The Chief Brand Officer – A role designed to bring CX & Marketing together

Innovative and forward thinking brands like Gymshark, Graze, MatchesFashion, Telstra, Huawei and VICE Media have all recently appointed Chief Brand Officers but how do these roles differentiate from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Experience Officer (CXO)?

What is a Chief Brand Officer?

A Chief Brand Officer is expected to play a multi-faceted role in today’s highly complex and dynamic world of brands with ever changing consumers and their beliefs. He/She needs to be alert and sensitive to consumer feedback and trends in the market to translate them into insights, bringing compelling brand stories to life, managing the image of the brand, increasing the value of the brand and building a unified culture around the brand.

Pavan PadakiAuthor of Brand Vincci

Unlike the afermentioned CMO & CXO, the Chief Brand Officer (CBO) is responsible for the entire brand experience. They essentially set the brand strategy and ensure this is delivered through effective marketing and customer engagement.

In his book, ‘Branding: A Very Short Introduction’, Robert Jones suggests that the CBO has four key roles. They are:

  1. PhilosopherConstantly shaping the purpose and always asking ‘why’, getting to the true essence to the brand.
  2. CoachEnsuring all employees are brand custodians and advocate for the organisation.
  3. ScientistExecuting the brand strategy through digital channels – constantly experimenting to ensure the best outcomes are achieved.
  4. CreativeWorking with the marketing team and agencies to ensure the brand vision comes to life through engaging and creative messaging, across all forms of media.

Fostering an environment of collaboration

In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvised most effectively have prevailed.

Charles Darwin

Over the last decade, we’ve seen customer experience take precedence in the boardroom, which is, in theory, a good thing. However, what this has done is create somewhat of a disconnect between CX and Marketing. This is why I believe customer expectations are not being met (according to Salesforce’s global State of Marketing report, only 49% of the 4,100 marketing leaders believe they are providing an experience completely aligned with their customers’ expectations).

This makes sense, right? With marketing and CX operating in silos it’s no wonder consumers are feeling let down. Marketers are creating amazing advertising campaigns that engage consumers on an emotional level but these promises are not always achievable. Then it’s left to the product owners and customer experience professionals to fulfill these promises – the result, customers feeling disillusioned and their trust eroded (according to the Advertising Association’s recent report, ‘Arresting The Decline Of Public Trust In UK Advertising’, consumer trust in advertising has declined by a huge 25% in just over 20 years).

So what can we do to change this? Well that’s where the CBO plays a vital role, they act as the much needed bridge between CX and Marketing, getting them to collaborate more and work on their strategies together – which ultimately leads to the creation of the brand strategy.

Jess Christie, Chief Brand Officer at MatchesFashion, is a big advocate of collaboration and most importantly creating a diverse team:

You build teams of people who bring different skills, who know more than you about certain topics”.

However, the role of a CBO isn’t to merely set the brand strategy and vision, it’s to engage and entertain customers too.

The audience today doesn’t want to be dictated to, they want to be entertained.” – Setphanie McMahon, Chief Brand Officer, WWE

Combining customer emotion with rational thinking

The Chief Brand Officer forms a human bridge between logic and magic, strategy and design.

Marty NeumeierAuthor of The Brand Gap

Arguably, the CBO’s most important role is to understand consumer behaviour and expectations. They need to understand their emotions across the customer journey, especially at key moments and they need to anticipate their needs.

As Andrew Welch, Executive Director Global Accounts at Landor so eloquently puts it:

“The Chief Brand Officer must walk in the customer’s shoes. They must feel what the customer feels, see what they see, hear what they hear, everywhere, quite literally”.

Want to achieve this yourself? Try using ethnographic research (observing your customers in their real-life environment) and then capturing your results using an empathy map. 

This new ‘human-centric’ approach to engagement is driving a new breed of brands but in an age where digital reigns supreme, it’s important to act rationally and utilise analytics to make informed business decisions.

Empowering employee & brand advocates

Ultimately, the CBO becomes the brand’s conscience – he or she protects and amplifies the voice of the brand within the business enterprise so everyone knows what actions will contribute to building the brand and which actions will not.

Scott BedburyAuthor of A New Brand World

The Chief Brand Officer can’t achieve everything on their own, there’s simply just too much to do. Instead, they need to create an army of internal and external fans to help them on their journey. Fans who will defend the brand when needed, amplify positive word of mouth and co-create amazing content.

As the role of the CBO continues to evolve it will be important that they get the necessary support from the rest of the organisation, mainly the CEO and Board. For far too long we’ve heard phrases like ‘the customer comes first’ and ‘we are a customer-centric organisation’ being bandied around but this is often just lip service and to appease stakeholders. In 2020 we need to aim to achieve more, taking the brand, our customers and the experience we deliver, more seriously – if we do, I’m confident we’ll see the rewards.

How We Can Help

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Amon K

Author Amon K

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