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What are a CMO’s key leadership capabilities in the new normal? 


What are a CMO’s key leadership capabilities in the new normal? 


The pandemic exposed a clear divide between marketing leaders able to quickly pivot and respond to market shifts and those who could not. Jen Jones 

Prior to the pandemic, brand was given a lot of lip service – as if a third person was in the room –something to be revered, but not touched. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that brands are living breathing entities that can change without breaking. The shift has been a long time coming. There’s been this cognitive dissonance between brand as this rigid, immovable thing and a world where massive flows of real-time information can allow for micro-adjustments to strategy, that better serve customers and drive growth. 

When it comes to reputation management, there have been positive changes there, too. The old idea that reputation management is synonymous with damage control is shifting. It’s true, every organisation has to engage in damage control when appropriate, but especially in the age of social media, that now takes place in real time – it’s about preventing things from spiraling out of control. 

But, on the other hand, the burgeoning grassroots movements around truth and reconciliation are forcing organisations to address their reputations in a more modern context. Like everything, marketing has become more political. Prior to 2020, which was pre-pandemic and before widespread global calls for racial equity and social justice, organisations would step back from these discussions. 

Today more brands are embracing statements of unity and engaging in authentic conversations –both within and outside of the organisation – about diversity, equity and inclusion. The authenticity piece is everything. Woe to the organisation that is seen as using these critical conversations to serve its own ends. 

Have customers been changed by pandemic? 

All human beings have been changed by the pandemic in one way or another. The societal reflection and grieving that has taken place has changed people, certainly in the short- and likely medium-term. Take, for example, the fact that the pandemic decreased carbon dioxide emissions. That has played a big role in raising the awareness of climate change and the need to take action. More people and organisations are now exploring and researching sustainability and how to engage in true value-driven purchasing. 

One of the most obvious foundational changes is in customer buying behaviours. Although the move to digital-first engagement, for both B2C and B2B buyers, was underway before the pandemic, the trend has now accelerated. As lockdowns were enforced, ecommerce activity spiked.

B2B marketers had to add virtual events to their marketing toolkit. Once an afterthought, this marketing channel was thrust to the forefront for both prospecting and customer engagement. Both B2B and B2C buyers became more reliant on online channels for purchasing and the many steps taken before, during and after – from discovery to post-purchase interactions. 

And with that comes a renewed focus on the customer experience (CX). In a world with unending competition, CX is a key differentiator. Leading brands understand the value of CX and are committed to improving it from end-to-end, be it all online or a mix of off and online, to better reflect the way we now work and live. 

What are a CMO’s key leadership capabilities in the new normal? 

The pandemic brought CMOs closer than ever before to decisions that matter in the C-suite, and there’s no going back. When traditional channels and sales for many companies collapsed, and actions that were inconsistent with the brand proliferated, everyone around the table looked to marketing and asked: What are we going to do now? 

Suddenly the connections between the people in the organisation who developed and distributed products and services, and the people who studied and targeted the people who bought those products and services, became paramount. I think a lot of operations teams were surprised by how much data and knowledge was embedded in the marketing function, and how much the CMO’s leadership mattered to the company. 

The new marketing function is coming to life right now and the best CMOs will be the ones who can lead a company forward in this fast-flowing river we call the new normal. It requires adaptability, the ability to pivot and a true understanding of the value and need for both personalisation and real-time information. Best in class will know how marketing teams can leverage these skills, using digital, data, analytics, content and SEO. 

What will marketing look like by the end of the decade? 

I believe there will be reliance on advanced marketing technologies, utilising AI and machine learning, in more areas of the marketing organisation to reach potential buyers as individuals. Marketers at the top of their game are already on this path. And moving forward, continued advances in martech will allow us to deliver hyper-targeted messages to those individual buyers. 

That’s a huge shift as today many marketers are still using data to group buyers together and then create messaging that targets the group –not the individuals within the group. At best, those messages are “something that might resonate with this group of people.” As marketers begin to see and understand the possibilities of AI and machine learning in MarTech, I expect to see higher rates of adoption. 

The next generations are already making decisions that will significantly affect marketing 10 years from now. Marketers are being led by demand for brand authenticity and value-based purchasing. But no doubt, the next generation is primed to do it a little bit better with the goal of improving each corner of the world. That’s a wonderful future we can all look forward to.


Jen Jones is the CMO at Dataminr, a global AI business and the leading platform for real-time events and risk detection. 

Jasmine Giuliani

Jasmine Giuliani was the Editor of Marketing Mag from March 2020 to September 2021.

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