By  on June 17, 2013

The roles of chief marketing officer and chief information officer are blending.

Today’s cmo must be equally fluent in digital and traditional marketing practices as the online space — including e-commerce, advertising, social media and mobile — contributes an ever-growing percentage of sales for brands and retailers. Gone are the days when cmo’s focused mainly on booking space for TV or print ads and promotional fliers. Now their reach stretches across all aspects of a brand, from marketing to digital platforms to in-store technologies.

“You are getting this new wave of cmo that is often times younger, innovative, more entrepreneurial, and comes from a background of social media,” said Juliet de Baubigny, partner at venture capital and private equity firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “And if not, they are radically embracing the shift in understanding how to get the consumer.”

De Baubigny noted that this encompasses a different point of view than their predecessors when it comes to communicating with and influencing consumers. Authentic marketing is still paramount and she emphasized that it’s imperative to speak to customers in a way that encapsulates the authenticity of the brand. But she said that from a core marketing side, there’s been a “huge shift of social dollars.” She started noticing the shift a few years ago — that dollars at companies were being divided between the cio’s and cmo’s organizations.

“They have to make sure the foundation of the corporation is scalable and robust at the global level [too]. The cmo is really thinking about the epicenter of the consumer, the consumer experience and how the company communicates in all aspects with the consumer in a very deep, authentic and holistic way,” she said.

Topshop chief marketing officer Justin Cooke, who spent six years at Burberry as head and then vice president of public relations before joining Topshop last September, said he typically finds himself in a situation where he’s approving a billboard and a print ad and drawing video copy for an online project, all at the same time.

“I go from one thing to another. I have been around artists, film directors, musicians, video producers and actors and taking bits of these people and becoming someone that can do all of these roles,” the 32-year-old Cooke explained of cultivating a genuine point of view on each aspect of his job. “That filter is quite powerful.”

He cites a statistic from McKinsey & Co.: 90 percent of shoppers’ journeys start online. Although he readily admits that there isn’t a “great way” to measure return on investment for online, “the greatest irony in this world is that putting an ad in a magazine is [still] the best measure” for some organizations.

“Your awareness levels have to be much higher. If you ask the average cmo at a fashion company, a lot of times it’s a marketing and public relations director working side by side. You need someone with the vision and the clarity who can connect the dots. You sometimes almost have a situation where they are competing, and they have their own objectives,” Cooke said.

As an example of the new order, Cooke took the Harlem Shake video craze — a colleague sent him a YouTube link as a joke — and applied this to conceptualize a digital campaign with a pop culture marketing element during London Fashion Week in February. Featuring models Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn and Rosie Tapner, the video garnered 20,000 views within one hour of going live and one million in two days.

In this day and age of “BYOD” — bring your own device — where people are toting several devices around with them at all times, a cmo must be forward thinking and take this into account, according to de Baubigny. This means a brand must be nimble enough to accommodate a user accessing their site from a desktop at work, on a mobile phone at lunch or on an iPad on the commute home. This also includes maintaining a relevant but platform-appropriate presence on different social mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and, more recently, Vine.

For Les Berglass, chairman and chief executive officer of Berglass & Associates, there are two principal functions that he takes into account when placing a cmo today. The first is the ability to be “brand right” — as the organization is talking to the consumer and presenting a seamless portrayal regardless of where product is purchased. The second is being “incredibly Internet savvy.

“You do not speak to the same consumer in different languages,” Berglass said. “That is what we look for when looking for a cmo. You want someone who understands they are one brand and who thirsts for information about the consumer. They want to talk to her in a very focused and not overbearing way.”

He doesn’t see the cmo absorbing the cio’s duties, although a good marketer thrives on the information that comes out of the organization.


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