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CMOs Are A Dying Job. Here’s Why That’s A Good Thing

CMOs Are A Dying Job. Here’s Why That’s A Good Thing

The CMO job is dead.

Namely, it’s becoming definitively data-driven. It’s routine now for marketing departments to prioritize and invest in functions like:

  • Personalizing campaigns by tracking user behavior
  • Measuring ROI on disparate marketing strategies
  • Adjusting tactics in accordance with the resulting analytics.

In other words, startups now treat marketing like it’s a science.

It wasn’t always like this, and the adjustment has created a variety of internal repercussions. The most noteworthy? Founders from startups to Co-Cola are restructuring their organizations and abandoning the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in favor of something more dynamic: the Head of Growth or Chief Growth Officer.

People who currently hold CMO roles may bemoan the shift. But for companies, it’s the smart play. Here’s why.

The role of CMO is obsolete.

For a long time, the responsibilities of most CMOs looked something like this:

  • Identify marketing agencies to outsource marketing work to.
  • Identify software applications which might drive marketing work in-house.
  • Coordinate the logistics around making and sustaining those purchases.

Traditionally, this type of marketing made little use of analytics, but that was fine because data was less available. Marketing was less a science than it was an art — and because of that, companies needed CMOs with a pulse on the market and connections in the industry to run the show.

But times have changed.

In our digital world, engagement with your brand, excitement about your products, loyalty — it can all be quantified, turned into data you can draw analysis from. And using data to inform your decision making is a much better way to market your business. Data-driven marketing equips you with the tools you need to make informed decisions about how to engage with current and potential customers.

That means founders today need marketing leaders who are positioned to utilize the wealth of personalized customer information that’s now available by way of digital technologies. They need marketing professionals who understand how to distill intelligence from analytics to improve ROI.

Enter: the Chief Growth Officer.

The Chief Growth Officer embodies the data-driven approach. They study what available evidence regarding their customers will be effective, and they use that to determine how to move forward.

That’s what today’s marketing experts are positioned to do — and it’s simply more efficient.

This is especially true when you compare it to the un-scientific approach employed by traditional CMOs. Traditional CMOs, who are often uncertain around using metrics, will use anecdotal evidence over hard data when determining whether a marketing campaign has been successful.

And leading with fiction over fact, in the end, can greatly damage a company.

Today’s startups are positioning themselves to avoid that sort of self-inflicted harm. We insist on operating intelligently and with purpose — on measuring ROI and using the insight gleaned from that analysis to drive strategy, for example.

Another way of looking at it? Founders need the people powering their marketing processes to understand today’s world — the possibilities allowed by technology and social media, and the capacity of customer classification.

Shifting away from the old guard essentially means embracing these new capabilities.

If you’re someone on the CMO track, now’s the time to double down on your technical skills and revamp your skillset.

That’s the only way you’ll survive in today’s digital climate. Teach yourself:

  • The ins and outs of Facebook advertising
  • What sort of content is interesting, and engaging, and what’s not
  • How to build attribution models
  • How to build and interact with spreadsheets to accurately present intelligence generated by collected data.

It’s a lot, but it’s the key to staying relevant. Your connections will only get you so far for so long.

If you’re a founder building out your marketing department, embrace the shift and look for someone with a strong analytics background.

That means:

  • Someone with experience navigating database management languages like SQL
  • Someone with experience using Python and Excel
  • Someone with experience using Facebook ads manager
  • Someone with an understanding of SEO.

Your Chief Growth Officer should also understand how to build a content marketing funnel and know what great content looks like.

As a founder, what you want to avoid is hiring someone who can’t derive logic from data. If you’re running a one-month trial and users are quitting at the 14-day mark, your marketing team has to be able to identify why.

That’s a basic example, and the possibilities of today’s world go much deeper than that, but they’re also more exciting.

Ditch the old way, and position yourself and your company to dive in and embrace the future.

4 Lessons Founders Can Learn From Fantasy Authors

4 Lessons Founders Can Learn From Fantasy Authors

I have, for some time now, been obsessed with the work of Patrick Rothfuss.

No, he’s not an entrepreneur, engineer, or venture capitalist versed in the language of the startup world.

He’s the New York Times bestselling author of the fantasy series, The Kingkiller Chronicle.

