The Changing Role of the CMO in the Digital Era…

15 Jun,2015

L to R : Sanjay Tripathy, Uma Talreja, GK Suresh, Anuradha Narasimhan and Chinmay Bajpai


By Dyanne Coelho


At the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)’s marketing conclave last week, industry stalwarts delve into the topic of ‘Untangling Marketing Convolutions’. In this digital era, the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has expanded at a fast pace and it now requires him or her to act as the Digital Media Officer, Customer Experience Officer and Chief Content Officer all rolled into one. The CMO’s role is no longer about just creative skills, but about being able to crunch data and interpret and analyse the behavioural patterns and buying habits of consumers. Dinesh Mishra, Partner – Advisory Services and Customer Practice Leader (India), Ernst & Young, who moderated the discussion said: “The speed at which the CMO needs to react is increasing gradually. The CMO is enjoying his/her role in an organisation, as compared with other C-Suite roles. About 44 per cent of senior leadership says the CMO cannot strive without big data. By 2020, the CMO will spend more than the CIO on IT.”

Now, let’s hear it from the CMOs.


Chinmay Bajpai, Head – Enterprise Sales and Alliances, Thoughtbuzz

It is important to understand that a marketer is more connected to the consumer. Hence, he or shee needs to be more connected to the CIO to get consumer details from IT systems. The customer experience design has always been important. Before, the customer never had a voice after he purchased the product. That has changed with the digital era. We cannot rely on just customer service teams any more. Today analytics have to move beyond the product to the consumer. That’s where the skillsets of technology partners have to be imbibed by CMOs.


Anuradha Narasimhan, EVP – Sales and Marketing, Global Consumer Products

I don’t believe the CEO is the stakeholder for the CMO. The CMO-CIO relationship is the youngest in an organisation. The partnership with the CTO is yet another new one. The consumer is no longer a passive participant in the process. The customer experience design is not a new thing for the CMO role, it has always existed. The customer experience has always been the focus. The CMO needs to be like the conductor of an orchestra, someone who leads it. Then, it won’t matter who plays in the orchestra as long as s/he is a specialist.


GK Suresh, Head of Marketing – Foods Division, ITC Limited

I don’t believe that the CMO will spend more than the CIO. As a marketer I have to know my consumer, even if that means spending the entire day with the consumer at his/her house. I would say invest in the consumer rather than on technology. A lot of communication going into the digital space is unsupervised. I don’t know if youngsters should be handling digital. It’s as good as saying that a housewife watching TV seven hours a day should make TV ads. The fundamentals of brand building don’t change. At the end of the day, engagement has to result in business. The rules of the game have changed. Just like in hockey, we’ve moved from grass to Astroturf. So now the way you play changes and the way you score a goal also changes.


Uma Talreja, CMO, Burger King India

We all have a vision for the consumer. But contact with the CIO is necessary to deliver that vision. You need to change the environment for your consumer. Public opinion on your brand is out there. Your consumer is reaching out to other consumers. If you don’t reach out in time, then you have no control of the situation. Today, data is moving faster than you; public opinion is moving faster than you.


Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive VP – Marketing, Product, Digital and E-Commerce, HDFC Life

We are seeing spends in the digital space increasing in our industry. But the question to ask is, is the CMO capable enough to deploy the money? Who is taking the lead in understanding what is needed for the company? People are changing today; the ways of interaction and engagement have changed. CMOs are now ahead of others in the C-Suite in terms of understanding what is happening in the market. Marketing understands the consumer, but cannot enable the systems and processes. We at HDFC Life have created a team to digitise the company. It has become an organisation within an organisation. Ours is an intangible product that lots of people buy. What customers talk about is very important. With digital, marketing has moved from one channel to multiple channels. Now marketing gets information from various channels and needs to pass it on to multiple channels as well.


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