MUMBAI: The role of the chief marketing officer is changing, and marketers must stay on top of evolving business priorities, according to the CMO of one of India’s biggest beverage companies.

“There was a time when marketing meant working with the creative agencies and studying research reports,” said Samar Singh Sheikhawat, chief marketing officer at United Breweries Ltd, the market leader in beer manufacturing in India with over 50% market share.

“What’s changed is that digital disruption is happening at the speed of thought,” he told the recent Consumer Insights & Analytics conference in Mumbai. (For more on what CMOs need to know in the digital era, read WARC’s report: The changing role of the CMO.)

The marketer’s biggest dilemma today is balancing long-term and short-term brand objectives, Sheikhawat argued. “Do you continue doing what you have done, and get passed over by someone lighter, cheaper and faster? Or focus too much on long-term innovation, think about a market that develops and lose focus on the immediate results that are expected?”

Likewise, marketers aiming for the top role will need to learn new skills for the digital age, especially in India, where the current crop didn’t grow up with technology but had to adapt it into their lives. “Most people at the senior level aren’t digitally-enabled because digital competencies have come in a little later – so you have to get your act together,” he said.

“You need great people skills because your job is not to be the chief data scientist,” he added. “From being a chief marketing officer you need to be the chief growth officer, you have to drive digital transformation, revenue growth and increased profitability.”

Sheikhawat also advised marketers to remain aware of geo-political, social and economic trends which are causing companies to seek new businesses and revenue models.

“As a marketer, never underestimate the power of that narrative. Whether you agree with it or not, you have to cast aside your personal opinions.

“Today’s CMOs have to balance business environment, transformation, increased competition, rapidly evolving media and digital disruption. You cannot continue to do your business the way you did it.”

Sourced from WARC