This might seem strange to some — fantasy authors and startup founders operate in different worlds — but I believe there is plenty founders can learn from the work of fiction writers. The skills, habits, and values that make fantasy authors successful translate directly to success in our field.

Here’s why.

Patience is a virtue.

For most writers, conjuring, crafting, editing, and publishing a novel takes years. To complete The Name of the Wind, it took Rothfuss 15.

Patrick Rothfuss

In an interview penned by Wired, Rothfuss explained why his writing journey was so arduous.

“Most of the time that a regular human being would spend watching television, I spent reading or writing. It would not be weird for me to spend 10 hours a day writing over the summer.”

He also described writing multiple drafts of his epic story, iterating and improving each one with painstaking deliberation and analysis.

All in all, his is a process that demands an almost superhuman amount of diligence and patience.

That might strike some as hyperbolic, but it’s what creating any kind of great book requires. While the seed of an idea might hit at once, slowly animating a new, cohesive world that stands up under scrutiny and entertains with a well-told story doesn’t happen overnight.

The same is true of building a successful, potentially timeless company.

Maybe the idea for your MVP bloomed in a matter of minutes, but as any founder knows, the journey from that moment to the ultimate actualization of a successful company — one that creates products which solve problems for a cadre of loyal customers — takes exponentially longer. The process, simply put, cannot be expedited.

Quality is paramount.

Whether you’re writing a novel or building a company, the quality of that final product will depend on, yes, patience, but also on the creator’s commitment to producing something great.

In the case of the novelist, what matters is not how many books you’re able to write — nor how quickly you write them — but how impactful the ones you dowrite prove in the lives of your readers. How deeply your characters resonate, how stubbornly the scenes you paint linger in the mind. It’s that impact which builds communities of loyal fans who clamor for your next work. It’s also what helps your book stand up against the test of time.

This is true of the products, updates, tools, and services you release as the leader of a startup, too.

What separates successful founders from those who fold is an undying commitment to creating genuinely valuable things. The money that follows — like the movie rights that Rothfuss recently signed over to Lionsgate — is a result of that commitment.

Greatness is a product of genuine ambition. Prestige cannot be the primary inspiration.

Quality requires a lot of lonely work behind the scenes.

Here’s the kicker, though: whether you’re a novelist or a founder, you need an appreciation for the patience and authentic ambition. But that doesn’t mean jack if you’re not willing to put in the grueling work writing books and building companies entail.

In fact, both endeavors require immense amounts of time spent sitting alone in silence, gnawing on your knuckles. Both processes amount to a kind of mental alchemy: you’re turning something incorporeal into something tangible. That requires, too, neglecting other important aspects of your life, and embracing more generally the loneliness of solitude.

If you’re not prepared to face all that, you won’t  ever finish your novel or build your company — at least not well.

On the flip side, though, if you embrace solitude and commit to the isolated struggle, your work will flourish. In fact, you’ll succeed more generally: there’s a direct and proven correlation between the number of hours you spend working alone and the amount of success you ultimately achieve.

You need a set of core values to rely on and revert back to in times of doubt.

Because writing novels and building companies is difficult, lonely work — and because patience is at times challenging to maintain — both writers and founders must have a set of core values they can lean on in times of struggle.

You also need a kind of foundational mission statement which you can refer to regularly. For Rothfuss, this means remembering what he’s trying to accomplish, which is creating a new world with his next novel — he has little value to gain from distracting himself by writing a cookbook.

For startup founders, this means establishing and remembering your core value proposition.

In the case of my company — BAMF Media, a growth marketing consulting agency — we work to ensure that every new service we provide is a natural extension of the value we provide at our core. It does us no good to get distracted building things that don’t further our essential mission.

In reality, this imperative doubles as our North Star — similar to how Rothfuss’s chief goals guided him through his long and challenging 15-year journey to his first publication.

Ultimately, founders and fantasy authors are not entirely the same.

Founders, for example, can update their products, messaging, or services after they release them. Authors, on the other hand, can’t rewrite their books after they’re published.

But it remains true that the traits, values, habits, and appreciations which prove essential ingredients for writing a great book are equally essential for building a successful company.

In this sense, founders and fantasy authors really are playing the same game. The worlds we work in are, in fact, not that different.

We’re just creating different kinds of magic.



