Think of the recent panic over ChatGPT as the latest round of “Marketing Mayhem.” That’s the chaotic state that takes over marketing departments and agency partners whenever a new toy presents itself with heightened promises and cultural FOMO. As usual, people are running around wondering how they should use it, where they can cut costs, and how soon they can proudly share the case study on LinkedIn.
This isn’t any different than the last time marketers chased a shiny new object. Or any other day at the office, to be frank. For years, marketers have been dashing into tools, tricks, and platforms trying to be all things to all people and prioritizing frenzy over foundation. The result? It’s leaving operations in chaos, processes in turmoil, and staff directionless and confused.
It’s time to turn down the noise, return to our foundations, and make our philosophies abundantly clear for all those who need to implement them.
Where we went wrong
CMOs are under the gun like never before, delivering across more platforms with less money to do it. They’re being asked to be both left-brain analytical savants and right-brain champions of creativity. They’re getting random questions from others in the C-suite about why they aren't pursuing that thing their kid told them about. And amidst the disarray, everyone inside the organization is spiraling off in their own direction.
It’s partly why the average tenure of a CMO is around 18 months. Each time the job turns over, someone else arrives with a new approach requiring another retooling.
The result is a series of ever-changing activities that fail to gain traction, a team that fails to improve, a culture that fails to develop, and decisions that fail to differentiate the brand. Top talent begins to leave. Marketing becomes less important, and the organization relies on other departments for its competitive advantage. Before you know it, marketing is reduced to designing flags for golf tournament sponsorship.
Forgive CEOs for their plunging trust. According to one Boathouse study, only 32 percent of them trust their chief marketing officer. Yikes. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence.
Whether you’re new to the game or a battered vet, here’s how to get the ship on the right course.
A clear philosophy
Begin by setting a fundamental philosophy and definition of what great marketing is. Then, and only then, can people act accordingly, reinforcing that philosophy across the organization.
This should be followed by establishing clear roles. Each person needs to know the specific and valued role they’re playing in bringing your philosophy to life. Take community managers, for example.
If you fundamentally believe you’re a customer-first organization, community managers shouldn't be on social media jabbing rivals, posting errant topics, or trying to be witty with the aim of acquiring new customers. Their thrust should be solving problems, sharing clients’ success stories, and responding to existing customers – with the same focus applied across the organization.
You also need to establish how marketing will be evaluated. This can often come down to whether your play (and the board or CEO’s play) is short-term or long.
If marketing success will be measured by YOY sales growth, quarterly profitability, or (gasp!) share price, then ultra-tactical messaging, sales-closing promotions, and innovation abandonment will probably be the focus. On the other hand, if you’re going to be evaluated on brand sentiment, content engagement, product innovation, and NPS scores, you’ll have a completely different focus.
The point isn’t which is the right path to choose. It’s making sure that everyone is on the same path.
Test innovations carefully
The same goes for innovation. Coke famously spends 70 percent of its budget on existing activities with expected performance. Another 20 percent goes to making that core more efficient. The remaining 10 is left to efforts never tried. It’s a clear system that tells each part of your team where their focus lies, and how they should be spending their budgets, not to mention their time
Such clarity deters the mad scramble we’re seeing with ChatGPT. You should have already set standards and clear processes for testing innovation.
1. Select a low-risk tactic to apply ChatGPT.
2. Establish pre-implementation metrics like quality, time spent, cost associated, and direct effect on sales.
3. Map out clear responsibilities through every stage of the process.
4. Do it uninterrupted for 2-3 months.
5. Measure and compare post-implementation metrics
This isn’t just about ChatGPT. It’s about bringing order instead of causing chaos. With this comes an incredible promise.
If you examine where growth comes from in most companies, it’s from a vivid understanding of consumer expectations, of how the company can solve their problems, and foreseeing what products and services might make their lives easier. It’s about trying new things, doing new things, proving new things. It’s data. It’s technology. It’s innovation. And it’s a firm expectation that the people inside the organization are the only ones who can deliver what you’re promising outside the organization.
The CEOs of old were usually chosen from finance. But the upside of marketing’s sprawling new mandate is that no one sees the entire organization quite like today's CMO. They touch everything from HR to product development. From IT to CX. It’s why I believe the best ones — following time-tested principles for building a brand — are uniquely positioned to be the CEOs of tomorrow. All you have to do is turn down the chaos and retake control.
How are you responding to current pressures in your role as CMO? Do you have advice to share or questions that need answering? Join the conversation with a global network of marketing leaders on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.