How CMOs Can Control Their Brand Message in the Age of Digital Sprawl

Brand Message CMOs

The New CMO

What does a CMO do? Just a few years ago, that was an easy question to answer. You focused on building a brand. You managed your channels: press, radio, a TV spot, maybe even an outdoor installation if you were feeling ambitious. Like a conductor, you could orchestrate your brand message with Mozart-like precision. Marketing, itself, was a pure sport, clearly defined.

Flash forward to today, and the blurred lines between technology, marketing, and sales are harder to discern than ever. Fluency in digital transformation has gone from a specialty to a requirement. CMOs need to be able to speak social media, big data, analytics, machine learning, voice technology, and a myriad of other mediums that were just invented halfway through this sentence.

Should you zero in on customer experience? Are you basically a CIO now? And with the mass proliferation of channels — website, blogs, newsletters, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. — how can you possibly control your message when it is at the fingertips of consumers?

If You Love Something, Set It Free

It may seem like now more than ever, CMOs are terrified of losing control of their brand message. The truth is, they lost it a long time ago — and that’s actually a good thing. Because with the right brand behavior and understanding of the customer experience, CMOs can get consumers to do their job for them.

When was the last time you bought something based on an “About” page or press-release boilerplate? Chances are you read product reviews, consulted your community on Facebook, or clicked a targeted ad while scrolling through Instagram. Social media has led to the commodification of trust, turning an opinion into a competitive advantage. Just look at Yelp.

Embrace the Sprawl

Instead of fighting the digital sprawl, CMOs should focus on making their brand strong enough to speak for itself. Make your brand a clear, well-defined, differentiated tool for people to use. The truth is, you’ll never be able to fully control consumers. But if you present your brand unequivocally as a hammer, chances are people are going to start driving home nails. Your brand should:

  • Behave in a manner that people expect, driven by a core-defined positioning which is reinforced throughout all messaging.
  • Have a purpose (beyond profit) that people can rally behind.
  • Avoid trying to be everything to everyone.
  • Be differentiated. We don’t have to tell you how crowded the marketplace is. Don’t just add blockchain to your name and hope for the best.

Consumers are smarter and more educated than ever, meaning they are at least halfway through the buying cycle before they even contact you. (If they ever contact you.) The key then for CMOs is creating a consistent and high-quality experience across this wide network of mediums. You may not be able to control online communities, but you can engage them, earn trust, and turn them into your biggest advocates.

Above All Else, Brand Drives Reputation

That may seem tricky, but it’s no less daunting than trying to create a blanketed ad in this day and age. Brands and their robust marketing teams spend billions of dollars every year rocketing researched, workshopped, and thoroughly-tested ads straight into the void. In 2014, Google reported that a staggering 56.1 percent of all digital ads go unseen. There’s just no such thing as one-size-fits-all anymore. CMOs simply have too much information at their disposal to not meet customers where they are.

So, needless to say, CMOs have a lot on their plate. They have to wrangle data, sift through technology, create relevant content, understand an ever-shifting customer experience, and influence the influencers. But having more gadgets on the tool belt is not a bad thing. In giving up some control, CMOs have the ability to gain exponential growth. As long as you can endure the memes, down-votes, and battles in the comment sections, the digital sprawl can be your best friend.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design firm based in San Francisco.

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