What have been the major evolutions of the Chief Marketing Officer position over the last decade? What are the fundamentals that have endured? What role will the CMO play in the next ten years? BtoB Leaders interviewed Guillaume Ferrand, CMO of IBM France.
To begin with, can you go back over your professional career in a few words?
Of course. I have a double degree, business school (ESCP) and engineering school (EFREI). I started my career in consulting at PwC, particularly in change management and reorganization. The consulting part of PwC was bought by IBM in 2002.
I continued to do consulting at IBM for about ten years before moving to marketing. I held several positions at this level, mainly in strategic marketing (small accounts, large accounts, industries). Today, I am the Marketing Director of IBM France.
What do you think is the major difference between the CMO of the early 2010s and the CMO of today?
The democratization of the web, which has facilitated access to information, has been a real revolution. The last decade has also seen the hegemony of social networks and cell phones. Today, we consult our smartphones nearly 150 times a day (study conducted by Kleiner Perkins, ed.). Digital has come to impact our private and professional lives and has therefore brought about many changes in the daily life of the CMO.
I find it interesting to put this in perspective, because 10 years ago, Facebook was still in its infancy, with about 500 million users. Today, the social network has an audience of almost 3 billion users. That's just one example.
Once you say that, I think the last decade has brought four major changes to the CMO function:
#1 The quest for meaning:
The link between the company, its employees and its customers. The concept of symmetry of attention is gaining ground. We have also seen the emergence of a "sustainability mindset" with a more responsible company, for example in events and emailing campaigns. I would also like to mention the criterion of trust, which is becoming essential in relationships, both internally and with external partners in the broad sense.
#2 The opening up of the company:
Whether by breaking down internal silos or by increasing collaboration with its partners, or its "co-operators". It should also be noted that competitors are not necessarily as well identified as they were 10 years ago. Competitors in one field can be partners in another. I also include in this opening the inclusion and diversity side of the company's approach.
#3 Acceleration (or volatility):
Several technologies that were emerging 10 years ago are now mature. This has led to certain societal changes (such as remote work) that are pushing the company's various businesses to evolve accordingly. Marketing, which ultimately consists of putting a prospect in touch with a sales person, must be able to integrate these societal changes to generate business and/or contribute to the brand's influence. Data-Driven Marketing is also a lever to face this acceleration and to make sure to launch relevant marketing touches. We also note the omnipresence of marketing measurement throughout the funnel.
Whether in the work configuration, in the event or in the customer journey. This omnichannel nature of the physical and digital journey means that marketing must be able to follow the prospect from end to end.
So much for the changes. What are the constants that have remained?
I think that Sales - Marketing alignment has remained a priority. Even if the techniques have evolved, the challenge remains the same: align and create synergies between sales and marketing to generate business. Despite the evolutions we have discussed, Sales - Marketing alignment remains a fundamental that deserves the full attention of the leaders.
The importance of working on the brand is also one of the constants of the last ten years. Branding, for example, is an interesting way to respond to the imperative of the quest for meaning and societal commitment that I mentioned. Of course, it's a little less obvious to link the work on the brand to the business generated, but it makes sense in the current context. We realize that the so-called "historic" brands can be reassuring when the environment is turbulent.
How do you see the CMO position evolving in the next decade?
I think the evolution of the CMO will be very interesting in the next decade, partly because of this direct link to Sales. The CMO will continue to be at the heart of the business, whether it's in LeadGen or brand work, two key areas of value creation.