Close this search box.

B2B insights

How to be indispensable: The CMO’s cheat sheet

At last year’s Ignite, I interviewed Didier Devaud, currently CEO of FKG, a high-precision provider to the international endodontics market. The subject of the interview was captured in the title, “From CMO to CEO: Journey to Destination.” Didier was the perfect interlocutor ; that rara avis whose previous roles included being CMO of other global, med-tech companies, he was uniquely poised to speak about the famously fraught relationship between the CMO and CEO functions. Well received, our interview was not recorded at Ignite due to Chatham House rules, but I did provide a detailed summary for Propolis following the event.

One piece of the interview merits a deeper dive into its contents and insights: a grid that Didier created especially for the event, entitled “Be Indispensable: the CMO’s ‘Cheat Sheet.’” The result, far more than a cheat sheet, is a thoughtful, far-reaching, and highly insightful plan for how the CMO can achieve what is arguably their primary, yet so frequently elusive, goal: to be genuinely indispensable to the CEO and the management team as a whole. Because failing this, the CMO’s role so often can devolve into that classic door that revolves about every 18 months.

The grid provides 13 thought-provoking steps — one matched to each of the letters in indispensable — that in their breadth and depth capture why the CMO’s role is so difficult; and yet, why achieving each of the steps can only take the role up many notches. At the same time, it is an extraordinary overview of recent, powerful management theory and practices that Didier has captured, integrated and coordinated, that offer the opportunity for intensive personal and professional introspection and use.

We provide this unique grid below, as Didier created it and presented it at Ignite, and detail each of its individual recommendations and features. It’s quite a ride.

Be Indispensable, in 13 words 

  1. I = Impeccable: In words and actions.
  2. N = Network: Nothing is achieved alone, we don’t go far.
  3. D = Decide: Could be simple, complicated, complex, chaotic – but better done than perfect; great is the enemy of good.
  4. I = Innovate: Challenge the status quo, resist the usual.
  5. S = Strategize: Choose a dominant strategy and alternative paths.
  6. P = Prioritize: Focus; decide what not to do.
  7. E = Ego: Hold this in check, it is the biggest career derailer.
  8. N = Negotiate: Make it right instead of being right.
  9. S = Smile: It makes you attractive.
  10. A = Accountability: If not you, who?
  11. B = Brand: Stand out.
  12. L = Learn: Knowing is better than guessing or hypothesizing.
  13. E = Excel: Do your best, think your Ikigai.

I is for impeccable:

“With my thoughts, words and actions.” 

The OED defines impeccable as “without mistakes or faults,” its origin being from the Latin, impeccabilis, literally without sin or fault. Synonyms include immaculate, precise, unblemished and accurate. A tall order, CMO, a high bar set right upfront. It speaks to planning, reviewing and managing the big picture and the small details, equally and at once, on a daily basis. Not easy, but oh, how necessary. Ask yourself, how would adding “being impeccable” to your personal and professional core values change what you do, and how you do it. Stepping up to this challenge, I think we would all experience a little frisson down the spine, a little sharper, more eager take on the situation at hand: we’d certainly develop better posture. And what a role model wouldn’t you become for your team, CMO.

N is for network:

“To go fast, go alone; To go far, go together.” 

Hard for words to be simpler, or wiser. And Didier articulates how he navigates Network with the Stakeholder Matrix, itself a handy, four-part grid that classically helps the CMO prioritize stakeholder groups. Who needs to know what? Who matters in the final success of a project or endeavor? Who needs to be “kept satisfied” or “kept informed”?  Who needs to be nurtured with special communications and “managed closely” in order to ensure their buy-in? By turns, who does not need such special consideration or communication at this time and can be “monitored with minimum effort”? Ask yourself, CMO, how often do you go through this step and make it part of your overall, long-term, project strategy? How basic, and yet, how easily glossed over or missed is it, due typically to more pressing project or team demands? No more.

Stakeholder Matrix: Power/Interest Grid and the Strategies to Deal with the Stakeholders

D is for decide:

“Make decisions today that will shape your life tomorrow.” 

CMOs make tons of decisions daily, large and small. Larger, more strategic decisions — e.g., choosing a partner/supplier, selecting an ad campaign, deciding how the company should use AI —require proper planning, which takes us to the decision model. There is no one, standard decision-making model, which effectively describes the method a team will use to make decisions. Some models skew to rational decision-making, others to more intuitive processes; some focus on who is responsible for what task (RACI), others seek to clarify roles in decision-making itself (DACI). What is common to decision models, however, is their overall, tripartite structure — goals, objectives, actions — which informs the whole process. Recognize in this structure the why, how, and what of a decision or project, and you instantly see how this takes decision-making, and your role in the process, CMO, to higher, ever more strategic levels.