Online Shopping Didn’t Kill Toys R Us. These 4 Marketing Mistakes Did

Online Shopping Didn’t Kill Toys R Us. These 4 Marketing Mistakes Did

It’s been a tough couple of years for brick and mortar retail stores.

In 2017 alone, there were:

The narrative most commonly used to explain this phenomenon comes directly from that last bullet: customers prefer shopping online, and companies operating predominantly out of physical storefronts have been too slow to adapt.

There may be no company that exemplifies this narrative more than Toys R Us, whose demise earlier this year was front page news.

The shock has lingered. For America’s retailers, the story of Toys R Us has become the ultimate “cautionary tale,” as Bloomberg posited last spring. But here’s the thing: the rise of online shopping alone didn’t kill Toys R Us. That narrative is incomplete.

Rather, Toys R Us made at least four crucial mistakes which ultimately led to its withering decline.

1) It’s not about what you sell — it’s about how you brand it.

Consider, for example, Nike.

Nike sells shoes and sportswear, but their brand doesn’t convey that fact. Their brand suggests that Nike does much more — that they impact culture.

When you think of a Nike ad, you think of:

  • Serena Williams persisting through adversity to become the best tennis player of all time.
  • LeBron James commanding the energy and attention of an entire arena thrumming with fans.
  • Michael Jordan defying the rules of gravity.

In other words, when you think of Nike today, you think of persistence through struggle, success through sweat, achievement by way of hard work. You think of a sort of athletic version of the American Dream. That’s the effect, after all, of Nike’s ubiquitous “Just Do It” slogan.

Now, consider Toys R Us. When you think of Toys R Us, what do you think of?

giraffe and rickety rows of plastic toys.

From Mattel to Hot Wheels, Toys R Us relied on the success of other brands to carry their stores. Yes, Toys R Us served as a one-stop shop for all sorts of toys, but so, too, do places like Walmart and Amazon — places where you can buy a wide variety of toys along with everything else you might need.

Toys R Us should have done more to do things like develop their own toys, which would have won them more name recognition and brand loyalty. But instead of more purposefully encouraging kids and parents to fall in love with Toys R Us the company, kids fell in love with the things Toys R Us happened to sell — things their parents could buy anywhere.

Branding and messaging is what encourages customers to fall in love with companies, as opposed to strictly appreciating their products.

2) You must choose your end consumer wisely.

Speaking of parents, they’re the ones who buy toys — not kids.

And that’s another key mistake that Toys R Us made. It should have shifted its strategy to market more directly to the consumers who had buying power. One way to do this would have been selling toys that were definitively beneficial for their children, as opposed to potentially detrimental. Because that’s what new generations of parents began to demand.

Though they had started to make overtures to appeal to that new consumer base, by the time Toys R Us was able to make meaningful adjustments like this, it was too late.

3) Your customer’s in-store experience needs to be outstanding.

The benefits of online shopping over in-store are obvious and many:

  • It’s less time-intensive.
  • It’s more convenient.
  • It’s easier to compare and contrast prices.

The list goes on.

Many brick and mortar retailers have tried to overcome these facts by engaging in something of a price race against the online conglomerates. In other words, they’ve sought to undercut them.

This was — and remains — a recipe for disaster that’s destined to fail. Walmart, for example, remains prepared to price match. How could Toys R Us ever compete?

The only advantage brick and mortar stores have over online retailers is the ability to make the act of walking into the store an experience. Toys R Us failed at this. Instead of creating a sense of cinematic wonder like FAO Schwarz, Toys R Us felt like an oversized, overly stressful warehouse.

The experience of visiting a Toys R Us, by the end, simply wasn’t enjoyable. It’s no wonder parents opted for the ease of buying toys at Amazon instead. The experience didn’t justify the effort.

4) You need to change with the times.

Now, finally, we arrive at the mistake so many like to point to as the sole harbinger of Toy R Us’ demise. And while it’s decidedly not the only reason Toys R Us failed, it does remain relevant: Toys R Us didn’t keep up with the generational shift to online consumerism.

The sad thing is, back when it would have mattered — in the early 2000’s — it had ample opportunity to do so. It had the requisite firepower. But company leadership invested its resources elsewhere, primarily in paying off the debt its private equity backers had loaded it with.

The result? Toys R Us fell behind the times.

Which is exactly what companies who seek lasting success can’t afford to do.

