[3 Minute Read]

Torch-Bearer Marketers tend to be leaders of the pack of more successful brands. Market followers tend to trail behind in financially less successful organisations. These two distinct types of Marketers behave very differently, especially when it comes to being customer-centric and placing customer journeys at the heart of their marketing strategy. Torch-Bearers focus on the whole customer journey to drive their brands in chariots of fire to effortless engagement and happier customers.

One of the best Oscar-winning films ever made, Chariots of Fire (1981), told the story of torch-bearing athletes who won Olympic Gold Medals in the 1924 Olympic Games. The gold medal-winning torchbearers were Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. In contrast Lord Andrew Lindsay, Aubrey Montague and Henry Stallard trailed behind and watched their competitors cross the finish lines ahead of them. After all the training and all the hard work who’d want to be at the back of the pack? What distinguishes the Torch-Bearer Marketers from the followers?

Six Characteristics of the Torch-Bearer Marketer
  1. Pioneering Path-finders

These marketing pioneers, these heroic torch-bearers, deserve the same standing ovation Eric Liddell received in cinemas around the globe when he won the 400 metres gold medal. 26%* more than followers, Torch-Bearer CMOs are path-finders, making their customers’ journeys the heart of everything they do. They work harder to really understand their customers’ journeys. It’s a challenge because the customer’s journey is now non-linear and far more complex than it was in the pre-digital era. So the torch-bearers place even more focus on studying the entire path and full range of possible journeys, as well as the technologies, people and processes involved. Torch-bearers are placing customer journeys at the centre of their marketing strategies.

  1. Blend physical and digital channels to enrich customer engagement

Who didn’t shed a little tear of joy when Sam Mussabini, the character who was Harold Abrahams’ trainer in Chariots of Fire, celebrated Abrahams winning the 100 metres gold medal by punching his fist through his hat? At Thunderhead we’d go through a lot of hats if all CMOs behaved like Torch-Bearer CMO’s. The Torch-Bearers are driving engagement beyond channels. The Torch-Bearer winners (75%* more than followers) seek opportunities to engage customers across physical and digital channels. Winners focus on delivering holistic, multi-faceted customer journeys. They are focusing on events and experiential marketing combined with digital. People, offices, call centres and retail premises are blending with digital channels. Examples are Amazon’s brick-and-mortar shop and John Lewis’s in-store experience apps.

  1. Carry the torch of customer-centricity

In the film Chariots of Fire Lord Andrew Lindsay practiced his hurdles with champagne glasses balanced on the end of each one, trying not to spill a single bubbly drop. He didn’t turn out to be a winner but we thought his technique would be a winning one for others with more ambition. Customer-centricity is a winning technique if used by CMOs with the ambition to win. 31%* more Torch-bearer CMOs than followers will exploit opportunities to integrate marketing, sales and customer support to present a consistent, authentic face to their customers – to become customer-centric. They are far more likely to take the lead in customer-centricity with their executive management teams, building customer-centricity into the essence of their brands, ensuring all employees in all functions understand the impact they have on customers. A good example of a winning customer-centric brand is Zappos, Matt Burchard being the torch-bearer CMO there.

  1. Listen to customers properly (and then use that insight to add value)

Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire to his own fans how he wanted to involve them in his win: “You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it.” Similarly torch-bearer CMOs make their customers part of their success, it’s a team effort. 20%* more torch-bearers than followers use customer feedback to explore new trends and 32%* more focus on customer collaboration and co-creation. Torch-bearer CMOs are better at listening to customers and applying their input to co-create new offerings. They are the chief ‘client listener’ and then act on that insight in such a way which adds value to the customer.

  1. Use machine-learning to help listen to customers

To listen properly the torch-bearer CMOs are more likely to use cognitive computing instead of predictive analytics because the processing capabilities of cognitive systems far outstrip those of conventional systems. Traditional algorithm-based systems are limited by what they’ve been pre-programmed to do, whereas cognitive systems learn through experience and apply what they’ve learned to new inquiries or tasks. They can: put content into context; provide confidence-weighted responses; and identify subtle patterns or insights. These winning CMOs are also better prepared to manage the data explosion and an increasingly complex marketing mandate. They are also striving to make their organizations more digitally literate and everyone to be more focused on data than awards and creative ad campaign ideas.

  1. See a bigger picture for a brighter future

There won’t be CMOs in the future. The Gold Medalists on the podium will be Chief Engagement Officers who are responsible for the overall customer journey. Market-followers will focus more on transactions, deals, promotional offers, individual customer interactions and individual experiences. The torch-bearers in contrast see engagement as an on-going, value-driven relationship between a customer and a business, motivated by the customer’s reasons and choices. The key to winning is to build genuine engagement over time.

Seize the day and become the torch-bearers of Marketing’s future. Put on your running shoes, tighten your laces, and like Harold Abrahams keep a firm view on the overall journey: “Look down that corridor; 4 feet wide, with 10 lonely seconds to justify my existence.” When we see you on the winner’s podium collecting your gold medals we’ll punch our hats for joy. Make us proud.

Video source: YouTube, HD Film Tributes, “Titles” by Vangelis

*Source: IBM Institute for Business Value Global C-Suite Study – Redefining Markets: The CMO Point of View

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