  • As for goals, the Why? of your project: It is critical to start with a “statement of the problem.” Write it down, this is the raison d’être of your work, and arguably the most important, sine quâ non step. Ask yourself: what problems are we solving— marketing problems, but also business problems? What goals do we have that address delivering business solutions? This is, of course, the time and place in your planning, when possible and appropriate, to align your goals and “problem statements” with the company’s business objectives. Surprisingly, shockingly, this alignment is often missed, or overlooked because It is assumed that everyone knows what the goals are, but this is so often NOT the case. Alignment of the problems that you and your team are solving, and the decisions you’re making, also go far to avoid what marketing is so often accused of: tactics, motion-as-substance, busy work.
  • As for objectives, the How? of your project: Objectives will necessarily flow directly from the Why?, and so become bespoke to your decision-making process, your team, your desired results. As objectives need to be tailored to your specific needs and situations, they should be particular to how you organize your team, keep them organized to timing and resources, and even how you jointly come to decisions: majority rules, consensus prevails, or fiat. Each has merit. Objectives tied to business and marketing goals often result in interdisciplinary work-streams, integrated teams and alternative paths to ensure efficient and effective impacts. So be it; all the better, CMO: This further ensures your projects and decisions continue to operate at the highest levels.
  • As for actions, the What? of your project: Actions can now fully ramp up to and within a total decision-making structure; they are now poised to drive home maximally relevant, game-changing results — for marketing and for the business. Actions that drive towards business solutions at once also provide CMOs solid, even water-tight rationales for CEOs and management teams eager to justify costs with demonstrable ROI. Should actions need adjustments or rethinking along the way, so be it, this is normal. It is part of good project management, so long as adjustments remain consistent with the goals and objectives. As a well-planned, bespoke decision model can provide a means to visualize the whole project, start to finish, so too should it identify the sequences of actions and events that occur as you roll out your plan or project; equally the decision model should point to the logic and viability of each possible action, pathway and alternative in the drive towards business solutions.

I is for innovate:

“The future belongs to those who create it. Those who can delight can be game changers.” 

This brings us to the Kano Model. Have you heard of the Kano Model? Is this new to you? The Kano Model is a theory for product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Noriaki Kano, which classifies customer preferences into five categories (variously translated from the Japanese.) In a seeming reverse of current product development theories and philosophies, the Kano Model places initial focus on differentiating product features as opposed to a pure, customer-needs focus.

  • Basics: Requirements expected by customers and taken for granted (a clean hotel room, fresh fish.) When done well, customers are just neutral, but when done poorly, customers are very dissatisfied.
  • Performance/satisfiers: Attributes that result in satisfaction when fulfilled but (even bitter) dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. Compare, e.g., a caring service provider taking the time to resolve a customer’s issue in a call center vs. being put on hold, or transferred endlessly to different parties without any final resolution; or the greatest indignity, having your call dropped.
  • Excitement/delighters: Attributes that provide satisfaction when realized or fulfilled, but do not cause dissatisfaction if not fulfilled. Consider a cheese & fruit plate waiting in your hotel room — you didn’t expect it, so it’s a happy surprise, although if it didn’t appear, you wouldn’t miss it.
  • Indifferent quality: Attributes that generate neither customer satisfaction nor dissatisfaction as they are of no relevance or importance to the customer. Consider the use of professional, bespoke photography for product demos when stock photos would suffice; or the production of high grade fibres and chemicals when customers need only generic or industrial-quality products. identifying what might be considered “overkill” in product production has the distinct advantage of reducing production costs and timing.
  • Reverse quality: The same attributes that generate satisfaction in some customers, and dissatisfaction in others. This, of course, speaks to understanding your customers, in the full realization that not all are alike. Here we take the liberty to refer you to our recent article on psychographics in B2B marketing for a detailed examination on how there are at least four major types of customers in the world, and how you probably have segments of each.

A useful framework for helping marketing and development teams to prioritize differentiating, relevant product features, the Kano Model can also help direct teams towards features that will go further to delight customers — efficiently, effectively, and with surety.

