Dear CMO, What’s Makes a Tasty Marketing Recipe?

There is no one correct way to make my favorite dish of all time – macaroni and cheese. With a plethora of options — from cheese selection to noodle type, in addition to different cooking methods involving butter, eggs or cream — the beautiful thing about making “mac and cheese” is that no matter what ingredients you use, the combination of pasta and cheese usually tastes good no matter what (though there are still ways to mess it up).

Can the same be said for creating tasty marketing recipes?

As seasoned Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) know, the perfect recipe for marketing doesn’t really exist. In fact, your chef skills and pantry must continuously evolve given the rise of new media properties and distribution methods, the expansion of different sales and service touch points, and changes in how to segment target customers. Lest we forget, the evolving marketing mix must also address the factors of brand reputation, authentic community and influencer relations, and most importantly – the voice of the customer.

Lots to consider here. The prospect of providing consistent and comprehensive coverage across all these areas can be overwhelming. So what is a CMO to do?

Perhaps most important, a CMO needs to build an experienced staff for their kitchen in order to bake-in the deliciousness that will entice the target customer base. According to Antonio Lucio, Global Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at HP:

“The chief marketing officer requires managing an ecosystem of employees and partners, which includes: data scientists, designers, mobile natives, CRM practitioners, digital media experts, customer insights professionals, corporate communications professionals, customer deployment resources and brand and product managers.” (see Antonio’s Forbes article here).

That adds up to a lot of cooks in the kitchen, which will take diligence to lead and a sizeable budget to cover costs. But, if a CMO can build a highly skilled team to cover each of these marketing functions, the resulting recipes will cook themselves — right?


You can develop the best execution strategy with a top-notch marketing team, but it may not always prove the results and ROI you had hoped.

So the most highly skilled team in the world can only take a marketing department’s success so far. What else does a CMO require to whip up that special blend of herbs and spices to make their marketing efforts tasty?

If there is one evident truth that any CMO can agree upon, its that the customer is royalty. And, when cooking for a royal family, you need to listen to their wants and desires intently. What tastes good today may not change tomorrow, but it will certainly change over time. (Random side note: I used to hate pickles as a child – it was the taste that got to me, not the consistency or anything. Now however, I’ll gladly welcome a Kosher Dill or a Bread and Butter on my plate).

The point is, all CMOs must be overly conscious of the changes in how target customers research and consume their products. And of course, what tastes good to one customer is sure to be different for another – especially given that who and how you are trying to reach varies by widely by location, market segment, job title/role, etc.

Additionally, the advent of “buying online” means customers that are comfortable with online research and sales models will force a business to adapt. Having more options for how to purchase will breed new and different habits of interaction with a digital brand. In general, a CMO must plan and execute a tighter integration between product development, communications, advertising and sales as new channels through the web increase the importance of each ingredient in your marketing recipe. By understanding the needs of target customers in new or untapped channels, a CMO’s sources of information are increasingly critical.

So if a CMO can just institute a systematic process for their team to research and retrieve customer feedback as quickly and effectively as possible, our company will always know what recipes create the best menu options we need to serve up, right?

Wrong again.

With an increasingly dynamic and growing pie of target customers (based on geography, market segments, distribution channels, etc.), the analysis you have on these groups today are only based on past behaviors.

Well, shoot. It’s tough being a CMO.

Marketing roles and functions are changing all the time, but the enormous expectations they are supposed to deliver are not. Mandates from the board can often lead to misalignment, complexity and ambiguity. There’s also a ton of noise to deal with from “experts” in the marketplace – experts that now tend to show up everywhere. When these challenges are combined with an insufficient runway to adapt, inadequate metrics eliminate the CMO’s ability to standardize any assessment of value being created from the marketing organization. And, unfortunately, these challenges can often lead to an unsupportive work environment i.e. a recipe for disaster.

The recipe for success? It’s time to think differently.

In the U.S., we pay professionals to rid our pantries of pests like cockroaches and spiders. But in Thailand, the citizens pay to eat cockroaches and spiders. Not saying we need to think that differently, but the idea begs a bigger question – what are CMOs not considering when it comes to creating a recipe for success? Or better yet, how can CMOs reframe the problem to create a different kind of recipe versus just reverting back to the status quo?

Sure, there are plenty of prescriptive methods to gaining a meaningful return on many different kinds of marketing activities. But, as you can see, not only does the recipe itself matter, it’s how we think about the recipe that counts most.

Fortunately, the activity of “thinking differently” is said to be a skill that can be learned, according to Amy Morin, Author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. In this article for Inc. Magazine, Morin details science-based research and methodologies that can be used to train your brain to think differently. From reframing unhelpful thoughts to creating a personal mantra, there are lessons offered that can help anyone build up some mental muscle.

Another resource is one to help the creative types to “think differently.” The book, The Power of Thinking Differently promises to help the reader “discover the roots of innovation and creative genius in a whimsical, comedic exploration of the psychology of creativity” through a six-stage roadmap.

Regardless of the marketing recipe you decide to cook with, remember that to be a CMO means you’ve reached the pinnacle role of the marketing profession. I guarantee the act of becoming a CMO required many different ways of thinking along the career path and even demanded some calculated risks as well.

So, charge yourself to think of new and bold ways to reach your audiences with different recipes that will delight them. Make your team part of the recipe creation process – you never know if an idea that isn’t explored could end up being the most critical. And finally, continue to learn and grow in step with the evolving role of the CMO…

And who knows, maybe someday I’ll decide I don’t like eating mac and cheese…



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