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Blog: Smarter CMO Solutions
John Kennedy - John Kennedy is IBM's Vice President, Corporate Marketing, where he is responsible for global brand development and marketing program execution. He serves on the Boards of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and Business Marketing Association (BMA). Mr. Kennedy holds bachelors' degrees in economics and political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MBA from Harvard University.

Achieve and Measure Marketing Impact in a Multi-Channel World


How prepared are CMOs to face the increasing role of social media in the enterprise? John Kennedy, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at IBM, tackles our questions on how marketing executives can survive--and thrive--in our era of Big Data.

Q: What do CMOs cite as their main challenges?
A: Social media has changed the game for marketers. In the past, CMOs would nurture brand messages to capture the attention of the mass market. They would carefully curate ad campaigns that were broadcast via newspapers, magazines, and TV. Today, social media has created a two-way street between brands and their customers. People are creating their own channels by commenting on Twitter, blogs, and consumer review sites. They are opting in to communicate to marketers through Facebook likes, mobile price-scanning apps, and YouTube downloads about products. So when you ask about the main challenges facing CMOs, it's that marketers are drowning in information but lack insight into what people are saying so companies can can, in turn, improve the products and services they offer. Conversely, social media has become a kind of "truth serum" for marketers about good and bad customer experiences. It's the ultimate arbiter for whether brands can keep their promises to their customers.

Q: What types of social media are their organizations looking at, and how are they measuring it?
A: Social media is the new public square of opinion. Companies are looking at what people share, from trending topics on Twitter to products with the most comments on Facebook. Think about it: Approximately every 60 seconds, 236,000 Tweets are posted, and 60 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube. But it's no longer about counting the number of Tweets about a contest. Organizations can gain insight from the extremely public and unfiltered voice of their constituents. IBM has a Social Sentiment Index where we can anonomyze comments on social media, sift them through predictive analytics technology, and measure fan sentiment at the World Series, or moviegoer opinions around the Academy Awards. A CMO for a food company could, for example, change the messages of their digital ad campaign in real time if it's not effective, or they may even reswizzle a recipe or offer a new product based on consumer preferences.

Q: At the Aspen Ideas Festival there was a discussion entitled "Will Technology Change Our World." What attributes will CMOs need to be successful in the next three to five years?
A: Textbook marketing is about understanding customers, meeting their needs, and doing so in a way that builds trust. But faced with a tidal wave of customer data from the Internet, today's marketers are just beginning to use big data analytics to answer those questions while harnessing insights to drive better results. That's especially true as marketers influence more of their organization's technology budgets; according to research firm Gartner, by 2017, CMOs will have greater influence of technology budget than CIOs. So how will that transform the role of the CMO? It means CMOs will have to piece together information that customers share in order to understand them on an individual level--as a "demographic of one." CMOs must also invent new ways to engage with people beyond merely selling products and services. And finally, CMOs must know how a company's values and purpose impact the brand and consider the company's culture part of their portfolio.

Q: What is the payoff?
A: A recent IBM study of 1,700 CEOs found that companies that outperform their peers are 30% more likely to identify openness--which often includes greater use of social media for collaboration and innovation--as a key influence on their organization. So the power of social media, both within and outside organizations, is becoming pervasive. From a CMO's perspective, social media enables marketers to better understand their various markets and remake their own companies and brands. They can look at the "digital breadcrumbs" that people share--from tweets to mobile purchases--to respond to people as individuals, on a massive scale. They can also offer better products, make sure products are in-stock during times of peak demand, and determine the best moments to offer discounts or offers. Ideally, this can be done in such a personalized way that marketing feels more like a welcomed service, and less of an intrusion.

Q: What do today's consumers look like?
A: Consumers opt-in to programs with retailers knowing that there will be perceived benefits such as coupons and rewards. IBM's recent Consumer Survey talks about "open minded consumers" because it was surprising how consumers were willing to share and equally surprising to uncover how hungry they are for discounts. Consider the emergence of geo-location services like Foursquare, or the downloading of books, music, apps, and other digital content. It's no longer just about browsing or shopping online. It's the entire public digital universe that consumers are creating around themselves.

Q: How can CMOs compare the effectiveness of marketing efforts across different digital media?
A: Social analytics are in high demand. IBM has invested heavily in this area--more than $2.5 billion in commerce technology acquisitions and more than $14 billion on analytics technology acquisitions, plus a five-year, $100 million investment in analytics R&D. We have technology that does everything from giving companies a heads-up on negative issues brewing in the blogosphere, to software that enables marketers to gain insight about their consumers and present personalized promotions across channels where consumers interact with brands, such as social networks and mobile devices.

Q; What is keeping CMOs up at night?
Without a doubt, it's the enormous amount of data now available to harness for insights. As Big Data emerges as a prized asset for organizations to drive growth and innovation, the marketing function is suddenly poised to become the wealthiest and perhaps most influential part of the C-suite. Due to the broad ramifications of Big Data, marketing--led by the CMO--is not only driving marketing activities, but increasingly, influencing product development, supply chain and virtually every strategic area of an organization. Despite their growing reliance on technology and their soaring budgets, CMOs readily admit they lack the skills that IT requires. According to the IBM CMO Study, while 79% of CMOs expect high or very high levels of complexity in their job over the next five years, only 48% feel prepared to deal with it.

Q: How do you define a proactive CMO?
Data-driven marketing is still in its infancy--with industries like retail, banking, and telecommunications ahead of the pack--and CMOs are among the last C-suite functions to be integrated through the IT department, or what's called the enterprise "IT stack." Because of their lack of technology training, more CMOs finally are starting to look in-house to CIOs to get a better handle on their situation and to streamline their technology needs. On the other hand, some CIOs are beginning to look for ways to guide and assist the CMO more efficiently as marketing needs continue to evolve. That's a trend that will continue.

Q: Another AI Festival topic was: "Information Overload: Can We Still Be Productive in a World Full of Constant Updates?" What value add can the CMO bring to sales and marketing in terms of dealing with in terms of dealing with information overload?
It all gets back to using technology to gain greater insight into data to better connect with customers and understand them as individuals--not as targets for "spray and pray" marketing campaigns. That's especially important in the age of social media. CMOs are well advised to get a grasp on Big Data--which is growing in velocity, uncertainty, and complexity--and listen carefully to the digitally consumer, who is judging them every step of the way.

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Video: Perspectives from Global CMOs