How technology is changing the role of the CMO

How technology is changing the role of the chief marketing officer

Oscar Trimboli has become a primary thought leader in the convergence of marketing and technology.

Drawing on over 30 years of professional experience, six of which was as Microsoft’s Marketing Director, he specialises in looking at the intersection between people, technology and business. He spoke to CeBIT about how technology has changed and will continue to impact the role and responsibilities of the chief marketing officer.

CeBIT: Technology has completely changed business and marketing. What are the biggest opportunities technology has opened up for CMOs?

Oscar Trimboli: As Netscape founder Marc Andreessen said, “Software is eating the world”. This is not only because of its capability to automate existing processes, but also because of its ability to disrupt and destroy existing business models.

CMOs need to learn to dance with digital disruption and tap into the opportunities technology is opening up, rather than trying to avoid it. If used well and applied with a sense of vision, technology can make marketing more effective and measurable than ever before.

The world of movies provides one of the best examples on how to achieve this. With competing forces from NetFlix, PayTV and the Internet, CMO's of the theatre chain Ster Kinekor, are embracing digital disruption. Real-time research panels before and after screenings test everything from movie posters, ticket pricing, launch dates and food offers.

Yet, technology is a dual edged sword for marketers. While it has increased marketing efficiency and effectiveness on one hand, it equally helps the customer make more informed and transparent purchasing decisions.

This shift means that the role of the CMO is becoming increasingly important for any organisation wanting to maintain their competitive edge in today’s technology driven world. Apart from the CEO, the CMO is the only function that has a complete lifecycle view of their customers’ experience. CMOs are therefore the ideal candidates to lead their organisations into a more customer-centric future.

CeBIT: What are the challenges CMOs come up against in this process?

Oscar Trimboli:  The challenge for CMOs is to provide an accessible and integrated customer journey, no matter at which point or channel they begin their brand experience.

As Satya Nadella said “What is scarce in all of this information abundance is human attention”. In a world of information abundance the CMO needs to simplify customer choices; using technology to anticipate what they want, rather than what they’re asking for. Since technological transparency has a tendency to expose disjointed processes, they will ultimately need to create organisational structures that support a seamless rather than siloed experience.

CeBIT: New technology also means that marketers and their leaders require a whole new range of skills. What do the most adaptive marketers have in common? How do you train leaders that are going through change?

Oscar Trimboli:  The Institute for the Future at the University of Phoenix published “2020 Future Work Skills”. It highlights ten skills that will be relevant in the future workforce. I would argue that every CMO, in fact every business leader, should assess themselves and their organisation against these competencies to understand how relevant they will be in 2020 – it’s only 1,500 days away.

It’s no surprise that technological thinking forms the backbone of these future skills. The list includes:

  1. Computational thinking: The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.
  2. New-media literacy: The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.
  3. Sense making: The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  4. Social intelligence: The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
  5. Novel and adaptive thinking: The ability to come up with solutions and responses beyond those which are route or rule based.
  6. Cross-cultural competency: The ability to operate in different cultural settings.
  7. Design mindset: The ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.
  8. Transdisciplinarity: Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
  9. Virtual collaboration: The ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.
  10. Cognitive load management: The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximise cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.

CeBIT: A recent survey among CMOs has found marketing will increasingly be seen less as a cost and more as a source of revenue. How will this shift impact the responsibilities and remit of the CMO?

Oscar Trimboli: The line between sales and marketing is increasingly blurring as technology brings customers closer to the brand and the organisation.

Tesla, the electric car company and some would argue energy company of the 21st century - doesn’t have dealers. Customers can configure and buy their cars online, pick them up and recharge them at Tesla outlets. The car provides real time information back to Tesla about usage statistics (and much more) to inform Tesla about next generation models. All this without a dealer network salesforce. The role of marketing is essential to the purchase transaction not something to create awareness, desire, interest and action.

