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The CMO’s calling: Vision and numbers

Abi Comber, CMO for British Airways, explains what the CMO’s responsibilities are today.

(Note: Click play to watch all videos in the series. While playing, click the "PLAYLIST" button at top left to navigate the chapters. You can also watch the chaptered interview on our YouTube channel).

Highlights from the interview:

The CMO is an agent for change

"Driving growth is about clarity of purpose , and it's the responsibility of marketing to set the vision."

As a CMO, becoming an agent for change is part of what you should stand for. You are the customer champion. You are the person who really looks to move forward and bring new customers in and keep the customers you already have. You have to do that in a changing environment. Technology is such a huge player. You have to be able to use it and command the pace of change in your organization in order to keep up with what consumers are looking for and the ways in which they're interacting with you and with the competition.

A good example would be using social media and going from a “tell” to a conversation. We’re an open organization, and we use Facebook and Twitter. This allows us to have open conversations and to answer people's questions or point them in the right direction, or just to react and say, “Hello, welcome on board. Glad you had a great trip.” Doing this through social media channels is a far more open version of British Airways than we may have had ten years ago. A lot of that has been driven by our ability to respond in a reactive way when people are asking questions and to just connect with them and be more human.

"Making sure that marketing is accountable for some of the numbers makes it more operationally credible within an organization."

Marketing’s responsibility: Setting the vision

Driving growth in the organization is largely about clarity of purpose and it's the responsibility of marketing to really set the vision of who we are and what we stand for. That clarity of vision really provides a single point that everything should align to. It then makes decision-making processes much clearer in terms of what we want to do to achieve our business plan.

The power of the numbers

The idea of being responsible for a P&L is incredibly powerful and that’s probably the most important challenge as a CMO. Without that, you can be in the essence and the vision of the brand all the time, but that isn't as powerful as the numbers.

"Social media allows us to have open conversations, to answer people's questions, to connect with them and be more human."

So making sure that marketing is accountable for some of the numbers makes it more operationally credible within an organization. It’s a really good idea to have that mix. Otherwise if the people in marketing just become the brand purists, they can stand for things that would cost more money than people can expect to see delivered back to the balance sheet. They need the experience of running both.