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These novel times are, to use an overused but appropriate descriptor, without precedent. This means that there is no playbook yet written about how to thrive in a post-COVID economy. Those organizations that thrive in these times are learning how to blaze new trails by not returning to business as usual. In a time when leaders wrestle with leaving behind the old normal, defining the next normal, and establishing continuity while pursuing success in between, three capabilities are emerging as instrumental in delivering growth, 1) creativity, 2) analytics, and 3) purpose. 

Recent McKinsey research uncovered a “growth triple play,” where successful companies integrate creativity, analytics, and purpose to deliver at least two-to-three times the growth of their peers. But even for those companies that used just one of the capabilities—either creativity, analytics, or purpose—they experienced an average growth rate of more than 6%. Those that added a second component saw growth rates climb to more than 7%. And for those that employed the full triple play, growth rates climbed to more than 12%.

If the “growth triple play” is the way forward, who’s leading the way forward? Who’s charged with integrating and leading these new capabilities to drive growth? According to McKinsey, CMO’s have a once-in-a-generation opportunity, as 78& of CEOs are now banking on CMOs and marketing leaders to drive this newfound growth.

Breaking Down the Growth Triple Play

Each element of the growth triple play isn’t unique to pandemic disruption. They’ve always been instrumental in defining empathetic or conscious brands that were culturally relevant to society and markets. Even before the dawn of COVID-19, companies that had developed all three capabilities were experiencing double the growth of their industry peers. That margin only increased in 2020. Yet even though all three elements are meaningful to customers and attainable by organizations whose leaders value values, only 7% of companies used them successfully in combination before pandemic disruption. 

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Let’s explore for a moment the significance of each element.

Creativity is part of the original story of marketing and it’s also a key pillar of innovation. In Human Motivationby Robert E. Franken, creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. Sir Ken Robinson described creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. “Creativity is putting your imagination to work,” he claimed. “It is applied imagination… Innovation is putting new ideas into practice.” 

Purpose is not PR or a corporate social responsibility initiative. Purpose is the reason that a business exists and for what it stands. It guides what you will do and also what you will not do. Combined, purpose is the allure that aligns brand, people, and community and establishes the loyalty between them. For purpose to matter, it requires executive-led soul-searching to get to the heart of what it takes to earn the attention and relationships of today’s much more conscious digital-first customers. 

Analytics and insights represent the capacity to gain an accurate or deeper intuitive understanding of a person or thing. Insights are not data or information, but instead the result of analyzing inputs into knowledge that inspire intuition that leads to tangible action. 

According to Biljana Cvetanovski, Partner, McKinsey & Company and leader of McKinsey’s Marketing & Sales group in UK and Ireland, who led the flagship research, notes: “Executing on the growth triple play is no simple task. Right now, only 7% of companies have shown that they can do this really well – and the cumulative impact is striking because the three elements that form the triple play are collaborative and mutually reinforcing. Unified analytics lead to insights which inform and inspire creativity – and by adding purpose to the mix you can deliver breakthrough impact. Most importantly, using the growth triple play to power your customer, employee and partner engagement can not only connect messages in a deeper way with each group, but deliver significant performance improvements.”

Here is what the ‘7%’ companies do well:

  1. Create a 360° view of their customers. By infusing creativity with real-time analytics, they’re bolstering personalized experiences based on demographics, attitudes and context while delivering customized content.
  2. Deploy analytics with purpose to deliver the ‘wow factor’ for customers. They do this by sharing critical insights across the organization to drive faster decision-making and agile innovation.
  3. Integrate purpose with creativity and analytics. It’s a part of their organizational DNA that enables them to assess growth opportunities in a sustainable and inclusive manner.

Who Owns CX?

Since CEOs are charging CMOs and marketing leaders to drive growth in this novel economy, traditional marketing aka promotion isn’t going to cut it any longer. As such, the role of marketing must also evolve moving forward. The same is true for the role of the future CMO.

In truth, marketing must become the foundation for integrated customer experiences. The CMO must become CX’s strategist, steward, and cross-functional champion. But that’s just the beginning. The CMO should also become the conductor or orchestrator of CX across all functions that affect the customer’s experience, including service and support, sales, commerce, and even back-office roles such as HR, finance, and IT. 

This is a trend that’s already taking shape. 

According to the sixth annual Salesforce “State of Marketing” report released in 2020, 79% of high performing marketing companies reported leading customer experience initiatives across their organizations.

To support these ideas, I recently spoke with Seth Godin about the role of the “future CMO.” When I asked him who should own CX moving forward, he was direct in his observation. “If you’re not in charge of the customer experience, then you’re not the CMO,” he declared. “I don’t know how to put it any simpler than that.”

