Consumer – The Missing Seat in the C-Suite

Consumer in CSuite

C-Suite Network Conference

Consumer – The Missing Seat in the C-Suite

Earlier this week I had a great opportunity to be part of a panel along side David Mathison at the C-Suite Network Conference run by Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO at Eastman Kodak and now the host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett on Bloomberg. Not that David needs any intro either but he is the the founder of the CDO club and literally a walking encyclopedia on why the world needs to focus on digital transformation and how some of the leading brands and organizations are accomplishing that with this new breed of Chief Digital Officers, Chief Data Officers or may be even the Chief Marketing Technologists and more.

We had a great dialogue even before we got on the stage — discussing what the hell we were going to do there and talk about, sharing our perspectives on what we were seeing in our own worlds and how and why we are still so far way from (very simply put) being CONSUMER OBSESSED, meeting the consumer’s emotional and functional needs and inspiring their behaviors. We had the same passion as we got on the stage. Am not sure if anything we said during those 25 minutes made sense or not but there was one thing that I took away after that session — just like everything else, even the C-Suite is being disrupted. There is almost a race for the next C-Suite title and most of these make sense depending on the organization itself (there are no silver bullets here).

For instance, just in the last 3 years, we have had the fortune to see new C level titles pop up, to name a few:

  • CCO – Chief Customer Officer
  • CXO – Chief Experience Officer
  • CDO – Chief Digital Officer
  • CMTO – Chief Marketing Technology Officer
  • CDO — Chief Data Officer
  • CCO – Chief Content Officer
  • CMO — Chief Media Officer

This of course is above and beyond some of the more transitional titles that we have always had:

  • CEO – Chief Executive Officer
  • CMO — Chief Marketing Officer
  • CIO/CTO — Chief Information or Technology Officer
  • CFO — Chief Financial Officer
  • CSO — Chief Strategy Officer

As I said before, I will not go into the debate of whether some of the new C level titles make sense or not because the answer isn’t simple. On one hand based on where your organization may be in the journey and the vertical it is in, you may need to bootstrap your Digital Transformation with brute force and may need to create new functions to spear head that. At the same time, you could argue that FRAGMENTATION is the industry’s biggest challenge in delivering seamless consumer experiences, so adding more C Level roles will continue to fragment already isolated and broken ecosystem even more. If the CMO and CIO can’t solve it, don’t think adding a Chief Digital guy may help. But it all depends on the organization and how it’s structured within and across markets and of course it’s leadership.

Consumer in CSuite

HOWEVER, there is someone key missing on that table more often than not, the CONSUMER. And to be honest, one simple way to overcome and resolve all the conflicts and confusion is to give the CONSUMER a seat at that C-Suite table. If we made all the C-Level functions accountable to the consumer and her experience, while they may all have their respective core functions but all of them are equally accountable for consumer satisfaction, participation and growth and were measured against it, it will solve a lot of things. In fact, David suggested that CONSUMER is the new CEO, at the  center of the organization.

I know it is very subjective, philosophical and intangible but if we translate the philosophy into clear and common objectives, goals and KPIs across the organization, it will not be all that abstract after all.