Twelve Imperatives for the South African CMO

16 May 2014|Added Value

Some may say marketing in South Africa is in crisis. Or at best, a state of transition. Last year, we interviewed some of South Africa’s leading marketing directors, responsible for over R2 billion in advertising spend a year, and the heads of advertising and digital agencies. And what was occupying their head space? A rapidly changing face of marketing in South Africa.

We uncovered 12 imperatives if marketing, as a profession and a career, wants to play a bigger commercial role, attract better talent and re-establish its tarnished image in order to restore some of the faith consumers have lost in brands. Only marketer’s who are adaptable and willing to accept a new paradigm will succeed personally, and for their brands and companies, in the years ahead.

1. There must be a clearer link between marketing’s outputs to business performance or it won’t gain the commercial kudos it is looking for

Those interviewed felt that marketers will begin their transformation on solid ground, given that emerging sophisticated measurement tools (such as business performance metrics and behavioural science) are now able to quantify marketing’s commercial accountability. However they acknowledged that the more marketing could measure all aspects of its impact, the more commercial kudos it will be afforded. Rising to the challenge of this broader commercial accountability is critical given the challenges facing the profession and its employer companies.

The implication of this is that marketers must challenge themselves to develop more commercially orientated measurement tools and embrace new methodologies, such as behavioural sciences, so that it can demonstrate its commercial impact on the bottom line.

2. Brands need to realise that consumers are setting the rules of the game and that conversations and dialogue are central to this

For those relying on consumer markets, there are a myriad of issues with which to get to grips including the fact that consumers are increasingly setting the rules of engagement, dramatically changing their value systems and having to survive with devaluing disposable income in an economy battered by poor growth and price increases. Marketers are very cognisant of the increased consumer power brought on by the digital age. They know that they can no longer control – through one-way brand messages broadcast to a captive market – the conversations around their brands.

As a result, consumers will increasingly judge brands on their conversations and experiences at every touch-point, rather than simply the advertising or in-store message put out by the brand custodian.

3. Marketers must acknowledge that there is a shift towards values-driven marketing

Increasingly, consumers are choosing brands that reflect society and their own personal value systems. Popular culture is shifting from ‘personality’ to that of ‘character and integrity’, driven in part by a perceived lack of political leadership, character and values in today’s society.

The implications here are that the strongest brands are those that can make a difference to people’s lives- no matter how big or small. Moreover, those that can consistently deliver on this promise will resonate more and build a stronger relationship with consumers. ‘Add Hope’ from KFC is an excellent example of how a brand is encouraging people to make a meaningful difference to the lives of others.

4. Social responsibility can no longer be seen as a compensatory and/or transactional pursuit

On the other side of the relationship, there is a strong corporate trend towards social responsibility – not as window-dressing, not as a means to ‘compensate’ for the corporation’s use of resources, not as a brand-building exercise. In today’s world there is a definite commitment to doing things because ‘it’s the right thing to do’, not because ‘it can score us brownie points’.

The world is changing and the time is starting to pass, when companies can survive without an authentic social conscience. The ‘Woolworth’s difference’ promise around sustainability is an example of this commitment.

5. If marketers fail to acknowledge that consumers increasingly judge brands for the way they behave, they will relegate them to the bottom of the pile

In line with corporates’ pursuit of values-driven marketing and the consumers’ ever increasing expectations of altruistic social responsibility pursuits, more and more consumers are judging the behaviour of both businesses and brands. It is no longer just what one says, it is also how one behaves.

It is the company’s opinion that the trust consumers have in brands is at its lowest point in years. Companies need to pay renewed attention to ensuring that what they promise is delivered on the ground through the way that they interact with customers.

6. The corporate brand must play a bigger role into the future or companies will lose the race to re-establish the faith consumers appear to be losing in corporates

Increasingly therefore, the corporate brand is on the rise with companies using the corporate brand as an enabler to demonstrate brand values and build trust and value around their brand portfolios.

Despite this, marketers must not forget the role that the corporate brand plays in attracting the right talent into their business. RMB’s brand promise, ‘Traditional values, Innovative ideas’, is a powerful promise partly designed to attract high calibre talent who share a similar philosophy to life.