Dunkin’ Donuts Is Dropping The ‘Donuts.’ Here’s What Every Brand Can Learn From Their Pivot

Dunkin’ Donuts Is Dropping The ‘Donuts.’ Here’s What Every Brand Can Learn From Their Pivot

In business, growth is paramount.

To stay the same is to stagnate. And to stagnate is to become obsolete.

That’s why so many American corporations invest in rebranding. It’s about acquiring new business and reigniting a certain momentum. A great example is McDonald’s. Over the past few years, the fast food empire has worked overtime to ditch its plastic, ‘90s aesthetic to become cleaner, automated, and more modernized.

Of course, rebranding doesn’t always go so smoothly. Take Tropicana’s disastrous 2009 effort, a $35 million attempt to rehaul its image, logo, and slogan. Although its aim was to appeal to a more health-focused demographic, customers across the board reacted with disgust. The company was forced to spend an additional $15 million reverting its brand back to the original form in the wake of the fallout.

Ultimately, Tropicana alienated and confused their customers instead of inspiring them. In this sense, they represent the risks of rebranding––what companies should seek to avoid.

Which brings us to Dunkin’.

The coffee giant is betting that by ditching the ‘Donuts,’ they can utilize the power of the rebrand and reshape how consumers see them. They’re hoping for results that mirror those of McDonald’s, rather than Tropicana.

It’s bold, but the move is also necessary. The company has arguably reached the outer limits of what the “Dunkin’ Donuts” brand can offer. They have to rebrand in order to remain relevant.  

So far, they appear to be succeeding. Here’s why.

1. Americans are Becoming More Health-Consciousous

Health-conscious trends can be spotted everywhere. From the decline of processed foods and the surge of organic in-store options, to the swelling of the $3.7 trillion wellness industry, to legislative policies like those enacted in San Francisco— requiring companies to include health warning labels on all sugary soda products—Americans want to live healthier lives.

This desire is especially prevalent in major cities.

By ditching the harmful connotation to donuts, Dunkin’ can appeal to big-city clientele.

While Dunkin’ has a wide range of store locations, an increased focus on cities will allow them to compete with rivals like Starbucks. Dropping the “Donuts,” meanwhile, appeals to the sort of health-conscious consumer base who live in those cities, and also showcases a menu that extends far beyond pastries and munchkins. Because there’s no such thing as a healthy donut.

It’s a smart, necessary move for a business in 2018.

2. Brands Should Never Associate Themselves with Their Cheapest Product

Along with an increased focus on all-things healthy, certain American eating habits—including donut and dessert consumption— are trending gourmet.

Go to any major city in the country and you’ll see boutique cupcake shops, rainbow bagels and, yes, the $5 donut. Dunkin’s donuts, on the other hand, are low-priced fried food. They carry none of the foodie prestige that upscale companies can offer.

This may seem like a pretty intractable problem for Dunkin’. But examples of companies who’ve made similar pivots abound.

Consider Starbucks. Starbucks blossomed from a small, specialty coffeehouse into a global titan. How? Through continued, aggressive rebranding. From a logo switch—which included the redesign of the unsettling mermaid into something a little more palatable—to removing the word “coffee” from all of its packagings, Starbucks has made it clear that they’re focused on more than just beans.

When you close your eyes and imagine a Starbucks, do you see just the coffee? Or do you see the experience?

  • The carefully-selected music.
  • The satisfying and eclectic smell of their wide variety of blends.
  • The colorful display of bagels, muffins, donuts, and wraps?

It’s not Starbucks Coffee. It’s Starbucks: coffee, and so much more.

3. A Plain Name is Good for Business

As the old saying goes: keep it simple.


Paradoxically, it gives you more options. We’re seeing this exemplified across industries. By switching to a name that extends beyond a specific product, businesses can get away with selling a wider variety of goods.

Apple Computers became Apple, Inc. just as they expanded their product line. Now Dunkin’ Donuts is becoming Dunkin’ as they do things like launch their anytime, anywhere snacks––The Dunkin’ Run––and their new coffee on-the-go options. They’re even planning a collaborative beer with fellow New England staple Harpoon.

The last time Dunkin’ changed its name was 1950. That’s almost 70 years of expansion, globalization, and development under the iconic Dunkin’ Donuts banner. So much about what they do and what they offer has changed. So much as improved. 

Shouldn’t their brand––their image––reflect that?