How a Digitally Savvy CMO Can Increase Shareholder Value

Chief Executive Officers of large companies may be in the shareholder spotlight, but Chief Marketing Officers are increasingly having as substantial an impact on their companies’ market performance, bottom line and shareholder value. CMOs don’t just create a company’s ephemeral sense of “brand,” their marketing strategies also directly influence sales. A company that is great at marketing is also usually great at raking in sales.

But do companies with super-smart, digitally-savvy CMOs really outperform their market peers?

Take a look at the share-price growth over the past year of three public companies with cutting-edge CMOs — Volkswagen, UPS and Comcast — and then compare this growth to the industry benchmark in their respective categories.

In the last six months, Volkswagen consistently outperformed Ford, GM, Fiat, Volvo, and other competitors. Although it’s impossible to pinpoint just how much CMO Tim Mahoney has contributed to that market success since he joined as CMO one year ago, it’s clear he’s doing something right. Volkswagen recently reported a 35 percent increase in March 2012 sales, the auto maker’s best first quarter since 1973. Likewise, UPS has also recently outperformed its fiercest competitor, FedEx; similarly, Comcast has outperformed its nearest competitors, Time Warner and Cablevision.

(I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip my hat to Red Bull’s amazing digital marketing efforts, but, alas, they’re not a publicly traded company).

So what are these companies doing right? Here are three strategies to consider that can help boost shareholder value:

Pair memorable creative with effective targeting
Volkswagen, UPS, and Comcast have all turned to creative and targeting to gain consumer attention. In a world of constant distraction, getting a consumer’s attention has become increasing difficult. Consumers are overwhelmed by hundreds of ads thrown their way on a daily basis. By staying on the cutting-edge of creative as well as targeting the right audiences, companies can break through all the clutter and build brand loyalty.

For example, Volkswagen’s “Star Wars”-themed “The Force” 2011 Super Bowl ad wasn’t just hyper-cute and creative; it became the most-shared Super Bowl video of all time. And though its 2012 follow-up video, “The Bark Side,” didn’t reach the same sharing heights, it still has a place in the viral video hall of fame. Not surprisingly, Volkswagen also has 1.2 million “Likes” on Facebook, compared to 540,000 for Subaru, another car brand consumers love to love. This is a prime example of great creative and targeting the right audience to drive viral distribution.

UPS tapped into the hype around this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. They ran an ad entitled “The Pass,” that replayed the 1992 Duke and Kentucky winning shot. In tandem, the company relayed their “Logistics” messaging, highlighting the company’s ability to get something precisely where it needs to be at precisely the right time. Though controversial to some (mainly Kentucky fans), and beautiful to others (me, as a Duke grad, and just about all other basketball lovers), this ad was certainly memorable. Again, well-conceived creative with the right targeting online to drive distribution.

With a similar approach, Comcast pokes fun at consumers’ increasing appetite to consume content. To the tune of the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” Comcast launched their new streaming service with a creative ad entitled, “Stream, Stream, Stream.”

Engage consumers where they already are
Today’s CMOs must strive to be everywhere their prospective clients are consuming media, in order to stay top of mind. The average U.S. consumer is spending 32 hours a month online, with much of that time — 22 percent — spent on social networking sites. Companies need to connect with consumers on their turf.

At UPS, one of the reasons for the company’s success stems from CMO Alan Gershenhorn’s commitment to use social media for customer service. The company set up a special Twitter feed @UPSHelp to answer customers’ delivery and other questions in real time. Since UPS launched the Twitter program, the company has accumulated more than a million positive impressions from customers who give grateful replies.

Comcast has also jumped on the social customer service bandwagon. The company’s manager of customer service strategy and operations, Bill Gerth, connects with customers in real time via the Twitter feed @comcastbill and @comcastcares.

Additionally, the company’s official customer-focused blog, Comcast Voices, invites customers to comment on any aspect of Comcast’s service or company strategy. Comcast has opened itself up to any type of feedback, including criticism, and shown that it really cares what its customers think — so much so that it has incorporated customers’ ideas into new products and services.

Think multichannel
Standout companies are also breaking ground through the adoption of multichannel campaigns. Crain’s BtoB Magazine, in conjunction with Bizo, recently conducted a study that highlights the importance of expanding the marketing mix. However, according to the study, 63 percent of respondents stated that their current mix of programs does not meet sales demand.

UPS, on the other hand, has recently figured out how to successfully implement a multichannel campaign, and their “We ♥ Logistics” initiative takes it to a whole new level. According to the company, the campaign included TV, print, out-of-home, digital, display, direct mail and email — and it was the first time in U.S. history that UPS had a unified global communications and ad strategy. They are still rocking this campaign today, too.

For the UPS campaign, consumers are driven to the campaign’s microsite,, with the goal of bringing the benefits of logistics to life. Likewise, Volkswagen, in keeping with the “Star Wars” theme, created a microsite for their “The Force” campaign, where people could create digital invites to their Super Bowl Party, which included a customized version of the movie’s famous opening crawl.

All of these public companies are innovators — with CMOs who embrace digital technologies to deliver what customers want, and who understand that social media is the glue of their entire digital marketing strategy. This relentless focus on the customer, innovative creative and multichannel strategies have helped contributed to above-average stock market performance.

Russell Glass is a serial technology entrepreneur, having founded or held senior positions at four venture-backed technology companies. Before founding Bizo, Russ led the marketing and product management teams at ZoomInfo, a business information search engine, where he sharpened his B2B marketing skill set and developed his love for business data.

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