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Debate around the rise of the chief operating officer role in marketing is ultimately irrelevant, according to Asda’s outgoing COO Andy Murray, who claims that marketers should be more concerned about getting closer to their customers.

Speaking on a panel of fellow judges for The Drum’s Marketing Awards, Murray explained: “With all the conversation about the rise of the COO or the decline of the CMO role, it feels like we’re worrying too much about the wrongs.

It’s not the title, but the role that puts customer at the centre

“Regardless of a title, whoever controls the marketing function needs to have the scope to monitor the whole customer journey: that’s what matters the most in 2020!”

Murray explained how his role at Asda didn’t just encompass ad campaigns but also pricing strategy and government relations, and explained how this resulted in the marketing department proving its worth to the board. “It really showed how marketing impacts every facet of the business and how we can be a lot better informed when talking to Asda customers,” he added.

“Before there was maybe a world where a chief marketing officer didn’t need to be that bothered about the customer journey, but I think that’s now a thing of the past. You need that three dimensional view to successfully build a brand.”

John Readman, founder and chief executive officer of Modo25 said it now matters less about titles and more about using the right metrics: “The challenge for most marketing heads is they don’t currently focus on measuring the right customer metrics. They need to put customers at the heart of what they do or they’re going to be left behind.”

Yet regardless of what exact job title the head of marketing might have, the fundamental aims remain the same as they always were. “Marketers have always had to work across different functions, that’s nothing new,” insisted Steve Challouma, marketing director UK at frozen foods brand Birdseye. “So long as the role encompasses all of the customer journey and mixes the four P’s then its power remains fundamental, and it doesn’t really mater what name of the title is.”

Is data a distraction?

Another hot topic of discussion on the panel was whether the world of data might be stifling the creativity of marketers and resulting in less thoughtful advertising campaigns. Jae Hopkins, Eurotunnel’s sales and marketing director, explained: “In this new world of data and number crunching, it’s important someone still comes up with ideas you haven’t done before. You can’t be fully led by what the numbers are telling you or you won’t push boundaries.”

“Sometimes you can drown in data,” agreed Anna Forbes, general manager at The Trade Desk. “It is important you have that mix between commercial savviness and creative flair. You need to use the right tools, but don’t let them define everything you do.”

But the message from Fiona Spooner, global marketing director for B2C at the Financial Times, was far simple. She concluded: “Marketers need to be far more adaptable. There needs to be a curiosity, a willingness to learn, and the right amount of space to be innovative and ready to respond to consumer needs. You have to be prepared for things to change drastically in the world every single day. Only then will you be able to respond in a way that truly connects with your customers.”

The Drum Marketing Awards 2020 finalists have been revealed. In light of the global situation, The Drum Awards are reviewing the ceremony date which was due to take place on 21 April. For updates and developments on this, please keep an eye on the awards website.

Partners of these awards are The Trade Desk, Financial Times and Modo25.