Top marketers answer: what is keeping CMOs up at night?


Marketing asked top marketers Carmen Bekker, KPMG, and Dean Chadwick, Velocity, to answer: what is keeping CMOs up at night, and what should be?

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The Australian marketing landscape has seen scary and exciting times over the past year. New technologies and pivots to customer-centric brand philosophies dominate the discussion of modern brand evolution, but is that what really keeps Australian CMOs awake at night?

One year following the launch of KPMG’s CMO Advisory, partner and leader to the team Carmen Bekker says she’s entirely optimistic about the potential she sees for Australian marketers. “There is so much opportunity for marketers and they can do so much right now.

“It’s a fantastic time for them. If marketers can just keep up, that’s the hardest thing they’re facing, because there’s so much fun happening!”

Velocity CMO Dean Chadwick is similarly excited to see the industry evolve, but stresses the importance of balance, “I think people are comfortable with the old and the familiar, but they are still looking for the new and the exciting. The CMO, with all this opportunity, has to strike the right balance.”

Marketing spoke to Bekker and Chadwick to delve deeper into what plagues the minds of Australia’s CMOs, how they measure customer expectations and the efficacy of employee advocacy.

Marketing: What’s keeping CMOs up at night?

Carmen Bekker, partner CMO Advisory at KPMG Australia: I haven’t put it in terms of ‘what’s wrong with the industry’, I’ve put it in terms of ‘what’s exciting about it right now’. I think marketing right now is one of the best places to be because it’s a huge opportunity for marketers to shine.

What we’re seeing is the most forward-thinking marketers are not only doing the comms role – which is the traditional marketing role – they’re doing a data role, a technology role and also a people and organisational change role.

We’re seeing a lot of the top CMOs being real brand leaders, taking that brand right through the organisation and their employees.

We are seeing that through the extra roles that marketers are being given. Some of them are being given corporate strategy, some are being made responsible for the customer – the role is potentially changing into a chief customer officer rather than chief marketing officer. There’s a really big shift happening.

Dean Chadwick, CMO, Velocity: It’s a big question: what’s keeping me up at night?

I think about that kind of thing more in terms of the good, all the opportunity we have to achieve as marketers. But I do think it’s about finding the right balance of all the things that we can and need to achieve – trying to find that balance is a hard nut to crack.

What I mean about that balance is: does the business (or me as the CMO) have the right mixture of making the business really highly efficient but also really highly effective? Do I have the right business strategies in place to get each one of those pieces?

Making sure that you have the right resources to effectively go after that, and not getting too stuck in the day-to-day and getting too bogged down. It’s quite easy for a team – if you look at the web analytics from the day before – to say, ‘okay what are we going to do differently to optimise for the best offering in the market right now?’

But then, make sure that you’re spending enough time listening to your customers: are we meeting their needs? Does the product work as expected? What’s happening across the industry? Do we have the right product strategy and brand building capabilities to go for the year?

I think people are comfortable with the old and the familiar, but they are still looking for the new and the exciting. The CMO, with all this opportunity, has to strike the right balance.

What would you like to see more of in marketing?

CB: There are a few things going on.

The customer has become key – and that sounds like a very obvious statement to make. But what we’ve seen now, particularly in our own research, is that CEOs are now prioritising customer interactions above everything else in their corporate priorities.

This is the first time the customer has really been up so high. When you think about a CEO’s priorities, it really ranges – everything from staffing, customer, product, technology, security, risk etc. We’re seeing customer at the forefront of CEO’s minds, which gives marketers an amazing opportunity to put the customer first and bring that customer to life for the organisation.

That is the key for marketers: to be growing and expanding their capability, their remit and their influence within the organisation. That’s what’s giving them the platform to expand their role so much more.

We’re also seeing in the brand evaluation space: the business of brand has become really important. What value does the brand bring to the organisation? Which levers do you need to pull or push to grow that value? How much do you need to spend on that brand and in which spaces in order to keep that brand level high?

If customer is number one, then brand is shortly behind because customers choose brands – they choose companies that they trust, companies they know they can rely on and companies that show their inner value. That is proven through brand.

It’s a very interesting place to be for marketers to be right now. One of the things I’d like to see more of is the business of brand. How can they prove the benefit of brand to the organisation? And how can they value that for the organisation? So actually put a dollar value on the investment that you’re making.

