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Is the ‘experience’ economy making a CMO’s role redundant?

Most forward thinking companies have made customer experience their top priority. Data reiterates that ‘experience’ will be the next battlefield for companies. A Gartner study found that in 2010, 36 percent of companies expected to compete mostly on customer experience. In 2016, this number increased to 89 percent.

As Adobe makes experience front and centre of its new and improved offer, the company brought industry leaders together at the Adobe Think Tank, coinciding with the ongoing Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, to deliberate on how roles change in an experience-led world.

“Customers are incredibly advanced today. Companies that meet their consumers wherever and whenever they want will have a significant competitive advantage. It is clear that experience is a priority, but how do you create it and what does it mean,” Charlene Li, Founder, Altimeter Group, posed this question as she moderated the Adobe Think Tank conversation.

A key highlight in the conversation was that every business today was an experience business. “In a multichannel, multi-touchpoint world, people are not buying products anymore. They are buying experiences and product is an element of that experience. If experience is what people value, every business will have to treat it as priority,” asserted Nandini Nayak (PhD), Managing Director, Design Strategy, Fjord (Accenture).

The argument puts light on the importance of an empathic connection and an ethical approach in the equation, but it has other implications as well.

The Future CMO
“Experiences can take many forms that can surprise companies. When you buy into the argument that all businesses are experience businesses, and ultimately experiences sell themselves, it begs the question – what is the role of marketers in that. Do we need them? As experience becomes the key element of the business, does the responsibility of the experience fall on the CxO, and hence the CEO,” argued Ethan Imboden, VP, Head of Venture Design, Frog.

Mr Imboden’s view comes from the place that in the new structure, as the roles of functions such as technology and design evolve, the CEO will become the new Chief Experience Officer.

“Marketing, as a phrase, is outdated. I don’t use marketing or advertising anymore because these terms force you to think a certain way. Every organization, and every function, needs to learn this intimately and collectively create the experience. It cannot be done in silos,” said Steven Cook, Former CMO, Samsung.

By that logic however, it is the marketing team that is best connected to the consumer, and best placed to bring in the right differentiation even in the product.

The Orchestrator
“Automation and AI will change marketing but it is a mistake to think that marketing will go away. It is instead an opportunity for brands to accelerate marketing. If over 80 percent of companies will compete on customer experience, someone in the organization will have to create the awareness,” argued Daniel Newman, Forbes Contributor, CEO Broadsuite.

Agreeing, and adding to this, Theresa Lamontagne, Head of Digital Marketing & Media Operations, Verizon stated that that while the role of marketing will change, it will become more about curating, improving and tailoring the experience for the consumer. “In some organizations marketing may have taken a backseat to the product but it is shifting in a positive way with some of these changes,” she said.

The panel agreed that a mindset change was needed. “We see CEOs asking questions like is my marketing effective? This should change to is marketing fill a gap in my product? Is my product delivering for my marketing? This is a significant shift but those companies that are asking this, are seeing the benefits,” added Jordan Kretchmer, GM Adobe LiveFyre and Adobe Social, Adobe.

The future CMO will have the opportunity to be the enabler and evangelist through the value chain across business, brand and people.

Measurement in the new scheme
One argument against the traditional concept of marketing in that an experience business will need different measurement and metrics. A conventional marketing lens will tend to look at metrics that may not be able to gauge brand affinity or memorable experiences.

Jay Schneider, SVP Digital, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines brings a perspective here. “Focusing on customer experience does not mean letting go of base metrics of how a customer is engaging with the brand. Instead, new metrics, like an emotional field or other parameters to gauge experience, can be added.”

Mr Imboden suggested here that instead of over-indexing on referrals, companies should have sensors in place to know the journey leading up to the referral and measure it. Emotion metrics, love index are some of the solutions that the panel presented.

“No one was doing FB pages for fans but to sell something and meet bottomline. People can get lost in metrics sometimes but they should not lose sight of growing the business,” stated Ms Lamontagne.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.