Atlassian – the $3 billion Australian export powerhouse brags about the fact that they don’t have sales people and believe that this has been the key to their success.Growing customers in every country and industry in the world – through real-time feedback and fast adaption through continuous marketing.

For the CMOs this means that they need to think like a CEO, CFO, CIO and Chief Revenue Officer simultaneously. They need to move their thinking from campaigns out the door to money in the bank, and continuously engage the customer, especially after they have purchased their product or service.

CMOs at the cutting edge of their profession use predictive algorithms, machine learning and real-time research to map out and forecast the success of a change to marketing, prior to making the change. The forecast models on the cutting edge don’t just map revenue results, they are highly integrated into brand engagement metrics and customer satisfaction metrics.

As a consequence, CMOs need to become fluent in the language of data and build this capability into their organisation via in-house functions or world class partnerships with agencies and technology providers who have this capability.

CeBIT: Customer experience is increasingly seen as the key to prolonged competitive advantage. What skills do CMOs need to bring to the table to ensure their customers have a seamless experience, no matter whether they choose to interact online or offline?

Oscar Trimboli: CMOs need to understand that their responsibility for the customer experience starts well before they become a customer and continues well after the transaction is completed. CMOs need to think about this through a six step process which is continuously evolving based on customer feedback.

  1. Alignment: Understanding all internal and external touch points on the customer experience. Ideally this is a future state exercise, rather than mapping the existing experience which probably isn’t ideal for the organisation or the customer.
  2. Simplicity: Ensure the language and requirements for the customer are very simple and very well considered. Neuroscience and big data teaches us, if we make change simple to consume, you are more likely to be successful at bringing about change – this is true for your employees and agencies as it is for your customers.
  3. Engagement: This can either be a memorable moment for your customers or a forgettable experience. Engagement isn’t only about what you say. It’s when you say it, how you say and how you connect that with why it matters to them in the moment.
  4. Relevance: Most organisations ask you to provide a date of birth. Think about the number of websites that make that relevant to you. For example, Boost Juice will give you a free juice on your birthday. They make an offer 2 weeks before your birthday to remind you, and keep their brand top of mind every year.
  5. Value: This isn’t about what you do at the point of the transaction. This is the experience before the purchase. How easy is it to find information about what you offer on a mobile device? Most searches for retail based offers happen from a mobile. Value could be something as simple as having a mobile optimised site.
  6. Advocacy: The ultimate test of a brand is whether your customers will advocate on your behalf. Using technology, you can make it easy to share information about your product, through product reviews.

Nick Baker former CMO of Tourism Australia and now CEO of Red Balloon spent much of his early days auditing the forty odd websites of Tourism Australia. Ultimately creating an award winning approach with a personalised website in 17 languages, that helped their tourist create, enjoy and share their experiences and memories.

It would have been impossible to create this amazing tourism experience without a deep understanding of technology and its role before during and after visiting destinations within Australia. It was through personalisation that they kept tourists engaged with relevant and memorable content that they could share with their family and friends

CeBIT: There’s a lot of talk in marketing about real-time personalisation and big data, but very few organisations have actually successfully implemented this. Why do you think that is?

Oscar Trimboli: There are three reasons why organisations struggle to implement memorable personalised customer experiences. None of them have anything to do with technology. It’s all about vision, people and processes.

  1. A lack of a consistent and clear vision about what a great experience means for customers. This is a journey of transformational change which can only be led by the CEO and the CMO. This is strongly informed by existing data and through your organisational research and insights team.
  2. Limited organisational alignment. Once a vision is clear, consistent and compelling, the organisation needs to align all its functions to serve this outcome. Getting the right people capability in place is critical. Technology is powerful and it makes weak processes transparent to customers.
  3. Embrace progress over perfection. Continuous 90 day experiments and real-time feedback from the market will help the organisation learn and adapt faster to serve your customers best.

To learn more about Oscar’s work, visit

CeBIT Australia Digital Marketing Report