CMOs Focused on Reaching "Influencers" Via Social Media

Posted by: David Kiley on July 6, 2009

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By Pete Krainik
Founder of The CMO Club

Having finished a series of 15 dinners in as many cities with chief marketing officers, I was struck by how around 75% of the formal dinner conversations centered around leveraging social networking tools and how to reach “influencers” through these mew media versus traditional outlets.

Also, as I looked around the tables at these dinners—put on by The CMO Club—I noticed a number of star CMOs sitting and listening, but not taking notes. But once we started talking about CMO Leadership beyond their marketing organization, all pens or mobile devices were out taking notes and engaging in the conversation.

These are the two topics clearly dominating the work lives of CMOs today—social media and crafting their own leadership strategies.

The first thing that separates star CMOs from all the others is their delivery as an Officer (O) in the company. Officers lead business-wide change, not department change. The only way you can drive the growth agenda for your company is to lead your brand company-wide. Randall Beard, Global Head of Marketing at UBS, led our recent NYC CMO CLUB dinner discussion on this exact topic. How much time are CMOs and marketing executives spending in this area?

Do you think Dell, GM, Starbucks, 6 Flags, and others can creatively campaign or leverage social media their way to future profitable growth? Company-wide focus on adding value to their customers is what’s needed and where CMO focus should be. Social networking tools are great new solutions for helping execute your customer value delivery plans.

The second thing that separates star CMOs is their delivery as a Chief (C) in the company. This is all about ensuring your entire organization has the talent and skills you need to compete in today’s world. Susan Lintonsmith from Red Robin Restaurants has done, in my opinion, a great job in focusing on restaurant level customer engagement by employees. Todd Townsend told me recently the things he learned while CMO at Sonic Drive-In have been extremely valuable to him in his new role at Qwest in focusing on organization wide customer engagement programs and talent development. Peter McNally helped me kick off a CMO Coaches program in the club about “Talent Development” and his CMO conference calls for our members have been one of the most popular roundtable topics. Remember, it’s all about leadership in company wide branding and customer engagement talent development.

You would be surprised how many conversations I have with CMOs in which they put in new dashboards and metrics, start measuring, seeing where they are, but then not having the expertise within their departments to improve and lead “real” improvements in dashboard metrics. I did this, now how do I move the dials?

You want to be a star CMO (or help your CMO be a star)? In my opinion, make sure you lead as an officer in your company around company-wide business change and focus your energies on talent development and company-wide internal brand development.

This is a time in which a lot of bold experimentation, as it relates to reaching consumers via social media, is called for. It is a time of transition and upheaval, exacerbated by the recession. Success in getting through this period will not come from playing it safe, but rather demonstrating to the whole organization that all the new investments you are making in uncharted waters is part of a coherent plan and that you have the skills to take the organization where it needs to go.

This post kicks off our new series inviting guest bloggers to contribute to Brand New Day for a week.

Reader Comments

bevo

July 6, 2009 1:19 PM

How do you move the dials? Add a Facebook page. Perhaps these CMOs can tweet about the non-moving dials? That will move the dial.

Do any of these CMOs remember Prodigy, AOL, Compuserve and other internet communities? Where are those firms today? Where is Friendster? Bebo? MySpace? Let's all celebrate Facebook because it will be different than Prodigy, and Friendster. Sure.

Why the focus on leadership? Aren't senior executive folks ALL focused on leadership. Isn't that the purpose of senior executives? To lead? How is the argument new?

Here's a different challenge to the members of CMO Club: Focus on your product. Both Sonic, which is mentioned in passing in the posting, and In and Out Burger are privately held firms competing in the fast food market.

In and Out Burger appears completely focused on its product. Sonic is throwing everything at the board to see what sticks, and comes off as the Taco Bell equivalent in the hamburger segment. On a perceptual map, where does Sonic appear? At the intersection of two axes?

Instead of leveraging some fad, why don't CMOs go back and review the firm's STP? Not as sexy to be sure. If you can segment the market differently than your competitors, which allows to you discover a target market that your competitors don't know about, then your firm will achieve a positional advantage especially if your competitors' CMOs are collectively leveraging Facebook or leading the young uns to the urinal.

On a different note, am I the only reader Struck by the random capitalizing Of words in paragraphs?

Smithwill

July 6, 2009 5:12 PM

"Influencer" has a very icky, unctuous feel to it. Everyone is a potential customer if you can just find the right "influencer" that will push them into the action (read: buy something) column.

Having worked at a very large company with its own CMO, I can see there may be actual merit in the role. Somebody has to be blamed for the occasional marketing lunker.

The notion of an influencer, to me, boils down to the fact that we're mostly regarded as cattle by all the large firms. In the bovine world the influencer is an electrically-charged prod used by handlers to move beasts in a desired direction. The more gentle and urbane social media "influencer" supposedly has the same effect. Is it Ashton or Demi? Is it the Cobalizer? Is it Howard Kurtz or is it Penn of Penn n teller? Who the heck cares but the mysterious CMO. Only they can look deep into the Google Adwords and see that gold lays within!

Today's Internet and social media is a grand experiment. Mix two parts social media with thousands of people with nothing better to do at work than play social media games, and you've got all the makings of yet another get-rich-quick scheme that will enrich a select few and leave the majority entertained but unfulfilled and businesses wondering why their productivity stinks!

David Mace

August 9, 2009 12:38 PM

Specific sites and softwares will come and go, that's true, but do not count out social media as a concept. You do so at your peril.

Having put up Web sites in the early 1990s, I remember the detractors calling the Internet a fad and saying people would never purchase products en masse on the Web. Au contraire. In 1994 there were 10,000 sites. Today there are more than 100 million. And trust me, money is being made.

Influencers are not just celebrities. They are also your friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, et al. Read Gladwell's books. He subdivides influencers into three categories: connectors, salesmen and mavens. It's interesting stuff.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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