"CMOs actually have to be superheroes" - Sven Reinecke

Sven Reinecke was fascinated by Superman in an old movie theater in Lisbon. Today, as Director of the Institute for Marketing & Customer Insight at the University of St. Gallen, he draws a fascinating parallel: CMOs today have to be superheroes. In the Werbewoche.ch interview, Reinecke shares insights from the "CMO Barometer 2024" study and shows why this comparison is apt.

Sven Reinecke focuses on relevant research in the field of marketing management (strategy, CRM, pricing, management decision-making behavior and marketing controlling) and its implementation in the business world.

Werbewoche.ch: Sven Reinecke, your personal superhero from childhood?

Sven Reinecke: To be honest, it was actually Superman, played by Christopher Reeve. I saw the first film back then in a venerable movie theater in Lisbon - and was completely impressed.


And which person embodies the idea of a superhero for you as an adult?

Christopher Reeve is another such person. After his accident and paraplegia from the neck down, he did not give up, but continued to work as a director and actor - and campaigned for the disabled worldwide with his foundation. Impressive - and therefore a superhero.


The This year's Serviceplan study "CMO Barometer 2024" has the motto "Superheroes wanted!". Can you explain in more detail how we should imagine these superheroes?

The motto "Superhero:inside" is ultimately a Result of the studyCMOs today are faced with so many completely different requirements that you actually have to be a superhero to master them. It is no longer enough to be familiar with branding, positioning and the classic marketing mix - you also have to have a handle on the entire MarTech, utilize the potential of artificial intelligence and strive for social, ecological and economic sustainability.


Yvonne Wicht, Chairwoman of the CMO of the Year Council Serviceplan Group Germany, emphasizes that AI is changing the role of the CMO once again as a game changer. Will CMOs become CMTOs (Chief Marketing Transformation Officers)? 

We have just held a high-profile event on this topic as part of our "Best Practice in Marketing" excellence program with leading marketing companies. Transformation is an important task for CMOs. This requires combining "soft" skills such as agility, networked thinking and empathy with "hard" skills such as data and methodological expertise as well as technical know-how. This is exactly what the CMO Barometer has shown. However, the CMO does not have to be able to do everything themselves, but must ensure that these skills can be brought to bear in the overall team.


You mentioned the phrase "Germany is complaining" in the preliminary discussion. What exactly are German CMOs complaining about according to the study?

According to the CMO Barometer, the economic situation in Germany is considered to be significantly worse than in Switzerland - and this is closely linked to poorer developments in marketing budgets. This can also be felt in the discussion: at a large meeting of CMOs in Munich recently, the mood was much more subdued than in Switzerland. The German export industry is of course also particularly challenged by international developments and the sustainability transformation. And Switzerland was better protected against currency devaluation thanks to the appreciation of the Swiss franc.


And how do Swiss CMOs see the future of marketing?

The majority of Swiss CMOs are optimistic about the future - both in terms of economic development and the size of their marketing budgets.


Are there any other findings from the survey of Swiss CMOs?

If you ask without support, then one topic clearly dominates for 2024: artificial intelligence. But sustainability is also seen as central. If you ask with support, the result is more balanced. Other topics such as "emotional brand management" are also given very high priority - as is content and customer journey management. Metaverse, on the other hand, is hardly (still) considered important.


"Set the right priorities, don't chase after every trend and, above all, ensure that the basic services are provided correctly and in a customer-friendly manner." This quote from Michael Grund, Head of Department for Marketing & Business Communications at HWZ, raises the question of whether we are losing sight of the essence of marketing because of all the trends. Is this a potential danger?

In my opinion, these challenges are not that new. The classic principles of marketing have always been focus, harmonization and synchronization. But we live in a multi-option society, and the number of marketing instruments, communication media and technical possibilities is exploding.


Nils Klamma, CMO of Lexus Germany, lists marketing to-dos for 2024 that seem like a shopping list: Brand Journey, Data, AI, Snack and Sustainability. If you had to focus on one aspect, what would it bes?

Unfortunately, that hardly works. AI doesn't work without data, and branding hardly works without any sustainability. In my view, the most important thing in marketing is and remains the added value for customers compared to the competition - that is the raison d'être of marketing.


Roger Strack, CMO at the German ADAC, emphasizes the need for flexible and agile testing in order to put findings into practice in a timely manner. In your opinion, are marketing departments prepared for this?

Yes, I definitely see it that way. Digital solutions make it much easier than before to conduct experiments and A/B tests. I also always recommend consciously allocating 5 percent of the marketing budget to experimentation and learning.


Bas Brand, CMO of KWF Netherlands, sees 2024 as a year of creativity, despite the storm of AI. Brand describes this as hope. What role does creativity play and how can it be kept alive in these times?

For me, creativity means leaving the beaten track and taking completely new paths. This is certainly not what artificial intelligence is particularly good at. In my view, AI is capable of achieving the results of better brainstorming. But even brainstorming is only a mediocre creativity tool: it only produces what is already in people's heads, what they have often seen several times before. "Brilliant" creativity is much more - and, in my view, a personality trait. When I look at the agencies today, I am not afraid that we will run out of creativity.


As a scientist, you have summarized the supposed findings of the study in a single formula: marketing excellence = marketing strategy x craftsmanship x creativity. Can you explain this formula to us in more detail?

Without a marketing strategy, everything is nothing. In other words, if you don't satisfy a purchase-critical need from the customer's perspective better than the competition, you won't be successful. In addition, marketers need to understand their craft, for example social engineering for advertising and direct marketing, data-based methods and techniques for customer journey management. And uniqueness cannot be achieved in today's world without creativity. But I deliberately expressed the formula as a multiplication: if one element is missing, you won't be able to achieve excellence.


Where do you get the energy for your professional work as a scientist?

Perhaps this is an important advantage of working at a university: Subjectively speaking, the students are getting younger every year. And the doctoral students at our institute keep coming up with so many great ideas that we would like to put them into practice with the companies.

The "CMO Barometer" is a comprehensive, annual international study conducted by Serviceplan Group. Werbewoche.ch has already reported on this. This year, the University of St.Gallen was also involved for the first time. Based on an online survey of marketing managers from companies of all sectors and sizes, a total of 767 CMOs from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and the Middle East took part in September 2023. The marketing professionals exclusively share their assessments for the marketing year 2024.

Sven Reinecke focuses on relevant research in the field of marketing management (strategy, CRM, pricing, management decision-making behavior and marketing controlling) and its implementation in the business world. High-level executive education (both in open and in-house courses) is an essential part of his activities. His research focus is on marketing controlling ("Return on Marketing", marketing metrics, marketing performance measurement, marketing dashboards). His areas of application are marketing strategy, price management and branding - as well as design thinking in marketing & sales.

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