The CMO Dilemma.


When I do upstream brand work for companies my first deliverable is a brand brief. The brief creates an organizing principle articulating what a company does well and what consumers want most. The brief secret sauce is one claim and three proof planks. Claim and proof — organized proof — build brands.

When large businesses organize, they tend to follow a productized principle. HP has a PC business, a printer business and services business. Yahoo!’s latest organizing principle identifies search, communications and content. AT&T Business Services used to organize by inbound, outbound and data. This is how businesses organize. Organic, essential groupings that are clean, not messy and, likely, tied to line-of-business revenue.

This is not how brands strategy should be organized. What’s The Idea? uses brand planks that are benefit-driven. They may certainly offer a functional spin but always, always point to a consumer benefit. Unfortunately, when budgets are allocated for marketing efforts such as advertising, events and promotion, the money tends to come from functional/product areas and things gets messy. Product managers want product-based comms and the master strategy takes a hit. 

Now more than ever brand strategy needs executive buy-in and C-level champions.  Why are many CMOs unsuccessful? They are tacticians. They’re product pushers not brand builders.