We often talk about top leadership skills and traits for marketers today. In fact, when our CMO Community gathered during two recent symposiums to share common challenges and potential solutions, future-proofed skills like adaptability, resiliency, agility and empathy continued to rise to the forefront. They are the same skills that have become increasingly important over the past few months and the ones viewed as mission-critical moving forward. But what about the necessary "behaviors" as brands? How, as brand leaders and stewards, will we have to shift, adapt and grow to stand the test of time? Here are the top themes related to the evolving list of brand must-dos brought to the forefront by a diverse cohort of more than 50 CMOs.
Brands of Tomorrow Must:
- Be Human First
One of the biggest and most refreshing outcomes leaders are noting from the pandemic, and current climate of social unrest, is the outpouring of heart and empathy coming from consumers, communities and companies. It’s a trend that many not only hope will stick around, but also one that many marketing leaders believe will become just a way of doing business. As one CMO noted, “we’re seeing a shift in society from ‘me’ to ‘us’ and brands will need to channel that moving forward.
- Uphold Purpose as a Business Imperative
Purpose marketing will be table stakes for brands, making it less about marketing and more about initiatives that drive real value. It comes down to “living and breathing our missions more intentionally” as one leader noted.
- Play a Larger Role in Societal Issues
There’s more pressure than ever for brands to use their voice and platform to take on societal issues at scale. As an example, a recent Edelman study found that the majority of consumers surveyed want—and expect—brands to step up and address racism. The brands that find the sweet spot between their purpose and what they take a stand on are the ones that will come out on top.
- Be Consistent and Authentic, Inside and Out
With that intention, comes an increased need for transparency and accountability. “You have to have substantial proof behind campaigns. No more fluff.” From internal communications and culture to campaigns and ad spend, consumers are going to make sure brands are putting their money where their mouths are.
- Promote Team Health, Especially Mental Health
Speaking of the inside, one of the most consistent themes across both summits was the focus on (and concern for) teams. Questions like ‘how do we keep our people motivated?’ and ‘how do we truly encourage self-care with increased workloads?’ Our community of CMOs stressed the importance of being empathetic and being mindful of their teams’ mental wellness now and into the future in order to maintain a healthy team.
- Weigh In on Business Models and Product Development
Much like the blurred lines happening between marketing and communications, CMOs are seeing “marketing at the intersection of every corner of the organization, from HR to tech to product, etc.” An emerging opportunity is more proactive co-creation between marketing, business and product to solve more consumer and societal needs.
- Focus on Long-term Brand Reputation, Not Just Short-term Sales
This takes the long-standing debate of brand vs. performance to the next level. While there’s no magic answer to how to balance the two, one thing is clear based on the symposium conversation: brands have to “play the long-game in order to win.”
- Embrace and Enable Democratization of Content
With budget cuts helping to shine light on what’s truly driving revenue and what’s wasting it, brand leaders are of course taking a scrappier approach and, in some cases, doing more with less. CMOs expressed excitement about the shift in brands “no longer crafting brand-out messaging” but rather surfacing the voices of employees, consumers and communities. One marketing leader also noted the rise of democratization in the sense of people revolting against authorities and experts which as we’ve already seen affecting the future of Influencer Marketing as we know it.
- Collaborate Cross-Industry in Unexpected Ways
Yes, brand partnerships are nothing new. But what excites our CMO Community is true collaboration to achieve a greater impact and scale for good. When Raja Rajamannar, CMCO of Mastercard joined a recent episode of CMO Moves, he discussed the benefits of co-branding and how “collectively, what multiple companies can deliver as a value proposition to any audience is far higher than what an individual company can do by itself.” And we saw this evidenced by the first-ever joint sports league PSA that came to be when brand leaders in our community from the NFL, NHL, MLB and 11 others joined forces for good. We also see this playing out in the unlikely partnership between Adidas and Allbirds to reduce the carbon footprint by co-producing footwear together. True examples of putting competition aside to move things forward.
- Be Agile and Community-Centric
When it comes to quick pivots and real-time responses, all were in agreement that “we are in the era of agility.” Our communities are expecting this type of relationship with brands so the impact on campaign and content creation lead times will be major. And based on the rapid pace of innovation we’ve seen over the past few months, one brand CMO noted, “we need to create that same environment of ‘have to’ even if that’s not the case, in order to continue pushing innovation forward.”