What Can Robin Williams Teach CEO's?

CEO's can learn something about the Chief Marketing Officer role by watching The Crazy Ones.

An Ad Age article, a CMO.COM blog and an episode of Robin Williams’ television comedy The Crazy Ones combined to make me think about the dilemma faced by many CEOs when it comes to their CMOs.

If you read the trade press, most CEOs apparently don’t really know what to make of their CMO, their marketing department and their marketing budget. Unless the CEO came up through the marketing ranks, many still think of their marketing people as the advertising guys, the promotion team, or the marketing communications group.  Great for sales materials, coupons and the occasional ad.  More recently they might be the web site gurus.

One major consumer company which markets a number of consumer brands ranging from hardware to drapes to plastics recently appointed a former market researcher as the CMO. Not surprisingly, I suppose, he has put much greater emphasis on market research and data analysis in his business.  Unfortunately he seems to have gone too far by declaring that the plans of his marketing teams must be approved by the market research function. 

Now, market research is indeed a critical aspect in the development of great marketing.  In fact a recent blog from CMO.COM by Adobe, suggested that being the Chief Analytic Officer was a responsibility CEOs are now demanding of their CMOs.

“The CMO as chief analytical officer looks beyond current customer knowledge to identify not just who the customer is, but who the customer should be and what products should be delivered. Customers might be ready for a solution that they’ve not even considered.”

Both of these points of view strike me as odd.  First, while market research is a critical tool in the development of great marketing, great products and great communications, data and information do not a marketing program make.  To suggest the market researchers should be the final arbiters of a marketing effort suggests to me that you don’t have the right marketers in your business.  Great marketers translate the data into information and information into insight.  It is the insight that drives the products and the plans, which is the point I think is being made by the CMO.COM blog.

The problem I have with the CMO.COM blog, is that it sounds like people are just now recognizing that this chief analytical officer function should be part of the CMO’s role. This is not news.  In fact it should be a prerequisite for any good marketer in your business.  If this is news, then the CEO needs a primer on what to expect from his/her marketing organization.

In The Crazy Ones, Robin Williams plays the head of a Chicago advertising agency and the creative soul of the business. He has always worked from his own instincts. In this particular episode a client has demanded that a data guru be brought onto the team.  After some comedic gnashing of teeth, Robin comes to the realization that neither creative nor market research on their own can deliver the best message.  The research provides information, but the creative translates that into an insight and an impactful message.

No news here…but apparently a necessary reminder.  Do you agree?