develop flashy ad campaigns, but a leader who must be conversant across big data, creative and technology.

If a CMO identifies a partner or agency that is underperforming, marketing technology makes it easy to change that relationship without sacrificing any consistency in data and media execution. At the same time, data allows CMOs to illustrate success and justify all of their moves to the rest of the executive team, using hard numbers—something that was not possible even just a few short years ago. This is why nearly 60 percent of marketers will focus on cross-device attribution this year. Understanding how marketing dollars drive sales outcomes is a powerful piece of knowledge, and marketing technology is creating more clarity to this end than ever before.

None of this is to say that branding and storytelling no longer matters, nor does it mean that every CMO needs to hold a degree in data science. Rather, CMOs need to be aware of how marketing technology opens the door to new requirements in marketing, such as understanding audience signals and event-level performance, and strike a balance across their organization.

A traditionally-minded CMO must identify data scientists who can bring the kind of analytical thinking they lack to the table. If there’s no expertise in-house to execute a plan independently, CMOs will need to identify partners who can provide those services, especially when leveraging emerging technology, data sources or delivery channels. But in lieu of simply hiring a traditional media agency, CMOs can now use analysis of campaign goals, ROI and past performance to choose between an agency or working directly with a mar-tech vendor for services. Similarly, if the head marketer falls more on the quantitative side of things, they need to hire an agency to help with branding and other aspects of their role.

This empowerment through technology and data may seem overwhelming, but it’s a positive change for CMOs and the industry at large. In the past, brands didn’t have a deep understanding of what their agencies, media partners or affiliate solutions were doing on their behalf. Transparency and direct access to technology provide more clarity around results, and less guessing or “feel” than in the past. CMOs aren’t executing every component of the campaign themselves, but they finally have visibility into how their budget is spent, how those ad dollars perform and if any players are over- or underperforming expectations.

As brands continue to look for leadership that combines strategy and quantitative analysis, we’ll see more CMO candidates come from management consultant backgrounds than from the traditional branding space. And as those candidates get more experience under their belts, both the CMO position and the entire marketing department will look far different than they did even a few short years ago.

David Yovanno (@daveyovanno) is CEO at Impact Radius, which focuses on performance marketing, mobile analytics and media attribution.