S is for strategize:

“Failing to think critically is preparing to fail utterly.”  OR, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”


The word derives from the ancient Greek word στρατηγός, strategos, or general. The concept is inherently military. It speaks to planning deeply and broadly; to thinking critically, based on a mastery of all available facts; to applying experience across all possible scenarios; to delivering results with as much efficiency and precision as possible. With its military roots, strategy speaks to essentialness, as if life and death depended on it, because they do. It’s not about “winging it,” although flexibility, communication and teamwork are critical to battlefield success; military plans notoriously, quickly become outdated once battles begin.

While strategy always encompasses tactics to deliver results, tactics rarely if ever encompass strategy. They are two different things, and should never be confused. Think gaming: chess is strategy and to succeed, requires execution to plan, and quick pivots based on experience and mastery of complicated rules and moves. Checkers is tactics, and to succeed, requires following one-dimensional, uncomplicated rules in a (by comparison) swift march across exactly the same board. They couldn’t be any more different, chess and checkers; they occupy the same turf but only appear to be similar.

PEMI: Plan-Execute-Measure-Improve. Strategy requires all four PEMI  steps to be highly integrated and refined through iterative and recursive thinking and critical analysis. Strategy is the default mode for accomplishing what is arguably a CMO’s most important task, the Marketing Plan; a living document that encompasses a year’s worth (or more) of programs and initiatives, all grounded in marketing and business objectives, all tied to specified outcomes and ROI. The marketing plan is not for the back of an envelope. It has to build from findings and conclusions to implications and recommendations that will — typically, but at a minimum — amplify a company’s brand in the hearts and minds of customers; incorporate CRM/ABM findings into the brand’s development; and manage the input of partners and suppliers to cost and timing.

Recall the strategos: it is about over-seeing the whole (battle) field, imagining likely as well as different outcomes, making critical choices and prioritizing actions,  and occasionally, hoping for the best. So too, CMO, is this your task, which, no surprise, defines the very essence of critical thinking: planning-executing-measuring-improving, in a constant loop, to ensure as much as possible desired impacts.

As for PEMI, there are a number of similarly styled approaches and steps, including communicating, goal-setting and rewarding. Choose for yourself whichever seems most appropriate to your needs and ways of thinking; feel free to design your own, bespoke approach. The process is equally objective and subjective. What two generals were ever alike? But understand this — PEMI is the mode you need to assume when endeavoring on your most important task, and why you were hired in the first place: to create and manage your marketing plan, impeccably. It is damn hard, but oh, so rewarding when it all comes together. Be prepared for your head to hurt at times in the process. It comes with the territory.

P is for prioritize:

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

The Eisenhower Matrix: This brings us directly to another, iconic strategos, General Dwight D. Eisenhower: General of the US Army and Allied Forces Supreme Commander during WWII, later NATO’s first supreme commander, 34th President of the US, 1953-1961, and creator of the eponymous Eisenhower Matrix. Have you heard of the Eisenhower Matrix? Is it new to you? The Matrix is reported to have resulted from the General’s having to make tough decisions continuously throughout his career about which of the many tasks he should focus on each day.

The Eisenhower Matrix, aka the Urgent-Important Matrix, is a task management tool that helps you organize and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. Using the tool, you divide your tasks into four boxes based on the tasks you’ll do first, the tasks you’ll schedule for later, the tasks you’ll delegate, and the tasks you’ll delete. This results in four quadrants (again!) with different work strategies:

Thinking “inside the boxes”:

  • Do first identifies tasks that are important for your life and career and need to be done today or tomorrow at the latest, e.g., reviewing an important document for your manager.
  • Schedule identifies tasks that are important but less urgent, e.g., a long-planned restart of your gym activity; or tasks that will require more time and concentration to sort, e.g., personnel reviews. These tasks are for your diary, and should come with strict time-frames for start and completion.
  • Delegate is for less important, but still pretty urgent tasks that could well be executed by direct reports, or others better suited to the task. Keep track of these tasks by e-mail or messaging.
  • Don’t Do couldn’t be clearer. These are things you should not be doing at all — scrolling social media, procrastinating with off-strategy tasks, that however pleasant or enticing, take you away from the top quadrants.
  • The Eisenhower Matrix seems a nice complement to the decision model, above. As both models suggest, we as a species are not naturally programmed to stack-rank our tasks or be efficient users of our time. We require instead self-imposed restrictions and barriers within our day — literally putting ourselves in quadrants and boxes — to help us prioritize to be effective. So much for thinking “outside the box”. So be it if this works.

