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Marketing

Why Consumer Insight Should Be Owned by the CMO

August 24, 2018

6 min read

Chief Marketing Officers sit right at the top of the Marketing tree. While being up high is useful when it comes to seeing the bigger, strategic picture, it does also mean they can be several strata away from front-line marketing, and direct consumer interactions.

CMOs may sign-off on the overall brand direction, work with agencies to hone their messaging, and control the budgets… but they’re not always the first to see how these manifest in the day-to-day interactions with consumers.

Setting the right tone from the outset will make or break the commercial success of a company. As such, it’s more important for CMOs to have their ear to the ground than anyone else. If CMOs don’t know their consumers inside out, these key decisions will be made in, at best, and echo chamber and, at worst, a void.

To avoid this plight, every successful CMO needs to think about their job description as boiling down to two key responsibilities:

  1. Understanding consumers
  2. Translating this understanding into growth

Of course, on a day-to-day basis, a CMO’s reality is much more complicated and messy than this. There’s the small matters of team leadership, and reporting numbers to the board to worry about. That said, while CMOs will inevitably lose themselves in the nitty gritty to some degree, they need to retain a relentless focus on the consumer, and use this understanding to drive growth. These two core responsibilities need to float to the top of their job tray, no matter what else is going on.

After all, if the CMO doesn’t understand how to engage with consumers—and subsequently translate this engagement into sales—their marketing strategy just won’t land, however tactically brilliant the rest of the team is.

Despite this fundamental truth, countless CMOs outsource consumer insights (or worse, continue to rely entirely on intuition). Whether it be to other teams in their organisations, or to agencies, they are passing up the opportunity to understand their customer.

They become passive recipients of already-filtered insights, rather than actively being involved in listening to an unfiltered account of what consumers think. And the more people between the consumer and the CMO, the more chance there is for those core insights to be subtly altered (however unintentional), which means the final picture is always somewhat distorted.

Kristof Fahy who has headed up the marketing team at Ladbrokes, and is now CMO at Hostelworld is adamant about the need to understand consumers, before you can get anything else right.

Fahy comments that, in a world where consumers can have so many different touch points with a brand (mobile, social, desktop, in-store) their exact brand journey is impossible to anticipate. It’s why, he says, CMOs need to start looking at “the customer in the round” and start “examining and creating behaviours that deliver hard commercial benefits and bottom line contribution.” This way, you can construct a brand that—no matter how consumers happen to interact with it—it represents and understand them.

As Fahy says, at the end of the day, “if we are really serious about putting customers at the centre of the business—then marketing should really be leading the customer experience charge.”

It’s a sentiment that the top echelons of marketers across industries agree with.

For L’Oréal CMO Stéphane Bérubé , constant consumer insight is indispensable: “We have a passion for understanding and listening to what our consumers want, even if those ideas are changing.” His emphasis on the dynamism of consumer opinion—the fact that people’s minds can change overnight—is particularly admirable.

With the possibility nowadays to forge dynamic marketing campaigns with changing consumer opinion in mind; to react to the latest news in your social communications; and schedule PR events with very little former notice through Facebook, listening to consumer opinion as it changes is an exciting prospect.

CMOs who are excited at the prospect of creating a constant feedback loop with their consumers, are the ones who will inevitably be creating campaigns that resonate best. It’s something that Grant Warnock of Nutmeg understands only too well. For Warnock, great consumer insight “may well be the catalyst for game-changing strategies.”

He’s certain that “Great ideas are invariably based on some type of insight. A consumer-facing business cannot innovate, or truly meet the needs of its customers without the use of customer insight.”

The theory that paying close attention, in real time, to what consumers are thinking pays off, is one that’s tried and tested.

According to Forrester, 40 insights-driven public companies, and a mass of insights-driven startups, are going to surge from taking $333 billion in revenue in 2015, to taking $1.2 trillion by 2020. The global research company commented that, “this new kind of company harnesses digital insights to optimize products, services, and operations and will grow at least 8 times faster than global GDP.”

Take this prediction and boil it down to just one insights-driven company, Fever-Tree, and the pattern rings true. Fever-Tree, who regularly check in with their current and future consumers using Attest, have driven a 1300% increase in value since their IPO in 2014, growing from £154 million to £2.2 billion.

It’s the kind of exponential, and sustainable growth that stems directly out of understanding what people want, so that you can feed this back to your product and marketing team, and in turn pitch it perfectly to convince people just how much they want a piece of your brand.

In light of the views from many market leaders, as well as the undeniable facts around the success of insights-driven brands, it seems crazy that so many CMOs continue to outsource their most powerful source of knowledge.

They preside over the strategy that sets the conversation a brand wants to have with its consumers. Evidently, then, they need to be intimately involved at every stage of the consumer insight journey. From setting the goals, and the questions to be asked, through to analysing the data that comes back.

If anything, it should be 50% of their job, with the other 50% of their time dedicated to finding the most effective ways to apply these golden insights, and translate them into sustainable growth.

If you would like to join the roster of brands who subscribe to our consumer-led growth philosophy, and reap the rewards, get in touch with us today to start a conversation that will revolutionise your marketing strategy and your business.

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