Rebecca Lieb's picture

Marketing and the Gravitas Issue

Is it ageism, or is it human nature? Whatever it is, it seems to have morphed 180 degrees from the dot-com boom era.

Back in the late '90s, when digital anything meant giddy valuations, and one of life’s biggest mysteries was how was Google going to monetize, there was a prevailing and oft-stated bias in both Silicon Alley and Silicon Valley.

Anyone over 40 didn’t “get it” (though “it” was never explained or defined). I personally heard boardroom suggestions that over-40 staff be jettisoned like so much expired produce.

Twenty-somethings were EVPs, the parties were insane, and the jargon around companies, their products and services, and even job titles was impenetrable.

Blue-haired founders were getting the full-on “New Yorker” profile treatment (“No one at the company appears to be over 25”), and all was go-go with the world… Until it all burst, and many of those 20-somethings took big salary cuts as they sought gigs at Starbucks and The Gap.

Fast-forward all these years later and the ageism issue in digital and marketing has turned a full 180 degrees.

I encountered this recently when I told a client one of their go-to-market issues is that the startup isn’t perceived in the market as “grown up” enough, an opinion that isn’t just my own, but something I’ve heard elsewhere in the market. Interestingly, the company’s young founders have heard it, too.

So Long, Hoodies?

“Grown up” isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing. However, it’s emerging more and more frequently as a necessary qualification for getting a seat at the table.

I’ve seen this “however” played out across a spectrum of startup technologies, from email to search to social, over the past 15 years.

“Grown up” is about executive/boardroom/C-suite credibility. Most startups, regardless of how impressive, get only so far with the startup-in-hoodies approach these days. Naturally, I’m generalizing.

I’m thinking of Google when they hired Eric Schmidt, Facebook with Sheryl Sandburg and Carolyn Everson, or closer to Earth, Fredrick Marckini, who founded iProspect and sold it to Isobar. “Grown up” is a little-discussed but highly visible sign of growth and maturity.

Back in the day, Marckini was the only guy wearing a suit and tie at search events. He stuck out like a sore thumb for years.

When I finally asked him why he dressed the way he did, he replied that his mission was to get search discussed in the C-suite, and he wasn’t going to get those meetings in jeans and a polo shirt.

I’m dwelling a lot on clothing here, but you get my drift. It’s why startups like NewsCred hire Fortune 500 executives like Michael Brenner, for example.

It’s not just because Brenner (who is a great marketing strategist) can pull off the suit thing, but also because he has Fortune 500 marketing credentials and a degree of projected gravitas that younger founders and executives tend to lack.

There are many, many more such examples at every level of the spectrum. Look at Spotify’s recent hire of Seth Farbman away from Gap to fill the CMO seat.

Growing Up

“Grown up” shouldn’t be a value judgment, but it is human nature. The more extensive (ergo, expensive) SaaS solutions become, the higher the echelon of sales, procurement and marketing.

I keep hearing the very senior Fortune 100 executives I interview for research reports refer to vendors and agencies in the space as “too trendy” and “too boutique” — all code for “No one was ever fired for buying IBM.”

Taken to the extreme, the “grown up” question is analogous to why bank buildings mimic classical architecture: “We’re here today, and we’ll be here tomorrow.” That’s an important, if tacit, message to buyers and investors.

Awards and trophies have always been an important mark of distinction in marketing circles. Yet one wonders if characterizations such as “Wunderkind” or “30 Under 30” distinctions don’t now do more harm than they do good.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

Rebecca Lieb's picture

The Three Types of Executive Influencer

50 Most Influential CMOs 2015

Perhaps more than any other C-suite role, influence is the purview of the CMO. It's the CMO, after all, who oversees brand, customer experience, communications, advertising, social media, and content marketing -- in short, the lion's share of their organization's external voice, messaging, and share of voice in the marketplace.

Small wonder then that CMOs themselves would be regarded through the lens of influence, which is exactly what, for the fourth consecutive year, Forbes and ScribbleLive have done in The World's 50 Most Influential CMOs Study released this week in cooperation with LinkedIn, which supplied additional, publicly-available data for this year's report.

As the analyst who crunched the data for this most recent report (on behalf of my client, ScribbleLive), I've drawn new insights about executive influence. The top-level findings are interesting to be sure. For example, 11 of this year's most influential CMOs have been in their role for a year or less; influence is dominated by men (as is the C-suite); and no industry dominates influence. Automotive CMOs dominate this year, while apparel, No. 3 last year, has slipped out of the top five industries. Tech CMOs are still influential, but lost ground this year as the vertical slipped into second place.

Given content marketing is my core focus as an analyst, it's gratifying to see it is the undisputed No. 1 topic influential CMOs talked about this year.

Yet the biggest takeaway, for me at least, is that executive influence comes in three distinct flavors. These should cause all executives active in social media, as well as other forms of content creation and dissemination, to ask themselves, "What kind of influencer am I, and what kind of influencer do I want to be?"

Herewith, the three types of influencer.

