Over the past nine months I've been interviewing chief digital officers and senior digital leaders across a variety of industries to gain insight into the emerging role of digital leadership. My colleague Martin Gill and I wanted to discover why firms hire chief digital officers and what they are responsible for — more importantly I was looking to discover what CEOs should be doing to set up their businesses for success in a digital world.
One aspect of the research I'd like to highlight here is the need to think of digital as more than simply a bolt-on to your business. To create a digital business able to compete in the age of the customer, we need to think of building out a digital business ecosystem. I know what you're thinking — "not another ecosystem" — and yes, it's a very overused term, especially by consultants and analysts. But I simply can't think of a better term to describe the interconnected and codependent relationships needed in a fully digitized business (see diagram).
Regardless of your politics, you had to be amazed at the depth and breadth of the discussion around the impact on the Republican brand during the recent government shutdown. At times, it seemed that the health, survival, and credibility of the Republican brand generated more press than potential resolutions to the crisis at hand. And with good reason. The strength of the party’s brand — and the messages it represents — will have a significant impact on its success going forward.
Maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is a universal challenge, whether you’re marketing a Fortune 500 company or a political party. As a business-to-business (B2B) CMO, it’s time to put your brand front and center — and make sure that it accurately represents your company strategy, provides value to your customers, and delivers on its promises. Why now?
Strong brands deliver strong results. B2B companies with strong brands deliver 20% higher financial returns than those with weaker brands. Case in point, IBM, the world’s strongest B2B brand, has consistently grown its brand value since 2006. In a world where CMOs are held increasingly accountable for business growth, developing and strengthening your brand must be a key focus.
Apple just announced that it has cumulatively sold more than 170 million iPads since the product first debuted in 2010. For context, if iPad Nation were a country, it would be roughly tied at No. 7 with Nigeria, set to eclipse Pakistan next quarter and Brazil the quarter after that.
This boldfaced proof of digital disruption’s power to upset markets has left companies in every industry struggling to keep up with a consumer population that is happily disrupting itself. For someone who spends his days researching digital disruption and modeling its effects, on the one hand, this is good news: Everybody believes in digital disruption. On the other hand, it raises a very real problem: Nobody knows what to do about it.
Today when I meet with companies bent on becoming digital disruptors, one of their first questions is no longer, "How much time do we have until we have to respond?" but rather, "How do we get started right now?"
There is no single answer to this. Some companies are best served by locating their disruption initiative outside the company in an innovation lab where it can quickly generate disruptive momentum. Others can get a boost of internal support by building an internal innovation team and drawing resources from a supportive corporate structure. And some companies can launch multiple focused disruptive initiatives across many different groups in the organization, each one tasked with a specific disruptive goal, as long as the culture of the company is ready to incubate the efforts.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of moderating panel discussions on the importance of a strong working relationship between CMOs and CIOs at the Direct Marketing Association 2013 Strategic Summit and the Forbes CMO Summit. Both panels were composed of a mix of CMOs and CIOs from some of the best-known organizations including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Akamai, Motorola Solutions, Collective and more. All of the participants reinforced the critical need to find a way to work together more closely. But they describe it more as a marriage of necessity than a relationship they are excited about.
It’s clear these two C-execs haven’t reached power couple status quite yet. In fact, a recent Accenture report confirms that while on the surface, CMOs and CIOs seem to agree, only one in 10 marketing and IT executives in that study said collaboration is at the right level. Taken together with my panel participant’s comments, it’s clear that only some progress is being made to align. In my new report, The CMO And CIO Must Accelerate On Their Path To Better Collaboration (subscription required) for which we partnered with Forbes to do our own investigation into this couple’s dynamics, we find that more collaboration is still needed. In other words, the relationship between CMOs and CIOs is in need of serious couple’s therapy.
I was fortunate to participate in a recent Forbes CMO Network invitation only event designed to explore how technology is presenting new ways for CMOs to think about, plan, and execute their marketing strategies.
