As we enter the age of Authentic Marketing, Chief Marketing Officers and the teams they lead will be asked to justify authenticity itself…to explain why today is the day to engage with the customer on the customer’s terms and in their language…why now is the time to deliver on the centuries old promise of customer centricity. But, as the incomparable poet Maya Angelou said, you can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.

For Marketers this means looking into our sometimes-misguided past. Stay with me now…I promise…it isn’t all terrible. But we owe it to ourselves to understand what got us here.

Commoditization Is Killing Marketing

In the pre-digital engagement age, when collateral, paper and physical trappings of marketing flooded the supply chain, marketers engaged in negotiations by way of commoditization. Today, this same negotiation permeates across everything from lead acquisition to advertising and audience engagement. If 10,000 leads cost $50 per HQL, can we drive that down to $40 if we contract for 15,000? At some point in acronym bingo, we lost sight of the fact that the Q stands for quality, not quantity.

The commoditization of marketing drives the actions of marketing downward, diminishing marketing into a functional cost where procurement is the focus and the craft of customer engagement comes second. Engagement is not a commodity. Customers are not a commodity. When did we lose sight of those two truths?

The CMO Role Is (Understandably) Under Attack

Everyone wants to be a CMO. Everyone thinks they can be a CMO. Very few outside of actual CMOs know what a CMO does. Today’s CMOs are expected to drive growth across the entire organization, developing the strategy and the vision to turn overarching goals into bottom- and top-line realities. Yet new titles emerge daily, some warranted to describe expanded or focused remit. Others are just rebranding.

Time to settle the debate: CMOs drive, orchestrate and accelerate growth by aligning resources (and intelligence) to optimize engagement and establish the brand that underpins the far more broad and enterprise-wide customer experience strategy. Instead of fretting over the loss of the 4 P’s, today’s modern CMO is laser focused on the 3 R’s: revenue, relationship and reputation. So, if it quacks like that duck, it is a CMO.

The “Frankenstack” Will Be the Death of Us

Marketing organizations, let alone the CMO, do not have an accurate accounting of all the solutions the entire organization already has implemented to manage the customer relationship across brand experiences and customer engagements. Unlike the gentle creature Mary Shelley created, marketers have built a beast, co-located across a patchwork of software as a service, cloud and on-premises solutions. Too bad the monster is failing us…and all the other teams building their own creatures.

A recent Deloitte study shared that of the US$20 billion that human resources executives invested into technology in the last five years, 65% felt their HR stack is still inadequate or only doing a fair job achieving people goals. According to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, while 89% of their finance leaders say they are advancing technologies like AI, only 10% believe their finance teams can support their organization’s digital dreams.

Bottom line: We all brought parts to build the monster. Now, we must tame it.

Magpie-Marketers Can’t Resist Shiny Strategy Buzzwords

A magpie is a brightly colored, attention-grabbing bird, a symbol of good fortune, chatters constantly and collects indiscriminately. Hits close to home, doesn’t it? Instead of collecting trinkets, promises are the CMOs collection of choice. This promise-hoarding is a vicious cycle: buy into the dream, rip and replace solutions that don’t meet the lofty promise, continue to collect promises just in case one of them is real. The allure is is the struggle.

The new decade is already promising an epic round of buzzword bingo, ripe with lofty promises that might be too intoxicating to look away from. Marketers will have to adopt a new posture of B.S.-busting for any hope of survival. For those colleagues who felt that “optimization of customer engagement through big data segmentation” was the epitome of buzz, just wait until artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and quantum computing get into the mix. In fact, this promise was recently sent via email: “future-proofed for the quantum-ready blockchain data lake.” Bingo!

Marketing Metrics Lost Their Meaning

We set definitions to measure and quantify engagement, then trained the C-suite to expect as measurement. We made up measures to justify new channels where value was being lost in translation. What was a like? Why invest in a Twitter campaign? Why should we keep sending emails? We had to answer real questions with simple answers that negated the complexity of the relationships and journeys we were architecting.

The vanity metrics served a purpose as we needed to bridge an understanding gap between the pre-data and post-digital eras. For non-marketers, the presentations focused on likes, clicks and views as a validator of spend sounded like nonsense, but it was better than the alternative of no reporting at all. Vanity metrics (or the memory of them) make it impossible for some to fully accept and embrace marketing’s new growth mandate. For CMOs to truly take control of the growth agenda and rise to the opportunity, metrics can’t be for metrics’ sake and hold as little meaning as a “like” or an “open” measured in a vacuum.

So here we are…

Our customers expect relationships to be more like the “good-old days”...personal, bi-directional and valuable...and our organizations expect us to be precision performance growth engines but with flair. This is the core of authentic marketing.

Authentic marketing is best described as a strategy defined by engagements that are based in fact while remaining true to the personality, spirit and character of the brand. It expects marketers to develop deep relationships with the market, with customers and with the industry writ large. It is bidirectional in nature and devoid of imitation or false promise. It embracese data without being paralyzed by it, using all the colors in the box while leveraging data to keep that creativity focused, contextual and relevant to an audience of one. 

The connected customer craves this deeper connection, just not at the cost of truth, trust and authenticity in purpose, action and reaction. The age of authentic marketing demands that CMOs reclaim the creativity and storytelling that marketing has always advanced while firming establishing the role as owner of the 3 R’s—revenue, relationship and reputation. It doesn’t ask which lobe of the brain is dominant: it expects that both the analytical and the artistic can work in perfect harmony and without apology or regret