E is for ego in check

“Ego is the enemy, and confidence your ally. Practice humility.”

Practice self-awareness: this is an enormous topic, way too large, technical and complicated for this space, but it is important to flag in this discussion. Ask yourself: How often is self-awareness ever a consideration or a criterion when a B2B Marketer or CMO is thinking about professional development, much less endeavoring to achieve indispensability? I would venture to say, rarely, if ever. The same could be said for humility.

According to Oxford Language, self-awareness is a “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires.” Being self-aware allows us to look inward, to clarify our values, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, goals, and biases. Being self-aware also allows us to recognize the all-important effect we have on others and to be more empathetic to people with different perspectives. Humility is beneficial for enhancing self-awareness as it affords the opportunity to take a step back and look at our own behavior objectively, while also enabling us to accept criticism and feedback in a constructive manner. It is the “brakes” that keeps our enemy- egos in check.

The benefits of being as fully self-aware as possible — and this is hard! — are well documented in both personal and professional contexts. Having self-awareness gives us the power to influence outcomes; helps us become better decision-makers and gives us more self-confidence. We can communicate with clarity and intention, which allows us to understand things from multiple perspectives. It improves critical thinking, decision-making, our feelings of empathy and our ability to actively listen. It frees us from assumptions and biases, ultimately making us better communicators and better leaders. When self-perception matches others’ perceptions, it is reported that leaders are more likely to empower, include, and recognize others, and achieve higher professional satisfaction.

The good news, marketer – self-awareness can be improved. Should you feel the need, there are myriad tools, approaches, and techniques available to help you within the discipline. Of all the boxes on the “cheat sheet”, however, how surprising, how important it is to start your path to indispensability with a deep look inside; to identify self-awareness as a key criterion in your professional success: a sine quâ non that starts with you, marketer, and that will function as the first, indispensable root, as it were, to give wings and full flight to your professional development. Who knew?

N is for negotiate

“Know your BATNA, see the entire pie.”

What is BATNA? 

BATNA is an acronym that stands for best alternative to a negotiated agreement. It is defined as the most advantageous alternative that a negotiating party can take if negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be made. In other words, a party’s BATNA is what a party’s alternative is if negotiations are unsuccessful. The term BATNA was originally used by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book entitled “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In.”

In simplest terms, Marketer, think of BATNA as a logical and logistical process in negotiations. It can help you save critical progress and maintain your goals and status, even if your first proposals are not 100% accepted or supported by all parties. So, for example, if your CEO and management team don’t buy into all your well-crafted visions, integrated and multi-disciplinary programs and their concomitant costs in your annual Marketing Plan, ask yourself, What are you willing to compromise or bargain? What can you “live without?”

Even though your marketing plan derives from what you know and feel in your heart to be absolutely necessary for your company’s success and market leadership, what alternatives to your proposals and negotiations will allow you to continue on your trajectory forward?  What are your priority “need to haves” vs. the “nice to haves” that you can deal with, so as not to grind all your marketing efforts to a screeching halt?

 Importance of BATNA

BATNA is commonly cited as a tactic in financial negotiations, although BATNA considerations apply to any kind of negotiations. Never enter into a serious negotiation without knowing your BATNA as it gives you an alternative if negotiations fall through. It also provides you negotiating power and determines your reservation point (the worst case you are willing to accept). A related concept, ZOPA, stands for your “zone ff potential agreement:” it is the overlap between your settlement range and what is acceptable to your CEO and management team. Where there is a “zone of potential agreement” for both sides, there is more likely to be a positive solution for everyone.

Identifying your BATNA

Harvard Law School offers this process for identifying your BATNA:

  1. List all alternatives to the current negotiation – what could you do if negotiations fall through?
  2. Evaluate the value of each alternative – how much is each alternative worth to me?
  3. Select the alternative that would provide the highest value to you (this is your best alternative to a negotiated agreement).
  4. After determining your BATNA, calculate the lowest-valued deal that you’re willing to accept.

S is for smile

“Attitude gets you promoted, liked and followed.”


From childhood, we’re encouraged to wear a smile on our faces as much as possible. “Smile and the world smiles with you, frown and you frown alone,” was practically a mantra in my family. Smiling is universal: the classic “smiley face” has been an international symbol of joy and happiness since the 1950s while today’s most used emoji is, reportedly, a smiling face crying tears of joy. You might say that smiles are a kind of “emotional esperanto” because everyone smiles in the same language.

