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CMO Insights: Putting People Before Data

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Author: Mark Nardone, Chief Marketing Officer at PAN Communications, headshot
Mark NardoneChief Marketing Officer

It’s that time of the year – when all marketer’s stop to evaluate the performance of their brand and retool for the second half finish. How’s the awareness? What about your brand’s share of voice? How’s the customer experience during each stage of the purchasing journey? Do you feel like the brand resonates at each stage of engagement? Are you on track to meet your annual KPIs?

As we continue to eat, sleep and drink data, CMO’s are equipped with visibility into the brand’s performance like never before. They no longer have to wait for the famous “mid-year” check in.  Instead – every day, week and month should be considered a check in. But I’d caution CMOs with being too tied to the data, and not enough to the people. There’s no doubt that the initial idea will start by digging into the data – but the magic happens in the room with your team. Yes, AI may become the “holy grail” of a brand’s strategy, but there’s something said about the ‘human touch’. I’ve spoken with so many CMOs about this void in their efforts and they all feel that that remains the secret sauce of any great storytelling program.

Earlier this year we discussed ‘the power of an idea’ and how ideas move brands and disrupt markets. But there’s a bigger challenge brewing – the pace of change. This remains a big issue for CMOs and sometimes hitting the pause button might be just the right formula for success. As Geoffry Moore’s famous marketing book Inside the Tornado highlights – pace could be a make or break time for the brand and could cause marketers to sacrifice the ideal customer experience they strive to achieve.

Understanding what people value, what they share, what truly motivates them will improve the customer experience to a new degree. This entire “emotional” approach of putting people back at the forefront of the equation takes time and insight. Time you may or may not have. But, there are ways to get this time back by simplifying your marketing strategies. Simplicity – defined as easy to understand or do – gives back time and helps you and your team focus on quality brand awareness and the customer experience.

There’s a few things to consider as you help your team and brand understand different ways to value success:

  • Continue to drop the silos the more you can bring your entire team together on planning and ideation – the less disconnection you’ll experience throughout the campaign.
  • Innovation shouldn’t be so complicated – setting reasonable goals and understanding what the market’s (your customers) reaction might be to the product or service will help prepare and set desired outcomes.
  • Data is critical, but people are essential – analytics must remain the core foundation and glue that keeps the team together. But moving that data to action must rest on the shoulders of your team. We’ve seen demand gen, lead gen, social and traditional media teams coming together far more often. There’s a reason for this.
  • Align your content marketing around a few key messages – persona gathering is essential and your ability to map an expert’s focus to a “pillar” strategy will help keep your content connecting to your audiences.
  • Expectations need to be balanced and emotionally in line with activities – we hear a good amount about “drinking too much of your own Kool Aid”. Passion for the brand and campaigns should be contagious – but don’t set unrealistic outcomes for your teams or they might become demotivated and disengaged. Simplicity is a measurement of success.

Integrated agencies can help streamline this process with your teams – putting focus back on the customer journey and experience, improving the innovation process, increasing brand awareness and engagement.

Quality brand awareness is driven by disruption, innovation and great stories. Innovation comes from people, their experiences and marketers working with their agencies to better understand the brand and targeted audiences. Your audience is engaged with media every second of every day. Which means that your marketing initiatives need to be centered around what’s new and innovative about your company, people and products. This separates you from the pack and drives influence – getting people to talk about your brand and what you’re doing differently – simplicity can help move this forward.

I’ve spoken with a good number of leaders who are either launching a company or expanding into another market segment and my message remains the same – don’t make it complicated. Quality trumps quantity all day long. Challenge your team to put people and the customer experience ahead of the data. You’ll start to see a bigger return on your time investment as collaboration and innovation improves.  Just keep it simple and meaningful – that will motivate your teams to drive the brand to new levels of engagement.

Interested in learning more about getting time back to focus on the people? Let’s continue the conversation @MarkCNardone.

CMO Insights is PAN Communications’ marketing leadership series. We examine the pain points of today’s CMO, how to effectively and emotionally impact the customer along their path to purchase, and trends at the forefront of today’s digital landscape, alongside insight from experts.


An image of PAN's Brand Experience Report on the Potentials and pitfalls of AI for marketers

In our annual Brand Experience Report, we asked marketers and customers how they are using and experiencing AI to better understand how the technology is changing that relationship.