Executing the Growth Triple Play Playbook

To drive growth, CMOs, brands, and all stakeholders including the C-Suite, boards and shareholders where applicable, must shift from short-term thinking to longer-term viability. Said another way, decision-makers need to stop thinking about transformation and innovation as a cost center and instead value these opportunities as an investment in longer-term market relevance and success. 

The good news is that the ROI is already there to substantiate marketing’s role in driving CX and growth based on the “triple play” playbook. McKinsey found that triple-play companies that have learned to integrate all three elements are 1.8 times more likely to be in the top quartile of growth within their sectors. The numbers shared earlier also help. 

1. Creativity

Everything starts with the customer, not the customer you once knew or thought you knew, but the customer that changed during COVID-19 and the customer that continues to evolve. Marketing leaders must make change happen, starting with the shift from promoting brands and products as their purpose to plugging into 360 customer insights and driving experience innovation. Doing so leads to new ideas and approaches that feel more native and appealing to customers. 

In its research, McKinsey also found that triple-play companies infuse creativity with analytics at much high rates than those that don’t. Examples include:

  • Continuously tracking return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) and reallocating spend for efficiency.
  • Prioritizing an agile content model to enable personalized content creation.
  • Personalizing experiences as a core part of customer experience.
  • Driving personalized customer interactions at a granular level based on demographics, attitudes, and context.
  • Using iterative, test-and-learn approaches to make decisions faster, monitor changes in consumer behaviors, and make budget reallocations in real-time.

2. Analytics

Deploy analytics with the purpose of being more human, relatable, and desirable. Creating moments that matter to customers requires more than data, it requires data-driven empathy.

Data-driven empathy is about humanizing data: bringing personal insights to life in a way that allows you to know your customer beyond the incomplete information that populates traditional systems of records. It’s about the intent to seek these insights, aligning systems, operational models, and processes focused on unifying and analyzing customer data so that it’s insightful, actionable, and personal.

This helps marketing and all CX leaders discover customer intentions, interests, and opportunities to up-level creativity, uncover new ways to surprise customers and deliver against their expectations and unmet needs…in every touch point throughout the organization and across customer journey.

Triple-play brands deploy analytics with purpose, which helps them outperform their peers. This includes…

  • Having a 360-degree view of customers.
  • Making data and insights easily and quickly available to all teams across the organization.
  • Using insights to expedite decision-making and innovation and build sustainable competitive advantages.
  • Extending a competitive advantage through faster access to proprietary data.

3. Purpose

Purpose is what keeps you on your path. With a 360-approach to customer insights and meaning, purpose also keeps you in alignment with the people that matter most. The link between creativity and analytics is the resolve to enhance customer engagement based on what a brand stands for and the community that takes shape because of shared values, aspirations, and ultimately, the reason why relationships stay connected.

According to Brian Gregg, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company and NA leader of Marketing & Sales Practice: “Only purpose can amplify the power of creativity and analytics to strike a deep, emotional and lasting relationship with your customers. Let it guide your business by setting the overall direction and ensuring every product or service reflects your brand identity and mission. Customers care as much, if not more, about what you stand for as what you sell. They’re searching for brands that share their values – and if yours doesn’t, a competitor is just a click away.”

By drawing on the full power of the growth triple play, chief marketers can boost their chances of success and mark the start of a new era with marketing at the heart of decision-making.

Brands that employ purpose focus on…

  • Standing on a foundation that represents a unique value proposition that encourages talented people to join and stay with the company. 
  • Articulating a clear purpose and mission statement that allows customers to align with what brands do and don’t do with respect to experiences, issues, and growth opportunities. 
  • Placing purpose at the core of how executives and decision-makers think and talk about the brand. 

The New Playbook for the Future of Marketing and CX Will Be Written by You

This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, which sets the stage for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rise, lead, and shape the future of brand and business based on customer experiences and relationships. This is a time for leaders to reimagine the role of marketing and every functional pillar of the customer experience to understand customer wants and needs and deliver more culturally relevant, sought after, personalized experiences. 

If you think about it, the idea of the growth triple play is really about using digital transformation to get back to basics and innovate through a more human-centered approach. Creativity, insights about people’s wants, needs, and aspirations, and purpose are the building blocks of any relationship. The net result of transformation at this level is growth and more importantly, customer (and employee) loyalty. 

In our conversations, Seth went on to offer advice for those looking to lead the way forward, “Change begins with the mirror,” he revealed. “When you look in the mirror, are you willing to see somebody who has the courage to take responsibility, even without authority, to start the process of change?”

CMOs and marketing and CX leaders need to do one thing now, make change happen. Here’s the mirror. What do you see?