Commentary By Mike Linton, Chief Marketing Officer of Farmers Insurance
The expectation for marketing leaders has always been clear: deliver big, spend little and earn much. But today, that set of expectations comes with ever increasing challenges.
Customers are consuming more brand content than ever before, using a constantly evolving array of devices and platforms. Consumers have become accustomed to experiencing brand stories across diverse media channels, from legacy outlets like TV and print to cutting-edge artificial intelligence and augmented reality. And audiences have become increasingly fractured. Since marketing efforts can no longer count on hitting a large, cohesive consumer group, a wide range of customized messages is often needed to reach your customers.
It should come as little surprise, then, that the average tenure of a CMO is now the shortest in the C-suite, lasting only 44 months. With more than a few years of experience on the marketing side of business, I'm finding that I increasingly rely on some core principles to support impactful brand campaigns while navigating an increasingly disruptive business environment.
1. Balance creativity with analytics.
I've found that often the most successful campaigns tend to be fueled by a give and take between the creative team and data analysts. It takes creativity to turn an idea into a marketable gem, but you need to be able to measure impact in order to extract the most value.
It's important for marketing leaders to establish and embrace this balance--talented copywriters and designers will transform a concept into a compelling story that moves the brand into exciting new territory. Analysts can determine how customers responded to the story by measuring data across media channels and demographic groups. And then those results can inform the creative team for greater insights and further refinements.
2. Tame the chaos of technology and tools.
Those of us who upgrade our smartphones year after year know that old tools get stale, new tools arrive, and this cycle endlessly repeats itself. Business owners are always under pressure to use the tools that are most likely to ensure immediate results.
However, to get the most value in marketing, it's usually a good idea to resist the urge to focus exclusively on current performance -- this helps avoid being caught short-handed in the future. A program of consistent, on-going evaluations of new and legacy tools can help integrate the best new options while avoiding the lure of bright, shiny -- and disposable -- technology.
3. Keep ahead of change -- but don't outrun your company.
If you're leading your company's marketing efforts, chances are good that you have an excellent view of how the business landscape and customers are changing. From this vantage point, you can serve a role as a key in-house change agent as the company looks to do things differently. As you push your institution to evolve internally, you'll want to keep in mind that change often feels like it is happening too fast for comfort.
I've found that if my team moves too fast, we may be asking for more change than the company can absorb. If we move too slowly, the brand may risk missing its long-term goals. We'll be more effective if we make it easy for colleagues to follow our suggestions, slowing down or speeding up change depending on what we share and how the company incorporates new ideas. Again, this is a bit of a balancing act.
Given the breakneck speed of change today, it may seem counter-intuitive to stress the value of balance, especially in a forward-looking field like marketing. But I believe that finding multiple sweet spots - between yesterday's technology and tomorrow's tools, between creativity and analytics, and between racing too far ahead of the company or moving too slowly - is one of the keys to being a successful marketer.