Top CMOs focus on customer experience and storytelling to drive growth

25 April 2019 5 min. read
More news on

A study of Chief Marketing Officers has found that a growing number are now driving transformational change at the highest levels of their companies. Businesses which used this model of change generally enjoyed improved performance, as prioritising customer experience was found to deliver an 11% improvement on shareholder returns.

With digital innovation birthing a new generation of challenger companies across the industrial gamut, using technology to enhance customer experience offerings has become an essential task for even the most established market incumbents. Recent analysis found that in this environment, UK companies which fail to maintain customer relevance could forfeit an estimated £100 billion in revenues in coming years, something which means the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role has taken on an added significance at the majority of businesses.

According to a new paper from international consultancy Accenture, a select group of CMOs are demonstrably driving growth within their organisations due to these pressures. As part of a study exploring the CMO’s role in driving the growth agenda, Accenture surveyed 935 chief marketing officers and 564 CEOs across 17 industry groups in 12 countries. Participants were from companies with at least $500 million in annual revenues – and the results found that a small but growing cadre of 17% of CMOs were now driving transformational change at the highest levels of their organisations.

Pioneering CMOs are much more likely to see the value of new marketing roles

John Zealley, Leader of Accenture’s Customer Insight & Growth practice, explained, “These marketing leaders are finding creative ways to reinvent the customer experience, which is setting them apart from competitors. They are challenging the status quo of traditional organisational structures, taking the reins of innovation and disruptive growth and unlocking value through new C-suite collaborations. Their actions are enabling organisations to become what we call ‘living businesses’ – able to constantly anticipate and respond to changing customer needs at speed and deliver significant business value.”

The 17% of CMOs which Accenture singled out in this report already help their organisations to respond quickly to changing customer needs, rewiring their organisations to enable better integration and collaboration and deliver superior customer experiences. While the number of marketing leaders heading up digital change remains below 20% at present, it is likely to grow rapidly in the near future. Almost a third of CEOs polled by Accenture said they expect CMOs will drive growth using customer data and insights to create new products, services and experiences.

This growth will likely be driven by the fact that CMOs actively partner with others in the C-suite to create customer-obsessed organisational cultures – using emerging technologies to predict customer behaviour and identify untapped revenue streams. This has already led to major returns in the companies which have already adopted the structure in question. According to Accenture’s study, businesses that prioritise customer experience generate 11% higher shareholder returns.

To stay “in the new,” pioneering CMOs infuse a customer centered culture that shapes marketing strategy


One of the key reasons for this is that marketing leaders are aware of ways to tap into consumer sentiment. Pioneering CMOs are more likely to tap into the value of new marketing roles, including chief storyteller and "causes matchmaker". Late in 2018, another Accenture survey found that 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on issues such as sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices. With customers increasingly buying from brands that have a clear purpose that aligns to their personal values and beliefs, leading CMOs understand the importance of being highly relevant to their customers’ lives, and can help companies craft a branding narrative to adapt to this new set of expectations.

To that end, Accenture found that 45% of pioneer CMOs believe consumers’ higher expectations toward brands are a priority. Almost half of the group said companies need to stand for something bigger than the products/services they sell in order to take advantage of this. In comparison, only 31% of others believed their firms needed to inspire, set new standards, or have a clear purpose to improve their customer engagement. Similarly, 50% of leading CMOs said their customers needed greater transparency, and the knowledge of where products are manufactured, how materials are sourced, and the sustainability of the products they purchase. Despite growing public scrutiny on this topic, only 32% of the broader group said the same.

Commenting on the findings, Mhairi McEwan, Marketing Practice Lead in Customer Insight & Growth at Accenture, said, “CMOs need to lead an effective, joined-up customer experience at all touch points, at pace and at scale, to drive growth. In essence, there are four key actions they must take: using advanced customer insight and analytics to shape the future; building the marketing and sales capabilities of their people and organisation; leveraging partnerships to create innovative new products, services and solutions; and delivering cost-effective technological activation of personalised and scalable marketing programs.”