Good Times, Bad Times. 7 Questions That Identify a Successful CMO.

At C-level, the CMO usually have the shortest tenure. On top of that, the current crises create uncertainty and complexity, increasing prices and tanking consumption. In the midst of it is the brand-responsible, having to navigate it all. What to do when it’s hard to tell what’s next?

Bob Dylan’s tune “The Times They Are A-Changin’” is relevant, again. A pandemic turned our world upside down, then the war began in Europe, stocks are plummeting at neck-breaking speeds, and we are facing an uncertain supply of energy. Who dares tell the future these days?

Marketing history usually repeats itself. With great upheaval comes great change, and it is in times like these that brave brands show the way and set the agenda. Those who cling to the status quo fall quickly behind and must expect to see themselves be overtaken or drop out of the race altogether.

As the financial crisis in 2008 gave birth to “purpose” consumers and employees began expecting more from companies than just high profits. Now, purpose and profit don’t cancel each other out, investing in your brand has only become more favourable. Your brand is how people think of you and is made up of all the activities, initiatives and values people associate with your brand.

So, we’ve gathered 7 essential questions that any CMO should be able to answer. Especially in hard times. All soul-searching questions that work in sickness and in health.

Do you know the answers?

1. Why Should Consumers Pick You?

Especially in times of crisis, you need to know your value proposition by heart. What do you offer consumers, and why does it create value for them? Your unique value proposition tells consumers why you’re one of a kind and why you’re the best in the market. The right answer can unite the entire organisation – from marketing, sales and product development – and ensure that your product is not only the most relevant for consumers but also makes competitors irrelevant.

2. Where Are You Heading?

Culture and society constantly change, influencing your category, consumers, and your brand. If you ignore the changes in consumer psychology or the understanding of your place in people’s lives, you too will be ignored. You need to embrace and understand your context and the part your brand plays. That is why you need to continually analyse your circumstances and be geared towards making the necessary changes, big or small.

3. Do You Have a Position, or Do You Take a Position?

Positioning is every brand’s weak spot. If you’re positioned slightly off, all the good intentions and initiatives can miss their mark. Now, more than ever, branding is not only about knowing your audience’s language and needs, it is also about leading the way. Choose what to do, or what not to do, to make your brand distinct, recognisable and just more credible. Never just copy your competitors but dare to lead in a time of crisis where every sale matters.

4. Do You Know the Consumers Like the Back of Your Hand?

You always need to advocate for consumers’ cases and ensure an outside-in perspective in the organisation. What motivates or hinders consumers from acting? Why are you loved, why are you hated? You base this knowledge on a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, so you, as well as the entire organisation, not only know how people feel but also why they feel this way. Ideally, everyone should understand why their consumers act the way they do.

5. Do You Analyse Graphs or Do You Correct Grammar?

As a CMO, you need to set the course for the company and the brand, respectively. The direction must ensure that all activities and initiatives support the same ambition. Hopefully, you have already hired skilled people who can focus on the details while you focus on the bigger picture and how this moves your company and brand forward. Your job as CMO is about providing perspective before you create value. That increases your chances of success significantly.

6. Are You Making a Difference?

To make it big, you also need to take chances. Sure, there is a great responsibility as a CMO, but being courageous should be a mandatory part of the job description. It might be a rebrand or repositioning that takes the company into a whole new league. It might not, but the worst thing you can do in times of crisis is to do nothing. Don’t ask if you are on target, rather ask if you resonate with your target audience.

7. Do You Balance Risk and Innovation?

Many companies stop spending money when they sense a crisis luring. They also stop innovating or developing their product when budgets are tight. They get cautious. But think about it. The biggest changes always happen on the back of crises. Airbnb, Uber and Wolt were born out of the last financial crisis. Electric cars, plant-based food, and oat milk ride on the tail of the climate crisis. Purpose was born in a rebellion against greed. So when your competitors are on the defence, what is your daring move?

Remember, Excitement Moves Profits

Almost every day, we meet CMOs who can answer these questions without hesitation. It’s a pleasure working with people who work passionately for their brand because they know who they are and why they exist. It might be batteries, baby meals or beauty products, but they all let their excitement and self-understanding shine through in everything they do. It’s contagious, and it gets us, our colleagues and consumers on board.