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What CMOs Must Nail In 2017 To Succeed In The ‘Experience Business’

For marketers, the more things change, well, the harder it is to keep up. That’s because, as we head into 2017, we know now that nothing will ever be the same in our new digital world where consumers are in charge. 

So, strategically, what does that mean for CMOs? To find out, we turned to our network of top marketers and analysts, as we have done since 2011, and posed this year’s question: Digital transformation and becoming a "customer experience business" is clearly the future for marketing. What is the one thing CMOs must get right in 2017 to make that happen?

Here’s what they told us, plus don’t miss this infographic highlighting the main takeaways.


CMOs need technology strategies that push beyond getting clicks and likes. 2017 will be about putting our customers first, anticipating their needs, and delivering on our promises.
—Paul Acito, CMO, 3M

Personalised marketing at scale is a must-have. Personalised experiences is something that brands must learn to do very well digitally or fade into oblivion.
—Daria Alexandrovna Taylor, Programme Director, Incredibly Skilled

CMOs must understand their customer’s journey and identify where they have both the right and the ability to stand out within that.
—Wayne Arnold, Global CEO & Chairman, MullenLowe Profero

Get digital personalisation right. Too often, personalisation is close but not perfect, which can lead to a jarring and disruptive customer experience.
—Shaun Austin, Research Director, Future Thinking


2017 will see many failnot because of intent, but because people have jobs, and why should they perform above and beyond? Disruption is required in HR and internal engagement.
—Jon Bains, Founding Partner, What & Why

“Customer experience” is so overused and not understood, it’s become meaningless. Don’t spout vacuous jargonjust make incredible things happen for people.
—Paul Bay, Founder, CitizenBay

We’re past having a digital team off in the corner speaking a different language and executing on their own agenda. Embrace that the lines, in many cases, no longer exist.
—Jim Berra, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Royal Caribbean International

It’s important to remember that digital is a how, not a why. Focus on delivering amazing experiences for your audience, and leverage digital to do it.
—Carol Bitter, Senior Director, Fahrenheit 212

Get as close to the customer as possible. Most CMOs and their teams are too far away. It’s scary—who wants to hear bad news?
—Sean Blankenship, CMO, Coldwell Banker Real Estate


Teach and empower a servant leadership culture where everyone provides for the needs of customers; hold each person accountable with specific goals for achieving this.
—Emily Callahan, CMO, ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Ensure that top management is convinced regarding the crucial role played by marketing in driving the digital transformation agenda and the strategic business objectives.
—Cristian Citu, Senior Director, Group Digital Strategy, DHL

CMOs need to think through the lenses of business, customer experience, and technology to harness the power of perspective and create an executable strategy.
—David Clarke, Chief Experience Officer, PwC

Measure the quality of the omnichannel customer experience using the right tools. You can’t improve CX until you’ve accurately quantified it and proposed relevant recommendations.
—Alastair Cole, Chief Innovation Officer, Partners Andrews Aldridge

In an age of big data, brand marketers should be incorporating big design, a.k.a. design thinking, into their craft more than ever.
—Steven Cook, Founder/Managing Partner, FortuneCMO; Contributing Editor, CMO.com

People love brands that are “experience businesses,” and CMOs are central to helping their companies identify what that means for how they engage customers.
—John Coyne, Head of Campaign and Marketing Experience, Adobe

Motivate customers by designing brand experiences that make a difference to their lives. We gravitate towards easy, special, and meaningful. The rest is forgettable and undesirable.
—Stuart Crawford-Browne, Director, Phoenix Rising

Ensure that you have a cross-industry team of people who are manically focused on your consumer, actively engaged in social media, passionate about your product, curious, and embrace smart risk.
—Emily S. Culp, Chief Marketing Officer, Keds


“Big humanity.” It’s enticing to think big data solves for everything, but there’s no substitute for engaging customers as humans and delivering excellence with instinct, empathy, and grace.
—Alma Derricks, Former VP Sales & Marketing, Cirque du Soleil

In a world driven more and more by technology, don’t get impersonal and lose sight of making emotional connections with your audience through your unique brand voice. You can do so and still grow brand affinity.
—John Dillon, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Denny’s

CMOs will need to put the customer at the center of the business innovation model–not technology. This means investing in behavioral insights that drive strategy and experience design.
—Stephen Diorio, VP Digital Transformation, Digital Surgeons


CX often fails to recognise the “joins” between individual experiences. Focus on transitionsthe integration of people, places, and pixels. That’s where you’ll win the customer.
—Mel Edwards, CEO, Wunderman EMEA

First, you need a clear brand purpose with board buy-in. The board also has to believe in and prioritise the changes required to become a customer experience business.
—Jeremy Ellis, Marketing and Customer Experience Director, TUI Group


