OC&C: Major trends impacting Chief Marketing Officers

16 September 2014 Consultancy.uk

In the first of a series of articles, Fergus Jarvis, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, looks at the major trends shaping chief marketing officers' strategies.

The environment in which CMOs operate has never changed more radically than during the past decade - primarily as a result of the dramatic shift and increasing prominence of the internet. Although some brands have been slower on the uptake in this area than perhaps expected, at a macro level, the move towards digital is having a tangible impact on every CMO's agenda - on the challenges they face and priorities they set for the brand.

OC&C Ecommerce

The internet is now at scale, so the environment CMOs operate in requires a marketing response that is seamlessly multichannel, ROI-focused and strategic. This has changed the drumbeat to which CMOs function, not only in terms of speed - where real-time decision making about how and where to spend is often required - but also their proximity to how revenue is generated.

As a result, the role has evolved to the extent that the CMO is now a change leader within their organisation. Ownership of customer databases, segmentation of the customer base, offer generation, pricing and even technology roadmaps all form part of their new remit.

Going global

The internet has also meant that internationalisation has become more accessible to all brands, as they no longer need a bricks and mortar presence in countries they want to establish themselves in, but can easily sell their products online to a growing number of global customers. As a result, CMOs need to develop marketing strategies that can be tailored to and resonate with customers across geographies.

Big Data

Big data

Finally, the shift to online has also meant that companies are in the privileged position of having a previously unimaginable amount of data about their customers and their habits at their fingertips. Although the importance of 'big data' is much debated and recognised by many businesses, asking the right questions to glean the best insights on how to interact with consumers is not being achieved many brands.

To better understand the forces that are shaping the CMO's agenda and what is keeping them up at night, OC&C Strategy Consultants carried out research which cuts to the chase of what CMOs are really dealing with. We went out and interviewed over fifty CMOs across a broad spectrum of brands to identify pragmatic examples of the areas in which they're experiencing either success or feeling disappointment.

The same but different

From B2B to B2C, global players such as Google, IBM and Carlsberg through to smaller, more digital brands like Graze, what really surprised us was that, despite the vastly different sectors these brands operate in, the results were surprisingly unified. No two CMOs are the same, but their challenges and anxieties are surprisingly similar. 

Fergus Jarvis - OC&C

In the coming period we'll look more closely at the five key trends emerging from our research, including measuring return on investment, the importance of social, the drive towards greater personalisation and delivering on the promise of big data. 

This article was previously posted by Fergus Jarvis in Marketing Magazine. 

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Branding the modern consultancy: why reputation hinges on it

03 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

The reputation of firms and brand strength remain a key aspect of business in the management consulting industry. Karla Alexander, Brand Manager at Propero Partners, below reflects on the state of reputation management in the consulting industry.

In a time where public perception is enough to make or break a company, the wise are reminded that when it comes to brand and reputation, the strength of one does not necessarily equate with the quality of the other. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the impact a spate of recent issues has had on firms that form the backbone of the industry, including KPMG and Grant Thornton.

Such was the damage to KPMG’s reputation last year, that the Bank of England took the decision to investigate its viability following a string of high-profile corporate scandals. Whether or not the sum total of the firm’s track record is enough to restore its image remains to be seen.

This proves that brand and reputation are not only among the most valuable intangible assets – they are also among the most fragile. And their reach extends into the centre of any firm, regardless of its size or market share.

The lesson here for challenger firms and smaller consultancies is two-fold. As well as learning from the mistakes of their peers, it’s also important not to conflate brand with reputation. While they both share the same objective – to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of clients – brand provides the opportunity to differentiate, whereas reputation provides the opportunity to demonstrate credibility. Far from being the same thing, it’s this very difference that binds them together.

Branding the modern consultancy: why reputation hinges on it

Reputation is the driving force behind a person’s decision to award a firm their business, based on values that align with their own – be it honesty, transparency, integrity, accountability. However, none of these characteristics are particularly compelling or distinctive on their own. To carve out key points of difference, to stand out, and to become known, liked, and trusted among a sea of competitors offering similar services, companies should turn to their brands.

Brand is the culmination of culture, vision, values, and identity, which when used consistently and religiously, can create fresh opportunities for firms. People no longer buy services in isolation but look for a purpose or a lifestyle to buy into. Strong brands create an appetite for themselves and command a higher price tag because people will pay for them. The more pulling power and emotional resonance a brand has, the more successful the firm will be.

Protecting a brand

That’s why, regardless of abundant choice, there is still only one Deloitte, one PwC, one EY – and there’s a reason why the Big Four audit nearly 100% of UK’s top 100 corporations. This relentless focus on building and protecting their brands and reputations on the basis of being the best, has, over time, resulted in a market monopoly. However, problems arise when one is given more weight than the other. This point is particularly relevant in the case of KPMG, and in others where firms have flaunted their reputation for being untouchable in the face of the client.

Brand and reputation working together are directly attributable to significant business outcomes (such as financial performance, loyalty, awareness) and should be treated as such. Focus too much on brand and you risk alienating the people who value credibility, such as prospective and existing clients, shareholders, and the best talent. Focus too much on reputation and you risk stagnating in the market, with a service that no one knows or cares about.

In order to overcome these challenges, the first step for many firms will be to take a step back. Before any meaningful work can begin, consulting firms need to assess the current state of their brand and reputation, and establish key characteristics for both. For brand, this might be relevancy, consistency, positioning, identity, and appeal. For reputation, this might be staff turnover, service quality, growth rate, client relationships, leadership, and diversity and inclusion.

Regardless of the findings, there’s always room for improvement. An uptick in the performance of brand and reputation can be achieved by measuring the impact that one has on the other, integrating business and marketing strategies, and setting strict KPIs.

Guardianship and getting results from this activity isn’t the job of one person or one team. People at all levels of the firm should be thought of as brand ambassadors, and should be willing to do what it takes to protect the reputation of the business no matter the cost. After all, everyone benefits when good things are said about a firm when it’s not in the room.

Related: Why building trust and brand belief is key for consulting firms.