Anybody who attended last week’s Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando—and it seemed that everybody was there this year—got the message. It was very loud and extremely clear. The message was this:
It’s not about the message anymore.
More precisely, Job One for brand stewards is no longer just about creating messages. As I have noted frequently in this space, the CMO is now also part CTO and part CIO—and not small parts, either. The marketer’s scope has not simply grown, it has widened dramatically, both upstream and downstream.
New capabilities are required but even more importantly, companies must suspend old notions of where job responsibilities begin and end. And it was heartening in Orlando to see how thoroughly brand builders have embraced this new reality.
This year’s sessions and case studies advanced our understanding of all the conflated subjects on today’s multidisciplinary marketer to-do list (and the necessity of integrating all of them into one powerful, cohesive whole). We dove deeply into the need for purpose-driven corporate cultures; the sine qua non of authenticity; the business blitzkrieg that is social networks; riding the bullet train that is Big Data; content creation by everybody and for everybody; and of course, how to handle the tricky task of engaging Millennials.
The case studies this year were de facto blueprints for how to do all of it well. We saw and heard how marketing is more and more about creating and changing product and most especially, creating purpose. Not what you would expect at the ANA, at least until now. One of the earliest heralds of this new marketing age, former Procter & Gamble global CMO Jim Stengel, discussed how to change culture through new hires and adroit communication of your purpose.
Mark Addicks , SVP and CMO of General Mills, revealed how his team reinvigorated Cheerios by positioning the iconic breakfast brand as the “connector for families.” Marty St. George, SVP of Commercial at JetBlue Airways, spoke about how the iconoclastic flyer “brought humanity back to air travel,” and has been able to grow while remaining true to its customer-centric culture.
Purpose, we learned, is a powerful tool for transformation. And it allows for the best kind of storytelling. American Standard Brands President and CEO Jay Gould, the brand whisperer whose magic touch has uplifted such disparate products as Wheaties, Minute Maid and Graco car seats, shared his organization’s experience with “Flush for Good.” In that effort, linked to a new ad campaign for the company’s Champion line of toilet seats, American Brand researchers developed a plastic seal that fits over open-pit latrines, preventing the spread of disease. The company donates one of those latrine pans for every one of its Champion toilets sold to local NGOs in Bangladesh.
If you can marry doing well with doing good in the toilet category, you can probably do it everywhere. As Gould noted, “values create value.”
There were so many other examples of the newly enlarged marketer’s purview in action. Target CEO Jeff Jones recounted how the massive security breach suffered by the giant retailer led to a sweeping reappraisal of its insular culture—and the dramatic changes in Target’s approach to consumers, use of social media and within its own organization that resulted from that painfully honest but ultimately productive self-examination.
Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela described a three-year transformation plan for the tech leader that includes such objectives as “freemium” innovation and “modern storytelling” and will unite the company’s disparate products under one brand umbrella.
There was so much more. About owning CRM and data collection technology. About inventive and ever-growing social media gambits, like Dunkin’ Donuts’ groundbreaking, six-second Vine commercial. And even more insight into the illusive and ubiquitous Millennial consumer.
Uniting all of it was the transformation of the marketer from communications creator to organizational polymath whose purview includes technology, operations, customer service and a host of other new duties in addition to the traditional core competencies of message ideation and activation. A trend that, if anything, will intensify as we move ever deeper into the digital age.