September 26, 2023


Business&Finance Specialists

4 marketing myths CMOs must dispel to drive innovation

4 min read

In short, CMOs will be required to drive greater accuracy and consistency throughout the inception, development and deployment of new products or services. To do so, they will need to push their teams to have a better understanding of the consumer and ensure that the insights that drive innovation remain consistent with how a product goes to market. 

Here are four marketing myths that can hold back a CMO looking to improve innovation:

‘We need to focus on (insert generational skew)’

When a CMO pushes a team to focus on a group based on one variable (such as age), they not only create imaginary boundaries that don’t exist in consumer culture, but they also require the team to make sweeping generalizations.

Is the experience of a single, 28-year-old female graduate student in New York City the same as a 28-year-old female mother of three in Kansas City? The New Yorker might very well associate a completely different meaning with a product that has “artificial sugar” than the Kansas City mom. Yet many marketers have been pre-conditioned to think in terms of demographics that serve media buying or fit into generic marketing personas. 

CMOs who truly want to take a strategic approach need to empathize and decode the emotional needs of the consumer first, and worry about demographics later. The ideal starting point is to identify what dominant meanings are becoming more and more relevant to consumers who matter to the product. Once uncovered, these meanings reveal the core motivations that drive adoption and the dominant values that can serve as the basis for a new brand. They don’t just provide insight to inspire innovation. They remain constant once the product is built and future messaging is crafted and delivered. 

‘We need to reach as many people as possible’

In our modern world, we are faced with fragmented markets—and you can’t be everything to everyone. CMOs of the past have been driven by things such as reach and have tried to get their message in front of as many consumers as possible. But as the old adage goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. 

Innovators identify the most important, influential consumers in the context of the product or service. While it might feel counterintuitive to focus on smaller groups of consumers, there is more value in understanding and identifying the key group who are highly passionate about what you have to offer. These passionate people are the culture creators in your category and they shape expectations. If you solve for this group of consumers, they will advocate for your solution, and generate more marketing bang for your buck.  

‘We need to ask consumers what they want’

A wise man once said that consumers don’t know what they want until you show it to them. While research is key to the innovation process, you have to move beyond focus groups and home visits. 

Advancements in natural language processing, machine learning and AI are transforming how companies conduct qualitative research on large amounts of social data. Find solutions that let you map, measure and track changes in culture so you can identify patterns and anticipate the needs of consumers before they are even aware they have the need. 

‘We need to keep investing in what’s working’

This is perhaps the most dangerous myth. While marketing is built upon the tenets of taking what works and optimizing it to make it work harder, true innovation requires anticipating changes in culture before they happen. It’s the only way to remain one step ahead of your competitors. Is it easy? 

“Innovation isn’t just about quarterly decisions, centralized hubs, or the performance of one specific function,” says Kevin Ryan, CEO of Malachite Strategy and Research. “Instead, it’s about changing and maintaining the culture of a company. Therefore, in order for innovation to succeed, the CMO must use their position to be part marketer and part anthropologist; helping lead employees into territories and decisions that could be out of their comfort zone.”    

The demands placed on CMOs are changing, but CMOs are some of the most creative and inventive members of senior leadership. The key to success is understanding that the job is not to bring marketing ideas to innovation. The job is to understand how to create a foundation for innovation at the beginning of the process that can be maintained and clearly articulated when it comes time to market a new solution.  

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