The old adage that we don’t know which part of the marketing spend works isn’t true anymore. We can test, analyse and know what is working and what is not. Marketers that are really future-focused have this fantastic ability to understand the data and the technology needed to be very accurate on what the customer is doing and therefore the ROI.

DC: When you look at customers’ top priorities, for me over the last 15-20 years, they’ve been pretty consistent. But they can change between each other, and you need to make sure that you’re working on the ones (or you believe that you’re working on the ones) that match what those customers’ top priorities are.

Think about the five pillars. Consumers generally want these things:

  • good service – they want to feel that they’re recognised
  • top product quality – they want to make sure what they’re buying from you is the best
  • a relationship – they want to know and have trust in you as a brand
  • value – are they willing to pay the price for the service or product that you’re putting into the value?
  • new things – the innovation and new ideas to make life slightly easier.


CMOs need to make sure that they have the right strategies to address those top priorities across those five pillars. I’m not sure they always come through strong enough, really thinking about the customer first.

Is service important? Is relationship important? Is product important? Is price the most important thing? It’s about having that right balance.

Have you then thought about new ways of working with technology and then driving those expectation increases from the customer?

How should brands be understanding and acting on their customers’ expectations?

CB: So obviously we know how to figure out what our customers are saying, but how do we know what they’re thinking?

Behavioural economics is an interesting way to think about customers – if I do this, how might they behave differently? When we look at customer experience, deeply understanding the final customer mile is where a lot of organisations are playing right now.

Mobile native companies, for example, understand their customer experience very well, because they’ve been built from the experience back. Organisations that have been built from the inside out are still finding that experience in understanding their customer at every point of the journey quite complicated.

A lot of the work we’re doing is looking at the connected customer, the customer that is connected all the way through the organisation. So you know when a customer calls that they have also been into the store, or that they have also recently been on your website. Clients are about understanding where the customer is at every stage of their journey and being able to know who that customer was and what they said and what they did at that stage of1 the journey – that’s the ultimate way of getting to know your customer.

DC: We have a very robust customer listening methodology, and there are ways that you can take an overarching view of how you appear to your customers. What you generally see is: ‘Do you understand me? Do you know me? Are you advocating on my behalf? Do you explain things to me clearly and transparently?’

Then it’s really about taking those insights and really delivering on those customer expectations. You need to do it in an overarching way which is listening to these customers at the macro level.

Having those micro-interactions with consumers on a daily basis, are you really listening there? And enacting change on those micro-interactions to drive an expectation change to those customers, allowing them to really understand that you know them as a person?

Do you see employee advocacy as an effective move in social media strategy?

CB: Absolutely! Expectations from key stakeholders in and outside of organisations is that they are understanding where their social licence to operate is sitting. Particularly as society has shifted to a situation where – with things like the royal commission, things like Brexit – there’s a breakdown in trust.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions from clients around ‘how do we engage our employees?’ and ‘how do we optimise the messaging that our employees have and send out in order to optimise customer interaction?’

The employees are such an important part of the customer experience that they can’t be ignored as advocates.

DC: We certainly have a very strong workforce and workplace culture. If I think back to examples where we have done that well, we had a great campaign last year which was called the Billion Point Giveaway – effectively a reframing of a traditional promotion that we do.

It was a big and bold idea that was galvanising across the organisation in terms of being really smart and taking a big idea to market through smart technology and personalisation.

What we were doing was creating a 40-part Netflix styled series over the course of the month. It started with an incident where an intern made a mistake [telling customers they could win a billion Velocity points instead of the planned million]. We played up that mistake in terms of the narrative throughout the course of the month.

The high production quality really got the team to feel proud about the work that they do at Velocity and to be able to share that with the wider public across social media.

The other thing I would say is that we are a loyalty currency with people here who really understand how to effectively hack the game that relates to points. They feel really comfortable with sharing, ‘did you know that you can do this on points? Or ‘did you know about this great promotion which can get you to LA on business class?’

They really like the product that we put out into the marketplace, and through social media they help try and create further knowledge in terms of how to get the most out of that.

To hear more leading marketers giving their insights on the industry, check out Facebook’s Face2Face podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and Spotify.

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