It gets better: smiling is infectious and contagious. Smiles pull you in. You want to be around people who smile because they radiate self-confidence, happiness and joy. So what is going on in our brains when we smile? Imagine being in a pleasant situation, like bumping into an old friend on the train. A Swedish study has found that it is difficult to keep a long face when you look at people who are smiling at you. Seeing people smile apparently stimulates our mirror neurons to suppress our facial muscle control, and trigger a smile. ‘You smile, I smile’ is actually a scientific fact! (Comparisons can be drawn with the less felicitous act of yawning.)

More science: smiling makes you happy. Thanks to the positive feedback loop of smiling, we can alter our brain’s emotional processing pathway to feel happier with a simple smile.Technically speaking, when our brains feel happy, endorphins are produced and neuronal signals are transmitted to our facial muscles to trigger a smile. This is the start of the positive feedback loop of happiness. When our smiling muscles contract, they fire a signal back to the brain, stimulating our reward system, further increasing our level of happy hormones, or endorphins. In short, when our brain feels happy, we smile; when we smile, our brain feels happier. Smiling also brings notable health benefits, like reducing anxiety, as well as lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

As for smiling at the office? The benefits are obvious: You attract people to your side, you convey confidence and purpose, you calm people and make situations more serene. You get promoted, liked and followed. Though smiling is human and global, some are more naturally inclined to smile than others.  Ask yourself: do you smile enough ? Do you use this natural mechanism to your best advantage? No kidding, you can practice smiling in the mirror. Sounds and looks foolish, but you may have to work at it. Think of your team, your arguments, your support, your management, your desire to become  indispensable — like self-awareness, this is totally in your court, and totally a fun, easy win. Low-hanging fruit.,smile%2C%20our%20brain%20feels%20happier.

A is for accountability

“Don’t be a bystander in your own life.”

The Oz principle: 

No CMO “cheat sheet” would be complete without accounting for accountability, as it were, which takes us directly to the Oz Principle. A business book first published in 1994, the Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability, has since become a business classic; it remains one of the top five, best-selling books in the field of leadership and performance. The book’s premise is simple: when people take personal ownership of their organisation’s goals, and accept responsibility for their own performance towards them, they become more motivated, successful and invested; they work at a higher level to ensure not only their own success, but everyone’s.

The Oz Principle defines accountability as “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results: See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It.” In a nutshell, the Oz Principle works this way: Steps To Accountability, a model, shows how to create both individual and organizational accountability for achieving results. The model is famously divided in half by a line that “separates success from failure,” with above the line being the area of “accountability and success” and below the line being the area “self-victimization and failure.”

The journey described by the Oz Principle tracks from a mindset of (self-) victimization, perhaps a particularly brutal word to make a point, to one of accountability, a place that conjures up mythic deliverance and release upon finding truth and light. It is really quite a journey — from dark to light, weakness to empowerment, ignorance to enlightenment. The core idea is that the most common problems that plague individuals and their companies—low productivity, slow innovation, and poor morale—can be solved. But there aren’t any tricks or shortcuts: are there ever? Accountability is hard work.

In myth, accountability is always the work of heroes. Yes, the Oz Principle does take its name from The Wizard of Oz, a modern, classic myth, which is said to capture perfectly the importance of personal accountability. The journey of the heroine, Dorothy, and her reluctantly heroic friends — at first to the Wizard, who is proven to be no wizard at all, forcing them to look back at and towards themselves –is the framing metaphor for ultimately taking responsibility for our own, individual journeys to our own, personal accountability.

Details of the Oz Principle’s steps to accountability are readily available online and exceed the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, the Oz Principle — incorporated into the mindset, ethos and values of you, CMO, and your whole team— will go far to ensure the success of every other “cheat sheet” recommendation and imperative. Suffice it to say, successful implementation of your marketing plan, from creation to final results, will owe a great deal to your early and firm embrace of the Oz Principle throughout the process.

B is for brand

« You only have one chance to make a first, good impression.”


Brand is your chance, CMO, to touch the beautiful in your work.  Brand offers grace, privilege, and specialness that nothing else you do in your daily work remotely comes close to.  Brand should have the effect on you, your organization, your customers and markets, that art has on beholders.

