It's been a while! Here is my review of the most recent Garner CMO spend study. Enjoy!
It feels like we are in a reset period. The pandemic is ending, budgets are coming back up and consumers are slowly coming out from their safety zones. The pressures of inflation and global insecurities are proving some headwinds to fast growth, but the CMOs are in typical form with their eternal optimism.
Underpinning much of what the study reports is that strategy is more important than ever. The customer journey is changing. Brand loyalty is down. Shoppers are looking for quality at a good price. They are browsing and buying where it makes the most sense--online and offline--rather than going back to what is most familiar. The pandemic broke those habits and now consumer eyes are open.
This new democratization of commerce has made awareness efforts critical. Brands have to work harder to compete for consumer interest and dollars.
However, in a reality with lower confidence and higher inflation, those awareness strategies cannot be divorced from business outcomes. Optimization becomes more important than ever to support this. Awareness might require testing into new channels that may not have a reliable track record. Marketers will need to be constantly learning, sharpening spend and improving results.
Driving new awareness while staying tied to outcomes is the crux of this year, and the challenge.
And this challenge brings us back to the importance of strategy, and those strategies must be focused on the CX journey--understanding the new journeys and mindsets, then finding the inflection points where brands can find the more receptive audience. That is easy to say but can be hard to do.
This year's report gives a nod to that difficulty by calling out the importance of:
"Customer journey orchestration" (slide 8)
"People, agencies, technology and media" (slide 3)
"Tools and competencies" (slide 8)
"Hybrid journeys" (slide 9)
All of this is to say that you need to have the tools and know how to use them too. The buying sprees of years past are over. Now it's time to drive the car.
The report also warns that inhouse "teams lack the capabilities to deliver their strategies". This creates both an opportunity and a challenge for agency partners. You can sell in the capabilities, but you have to be able to do what you say you can do.
Generally, through a combination of inhouse and agency resources, companies need to have their house in order more than ever. They need to make sure all the parts are working. It's not enough to simply invest in tech; there needs to be skills and expertise on how to use that tech. This comes through time and again in this report.
It seems to me that this opens a lot of opportunities for agencies.
First, our role as subject matter expert is more valuable than ever, especially when it comes to specific executions. The gap of inhouse skills and capabilities is a strong entry point for us.
Second, the opportunity to provide a unique perspective on where those customer journey inflection points are. Through research and experience--and also just being a new set of eyes--we can help expose new avenues for awareness and consumer interest.
Third, leveraging our vendor status to demand outcomes. We only keep work if we provide value. This means that we must stay tied to delivering business impact more than anyone else. In a world where impact is necessary, this can actually work to our benefit. We cannot fall asleep at the wheel. This kind of attentiveness is what CMOs are looking for.
Fourth, the importance of first party data. Cookie deprecation is a big shift that will require reconsideration of the martech stack and data collection. (Related to this is the end of Google Analytics UA and the shift to GA4 which is a huge issue that will affect the entire market.)
Lastly, CMOs want to be seen as "change agents". Understanding this aspiration gives insight into the mindset of those buyers. We can lean into this vision by bringing new eyes and new techniques to help activate against the new customer experience while still delivering real business impact. All of this can help CMOs be the leaders they want to be.
How to take action
Surface the customer journey. make it a top priority and the cornerstone of any new strategy. create models and validate them with the client. Make "journey" a very familiar word with clients.
Prioritize the ecosystem. Look for how the customer journey interacts with the client's touchpoints. Create a map that everyone can rally around. This is where you identify those inflection points with specificity.
Don't forget about the technology ecosystem. These tools are critical, especially if some are underutilized due to lack of skills and expertise. If you have the tech chops, create solutions for the changing data collection situation. The evolution to first-party data collection as well as the move to GA4 are real issues that could be catastrophic for companies if they are not prepared.
Find ways to connect to your context. Look upstream and downstream from the work you are doing. Look at any shoulder programs that may be going on, even if they are handled by other vendors. then find ways to create synchronicities. This collaborative thinking can unlock parts of the customer journey that might not have been possible before. Also, it gives a chance to provide some critical thought leadership is a space the client has not considered. Leverage these conversations to move the relationship forward and expand the engagement (hopefully).
Overall, the 2022 CMO report has a lot of good news for agencies. While there are some headwinds and a heavier expectation of accountability, there is also a need for bigger thinking, more integration and real outcomes. With all of these in place, you could set the stage for a very productive 2023.