CMO’s, Brands and Innovation: The Factory, The Lab & the Studio

It’s great to see smart brands investing in “Labs” as outlined in this recent Adweek article about pushing the frontiers of retail. You could also look at Kraft, Nike, Mondelez and even good old General Mills (but, their Marketing Lab is now defunct based on what i’ve heard recently). It’s easy to see why a big company would want to create a “Lab”:

  • Try out new technology (without committing to long term support and integration)
  • Try new approaches, methods and processes (without committing to roll them out across the rest of the company)
  • Try new partners (without having to form long term relationships)
  • Try new business models (without committing to long term capital)

And a bunch of other benefits.

I’ve been thinking about what a modern marketing team really needs, going forward. The forward thinking CMO’s will recognize that the “Lab” is a critical piece of a larger transformation effort. But, it’s not the only one. The CMO office will need to drive change through three pieces working together:

  • The Lab – The place to, literally, experiment. Try new things, new tools, new skills, etc. This is where real innovation is found and validated.
  • The Factory – This is where the content/marketing gets made at scale, efficiently with a core focus on delivering immediate impact, now. In general, this will be delivered by the current roster of agencies and other partners who are on the hook for content and brand building materials. CMO’s will need a way to inject the innovations created in the “Lab” into the Factory. Smart agencies will be actively looking for ways to translate what works in the lab into their everyday work.
  • The Studio – The Studio is about craft, art and excellence. Generally, this is the content that is small, well crafted, and focused on making more of a statement. If brand content has the possibility of being art, the studio will craft it. Where the Lab is all about the “new” and “better” and the Factory is all about the “Scale” and “Efficiency” and results, the “Studio” is about delivering the highest quality possible.

The job of the Chief Digital Officer (or the CMO herself) would be to integrate the three really effectively to deliver the results any good marketer needs:

  • In Market results, now – The traditional results that marketers and business builders really need: Reach, frequency, depth, conversions, loyalty, advocacy.
  • Better consumer knowledge – Data about the consumer and their interaction with the brand and the insights that come from the combination of data analysis and good old fashioned intuition
  • Better operations – New ways of working, new techniques & tools to do the job better
  • A clearer sense of what’s coming next – Stronger intuition about how the marketer can better serve the consumer AND build a longer term advantage for her brand or her company

This is pretty much thinking out loud. I hope to come back and work on these ideas.

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