Stealing openly from Walter Pater’s aesthetics, we firmly believe a brand, your brand, should rouse, startle and shape new thinking, attitudes and behaviors. It should ignite your enterprise internally with the power of your ethos and courage. It should stir new external audiences to sharper, more eager engagement because of your convictions. It should help shape the markets and cultures you operate in, and make a statement about the human potential you impact.

The Brand Octagon

Far more than a logo or graphic identity, a brand is the enterprise itself, its culture, its strategies, the focus of its future and a key driver of its success. It captures not just two or three elements, but nine: all are intangible, and all are continual sources of undeniable richness, abundance and renewal. Taking the form of a Brand Octagon, a brand encompasses:

  • Vision: What impact do you want to have on your customers, your markets, your world? What is your deeply held quest? What North Star guides you forward? Where do you want to be in three to five — even 10 years?
  • Mission: Highly correlated with Vision, why does everyone come to work every day? What does each person need to do to help make the Vision a reality? To what is each person truly accountable?
  • Core Values: What is your ethos? What are your unshakable beliefs? What do you hold so dear and true that you will put all the force of your courage behind it? What defines how you will interact with one another, your partners and customers?
  • Total Offering:  ”If it does what it says on the tin,” in one, maximum two sentences, what will anyone knocking on your door get in return? Hand on heart, can everyone in the organization articulate exactly what you do and offer?
  • Promises: What do you guarantee your audiences? Why should they believe you? What messages (three to five) do you need to convey, reinforced over time, to ensure your audiences know, and can fully acknowledge, your worth? What is your brand story?
  • Personality: Every enterprise has one. As if a person, who are you and who do you aspire to be? What profile, or archetype, best encapsulates your spirit, your aspirations, your values, your powers of empathy and emotional connection? Are you the best “match” and partner for your audiences that you can be?
  • Target audiences: What insights drive them, current and potential, to you? What are their psychographic profiles? What are their goals, their motivations, their values? What rewards do they find in their continued connections to you? Are you fully based in their centricity and intimacy so that you keep them engaged and loyal? LINK
  • Name: Nomen est omen. Is your name clear, differentiating, easy to say and remember, uncomplicated and uncompromising across languages and cultures? You might be surprised how often name presents a difficulty.
  • Positioning: What holds everything together at the center of your brand? What is your differentiation? Your reason for being? Is it exquisitely rendered and insight-based? As if an atom, or DNA or a byte, can you build your entire business out from it? Is it sufficiently strong to last over time? Does it speak to the soul of your customers? Does it immediately explain why anyone should care?

You’ve only just started:

Your brand can and should inform your whole business. Your brand, in fact, is your business.

Far from a simple, unifying image, the Brand Octagon provides a dynamic platform to integrate the nine, individual brand elements into a total system; and it is from this total system that you are able to launch, build out and align your entire business. The Brand Octagon practically talks to you, providing guidance, direction, purpose and inspiration, and this is how it works. With your Positioning held ever fast at the center, integrating, aligning and holding everything together, realize that the combination of:

  • Your vision, mission and positioning will be the basis of your business plan (red wedges).
  • Your target audiences, total offering and positioning will form the basis of your marketing plan (navy wedges).
  • Your promises, personality and positioning will give flight to your communication plan (sky blue wedges).
  • Your core values, name and positioning will inform your internal corporate culture (purple wedges).

It gets better:

Here are highlights of how the Brand Octagon, unique in scope and range, can and should touch, influence, inform, align, integrate and help energize your entire business:

Business Planning

While business planning is, strictly-speaking, the responsibility of the CEO and the Management Team, your brand’s Vision, Mission and Positioning -– your company’s quest, reason-for being, and source of employee accountability — provide the critical calls to action. Drivers of your brand, they should be able to rouse, startle and shape new thinking, attitudes and behaviors; they should ignite your enterprise internally with the power of your ethos and courage and stir new, external audiences to sharper, more eager engagement because of your convictions. They should help you to shape the markets and cultures you operate in, and make a statement about the human potential you impact. Herein lies leadership, market presence, competitive differentiation, culture-shaping. Income and revenues, however critical, are results from the business planning, not the goals themselves. Not least, your CEO and management team are equally owners of the company’s vision, mission and positioning, they having been the first to sign off on them. Time to put this into practice.