The event, “Funding the Next Wave of Digital Disruption: An Insider’s View of the New Companies & Technologies Transforming Marketing,” hosted at the offices of leading venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) provided a unique insider’s view of the newest cutting-edge companies and technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.
I left the event with an even stronger belief that marketing and technology are forever intertwined. And, as highlighted in my "The CMO’s Role In Technology Purchasing" report (subscription required), it’s time to ramp up your technology IQ now or risk being left behind. Why now?
Watching Amazon.com cut the prices of last year’s Kindle Fire devices shortly after they debuted, you may have concluded that Amazon’s tablets weren’t performing well. You may have further speculated, as I did earlier this year, that maybe Amazon didn’t need to commit to the tablet strategy. After all, Amazon has a great relationship with its customers whether they’re on PCs, mobile devices, or iPads. You (and I) would be wrong. Today Amazon doubled down on a tablet strategy, announcing three new devices for sale later this year. A new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD (starting at $139), a 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX (from $229), and an ultra-skinny 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX (from $379). In one fell swoop, Amazon:
Commits to tablets as a way of committing to customers. Yes, tens of millions of people already have iPads, but another 40 million people in the US will get their first tablet between now and the end of 2016. And chances are very, very good that Amazon has a credit card on file with most all of them.
Stacey and I caught up last week, and she peppered me with some interesting questions about the business value of thought leadership, how to organize/staff around thought leadership, and what are the leadership/governance models that work. We thought it would be fun to write up our chat in the form of a (rather lengthy) Q&A, shared with you below.
Reading through it, I think it's important to approach thought leadership as an organization, and not just a marketing activity or program. True thought leadership happens when the market talks back, and you get to exchange valuable insight with other leading thinkers on the topic. Kinda like Stacey and I do here.
Yet B2B CMOs can't continue to rely on measures like brand awareness, trade show scans, or website traffic to demonstrate the benefit their departments deliver. Those who do will be shown to the door as CEOs and CFOs raise the bar on accountability -- and getting the right attention here is a substantial challenge when so few execs rely on marketing data in their decision making (see figure to the right.)
Summer's winding down and it's time for people to get serious about closing out the year and looking forward to a digitally disruptive 2014. I can tell because the phone is ringing off the hook these days and nearly every call has the same focus: What steps can we take now to get the jump on digital disruption?
First, I'm thrilled to get these calls because implicit in the question is the belief that digital disruption is real. I've found that to be the case in the many months I've been on the road speaking about my book Digital Disruption and calling people to adopt the digital disruptor's mindset. Very few people doubt the unique power of digital disruption, in fact, they often have better examples of disruption to offer me than the ones I came prepared to talk about.
But after the mutual thrill of excitedly comparing case studies, these conversations have rapidly settled down to the same question: What can we do about it? It's precisely in that spirit that Tom Pohlmann, Forrester's Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, sat down with me to get the straight scoop on what companies can do right away to understand and act on digital disruption. The result is an 18-minute interview that we're serving up as a podcast under the Forrester Talks Podcast. You can either listen to the whole thing in one shot (episode 1) or consume it in bite-size, topic-focused chunks under episodes 2, 3, and 4.
I was fortunate to take an extended vacation this summer to visit my daughter who is serving in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, with a stop in South Africa and Victoria Falls on the way. Although you see amazing animals while on safari, experience the incredible power of Victoria Falls, and find the undiscovered treasures of Madagascar, it was the beauty of the night that really struck me. Without city light pollution, you find yourself immersed in a night sky full of the most incredible stars. A clear view of a streaking Milky Way and a strong Southern Cross just takes your breath away. Night after night, the stars are there to light up the sky.
But being in the Southern hemisphere, the North Star that I am so used to seeing was nowhere to be found. That got me thinking about how comfortable we are in this half of the world with having the North Star to act as a beacon to guide navigation to true north.