7. A more frugal consumer is marketing’s biggest reality check – and if marketers don’t wake up to this, they will lose out to value brands

All this, however, is happening in a world in which price has become a bigger driver in the purchase decision, with consumers constantly re-evaluating the perceived benefits they receive. The value equation is changing: consumers still aspire towards premium brands, but in reality now have more brands in their repertoire, because of their budget constraints. The combined implication for marketers is that they need to rethink their value proposition by beefing up their perceived benefits, and that the brand’s purpose going forward must fit with consumers’ values, lives and worlds for it to resonate.

The implication of this is that, in an environment where we are seeing constant switching by consumers up and down the brand value chain, building a diverse portfolio of brands, each with its own bespoke value proposition, is now more important than ever before. This additional value consumers are demanding could be addressed in a number of ways. For example, Mugg and Bean’s renewed emphasis on providing value through bigger portions is in stark contrast to companies downsizing pack sizes and offering a more affordable price point.

8. In-store marketing needs more attention than ever

Allied to this is that in-store marketing needs more attention than ever before, particularly given the rise of the connected shopper. While previous generations of shoppers have only seen merchandise when entering a store, today’s shopper sees, for example on entering a furniture store, the opportunity to use Twitter and Facebook to ask for opinions on which sofa she should purchase, consumer bulletin boards or Facebook to research the blenders on offer, QR codes to confirm prices, Pinterest to add to the board she is building on her ideal kitchen and so on.

All this means that collaboration between retailer and manufacturer will become more important into the future, in order to deliver unique and personalised shopping experiences for consumers and better value.

9. Businesses must figure out how to use digital data for greater insight

As business leaders are calling for more tangible measures of brand success, marketers are seeking ways of using the abundant data available to them to help measure ROI. But it’s not only about the hard, cold numbers as marketers also struggle to use data to uncover more meaningful insights that help them connect with consumers and ultimately provide a competitive advantage

The implication of this could be that, with the explosion of accessible customer data, it will be the chief customer officers who use this data for modelling and analytics that will uncover greater and more actionable insight into the future.

10. Winning in marketing requires changes in skill sets

It is patently obvious that winning in marketing will require new skills:

• In line with measuring commercial accountability, there is an increased need for marketers to have a foundation of commercial skills over and above their functional marketing skills.
• Greater consumer segmentation coupled with increasing channels of communication means that marketing roles are more varied and specialist roles are becoming more prevalent.
• The need for digital to be embedded into brand marketing is becoming increasingly important, and companies look to younger talent within the organisation to drive this integration.

This is one of the most impactful shifts. Marketers are going to have to unlearn a lot of what they have learnt in the past. They are going to have to demonstrate increased commitment to training and development and develop a culture that has the desire to embrace change.

11. For the industry and branding to thrive we must ensure that young marketing talent is developed and nurtured

Fortunately, senior marketing leaders are of the opinion that there is not a shortage of young talent available to the marketing profession, talent that could readily embrace the new skills. Unfortunately, few are investing sufficiently in this talent, either through training or by mentoring.

The company believes that developing marketing talent will be a key employee value proposition differentiator. This will mean investing more in formal capability programmes focusing on the technical and creative aspects of marketing and ‘on the job’ training. Marketing leaders having the skills to nurture and develop talent is paramount to success.

12. Marketing leadership needs to shift from orchestrator to conductor

There is a commonly held belief that marketing lacks the icons of yesteryear who were thought to attract and inspire young talent. The industry needs a new type of marketing leader – a change agent who will inspire the shift from the old to the new, and retain the talent he or she needs to do so.

It was clear from our conversations with marketers, that dramatic change is necessary and desirable, as the immutable reality of today’s marketing function.

In addition, the changes required seem to be signposted. However, if marketing is going to shift from orchestrator to conductor, it will require more integration of its ideas, purpose and function across the organisation, in order to realise its ultimate accountability – business and brand growth.


Written by Eden Lanser, Business Director Added Value South Africa



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