What we can learn from the IBM 2011 CMO study (Part 1): think social transformation

We are talking about social transformation

I assert that we are taking part in the wrong conversation: customer-centricity.  Yes, customer-centricity matters and it is an important conversation.  I get that.  What I am saying is this: focussing on customer-centricity is liking focussing on a new baby and forgetting about the mother.  How the baby turns out depends dramatically on the mother and the broader context that gives being to both the mother and the baby.  So what should we be talking about if we wish customer centricity to flower?  Social transformation.

I have been re-reading IBMs 2011 CMO study and the following quote jumped at me:

“The empowerment of the consumer is generating more complexity.  The mental model is changing and we are facing a major social transformation”  CMO, telecommunications, Brazil

What are the underlying factors that are driving the need for social transformation?

What are the underlying factors causing this complexity, putting unbearable stress on ‘business as usual” mode of operation and thus pushing towards social transformation?   This is what I have picked up from the IBM 2011 CMO study:

We live in a world where no secret last five minutes. Today, it is impossible to control any confidential information.  Everything leaks.  We need to be better and faster, constantly.  This is the agenda we need to apply to marketing and business as a whole.”  Marketing Director, Natura Consumer Products

The IBM report rightly points out that corporate character (and not just the brand, advertising and PR) counts given that everything leaks (think about Apple and the consumer outpouring over its supply chain, particularly Foxconn):

“Customers can now find out where and how a company makes its products; how it treats its employees, retired workers and suppliers; how much it pays top executives; how seriously it takes its environmental responsibilities and the like.  This knowledge can affect their buying decisions. In other words, what an organisation stands for is as important as what it sells.  It has a “corporate character”……the sum of everything its management and employees say and do – the beliefs they hold, values they profess and ways they behave, visible for all to see.”

What does that mean for corporations?

Here are several quotes that suggest the direction that corporations are going to have to take, sooner or later, and irrespective of how the people in these corporations feel about the issue:

“We have to manage the reputation of the brand in the context of the vulnerability caused by the new digital world, by being honest, transparent and genuine.” President, Dunkin Donuts (India)

“Traditionally, corporate culture and character have been managed by HR, but it can’t remain there in a digital environment.  The world of separate internal and external messages is gone.  Internal actions, memos and decisions can impact your brand just as much as an advertising campaign.”  CMO, financial markets, USA

In the next post, in the series, I will set out the challenges facing the marketing function and how they can be addressed. I thank your for your listening.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.