Really putting the customer at the centre of decision making. Saying you’re customer-centric isn’t being customer-centric.
—Kristof Fahy, Chief Customer Officer, Ladbrokes

Finding the right agency/partner to help them crystalize their thinking to bring all their fragmentation into one clear strategy and overall message.
—Graham Fink, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather


They have to know everything about their customer and connect that data and knowledge to every single customer touch point and experience with their brand.
—Matt Goddard, CEO, R2i

Connectivity through digital convergence for corporate marketing. In this regard, our focus is on enhancing passenger travel control and entertainment content.
—Adriana Gomes, Marketing Director, LATAM Airlines

It is more important than ever to understand your audience and deliver a consistently authentic experience in order to establish, then reinforce, a trusted relationship.
—Evan Greene, CMO, The Recording Academy/Grammy Awards

The lines between digital, traditional media, and data marketing are blurring. CMOs need to look for ways to marry art and instinct with science and data.
—Marie Gulin-Merle, CMO, L'Oréal USA

CMOs must understand how to add value by creating a sense of “wanted-ness.” Consumers should feel like the brand is providing a real value exchange, not just selling them products.
—Jamie Gutfreund, Global CMO, Wunderman


Don't allow the pursuit of digital innovation to override the importance of defining a clear brand purpose for your organization. Brand purpose still drives everything.
—Scott Hargrove, Global CMO, World Surf League

Humility. Customers and data, not expertise, should drive decision making. We need to concede that we’re not the ones in charge anymore.
—Mary Harper, Head of Customer and Digital Marketing, Standard Life

We need to ensure that we match the emotive with the rational. Not everything should be judged by an A/B test alone.
—Zoe Harris, Group Marketing Director, Trinity Mirror

Put people first. With all the data used to transform experiences, we must remember that people are at the heart of our missions and objectives.
—Alan Hart, Managing Partner, atomck

The CMO needs to become the CEO’s trusted adviser in all experience-related matters. Above all, this means leaving the marcom box and driving customer engagement and innovation.
—Glen Hartman, Senior Managing Director, North America, Accenture Interactive

Customer journey mapping for insights on the who, what, when, and how. It will enable you to better prioritize and deliver.
—Rickie Hobbie, Managing Director (Asia Pacific), Epsilon HK

Tap into social data regularly; intelligence from conversations on social is your candid customer experience barometer, allowing you to flex with shifting customer needs and expectations.
—Katy Howell, CEO, Immediate Future


You can’t offer customers a seamless experience across all channels if your marketing tactics are fragmented across department and agency silos. This requires tighter integration of companywide marketing activities.
—Mark Jones, Chief Storyteller & CEO, Filtered Media


Casual dining is all about social reconnection: connecting with friends, family, escaping daily life. To achieve that, we are focusing on customer experiences and services that differentiate us.
—Derek Kirk, CMO, Hurricane Grill & Wings/Hurricane BTW

Make increasing customer loyalty and spend the total focus. Digital CX must create engaging, personalized moments that make the customer feel valued and inspired.
—Bill Kobel, VP of Strategy and Integrated Communications, JPL


It starts and ends with talent. If you’ve got the right people thinking in the right way, everything else will follow.
—Jaimes Leggett, Group CEO, M&C Saatchi

Technology, brands, and people—hospitality’s Holy Trinity. We must ensure our technology will enable our passionate owners and associates to deliver more memorable brand experience.
—Josh Lesnick, CMO, Wyndham Hotel Group

Make customer experience the lifeblood of the company. As the only function at the intersection of every customer interaction, marketing is well-positioned to lead the transformation from a reactive customer service mindset to a customer-obsessed organization.
—Ann Lewnes, CMO, Adobe

The thing to nail is taking something so ephemeral as customer experience and branding it as uniquely yours–distinct, consistent, and emotionally rewarding–while driving YoY increases in sales, share, and margin.
—Marsha Lindsay, Chair & Chief Strategist, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs

The dawn of Skynet: artificial intelligence, chatbot, and machine learning–where art and science meet.
—Joe Loy, Head of Digital, AIA (SG)


Ensure company silos collaborate and strive towards a common purpose and goal; to have a comprehensive view of the customer at all touch points.
—Tom Malleschitz, CMO, Three UK

For B2B marketing, it’s not just about digital or about sales enablement. The winners will be the ones that integrate those experiences seamlessly. This will require a new level of account-based marketing.
—Mike Marcellin, CMO, Juniper

CMOs must keep in step with the customer, keeping in tune to ensure they stay relevant and high in the customer consideration list.
—Pete Markey, Brand and Marketing Communications Director, Aviva

