Chief Marketing Officers. Chief Marketers. Marketing Directors. Call them what you will. But there’s something everyone might be calling these kinds of roles soon… Obsolete.  Inbound marketing continues to gain pace and marketing heads need to recognise this.

That’s not to say that CMOs have no function or use in a modern organisation. But the rapidly-changing environment in which marketing finds itself in now means that department top dogs have one genuine dilemma facing them today – adapt or die.

Unless marketing heads are prepared to embrace a constantly changing approach, they can quickly find their methods, ideas, and strategies outmoded and ineffectual. Perhaps the biggest change that CMOs need to accept is that the smartest way to bring in new business now is to move as far away from outbound (or ‘push’) marketing as possible and accept that inbound marketing is the way forward.

Even so-called ‘Digital CMOs,’ with their snazzy, modern-sounding job titles, aren’t immune. A lot of top execs heading up marketing functions for big firms are still devising or putting their names to strategies that are outdated; refusing to accept that that’s the case purely because what they’re doing is ‘online.’ Take online advertising, for instance. Let’s face it, who doesn’t use Adblocker these days? So where’s the sense in busting your budget with online ads?

If companies aren’t focusing on earning consumers’ interest, respect, custom and advocacy, they’re going about things all wrong. And it’s the Head of Marketing’s fault.

Respected global consultants McKinsey offer this snippet by way of explanation:

“The biggest shift in today’s marketing world is the change in how consumers research and buy products and services. The Internet is a major contributor to this shift. In categories as diverse as electronics, financial services, and health care, consumers increasingly ignore push marketing, preferring instead to use the Internet to research products and decide which ones to buy.”

Okay, so CMOs can wise up. But is that enough to save them? Perhaps not. A significant proportion of Marketing Directors are behind the times. But even if they address that, they still have plenty to get their heads around. We’re talking about things like:

  • The rise in the importance of brand advocacy.
  • The decline in single-channel marketing disciplines.
  • The preference nowadays for ‘experiences’ over ‘things.’
  • Consumers’ focus on personal narrative and brand alignment.

To engage with the modern consumer, the old rules need to be torn up and thrown away. Marketing has been transformed recently. And it continues to change rapidly. Businesses need to be proactive, not reactive. And so, in their marketing head honchos, they need innovators. Visionaries. Adaptable, insightful and daring types. Strong leaders who can step back and make strategic decisions, not just old school marketers that have climbed the corporate ladder.

So are we about to kiss goodbye to the old style of CMO? Maybe. But we are not pushing for a cull here. No one is. There doesn’t need to be a revolution. Marketing heads just need to realise that their role hasn’t altered ‘a bit.’ It’s a whole different ball game now. And they need to learn the new rules and play hard if they want to win.

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