Marketing Planning

Which audiences prefer which products and services from the company’s total offering, and why? This is classic marketing turf, B2B and B2C, whose knowledge you have in a large part from insights and customer-centric profiling, e.g., from customer research and psychographics; and whose management you drive and support, along with sales, with materials and promotions. This turf, however, is becoming ever more crowded, as it is equally the playing field for tech (CRM, ABM) and data as well as the traditional playing fields for sales and for R&D.

No problems, only opportunities: this marks new roles, new frontiers, for the Brand Octagon, beginning with coordination and management of brand and data. 

  • Brand and data: As if yin and yang, like intangible and tangible “twins,” brand and data both occupy the same turf, the marketing plan’s “navy-wedge” of target audiences, positioning and total offering; both strive to uncover and own the same “assets,” insights and customer intimacy. Rare, however, is there any coordination of brand with data, although ideally they should work hand-in-glove, as real BFFs, and this is where the Brand Octagon comes to the rescue. Data collection and management is a big, emerging area, which according to survey after survey, is still fraught with growing pains (not enough skilled resources to capture, analyze and implement findings; tracking is unaligned with business, marketing objectives.) Brand has traditionally already captured insight-driven, customer-intimacy and centricity in audience profiles and segments, and so is poised to provide overall guidance for what you track, how and why. What the data reveals should then be fed back into the brand to create and sustain an ever-green, dynamic system. Greater alignment and clarity will begin to emerge, step by step, as customer-intimacy deepens. Use your Brand Octagon as well to map out roles, responsibilities, and ownership of audience insights, intimacy and program developments; and to reinforce and maintain integration of functions and brand integrity.
  • Sales: brand and data also share the same turf, marketing’s “navy-wedges” of targets and total offering, with sales. Sales takes these elements directly to customers, marketing indirectly through many different channels. But the core elements and content and assets are exactly the same: customer insights and intimacy and the company’s differentiating positioning. Alignment and engagement with sales is never easy; there is so much “territory”, ego and thorny human nature involved between sales and marketing that 100 per cent successful partnership is rarely guaranteed. The Brand Octagon to the fore again: It literally brings everyone to the same page, immediately identifying the joint “territory”, ownership and overlap of turf; significantly, it can broker the dialogue about how it would be best to partner around the content, and diverge – necessarily and happily– in the implementation; not least, it continues to ensure common, integrated messaging and brand integrity.
  • R&D: In any company, R&D is always high stakes, highly technical; necessarily tied to business planning, financial forecasting and executive and corporate decision-making. The Brand Octagon can offer key input into decisions: through target audience intimacy, segmentation and psychographic profiling, you can anticipate what your audiences will want and why. What your brand has captured about your customers – who they are as people, what goals, motivations and values drive them, what you can predict they want and need and prefer from your organization’s total offering– can be confirmed and refined by your data. Data can also help you quantify which customer types you should prioritize; to whom you should allocate your resources; how to plan for total portfolio management.

Communications planning

Your communications plan – and the promises, personality and positioning it brings to life — is at the heart and soul of the Brand Octagon, and why we created it in the first place. (NB: the troika literally forms a creative brief embedded at the Brand Octagon’s center.) Everything you produce going forward — content, storytelling, copywriting, a new graphic identity, corporate campaigns, product promotions – will be on-brand. Meaning, everything you and your agencies produce will need to reflect your Brand Octagon’s promises, personality and positioning. It is not promises or personality or positioning, it is all three, in a brace, always. In this way, your communications should stir all your audiences, new and potential, to sharper, more eager engagement because of your time-honored, well-acknowledged convictions.

Use the Octagon to inspire creativity and suggest content, and then refer back to the Octagon to ensure your work is fully aligned with the high-level directions it provides. This is especially important as AI makes new inroads into content-creation, and can dangerously veer into creating “foreign” personalities and “hallucinated” promises.  Equally use the Octagon as a teaching tool for new employees and for parameter-setting with your agencies to ensure they always reinforce your brand’s, your business’s, uniqueness and differentiation.

  • CX: Equally the offspring of marketing and communications, CX is a deeply creative endeavor. It must bring to life the customer experience in total alignment with your brand personality, your company’s positioning and your brand promises. It’s also another value of the “bridge-building” the Brand Octagon can effect between marketing and communications, related but not necessarily always integrated disciplines; and between brand and data, all working together in a powerful brace. Indeed, customer experience is a logical next step in the alignment of audiences with brand promises and brand personality via the Brand Octagon’s organizing, unifying brand positioning; and of brand and data across their common marketing (“navy-wedge”) territories of audiences and total offering.