Brand and performance marketing must become one. The science and measurement of the digital world must be balanced with human empathy.
—Ryan McIntyre, CMO, Jack Threads


Focus on understanding people before implementing IT infrastructure. Successful digital transformation is about the environment you craft for human behavioural change first, complex technology second.
—Richard Neish, Managing Director, Dare

In 2017 we’re working with key CMOs and marketers to use the Twitter platform in innovative ways that give customers the support and service they want, not the content they don't.
—Suzy Nicoletti, Managing Director, Twitter Australia


CMOs must identity customer requirements for economic, experiential, and emotional value and act as the bridge across the organisation to influence strategy development, process improvement, and cultural change.
—Marcus Osborne, Co-Owner, Fusionbrand


CMOs will demonstrate brand promise by going beyond traditional marketing functions in 2017, investing in building critical emotional, one-to-moment connections that their customers will demand.
—Sheryl Pattek, VP and CMO Executive Partner, Forrester

Marketing teams must ensure their digital tools provide content and messages that engage and respect their consumers, and in a voice they can identify with.
—Fred Prego, Group Insight Director, GAME

Make the mobile experience that you provide to customers on their smartphones the center of your digital strategy
—Ray Pun, Head of Product Marketing for Mobile Solutions, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe

Internal alignment.
—Jeff Pundyk, Senior Vice President, Global Integrated Content Solutions, The Economist Group; CMO.com Contributing Blogger


This is not your grandpa’s marketing. Getting CX right takes comprehensive planning and disciplined alignment to ensure your execution is synchronized and coordinated.
—Tony Quin, CEO, IQ Agency; Board Chair, SoDA


Understandreally understandthe experience your customers want. Walk in their shoes, talk to them, live their experience. Data insights get you only so far.
—David Redhill, Partner, Global CMO, Deloitte Consulting

CMOs must stop using the pointless dichotomy of traditional versus digital and return to strategy-first, media-neutral thinking. Everything is digital; get rid of the dreaded “D” prefix!
—Mark Ritson, Adjunct Professor, Melbourne Business School

Elevate digital transformation to strategy. Put customer experience as the centre of gravity across the business, not tactics. Dare to be different, bold, and agile!
—Martin Roll, CEO, Martin Roll Company; Author, “Asian Brand Strategy”

Becoming a customer experience business isn’t trying to optimize every interaction on the buyer’s journey. It’s about becoming truly remarkable at a few strategic points along the way.
—Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute


Today, customer experience is a businesswide deliverable but with responsibility sitting in marketing. CMOs’ relationships with C-level peers are critical to delivering a great customer experience.
—Jodie Sangster, CEO, Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA)

CMOs must get right the “operationalization” of the branded customer experience. It’s one thing to create a great customer experience; it’s much harder to make it part of the company culture.
—David Scott, CEO, Laugh.ly, Creator/Host, Marketing Superstar Podcast

2017 will be about the proliferation of video. The winners will be those who create meaningful, informative, and inspirational storytelling in short-form video.
—Nicole Sheffield, Managing Director, News Digital Networks Australia

Place technology at the heart of planning. The agility and feedback that comes from smart digital investment delivers the smooth customer experience demanded today.
—Jonathan Simmons, Chief Strategy Officer, Zone

Use of data married with customer insight is key. Talk to customers and analyse their behaviour to create experiences that are centred around them.
—Jack Smith, Founder, 40two

Customer experience is just that—what customers actually experience. CMOs must act less like “executives” or “marketers” to design meaningful, shareable, and unforgettable experiences in every moment of truth.
—Brian Solis, Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group; Author, “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design”

Accept that successful transformation is a process of deep change in business perspectives, and upcoming marketing efforts will have to be tested and evaluated continuously.
—Klaus Sommer Paulsen, CEO, Creative Director & Founder, AdventureLAB


CMOs have to earnestly begin to see their customers as a resource that requires investment—not just an audience or target that can be plundered.
—Alexandra von Plato, Group President, North America, Publicis Health, Digitas Health LifeBrands, Publicis Life Brands, and Heartbeat Ideas


Go beyond the data to experience your brand with customers. Conduct experiential ethnographies where you do more than observe consumers—you feel their experience.
—Kimberly A. Whitler, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

Agility, insights, creativity, and flexibility. You don’t know what you don’t know, so a culture of listen, learn, hypothesise, test, measure, and evolve is essential.
—Jenny Williams, CMO, HCF Health Insurance

CMOs must bring more value to their customers and see marketing as a service. They need to extend their products through technology or deliver relevant content in all the right moments.
—Brian Wong, Co-Founder & CEO, Kiip


Invest time and money to understand connections between consumers’ emotional and rational triggers, then create infinite scenarios that are constantly tested and improved upon.
—Mike Yardley, Chief Integration Officer, VML

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