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Why Brand Purpose needs to be top of mind for ‘The Future CMO’

Clive Armitage

May 22, 2020

Discover our research and learn how to alter your positioning and approach to fit the 'new normal'

For any senior marketer looking to understand future trends, the recently published Future CMO supplement from The Times is compelling reading.  Exploring themes like brand purpose, the value of innovation and the importance of driving emotional connections, the contributors to the supplement gave the reader strong guidance on how to handle such big, meaty marketing challenges in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.  And I think that’s where I see the value in these types of supplements; understanding the viewpoints of others, reading about different approaches to common challenges but most importantly, getting a sense of perspective on how to tackle marketing strategy when the world seems to have tipped upside down.  

Gaining perspective is essential for any marketer today if they are to judge how to continue, adjust or pivot their strategy in order to achieve the most important thing in a period of economic uncertainty; increased revenue.  For that reason, our specialist competitive positioning and differentiation team at The Craft has spent significant time over the last few weeks drilling down into how brands have adjusted to a) the initial outbreak of Covid-19 and b) how they are now coping with the ‘new normal’.  Our intention with this work was to share it with our customers so that, as they planned their key and named account strategies in particular, they could better understand what kind of messaging and approach would fit best with their target accounts.  However, we’ve now decided to simply make the research findings available to anyone who may find them helpful and you can access the content here.  

But even if you don’t decide to read The Future CMO supplement or access our brand research, I want to just pick out five ‘nuggets’ from both pieces of content that point to an essential common ‘red thread’ for all marketers to appreciate:

  • Raja Rajamannar, CMO at Mastercard, explains in The Future CMO that brand trust and customer centricity just got more important than ever: “the most important foundational element is trust.  This is a time of needs and if you are not friends with consumers, they are not going to talk to you later”.  
  • Gemma Greaves, outgoing chief executive of The Marketing Society’ comments in The Future CMO: “Now more than ever, marketing is being put on the spot, we need to focus on what best serves our customers, not what’s the easiest thing to do or the most lucrative.  Customers will not forget how brands treated them and made them feel in these difficult times – we have to show kindness and do the right thing.”
  • Claire Gosnell, global head of brand, communications and marketing at international law firm Clifford Chance, believes that Covid-19 has changed the marketing landscape: “Navigating this uncertain and nuanced landscape will be complex.  Customers, regulators, employees and the public will hold organisations to a different standard.  B2B brands that overclaim and underdeliver will soon be found out.”
  • Lone Thomson, former head of media at Coca Cola says: “The current situation clearly shows how important it is for CMOs to pivot and adapt to changes in the environment and the importance of authenticity and purpose.  Consumers buy into brands that show empathy and walk the talk.”
  • Ashling Kearns, vice president, corporate marketing, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Salesforce explains “Marketers will lead through this crisis by listening to their customers, focusing on being humble and taking a community-first lens. Being empathetic to our customers while keeping them engaged is of the utmost importance.“

As the research from our team at The Craft shows, and what the commentators above recognise, if brands thought articulating their purpose previously was important, today, it is essential if they are to have a shot at surviving the current maelstrom.  And, critically, brand purpose needs to be truly authentic; founded on a level of customer understanding that is deeper than it has ever been, embedded throughout the organisation at every level, and lived up to at every stage of the commercial operation.  It’s a message that it would be wise to act on and foolish to ignore.

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