Goodbye Cowboys; The Rise of the CMO

14 August 2018 by Tom Nunn

5 minutes (1240 Words)

​Gary Bramall has had a career anchored in disruptive, purposeful brands. He’s always ‘wanted to be on the side of the pirates rather than the navy’ – meaning work for brands that want to challenge the status quo, disrupt incumbent industries and – in his own words – ‘light up the world.’

This ambition has taken him from online store marketing for Apple for the Middle East, Asia, India and Africa, to innovating at Skype with the dream of ‘letting the whole world to talk for free,’ at a time where a quarter of the world’s population was registered on the platform.

He carried on at Skype after their acquisition by Microsoft, moving across to a role as the ‘Global Senior Brand Director’ for Microsoft in 2013. Gary then joined Hailo (now myTaxi) as CMO, where he spearheaded a fiercely ambitious 4 month rebranding strategy, allowing the company to emerge from the flames a high-growth phoenix, posting 116% increase in customer-base between 2017 and 2018 (14.9 million customers).

La Fosse Associate’s Tom Nunn spoke to Gary about the evolving role of the CMO, how nowadays marketeers have got less time for cowboys, and why they should build brands we’d all like to have a pint with.

Bearing in mind that the role of the CMO only really came into existence in the ’80s, the organisational clout which they now hold is remarkable. The importance of allowing the CMO a leading hand in strategic decisions is a point well-documented and undeniable; one portfolio analysis suggested that stocks of companies where the CMO is part of the senior leadership team gave their shareholders much higher long-term returns.

Such trends are only set to accelerate. As articles proliferate about the ‘digitally-activated consumer’ and organisations are increasingly citing the convergence of marketing and tech, the CMO is more and more occupied with driving the business’s top-line, as well being a catalyst for the disruption of their own business model.

The CMO’s remit is widening and growing in importance

2017 saw the original vanguard of marketing – Coca-Cola – make the highly publicised move to replace their ‘Chief Marketing Officer’ with a newly created ‘Chief Growth Officer.’ Far from heralding a decline in the CMO’s fortune, the fact that such a step could even be taken indicates the increasingly pivotal role which marketing has to play in driving a business’s growth agenda.

What this really means, is that the remit of the CMO is expanding. As tools – particularly data — become more readily available, CMOs need to take a more holistic view of the business’s aims. In particular, the boundaries between traditional marketing and product experience – the way in which the product is defined, and how it touches the customer – are becoming blurred, as are those between marketing and digital sales.

With this in mind, a CMO should redefine their relationship to the business. This means extending the possible spectrum of responsibilities – the CMO might need to incorporate elements more associated with PR as a ‘Chief Brand Officer’, drive growth as a ‘Chief Revenue Officer’ or disrupt the status quo as a ‘Chief of Innovation’.

From daring artisan to data-driven

Historically, marketeers were the artists of the day, putting cowboys on posters. Now they’ve moved almost wholeheartedly from that pure artistic world to a more data-led responsibility. The real skill of the CMO comes from creating a marriage of equals between these two disciplines.

Marketeers should move their desks next to the tech department in their business, and stay there. You need a constant flow of conversation between these two disciplines to really make the most out of data. This is how you will establish meaningful connections with each consumer and understand their habits, whether they’re a punter in Putney or a hipster from Shoreditch.

However, brands are judged on what they do not just what they say. The key is to drive a healthy degree of granular ‘1-2-1’ marketing, without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Over-optimising your marketing for the benefit of a particular audience can result in a very fragmented brand experience.

This means marketeers should, on the one hand, keep in mind data and customer metrics, but then also understand how the brand tapestry works together to create a holistic experience. It’s this which will get people talking about your brand in the pub.

Singers to sunshine; it’s all valuable data

One of the fundamental tenets of any good CMO is obsessing about getting to know the habits of each and every consumer.
At MyTaxi, this task is amplified. It’s a constant marathon to marry supply and demand with taxis, as it can be affected by a myriad of factors unique to each district of each city, from transport ebb and flow to a Beyoncé concert.

The layers of complexity in running the business requires an obsession with collecting localised data about how the consumers – that’s drivers as well as and passengers – are different in each city. This means everything, from when drivers typically go on and off-shift, to when festivals are happening, to when the temperature goes up or down by a couple of degrees.

The CMO needs to work out how to respond to all this data using insight to help you deal with your competitors.

Brands that you can have a pint with

To connect with the modern consumer, brands should act like people. Consumers should be able to imagine going for a drink with a brand, and what type of conversation you would have with that brand. Think about how much consumers love it when a brand engages with them on Twitter with a human voice – at it’s heart, this is because we like feeling like we know what kind of ‘person’ a brand is and can therefore have a close relationship with it.

One part of this is that modern consumers gravitate towards brands with a sense of purpose which they perceive as valuable. Skype defined itself by those magical moments that people had with those who are far away, and there’s also a utility in moving people around cities quickly and safely in taxis.

Another facet to driving this is to be able and willing to stand up for causes that people want to stand up for. For example, 2 years ago Ireland held the 1st referendum for Gay Marriage, and in response Hailo launched the #driveforequality campaign offering people free rides to the polls. Through this, Hailo increased revenue and acquisition, as well as created huge amounts of valuable PR. If a brand can identify a higher purpose that drives them, this is key – the world may not need another taxi app, but the world does need something that champions a cause.

Looking to the future…

With the window on consumer data ever-widening, alongside the increasing predominance of marketeers when driving business growth in a brand-orientated market, it’s not a risky prediction to say that the role of the CMO will continue to grow in importance. Successful CMOs will be consumer-obsessed, financially-focused, with a commitment to driving disruption through their business – and of course, they’ll be building the brands that we all want to take out for a drink.

Gary Bramall | LinkedIn

Tom Nunn is a Consultant specialising in the interim market for Technology, Media and Telecoms. Learn more about our Private Equity Practice, or if you would like to speak with Tom directly, please get in touch by email on [email protected].

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Tom Nunn

Head of Technology Practice - Interim Management