Toughest Job In Marketing

The CMO Club asked its members “Who’s got the toughest job in marketing?”

It was a close race. CMO at a US auto maker took top honor with 28% of the vote. In second, with 26% of the vote, was CMO of a large financial institution. CMO of a major US airline came in third with 24% of the vote.

I can see why CMO of a US auto maker would be tough. Your product is overpriced, many consumers perceive it to be inferior to foreign cars, consumers buy it infrequently, and they buy it from someone you have no control over (car dealers). As a result, you have no control over the customer experience, which generally sucks whether we’re talking about buying a car or servicing it.

Being CMO of a major US airline must really suck, too. Once again, you can’t control the user experience (weather, airports, etc.), purchase frequency is low (except for a relatively small percentage of consumers), and the economics of the business really sucks. Betcha the CMOs of major US airlines don’t even tell their mothers what they do for a living.

But what’s so tough about being CMO of large financial institution?

You’ve got a product that people interact with everyday (credit cards, debit cards, paying bills, monitoring investments), a product that people care about (their money), and you can design and impact the customer experience in a number of channels.

Well, as one CMO put it:

“More and more the (financial institution’s) CMO’s role is focused on ensuring trust and credibility and for many of these companies, there is a huge gap in credibility that must be overcome.”

Is that the problem?  A lack of trust? Geez, that’s easy to fix.

If you understand what trust is, that is. We’ve published a couple of reports at Aite Group on the topic of trustHere’s what we’ve found: Trust is a multi-dimensional construct. The dimensions are kinda geeky. They capture attributes that are cognitive, institutional, relationship, and symbolic.

What this means from a practical perspective is this: It takes relationship building skills, as well as operational capabilities (which affect the institutional and cognitive attributes) to build a high level of trust.

In other words, you can’t simply advertise your way to a trusting relationship with customers. Advertising (when successful) may impact the symbolic attributes of trust, but trust requires more than that. And I’m not sure that’s well understood by a lot of financial services marketers.

Let me take that back. Maybe it is understood. But how many CMOs simply throw up their hands and say that the operational areas aren’t under their control or influence? That’s simply not a good excuse if it impacts the customer experience.

So I’m not sure I agree with the quoted CMO. Are financial institution CMOs really focused on “ensuring trust and credibility”? I’m not so sure. I think they’re focused on the symbolic elements of trust, but not focusing enough on relationship building or operational delivery.

If they were, maybe the job wouldn’t be so tough.

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