Robert Tas Robert Tas Chief Marketing Officer, Pega Systems

Are CMOs headed for extinction?

Robert Tas, Chief Marketing Officer at Pega Systems, reflects on the future for C-suite marketers and considers how they can evolve to avoid extinction.

Today, we launched our first brand awareness campaign, focused on the role we play in CRM and our view of how the industry needs to change. Having just celebrated my one year anniversary as CMO and as a board member of the ANA, I am more aware than ever of the changing responsibilities required of me and my peers and the changing nature of what we and our clients face every day.

In a recent study by Vivaldi Partners, CMOs reported that "things have been changing more rapidly in the past three years than during the entire previous decade." A piece in the Harvard Business Review talks about these changes as a "proliferation of C-suite titles that include a component of marketing. Some are chief customer officers, chief experience officers, chief client officers, or chief digital officers. This diversity reflects not only a deepening understanding of the connection between growth and customer satisfaction, but a much greater awareness of what marketing can do to help forge that bond." Forrester estimates that buyers are two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor. And scarier than that statistic is their estimate that "today’s B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that marketing can publish or sales can deliver."

But what really brings home for me the changes we marketers face is a headline from Ad Age that declares The CMO Is Evolving Into New Species …" As Ad Age goes on to say, "Scientists of evolution use the term cladogenesis to describe the division of an existing species into multiple lines -- thus creating new species -- often in response to radical change in the environment." A new SPECIES! There is no precedent for what today’s CMOs face, no roadmap for what our job will look like 12 months from now let alone three or five years ahead.

I for one am determined to go the way of Homo Sapiens and not the Neanderthals. So I thought about why some species survive while others go extinct. And in the end, it all comes down to the ability to adapt. As PBS says, "Extinction is often caused by a change in environmental conditions. When conditions change, some species possess adaptations that allow them to survive and reproduce, while others do not. If the environment changes slowly enough, species will sometimes evolve the necessary adaptations, over many generations. If conditions change more quickly than a species can evolve, however, and if members of that species lack the traits they need to survive in the new environment, the likely result will be extinction."

Marketers are facing unprecedented rates of change, and we don’t have generations to adapt. We need software that helps us change as quickly as our customers’ needs change. We need to be able to: manage complexity; connect customers to the people who can get things done; anticipate what’s right for customers and offer it to them in real time; deliver service that is truly global; evolve our current systems; and have the flexibility to run applications in the cloud and in our data centers. That’s what I’m focused on delivering. And though the change we all have to adapt to can sometimes feel overwhelming, it’s also exhilarating and creates unprecedented opportunity. It is time for CRM to evolve.