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5 Ways Top CMOs Build Better Customer Experiences

Guest Author

January 19, 2021  •  6 min read

The roles and responsibilities of modern marketers are evolving faster than ever. To some, this is an insurmountable challenge. To the world’s most influential CMOs, it’s an invaluable opportunity to transform their brands for the digital age and build a better customer experience.

The World’s Most Influential CMOs 2020, a new report produced by Forbes, Sprinklr, and LinkedIn, puts the spotlight on these leading players and tells the story of how they innovate in the face of unprecedented change.

Most notably, the report uses data and insights to shed light on how top CMOs build better customer experiences for their brands. It reveals that these marketers are exemplary because they understand an important fact: Customer experience is the new brand. And their actions inspire all marketers to ask, “How can we better know and serve our customers – not as a collection of data points, but as people?”

Here are five ways the most influential CMOS are answering that question.

1. Embracing Social Media for Digital Transformation

Successful CMOs embrace social media to fuel their digital transformation and engage consumers across a variety of touchpoints. They don’t just sit back while new channels and tools emerge. They mold their own solutions to fit their needs and the needs of their audiences.

JPMorgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau reinvented the social ad placement process for the company, for example. After YouTube failed to respond to her concerns about ads appearing next to questionable content, she helped JPMorgan Chase create its own technology for determining where its content would appear.

Lemkau’s team built 17 filters that allowed it to narrow five million potential ad channels down to 3,000 that were deemed “safe” for its ads. The solution improved brand safety without reducing ad effectiveness, contributing to YouTube’s eventual decision to launch a “preferred” advertising program for brands with similar concerns.

2. Championing the Voice of the Customer

Top CMOs champion the voices of their customers; they go beyond seeing them as just data points and dollar signs, and instead celebrate them as unique individuals.

Hyundai CMO Dean Evans did this by radically improving the way people buy cars. He launched the Shoppers Assurance program, which posts car prices transparently online and allows shoppers to book test drives for vehicles – delivered where and when they want. Buyers can complete the bulk of their paperwork online and even return their new car within three days of purchase.

The process has been a hit with Hyundai customers: 94% said they liked or loved buying through Shoppers Assurance, and 65% said it was an improvement over past car-buying experiences. Most crucially, 56% said it contributed to their decision to buy a Hyundai. Sales in the four test markets outperformed other dealerships, so Hyundai is now rolling out the program nationwide.

3. Running Value-Driven Campaigns

Influential CMOs humanize their brands and build trust with customers by running value-driven campaigns. They prove that corporate success and social good can coexist. In fact, they fuel each other.

SAP CMO Alicia Tillman, for instance, partnered with UN Women to address pressing issues such as social inequality and poverty. And North Face CMO Tom Herbst invested over $1 million in programs that fund accessible climbing and public land. These marketing leaders understand that influence isn’t just about voice – it’s also about action.

4. Taking Responsibility for Driving Business Growth

Effective CMOs take responsibility for driving business growth. Beyond being just a corporate mouthpiece, they welcome on additional responsibilities to be proactive leaders for internal culture, talent acquisition, tech purchasing, and customer engagement. In fact, top CMOs are 5x more likely than their colleagues to be recognized in media coverage of digital transformation and customer experience.

For example, former Uber CMO Bozoma St. John has become a powerful voice for women of color in the business world, garnering recognition as a member of the EBONY Power 100, speaking at events like the 2018 Girlboss Rally, and regularly earning features in outlets like The New York Times. IBM’s Michelle Peluso is frequently quoted in stories about working from home after changing the company’s policies on remote work.

5. Speaking out about Major Social Issues

Truly impactful CMOs aren’t just influential in marketing; they’re also speaking out on major social issues affecting the world today. Specifically, the report highlights three areas wherein top CMOs are making their voices heard:

Gender

In the year of #MeToo and #TimesUp, CMOs did not hesitate to talk about gender issues in the worlds of business and marketing. Lemkau joined fellow top-50 CMOs Leslie Berland, Linda Boff, and Antonio J. Lucio to criticize the Consumer Electronics Show for the lack of women on its keynote speaker list – garnering extensive coverage and ultimately generating a last-minute diversification of the conference program.

Diversity

While the C-Suite remains disproportionately white, some CMOs of color have advocated for diversity within the enterprise, while others use their position to bring attention or resources to specific communities.

For example, HP CMO Antonio J. Lucio challenged the brand to diversify its agency partners. A year later, the company reported that its agency teams were now 61% women, up from less than 40%. This initiative reached all the way to creative leadership roles as well, with 51% now held by women even though two of HP’s partner agencies had no women in such positions when Lucio issued his challenge.

Sustainability

As a growing number of consumers factor sustainability and carbon footprint into their purchasing decisions, CMOs have stepped up to ensure that their brands deliver not only green messaging but also greener products.

Unilever, for example, has made sustainability a key part of its brand. CMO Keith Weed has used his social reach and influence to push for greater sustainability in manufacturing and a greater commitment to combating stereotypes in advertising and branded content. In fact, Unilever’s Sustainable Living brands delivered 60% of the company’s growth in 2016; they also grew 50% faster than the rest of the Unilever portfolio.

Putting the Customer First

Influential CMOs recognize that digital transformation is inevitable and social media has irrevocably changed the way brands interact with their audiences. Most importantly, they know that if customer experience is the new brand, modern CMOs must do everything they can to put the customer first.

The most influential CMOs are already doing this – embracing social media, building value-driven campaigns, and speaking out on timely issues. They’re a new class of leading marketers, and in a world that’s changing at a rapid pace, they don’t just keep up. They learn how to be leaders of that change, taking on new roles and responsibilities within their organizations and the industry at large.

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