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2021 prediction: 'Superintendent' and brand evangelist CMOs will be ousted for those who 'do the dirty work'

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
An office manager is writing on some whiteboard documents during a meeting with her colleagues.
2021 is all about CMOs who are willing to get their hands dirty and solve their business’ current challenges. Photo: Getty

There is nothing more important and reassuring to employees in times of uncertainty than to have a boss who is willing to do the “dirty work,” take responsibility, and regrow their business.

In marketing, leaders who get stuck in to provide a clear path and get things done will be in fashion in 2021, according to a report by Forrester.

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) who run promotions, sales support or media buying teams will struggle to hide their lightweight contributions behind the strong returns of a good economy — especially as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on global economies.

The coronavirus pandemic exposed the muddy waters outdate CMOs find themselves in.

Customers are no longer easily swayed by ads and promotions, instead they are more interested in good customer service and company cultures among other things.

Forrester expects “superintendent” CMOs to create new commercial and delivery models to keep their companies financially viable. If not, they will cede that role to a chief customer or experience officer who can steer customers towards their business.

2021 is all about CMOs who are willing to get their hands dirty and solve their business’ current challenges.

COVID-19 radically changed business strategies overnight, CMO need to be willing to overhaul legacy systems that no longer meet new customer needs or market dynamics.

When faced with challenges there is only one way out, as the travel and tourism industries were impacted by the pandemic — Barbados launched a one year remote work visa program to attract people.

Customers changing priorities long existed before the pandemic. Companies like Airbnb and Uber (UBER) were born in a time where people were looking for luxury and more personalised options.

Accor (AC.PA) launched a hotel office concept to drive day bookings from homeworkers. Meanwhile Expedia (EXPE), ventured into ad sales to support its core business.

Watch: Barbados wants to be your next remote office

Good CMOs must also nurture belonging and foster diversity in their teams.

The issues of diversity and inclusion has been brewing over the last few years, while progress has been made — that only scratched the surface.

Big companies have been under more pressure to appoint more women and ethnic minorities in senior positions, after issues such as the gender pay gap were highlighted.

Boardrooms in the UK’s top businesses have long been male-dominated spaces, with the government recommending back in 2015 that the boards of all FTSE 350 companies should be 33% by 2020.

A report, which collated data from the websites of FTSE 100 (^FTSE) firms in September 2020 — revealed that almost a third of companies are yet to meet the 33% target.

The research by graduate recruitment app Debut said that, women occupy 36% of current board roles in FTSE companies, an improvement on numbers seen in 2015, but still some way off from a 50-50 split.

While all of the FTSE 100 firms had at least two women on their board, there were a number where women made up less than a quarter of board members, including Antofagasta (ANTO.L) (20% female) and Flutter Entertainment (PDYPY) (21%).

A separate survey showed that more than half of ethnic minority employees in Britain say their organisation has done nothing or they are unaware of any action in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Footage of his death sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter protests over racism and police brutality around the world, it also prompted many firms to pledge to fight racism and improve diversity and inclusion policies.

Another poll of more than 3,000 workers in Britain by consultancy Accenture (ACN) suggests many organisations have made no such efforts — or failed to communicate them to all staff.

53% of ethnic minority employees said either that their employer had taken no concrete actions, or that they were unaware of any actions being taken.

Watch: Top 25 companies for diversity and inclusion