As noted in reference to R&D, above, what your brand has captured about your customers – who they are as people, what goals, motivations and values drive them, what you can anticipate they want and need and prefer from your organization’s total offering– can be confirmed and refined by your data. Exactly what you offer as customer experiences are likely to differ by customer profiles and types, this is to be anticipated, although data can help you quantify which customer types and experiences you should prioritize, thus making the best uses of your resources. Curiously, the same input the Brand Octagon can offer to R&D is exactly what its value is to CX – but of course, both R&D and CX are types of company-specific, bespoke products/services. Interesting to juxtapose them in this way!

Corporate culture

Corporate culture is the result of core values, company name and positioning, with great support from, and a hefty dollop of, brand personality. Your corporate culture should ignite your enterprise with the power of your ethos and courage. High scores for employee satisfaction, every CEO and management team’s dream, typically reveal the brand at work. People believe in and act in accordance with the company’s core values, the company’s ethos; but equally important are the company’s differentiating positioning, a source of pride and identity, as well as the company’s vision and mission, which provide direction, clarity, and purpose. At the end of the day, these define what everyone in the company works for and what they’re accountable to.

  • HR and Hiring: it should come as no surprise, you can and should hire to your brand’s personality and core values.

Coda: Do you ever feel, CMO, that promoting your brand’s value to your organization can seem like shouting into the abyss. “Hellooooo…is anyone listening? Does anyone get it? Does anyone in this tech-forward and data-driven age care?” Well-documented, time-honored reasons account for this lack of “brand traction” in B2B: confirmation bias, misunderstanding, fear of “intangibles”, infatuation with science, chemistry and “hardware,” convenient transpositions of cost/expense and value. Should you ever experience another such “shout-out at that abyss,” CMO, have your Brand Octagon to hand — and let your colleagues look away or askance at their peril.

L is for learn

“As if you were to live forever.”

Kudos if you recognize this as part of a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Gandhi seems to intentionally invite our personal introspection and individual reflection with these imperatives.

So here goes from this harmless blogger: Gandhi is enjoining us to grab life with both hands; to reach for that famous brass ring; to go bold, big, and large; to live strong, stretch far and dig deep ; to be exceptional. Heightened awareness, sharpened sensitivities, intellectual peaks and flashes of “aha” await. Beauty, knowledge, and fulfilment are present as much in their pursuit as in their capture; but there is no finish to the pursuit, nor should we wish for one. Challenge, exploration and discovery, of self and the world, are the privileges of being truly alive; continuous learning and enlightenment link us to the divine. All applies equally to our personal and professional quests, whose pursuits, rest assured, will get us noticed. It will be impossible not to have impact.

Over to you, CMO, this is my take

E is for excel

“Do your best and you will never disappoint.”  

Cultivate excellence: for Didier, this means defining our own personal destinations by finding our own ikigai: what we truly love. And so with excellence as ikigai, we have found the perfect way to conclude this piece, with a loop back to the overall principle and centrality of finding and doing what we love.

If you recall, ikigai is the Japanese word meaning “life purpose” or “raison d’être.” Ikigai refers to defining your personal meaning of life in relation to your loves, mission, talents, passions, and profession, as well as what you can give to the wider world. Ikigai poses four questions:

  • Do you love what you do?
  • Are you good at what you do?
  • Does the world need what you do?
  • Can you make money at what you do?

Answers to these four critical questions provide a guide to personal satisfaction, fulfillment and excellence, and help identify gaps and absences that stand in the way. Importantly, the four questions also encourage us to take a holistic approach to personal and professional development. We are encouraged to get out of our comfort zones, to do something difficult and master it. How so?

  • Do something you have never done before, like going to a new place, engaging in a new activity, learning a new language, meeting new people
  • Do something you do well and do more of it, like super compensation in sports — 10 push ups, 20, 50? Running 1K, 5Ks, 10Ks, a marathon, an ironman?
  • Do something that you think you are bad at and become better at it, really master it — cooking, ironing, dancing
  • Surround yourself with people who make you a better person, manager, leader.

Think of Ikigai as a marketing framework, CMO — marketing is and marketing does. It will help put you in touch with your personal brand, even as it helps you develop it. A strong personal character is the basis for a strong professional character — this gives confidence in so many situations. Be able to say, « Gee, I think I can do that » — even if you never have. Should you fall short, you will have no regrets.

Related Articles

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on your website. Read more about cookies policy.