The news-cycle influencer

Characteristics: The news cycle influencer less wields influence than is controlled by it, via circumstances that run the gamut from positive to negative. It may be that their company has made a splashy new product announcement or has been involved in a scandal. Whether positive or negative, influence is visited upon the executive in question, and is not so much controlled as in control of their reputation, as well as sphere of influence.

The best, and really only, strategy for news-cycle-induced influence is to understand real-time marketing business cases. Most desirably, news-cycle influence would be in the planned, proactive sector of the real-time marketing quadrant, but as will always be the case, this type of influence is often unplanned and unanticipated. As the saying goes, "nobody expected the French Revolution," or "United breaks guitars," or any manner of public faux pas, but plotting decision tree triage charts go far in mitigating news-cycle influence, particularly when crises or negativity are involved.

Influence wielder

Characteristics: Most of the CMOs who made the Forbes/ScribbleLive study this year are influence wielders. They are frequent contributors to social media and to publications. They're on message, have something substantive to say, and are well-respected leaders who are well regarded by their peers. Certainly there's a halo effect. They represent powerful brands that owe no small portion of that power to the stewardship of the influences. Their influence is influenced by the companies, products, and services they represent and vice versa, creating a sort of virtuous circle of influence. Wielding substantial influence among one's peers and target audience is the goal of the vast majority of social sharers and online publishers.

Super influencer

Characteristics: The super influencer shares the traits of the above two groups. They're both newsworthy and in the news, therefore owning above-average currency in shared media. At the same time, they wield influence. They create content that's widely consumed and shared across digital channels. Super influencers possess one additional trait that sets them above their peers on the influence scale, whether those peers are other CMOs or, outside of that rarefied sphere, whomever they share common ground with as influencers.

Super influencers influence not just the crowd, but also their own peers, people on their level, as well as higher-ups. Needless to say, super influencers are a rare breed. Of the top 50 influenctial CMOs, only one, GE's Beth Comstock, qualifies as a super influencer.

Does this status have anything to do with Comstock's promotion earlier this year to vice chair of the company? It would be hard to argue otherwise.

This post originally published on iMedia.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content: It’s Not Another Channel

Content this, content that. Content marketing, content strategy. Everyone’s talking all content, all the time these days.

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently (as recently as lunchtime today, in fact), is who’s responsible for all the content. Is it communications? PR? Social media? Marketing in general?

Briefly stated, the answer is yes. All these divisions (and more) play a role in content marketing and content strategy.

Here’s what should be coming into focus for marketers (but sadly isn’t): Too many marketers, and the organizations they work for, mistakenly view content as a channel.

Like social media, email, search, media, or direct marketing, they want content to be departmentalized, siloed, circumscribed and cleanly defined.

Content does indeed require an enormous amount of domain expertise. A content strategy is required to set goals for content marketing initiatives and to define how those goals will be measured.

Editors and project managers work to build governance around those goals and define how content will be created, approved, distributed, find an audience, be measured, optimized, conformed to checks and guidelines (legal and brand, for starters).

Within this paradigm, areas of hyper-specialization might exist: Web and app developers, writers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, editors, legal — the list can go on nearly ad infinitum.

And that’s not to mention the involvement of the aforementioned channels: search, email, media, social. All of these require content to function. Email is a container for content. Search optimizes content.

Content Is At The Heart Of Digital Channels

In advertising, content is called “creative” (because it’s more expensive), but at the end of the day, that’s just a fancy word for content. Social platforms and websites would be dismal destinations indeed were they not continually refreshed with content.

Otherwise put, content is the lifeblood of digital channels (and offline channels, as well). Content is not itself a channel.

Yet marketers have difficulties seeing past channels, which is why content struggles to gain a foothold in the enterprise. Like converged media, content requires players from across the marketing department, and indeed, across the organization, to collaborate and to align.

Precious few content initiatives these days happen without paid media, for example. Whether social promotion or ads that drive audiences to content executions, media — and by extension, advertising — are integral to content campaigns.

Yet content and advertising are still viewed by the overwhelming number of companies (with notable exceptions, such as Intel) as very different divisions, the Mars and Venus of marketing.

Search teams, email teams, these look to disparate sources for content, leading to inconsistencies in voice, tone, look and feel.

If content (and brand) aren’t aligned across a panoply of paid, owned and earned media channels (that become more numerous each month), they risk consumers not recognizing the brand, voice, message or product as they flit across media, channels, screens and devices.

An Apple Watch, and email message and a banner ad have little in common, other than the fact that all are content delivery systems.

So here’s where organizations will be challenged in the coming months and year. They will build content teams.

In fact, they already are. I’m seeing hiring move up gradually from manager/director level roles to VP-and-higher job descriptions with “content” or “editor” in the title.

But those roles can’t be siloed off. They can and must be defined as being on par with, equal to and collaborative with all the channel-centric marketing initiatives the enterprise undertakes.

That can only happen with this one big step forward, more of a mindset challenge than I’d realized earlier, in all the years I’ve been studying and researching content marketing and content strategy.

Content is not a channel.

Spread the word.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


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