CMO research provokes discussion on driving good growth

Accenture and Brand Learning recently hosted a group of senior marketing and commercial leaders in Dublin, to explore the ways pioneering marketing leaders are taking on the challenge to find new growth in new ways. Leaders from businesses across industries took part in a round table discussion led by Niall FitzGerald, former Chairman of Brand Learning and Chair and CEO of Unilever.

With responsibility for driving growth squarely on our shoulders as marketing leaders, we delved into the question of what good growth actually looks like. We all share the challenge of finding new sources of growth, but there was also consensus on the need for growth to come from different places, to mark out responsible growth from growth for its own sake.

Our participants debated how to reconcile the traditional 4Ps of marketing with the challenges of sustainability, over-consumption and climate change. An alternative 4Ps paradigm was proposed:

• Purpose- what is our purpose in the world? A powerful guiding purpose is authentic, tangible and actively lived through all aspects of the business

Planet- how do we produce products and services that don’t damage the earth and decrease a finite supply of natural resources? Companies need to alter their approaches drastically to preserve the planet and find alternative business models e.g. rental, recycling, revolutionising farming methods

People- how do we treat our people, for a community of colleagues proud to work for our company? Their well-being and the human dimension are important factors in driving innovation and growth (vs a pure technology play)

Profit – it’s no longer acceptable to only grow by getting consumers to use/consume more and more, so how will we alter the business model and drive growth through value and not volume?

These principles could guide marketers looking to grow brands in a world that is constantly evolving and where consumers expectations about provenance, sustainability and health are top of mind. As Niall FitzGerald commented “Consumers own our brands and for them to survive we need to change our approach to how we drive growth”.

It’s clear that meeting new growth challenges demands a new approach from marketing leaders, and so the group looked at what pioneering CMOs are doing differently. While sustainable competitive advantage can be difficult to achieve, the latest research performed by Brand Learning and Accenture clearly identified a small cohort, 17 percent, of CMO’s who perform better than their peers in driving growth.

The secret to their success?

As Michele McGrath, Co-CEO at Brand Learning explained, “Pioneering CMOs make the customer central to their thinking and vision, not just in the services they provide, but in how they pivot and adapt as a company.” 

They create what we call a ‘Living Business’, one that continuously adapts at speed and scale to achieve total customer relevance and sustained growth. The ways that they’re transforming their organisations fall into three broad categories.


1. Reinventing for the now and the new- pioneering CMOs are taking control of the growth agenda by reinventing the customer experience, breakthrough innovation or entirely new revenue streams.

2. They reject a broken marketing culture- this group of CMOs are focused on getting the right capabilities in place to deliver exceptional customer experiences and deploying and developing the best talent in support of that goal. They see the value of new marketing roles like “futurologists” and “storytellers” and they aren’t afraid to use data to derive new insights and drive action.

3. They rewire the operating model for growth, unlocking value through collaboration. They are constantly breaking down barriers between silos within their marketing teams and between marketing and other business functions.

Despite the challenges, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a marketeer even if the outlook is uncertain. But perhaps the future lies in combining a new approach to responsible growth with the behaviours of the pioneering CMO. To find out more about how to become a pioneering CMO download the full report here or, for more information about how Accenture and Brand Learning can help you deliver business growth, please get in touch.

BRAND LEARNING: Creating Growth Capabilities