Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Tale of Two CMO's: Awareness (Part I)

Last week, I kicked off a blog series titled, A Tale of Two CMO's: A Study in Contrasts. The goal of the series is to contrast the styles of an old school and new school CMO whose personas I've fleshed out in my original post. Over the next five weeks, the series will focus on a different aspect of the marketing funnel (awareness, interest, desire and action) in order to get a perspective from each CMO.

Before I start asking our two CMOs questions about this week's topic, I am going to take a question from Steve Poppe who was kind enough to ask a simple yet profound question in the comments' section of last week's post.

Here goes:


Who owns the brand?

James: I know that the answer that everyone wants me to give is, the customer. And believe it or not, I do believe that our customers share in the ownership of our company's brand. However, at the end of the day, our management team is responsible to our shareholders. Occasionally, what our stakeholders (customers, prospects, employees and partners) want and what we are financially required to do on behalf of our shareholders are mutually exclusive. Whenever possible though, we do everything in our power to steer the brand in the direction that all of our stakeholders desire.

Tessa: Based on what you read in today's press and in the blogosphere, companies have little to no ownership of their brands. To me, that is a load of horse crap because without our products, employees, website, press relations, advertising and yes, social presence, brands wouldn't exist. With that said, I am a firm believer in the fact that the old "command and control" style aka "we'll tell you what our brand is and you'll like it" days are over. Smart companies -- I'd like to put ours in that bucket -- are realizing that we live in a world of customer co-creation and that customers are sharing what they think of "us" every day. We may not like what our customers are saying about us, but shame on any CMO that isn't paying attention to their customers' feedback.


If you could only spend money on facet of marketing to generate brand awareness, what would it be and why?

James: I've never been a fan of answering questions like this because it forces me to respond in a way that makes me sound like the stereotypical brand marketer. In the spirit of being a cooperative interviewee, I'll indulge you. Despite the fragmented nature of television, it's still the best vehicle (for us anyway) for creating brand awareness. With that said, there a dozen other ways to generate awareness that complement what we do on television and believe it or not, I'm vying to do less television advertising than more these days. As you know, tv is expensive as hell and getting harder and harder to get in front of live audiences.

Tessa: A couple of years ago, I would have answered print or tv advertising. That has obviously shifted over the last few years with interactive playing a much greater roll and now social -- Facebook in particular -- having a bigger impact. I guess if you held a gun to my head and forced me to answer this question, the biggest driver of awareness for us these days are online ads on the major networks. The key, however, is driving them to our social presences like our branded online community and our Facebook Fanpage (from ads on Facebook). The nice thing is that it serves two goals -- we create awareness with our customers and then allow the 99%+ that are not in the buy cycle to more deeply engage with us and other customers in a less obtrusive way.


How is earned media contributing to brand awareness?

James: We've been very pleased with the some of the press our new PR firm has landed for us over the last six months. Our green initiatives are getting some much deserved attention -- so much so that our CEO is being interview on 60 Minutes next month. We've also gotten great press (Business section above the fold) in the Journal and AdAge did a feature on our new website last month. You'll be surprised to hear me say this but I'd like to think that our biggest win to date is a five part series in USA Today about ways that our products are changing the way consumers think about our space. Talk about a great driver of awareness!

Tessa: Over the last year or so, we've been working hard to find a balance between our traditional PR efforts and our social initiatives which include a heavy dose of influencer outreach. While any company is a fool to ignore traditional PR in spite of the fact that traditional media readership continues to decline at alarming rates, we've seen a groundswell of activity coming from our grass roots blogger relations and our newly formed ambassador program. In both cases, we've spent a lot of time identifying who are net promoters and detractors are (especially the ones with big megaphones) and have invited them to special events to talk to myself, our CEO, our product leads and even some of the folks in our research department. The biggest challenge is scaling these efforts but what we're starting to see is that after about six months, the momentum behind some of these word of mouth efforts really starts to kick in.


What roll will "social" play in your future brand awareness efforts?

James: I know they say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks but I have been keeping a close eye on social tools like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. While I don't have the time to personally participate in these channels, a few of the younger folks in our marketing department along with a few folks in our agency have been pushing me to get our brand more involved in social. For right now, I feel like it's all just too new and very few companies have figured out how to monetize these emerging channels. It seems like if anything, Twitter and corporate blogs will likely just end up being another customer service vehicle. I don't ever see social being a driver of brand awareness save maybe the occasional viral Youtube video.

Tessa: While I personally love social networks like Twitter and Facebook, I don't necessarily see them as something that will help with our overall brand awareness. Yes, our brand has a presence on both and we will continue to invest in both, but I see the roll of social being much better at creating customer engagement and customer retention than I do for awareness. As I mentioned in my answer to the last question, I think earned media probably has the best shot from a social perspective of creating awareness.


So there you have it. Thank you to our two fictional CMOs for taking the time to answer questions about brand and brand awareness this week. Next week, we'll have them tackle another question or two from the comments section as well as fielding some queries on preference and consideration. interest.

The big question is, were you surprised by the answers that either of our two CMOs gave? Any advice for either of them? Your comments and recommendations will drive the direction of this series so please don't be shy about weighing in.


  1. A very interesting study in two different perspectives of brand awareness. But, are they really all that different? In the end, large or small, each CMO has the same mission and must evaluate and choose among all available tools to accomplish that mission.

    It's interesting to me that both had very similar answers to the last question - and, indeed, I think they are right. "Social" may not be the best tool for better brand awareness, but it is a great vehicle to engage customers and provide publicized customer service.

  2. Elmer - insightful comment. I think you'll see a lot more differentiation as we go deeper into the funnel.

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  4. Aaron, I love Tessa's frankness re. "Who owns the brand?" but didn't quite expect her answer. She's pretty smart that Tessa. There was s recent McKinsey study posted on WARC stating that brand managers today need to be generalists. I'm leery of that POV but know where it's coming from. Brand management is an art which both of your CMOs seem to recognize. Now, if we can just get the newbies, media socialists and talk circuit on board.

  5. I am very much impressed by this article. I think both of them have made good point to focus upon. Brand management is the one which both of your CMOs seem to recognize.