Should a CMO Know How to Post Cat Videos?

I always find The Financial Brand blogs worth reading and this one was no exception: The CMO Role in Banking is Being Disrupted. “With change happening faster, and the marketplace becoming increasingly volatile,” says the blog, “top marketing executives need to deploy advanced technologies, support innovation, and be more adaptable to change than ever before.” I agree.

Here’s where we parted ways: “Unfortunately, most financial marketers are not yet prepared for this massive paradigm shift. Many of the modern marketing tools available are not fully understood by current CMOs, with the potential impact of these tools even less understood. Many CMOs also do not fully understand the definition or power of innovation within a digital ecosystem.”

If I’m a CMO reading this, I might be thinking that I need to polish up the old resume.

A majority of CMOs (80%) surveyed by Gartner said that they feel they are solely responsible for, or play a leading role in, setting their company’s digital business transformation strategy. This, too, makes sense. The CMO should “play a significant role” in setting their bank’s digital strategy. So, just who is this CMO? Zippia's data science team found that of the approximately 69,000 Chief Marketing Officers currently employed in the United States, 31% are women, 64.7% are men, and the average age is 38. 

Now, remember, we’re talking digital ecosystem here. Holding a CMO — no matter what the industry — “solely responsible” for a company’s digital transformation and expecting him or her to “fully understand the definition or power of innovation within a digital ecosystem” is like asking Grandpa to tell you how to use TikTok. 

There’s no doubt that the digital experience is a critical touchpoint in a consumer’s experience of a product or brand. There probably isn’t a CMO on the planet who doesn’t know this. And there’s no doubt that to develop that experience takes significant expertise. Does that mean that, as a CMO you need to know how to write Java Script or update a WordPress site?  I can see that job posting now:  Looking for CMO with a working knowledge of UX design, back-end web and SEO content development, Instagram, TikTok, and Microsoft Excel. I remember when as an ad agency art director we were introduced to the idea of “digital design.”  For years, we’d worked with photography and type by hand.  The ads we created were built on pieces of art board, not computers, and every step was manual. When computers entered the world of art direction and graphic design, yes, the way we did the work changed, but the thinking behind that work didn’t. That’s because technology is simply a tool. And knowing how to use a computer didn’t make me a better designer.

What, exactly, are organizations looking to their CMO for? According to the executive search firm Paladin, “the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is responsible for overseeing the planning, development and execution of an organization's marketing and advertising initiatives. Reporting directly to the chief executive officer, the CMO's primary responsibility is to generate revenue by increasing sales through successful marketing for the entire organization, using market research, pricing, product marketing, marketing communications, advertising, and public relations.”

So, Mr., Mrs., or Ms. CMO, relax. No need to update that resume. At least not because you’re not a web dev wizard. Your job is safe, I think… provided you’re doing what can be reasonably expected of a CMO. As we all know, no one knows everything.  That’s why CMOs generally lead large, well-populated marketing departments that include, yes, a significant number of digital ecosystem experts:  Content strategists, UI and UX designers, visual designers, SEO content development specialists, front and back-end web developers, social media marketing managers… and the list goes on. A smart CMO surrounds himself or herself with individuals who, for instance, know way more about TikTok than Grandpa ever could.

Lastly, of the roughly 6,000 financial institutions in the United States, over 5,000 of those are community banks. Now, because we work with several hundred community banks, I do tend to put a community bank lens to the industry news and pundit guidance that I read. Most of these banks don’t employ CMOs. In fact, many don’t have dedicated marketing departments. How, then, do they make the best of “modern marketing tools”?  Well, that’s where we try to help.

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