With digital commerce exploding during the pandemic, we’ve seen ten years of growth in two years, and it’s completely changed the innovation landscape for CMOs.

Marketing innovation used to be about developing bespoke loyalty schemes, strategic pricing incentives or cool customization options. Now it’s about building genuine customer relationships in addition to driving conversions. Marketing organizations must innovate to design meaningful and relevant customer journeys. And they’re on the hook to do it at the speed of customer and market change.

What’s stopping marketers from innovating? 

Yet marketing has gotten so complex and cluttered that CMOs and their teams are struggling to find the time and resources—much less the headspace—to innovate. I recently met with the CMO of a European platform company who told me that the organization uses 300 different marketing technologies. Imagine how much complexity that adds to everything those marketers do every day.

Are any marketers breaking through innovation barriers with outcomes?

Not all marketing organizations are caught in complexity. Our new global CMO research introduced a small group of marketers—Thrivers—who are over 1.4x more likely to perform far better in revenue growth and profitability. They clear away the clutter to make room for what really matters, which includes innovation. Having innovative products and services is a critical success factor for Thrivers, second only to customer satisfaction.

A key reason Thrivers innovate well is because they have future-ready marketing operations—the highest level of operations maturity. By intelligently combining technology, data insight, processes and talent, future-ready organizations deliver next-level customer and employee experiences with more, relevancy, efficiency and profitability. Think of it as having the most advanced “marketing machine” that there is.

Explore how CVS Health transformed marketing operations to make room for innovation

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Thrivers innovate with future-ready marketing operations

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How do CMOs create the right environment for innovation?

What CMO wouldn’t want a marketing machine so finely tuned that it powers innovation at speed? It’s possible if CMOs separate what’s needed from what’s not across technology, data and people. If it’s not delivering value, then it’s not a priority. This is the essence of operational decluttering in marketing, and it must be done in full support of the strategy, vision and brand purpose. Here’s more about what to do:

  1. Get real about tech. Technology solutions are critical to modern marketing. Thrivers know this well. For example, they are much more likely to have invested in AI and process automation. But they avoid the lure of technology for technology’s sake. CMOs need to understand two essentials about their technology landscape. Which technologies make a positive difference in how the organization works? And which are redundant, underwhelming—or downright useless? They must see (and seize) the value that technology delivers and rationalize from there. After all, the less resources spent on procuring, managing, integrating and training marketers to use a technology that isn’t contributing value, the more that can be shifted to the innovation agenda.
  1. Take control of data. Data drives every marketing decision. Not surprisingly, Thrivers are the most likely to use their data to drive a shared ambition across the organization and to differentiate their brands. The reality? Marketers have a data mess on their hands—terabytes and terabytes of data are being created as I write this. To get control, CMOs must harness data from many sources and unify it in a common language to derive insights on behalf of customers and the business. Separating the signals from the noise is key to this. What’s more, the most advanced marketing organizations aren’t just tracking the past or the present with data, they are using it to predict the future. Without this data acuity, marketers are working with blinders on. They can’t innovate—or measure the impact of innovation—without the right data. 
  1. Elevate and energize people. While 70% of marketing executives overall told us that the last year exhausted their employees, Thrivers (just 17% of all marketing organizations) are energized. There are multiple reasons for this, but the most profound for me is that Thrivers figure out what no one wants to do. This is why CMOs should shift transactional tasks to machines, so their teams are doing work that requires human judgement. They also need operating models that support both global-to-local and local-to-global ways of working for true workforce agility. Plus there is a clear case for strong partners that provide flex capacity and at-the-ready resources for demand peaks. This is not just about improving performance; it’s about engaging and inspiring marketers and their creativity. It’s the perfect preventive for burnout. People doing what they love.

Ready for the now—and the next

Future-ready marketing organizations put people, technology and data to use for the right purposes and are in the best position to innovate to meet customer needs. They are creating a foundation to know and deliver for customers as they evolve. Today. Tomorrow. And ten years from now.

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Nigel Gilbert

Managing Director, Lead – Marketing Operations

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