We’ve long recognized the shift of control from the brand to the consumer or customer, who is more empowered than ever to comment, engage and be heard, both positively and negatively. To further understand how this movement is affecting CMOs, we (Hill & Knowlton) worked with Pete Krainik, founder & CEO of the CMO Club, to field a survey in September/October among members, and we discussed the findings late last week with a panel of leading marketers at the bi-annual CMO Club summit in San Francisco. We’re releasing the results today.
One of the most surprising findings was the lack of social media policies within companies. Only 3 out of 10 (29%) of CMOs reported having a social media policy that is widely adhered to within their company, with a further 31% currently developing a policy. And implementing these policies is proving to be a challenge, with just over a quarter (26%) of CMOs stating that they have a policy but compliance is an issue within their organizations. Given the perceived level of risk in this space by marketers, with the inherent lack of control in social media channels, I’m particularly surprised that more brands don’t have clearly stated and enforced guidelines for outreach to bloggers and non-traditional media outlets – a social technologies rule-book. We’ve long had one at H&K, which continues to be updated and which I’m happy to share.
Even with the lack of policy in place for employees, two-thirds (66%) of CMOs who responded encourage open discussion about their brands, with only one third (34%) still reticent to do so – even though today’s consumers and customers don’t need an invitation.
Another surprising finding, though, was the proportion of resources/budget being spent on experimentation with social media. More than 4 out of 5 (84%) of CMOs allocate less than 10% of their budgets on experimenting through social media and non-traditional channels, with more than half (55%) allocating just 5%. According to the survey, 7 out of 10 CMOs say they have medium or high levels of comfort in dealing with non-traditional media, yet few are adopting these strategies for their own brands, missing out on learning from and contributing to the conversations that are taking place online. That said, given what our panelists said as the survey results were revealed, it would appear that CMOs are spending a disproportionate amount of time (certainly more than 10%) in watching this space.
Finally, it’s clear that more advanced brands realize that they need to listen and engage a variety of audiences including customers, employees, local communities, NGOs and the investor community among others, as the growing participation of these audiences in the dialogue influences reputation and ultimately brand strength. Generally CMOs have adopted a strong connection internally with their HR community and employees, but beyond this internal audience, the interaction with other key audiences is patchy. Nearly half of CMOs surveyed (48%) said they have no interaction with the department responsible for NGOs. More than one third (38%) do not liaise with their investor relations department, and just over one fifth (22%) work with those departments working with financial analysts. And yet, external AND internal communications seem to be increasingly important to be integrated and leveraged.
From a tracking perspective, not surprisingly, the majority of CMOs (95%) track the attitudes or opinions of their customers or consumers, falling to 7 out of 10 (69%) among potential customers. Other non-revenue generating audiences take a clear second priority – 4 out of 5 CMOs (84%) do not gauge the opinions of NGOs; 59% to not survey the general public; and just less than one third (32%) do not gauge sentiment among their employees.
What does this all mean? Marketing used to be a linear process, with a discussion flowing from the CMO to the target audience. In today’s digital age, communication has evolved into a new model that requires active listening and engaging in numerous conversations. And we heard that CMOs are finding the additions to the job more challenging and the need to lead beyond the marketing department is increasingly critical for their success. Thanks to my panelists last week: Chris Moloney, CMO and Executive Director of Customer Intelligence, Scottrade; Erin Hintz, VP Worldwide Consumer Marketing, Symantec Corporation; and Kent Huffman, CMO, BearCom Wireless.