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Saturday, March 18, 2017

CMOs Must Overcome Specialist's Bias


Once upon a time, a CMO could count on her agency for leadership. The firm was her "agency of record" and served in the role of "brand steward."

No longer. Today, the agency is merely one member in an orchestra of suppliers. It's no longer the conductor; it's not even the first chair.

Conductor-less, the CMO must make sense of a cacophony of instruments, most of which belong to martech firms beating the drum for their own solutions.

It's easy in this situation for CMOs to fall into the trap of specialist's bias.

Studies of medical practitioners show specialists over-treat patients with the therapy they specialize in. 

CMOs can fall victim to specialist's bias as readily as doctors.

The former digital marketer will glorify viral Tweets; the former ad man, four-color placements; the former sales exec, fancy collateral; the former video producer, lavish productions; the former researcher, elaborate studies; the former PR guy, puffy product mentions; and so on.

Without the touchstone once provided by the agency of record, agnosticism is no longer a phone call away.

"Look around," says John Ounpu in Brand Quarterly, "and it’s not hard to find brands doing too much with no gravitational center to hold it all together. Letting tactics overshadow strategy. Setting the marketing agenda based on vendor capabilities instead of customer needs. Creating a disjointed, fragmented customer experience with too many moving pieces."

Ounpu offers a way out: make marketing strategy another speciality. The strategist's specialty would be to align the moving pieces and watchdog the other specialists. 

"Strategy must be a practice, not an event," he says.

The strategist would look 'beyond channels and quarterly plans" into "how teams are structured, how priorities are determined, how agencies are selected, briefed and managed, how technology is assessed and invested in, and how performance is measured."

Sounds awesome. But I can't imagine it working.

Is the marketing strategist some kind of internal auditor? Can she poke her nose into every team and every supplier relationship? Can she dictate everyone's metics? And who, really, would take orders from the in-house "strategy cop," unless the cop also signed all the paychecks?

People and organizations aren't built like that. 

The leadership has to come from the CMO. And the CMO must find a way to overcome specialist's bias.

One smart way to do so is to read relentlessly.

The other is to attend marketing conferences.

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