The first CMOFORUM of the year kicked off in Singapore in February. Discussions focused on how advertisers can safeguard brand and business interests online, talent management and how brands are working with start-ups in a bid to drive innovation and transformation.
The consensus that afternoon? That to genuinely sail the blue oceans of innovation and leverage everything that incubators, hackathons and scrums have to offer, marketing leaders would do well to remember certain points of guidance:
- Innovation needs to be embedded in the business: This isn’t about a ‘free-standing’ lab or a secret centre that’s set apart from everyone else. As one CMO noted, “The attitude that this is for the ‘special cool kids’ is one of the reasons why most labs are struggling. This [attitude to innovation] must be integrated with the rest of the company.”
- Don’t hesitate to drive demand: “Marketers can be the worst at marketing themselves,” noted one CMO, “but [doing] this really helps the cause.” Take the time to roadshow successful outcomes, promote positive results and, where appropriate, proactively offer solutions to the business. “This just helps to build the ‘internal’ brand and attract interest and support from the business.”
- Clearly articulate your role and purpose: Just saying ‘digital transformation’ or ‘marketing innovation’ isn’t good enough; will the work be around revolutionising customer-facing touchpoints? Driving salesforce automation?
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘no!’: Prioritisation is everything. If you’ve set up your parameters clearly, saying ‘no’ becomes only too easy to say. As one marketing leader reiterated, “Be prepared to say no. Be bold. If digitisation is not the answer, say no. Set yourself up to succeed.”
- Keep an eye on your ‘tech radar’: Map the business priorities against current and emerging trends and timelines to identify ‘big bets’ and ‘quick wins’. “This will quite quickly tell you the innovations that are are worth focusing on and which ones to deprioritise,” noted one CMO.
- Keep the other eye on everything else: The tech space is increasingly fluid and it’s always a good idea to review the tech radar every six months to see if there’s anything new on the horizon that should be included.
- Establish an ‘Innovation Board’: This council should comprise cross-functional leaders from across the business who will be important in providing diverse, balanced counsel on innovation projects and potentially have the ability to approve or veto concepts.
- When it comes to talent, an adaptable generalist with a great attitude, a good network and an eye for amazing work is what you want: Because technology changes so rapidly, it’s impossible to have a team of experts in the latest and new. As one CMO advised, “you need someone with strong experience in the space, a good list of contacts to go to on a variety of topics, and with the ability to appraise and discern good work when it comes to managing delivery.”
- If it will take too long to do it internally, outsource it: It’s important to know your strengths as much as your weaknesses; in a world where speed-to-market is everything and a minimum viable product is all you need, if there’s a quicker solution out there, farm it out and have the internal team work on something else. As one CMO advised, “don’t get caught up trying to solve every problem.”
Ranji is WFA’s APAC Director, Marketing Services. For more information on WFA’s activities in APAC, contact Ranji at email@example.com.