The pandemic has erased the last boundaries between product and marketing

January 28, 2022, 12:30 PM UTC
The pandemic has irreversibly changed consumers, amid fierce competition from new digital-native brands, forcing big brands to accelerate their own digital plans.
Lisa Maree Williams - Getty Images

The pandemic has prompted overnight shifts in consumer behavior, amid unrelenting competition from a new breed of digital-native brands and the urgent necessity to optimize online platforms in response. All of this makes it critical for the roles of Chief Marketing (CMO) and Chief Product Officer (CPO) to become far more integrated than ever before. 

While this is a long-standing leadership challenge, the pandemic has amplified the problem and revealed a new set of factors influencing the relationship between these two roles–and it’s impacting many companies’ growth prospects.

Today’s CMOs must balance their consumer focus with being more data-centric. We’re seeing increasing pressure on CMOs to deliver on digital transformation, innovation, and data-driven customer experience, which is traditionally more the role of the CPO. Furthermore, 80% of CMOs now lead their company’s digital business transformation strategy. 

At the same time, CPOs are under increasing pressure to balance their analytical “build-it-and-they-will-come” approach with a deeper understanding of the emotional side of brand experience, which is more often seen as the CMO’s remit. 

To achieve genuine growth and innovation in the coming year, CEOs must facilitate the closer integration of these two roles, with CMOs and CPOs having greater insight and input into each other’s remit. This sounds obvious, but it’s not happening. 83% of CMOs say that innovation has not met management’s expectations, highlighting gaps in communication and collaboration within the C-Suite which could be closed by much closer relationships between CMOs and CPOs.

CEOs need to consider these two leadership positions as two parts of a whole by recognizing their complementary skillsets and taking steps to integrate them more closely.

Create a more seamless customer experience

There is a nuanced, human reality about managing customers throughout the whole brand and user experience which needs to be seamless. This can only be achieved through close collaboration between CMO and CPO, combining the worlds of hard and soft data with long-term brand strategy.

One of the best things a CMO and CPO can do together is a market segmentation that is then applied to customers, so they have one holistic view of their consumers. 

Make the best sense of available data

When perfectly aligned, CPOs and CMOs can arm each other with a wealth of data that allows them to attract even more new customers and further optimize the platform for existing ones. 

For this to happen, the communication channel needs to be constantly open, fluid, and deeply collaborative to be able to respond to customer needs in real-time. With the huge amount of data available from both sides, a clear strategy about which data to use (and not use) needs to be agreed upon to maximize efficiency. 

Give experiments the best chance of succeeding

CPOs are brilliant at using additive design to constantly experiment with improving the product in response to customer preferences. However, their quick “fail-fast” mentality may result in many rounds of updates that lose sight of the brand’s core purpose, values, and identity.

Experiments may also miss chances of succeeding without the nuanced understanding of the audience that a CMO brings. All experiments need a hybrid CMO-CPO overview to ensure the cultural and brand-centric cues, as well as any product and UX pitfalls, are addressed.

Aim for the most collaborative working culture 

The most successful brands are the ones that create a consumer-obsessed culture where diverse minds can collaborate on the most impactful customer activations. Close alignment of CMO and CPO creates the foundation for this and can have a positive ripple effect on the more peripheral parts of the business.

Encouraging spin-off working groups comprised of colleagues from both teams can create greater cohesion, diversification, and a breeding ground for innovation. Employee experience budgets are expected to grow in 2022, “bringing about more formal partnerships between the CMO and CPO/CHRO–understanding the brand implications that are at stake,” according to Forrester.

Before we all get carried away with too many predictions and forecasts about what the future has in store for businesses, companies should take a moment to double-check they’re doing all they can to get their current team working as optimally as possible, starting with a health-check of the CMO-CPO dynamic.

Livia Bernardini is the Chief Growth Officer and International Managing Director at growth consultancy Zag.

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